Lindsay Curio sits on the porch of her family’s trailer. It’s a crisp, cool November morning, and the leaves on the trees are finally beginning to change color. The morning light shines through the porch screen as Lindsay’s 20-month-old son, Tristen, roams around the porch laughing and dancing as he plays with a cellphone.
Tristen is Lindsay’s third child. Her other two children were taken from her by the Department of Family and Children Services. They didn’t think a young woman caught in the throes of meth addiction was fit to raise children.
Lindsay doesn’t use meth anymore, but the drug controlled her for 12 years, dictating her every move from the time she became addicted as a young girl.
Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive substances in the world. The addiction knows no social or racial boundaries and it affects people from every walk of life: the young, the old, the rich and the poor — no one is exempt.
Meth hooks people and it hooks them fast. Usage then spreads like wildfire when users introduce the drug to their friends and family.
“Meth then creates this artificial rush of dopamine, far beyond anything the body is meant to produce on its own,” said Jim Langford, executive director for the Georgia Meth Project. Langford said that only about 5 percent to 6 percent of meth users ever get off the drug and stay off for good.
Twenty-eight-year-old Lindsay has been clean for nearly four years. Her life is finally on track: She’s enrolled in school and has a steady job. Her smiling baby knows nothing of the hell his mother has been through, but one day he will, Lindsay said.
She isn’t the only one in her family who’s had it rough. It isn’t easy having a daughter with an addiction that controls her life.
Lindsay’s mother, Vicki, said her daughter’s trouble began when she was about 12 years old. Lindsay skipped school and got into some legal trouble. She’s been in and out of jail and has been on probation ever since. Lindsay’s parents didn’t realize she had a drug problem until the physical effects of extensive drug use began to show.
“The families of the drug users get hurt a lot more than people think,” Lindsay said. “I never even cared about that until I got sober, how much pain I put them through. All the not coming home and not knowing where your child is — they were very concerned and wanted to help. They just didn’t know how.”
Lindsay’s family moved around quite a bit when she was young, making it difficult for her to make friends. She was often teased at her new schools. Her father was away for work much of the time, and her mother had just given birth to Lindsay’s youngest sister. At 12, she finally found acceptance when she became friends with an older group that used hard drugs.
“The people that accepted me were the people that did drugs,” she said. “I felt like I was part of something.”
Finally having a group of friends who accepted her, Lindsay started spending more time with them and began skipping school on a regular basis.
“At first I didn’t do drugs every day,” she said. Her parents had no idea she was doing them at all. She continued to do well in school even though she began using cocaine regularly.
“[My parents] were happy because I had a friend,” she said. “They didn’t think anything about it. They never knew nothing about drugs. Nobody expects their child to be on drugs.”
Lindsay became close with a girl named Destiny who was about two years older. The two of them spent a lot of time with an older group of men who were around 18 to 20.
“When you were not high it was like 20 times harder,” Lindsay said. “That’s why you’d go and get high again — because you didn’t want to feel all the sorrow and all the pain and all the regret and everything you were feeling from being sober.”
As she used more and more, her parents cracked down and moved the family from Marietta to another Georgia town, Acworth, in hopes of getting their daughter’s life back on track, but it was too late.
Lindsay was hooked.
“My parents thought moving away from those people would help me stay off the drugs and that’s when I was introduced to crank,” she said.
“It was like it was my first love,” she said. “I was hooked from day one.”
The girl who once had trouble making friends was no longer shy and no longer cared what people thought of her.
“I could say anything I wanted,” she said. “I could pretend to be anybody I wanted on drugs.”
The drug gave her confidence, but left her emotionless.
“Nothing else mattered,” Lindsay said, “not my family, not my school, anything.”
At first, people gave her meth for free, particularly older men hoping to take advantage of her. As she used more and more, Lindsay began selling the drug to support her habit.
Lindsay describes her romantic encounters as nothing short of awful. She met the father of her first daughter when she was 15. His name was Jason, and he was a drug dealer who was four years older.
After finding out she was going to have a baby, Lindsay returned to her parents’ house where she received support from her family. She even gave up the drug entirely until her daughter, Kayla, was born in December 2002.
Lindsay writes letters to her daughter, who was ultimately adopted by an anonymous couple, and places them in a deposit box for Kayla to pick up when she turns 18.
“I hope that she sees me now — the way I am now,” she said. “I’m glad she doesn’t remember me back then. Maybe I can explain to her a little about why I did what I did.”
Lindsay’s father, Ricky, said he was in denial about his daughter’s drug use and didn’t realize she was using meth until she began getting into trouble with the law.
“It’s easy to be in denial about that,” he said. “People had to pick it out to me.”
Ricky said his daughter stayed away from the house for the most part while she was using drugs and when she did come home, she would “sleep for days at a time.”
He said he wasn’t fond of the people his daughter was associating with.
