AP NEWS

Victory over addiction is story of becoming a better mother

May 20, 2019

JACKSON, Tenn. — Brittany Rhodes admits she doesn’t have the best track record as a mother, but the drug addiction that hindered her ability to raise her children when she was younger is now tempered by her desire to be the best mom she can be.

“I’m more grateful for my kids today and don’t take them for granted,” said Rhodes, who recently celebrated four years of sobriety as she now works as a tech and counselor in training at Jackson Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (JACOA). “If they have something going on at school or wherever, then I take vacation time or sick time to go be there with them because I think that’s what a good mother is supposed to do.”

Rhodes has six children ranging from 2 to 15 years old. The mother she is now is very different from the one she was when she gave birth to her oldest son, when she was just beginning her battle with addiction.

Rhodes’ story has a tragic beginning. She was a budding softball player in her early teens, excelling on the diamond while playing travel ball and preparing for a top-level high school career at Dyer County High School. That changed when she was hit by a car.

“It threw my spine off line in my lower back, and I was prescribed opiates to deal with the pain,” Rhodes said. “By the time I was 16 I was a full-blown opiate addict.”

Rhodes’ father could tell she was developing an addiction, so he took her off the painkillers.

“And that was when everything began spiraling out of control because I needed the drugs, and I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to get them,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes was 18 years old when she had her first child and got married, and that worked for an extended period of time in seeming to overcome the addiction.

“I was able to use having a baby and being married as enough to get me off the pills because I was happy being a mom and being married,” Rhodes said. “But after a while, the happy of being married wore off, and I got back into pills.”

Rhodes had two more children with her husband over the next four years, but she began taking painkillers again. Soon, she needed more to get her high — more access to more pills from substances with more strength.

“My husband at the time was awesome, and he was the opposite of me,” Rhodes said. “He wouldn’t even take Tylenol if he had a headache.

“And then I decided to leave him so I could go get what I wanted.”

They were living in North Carolina at the time, and after her divorce, Rhodes brought their children back to West Tennessee and began living with another man.

“He was on methamphetamines, and I started doing that too,” Rhodes said. “And meth is something that you’re hooked the first time you try it.”

Rhodes said her meth addiction showed its difference when she was pregnant.

“When I had my first three children, I was able to stay off the pills while I was pregnant,” Rhodes said. “But when I was with my second husband and still on meth, I had two kids, and I didn’t stop using it when I was pregnant with them.”

Rhodes’ fifth child, who’s now approaching her fifth birthday, stayed in the NICU for a few days after being born. It was during that hospital stay that Rhodes hit rock bottom.

“I was so strung out on meth that I didn’t know where I was or how long I’d been there,” Rhodes said. “My mom would come to the hospital and give me some time to get home and shower or whatever, and I left and then the next time I checked my phone there was a voicemail from her.

“She said, ‘I don’t know where you are, but you have 24 hours to get back here or I’m calling children’s services.’”

Rhodes said when she got that voicemail, it was already 24 hours old and it took her 24 more hours to get back to the hospital.

“I got back to the hospital after three days being away with my baby girl there in the hospital,” Rhodes said.

Representatives from the Department of Children’s Services were dispatched to Rhodes’ home and removed the children when they all tested positive for meth. The three older children were sent to live with their father in North Carolina. The younger two were placed into foster care in West Tennessee.

Rhodes and her husband, whom she’d married since having a couple children with him, were both arrested. She was out in five days, and he was sentenced to 90 days. They both had to get treatment.

Five days in jail was part of the wake-up call Rhodes needed, but she said losing her children was the true catalyst for her to seek help