“When you’re a father of daughters, everybody’s scum that comes to your house,” he said about the people his daughter spent time with. “They always seemed kind of flighty to me.”
Although he thought Lindsay was too young to be having children and wished she had gotten married first, he and her mother continued to support Lindsay after she became pregnant.
“I’ve always supported her in everything, whether I liked it or not,” Ricky said. “What are you gonna do? How are you gonna turn your back on your own children?”
Her parents said that while they remained supportive of Lindsay through her pregnancy and the birth of her child, they tried not to get attached because they were afraid it wouldn’t last.
“The little girl, Kayla, was the one I’d see her tote back and forth in that little carrier,” Ricky said. Many times he watched Lindsay walk with the baby carrier, “banging it up against her leg like it was a piece of luggage.”
He said he would chase her up the driveway and take the baby from her.
“I suppose I was glad when they came and decided she wasn’t really fit to take care of any of them.”
Her parents say they did all they could for Lindsay, especially when she got in trouble with the law. They took her to drug counselors and outreach centers, but it did little good because Lindsay would never stay longer than a day.
Lindsay became pregnant with her second child, but she didn’t stop using drugs during the pregnancy. Her mother encouraged her to get an abortion but Lindsay wouldn’t hear of it.
When Zach was born he tested positive for methamphetamine, and custody of the child was given to Lindsay’s parents. Lindsay came to the house to see her child, in direct violation of a court order, and Vicki called the police. It was the only time she ever called the police on her daughter.
“It was for the best and it worked out for the best,” Vicki said. “If I kept him, it would be too easy for her to still do what she did and know that Mom and Dad have the baby. So I let DFCS take him and I told ‘em I didn’t want to keep him.”
Vicki said the decision to call the police that day was the best thing she could have done for her child and grandson.
Lindsay then entered family drug court in hopes of getting sober and regaining custody of her son, Zach.
(Read more about alternatives for youth with substance abuse problems HERE.)
While Lindsay was in drug rehabilitation, her father was her biggest supporter. He would drive to the north Georgia town of Rome every Wednesday for visitation, toting with him a trash bag full of sodas, snacks, clothes and cigarettes. Lindsay didn’t have many visitors.
Ricky’s trip was 45 minutes each way and he had to take a 45-minute drug class before he was allowed to see his daughter.
“Leaving her at the jails was the worst,” he said. “But till they’re ready to change, there’s nothing you can do.”
He said the family drug court backed her up 100 percent and played a vital role in getting Lindsay sober.
“When you know the judge’s name and stuff, you’ve been in there way too many times,” he said.
Since getting sober, Lindsay’s entire way of thinking has changed. She said having a son has given her a different perspective on living because she wants to do what’s best for him. She attributes her sobriety to being structured and having goals.
“I try to help people now,” Lindsay said. She speaks to people who are still struggling with addiction and tries to persuade them to get clean.
Before getting sober, Lindsay figured she’d use drugs and sell meth until she died. Now she has goals. She’s working, she has a child and she is in school. Although she doesn’t make that much money in her job at the local hardware store, she intends to graduate from college so she can provide for her son financially.
Tristen is the driving factor behind every decision Lindsay makes, from school to work to cleaning the house.
“It’s great to be a mom,” Lindsay said. “It’s great to actually be able to take care of him and watch him grow every day.”
She doesn’t fear relapse because she has a large support group of close family and friends. Whenever she needs them, they speak with her and it makes her feel better.
Although she’s now clean, Lindsay fully understands that just because she hasn’t relapsed doesn’t mean she never could.
“She’s a miracle,” said Vicki about her daughter’s rehabilitation. “The system is a wonderful thing. The people that worked with her were amazing.”
Vicki is very proud of her daughter and doesn’t think she could have done it without the help of the court.
“She should have been dead,” Vicki said, fighting back tears. “And she’s here with us, and we have a beautiful baby boy.”
The Bartow County Family Drug Court is the program that helped Lindsay turn her life around. It has now closed its doors, however, because few people sought to enter the program.
People opted to go to prison rather than overcome their drug addictions with the help of specialists.
“Addiction is a disease,” Lindsay said. Recovery “is always a work in progress.” Like a lot of addicts, Lindsay often has dreams in which she’s chasing the drugs she no longer uses.
She said she doesn’t have many triggers that make her want to use drugs again. However, certain smells or the chinking sound of glass sometimes remind her of the past. Seeing old friends also reminds her. She knows those same friends probably call her snooty now because she refuses to associate with people she once used drugs with.
“It’s a lot of work,” Lindsay said about getting clean and staying that way. “It’s a lot of self-searching and figuring out why you used … You really have to evaluate everything about yourself and your habits and your behaviors.
“A bunch of people can tell you what you’re doing is wrong,” she continued, “but unless you see it for yourself, you’re never gonna change it. Meth makes you feel emotionless so you don’t [recognize] all these feelings that you suppress.
“It’s a lot of work to be completely clean and you’re never completely recovered.”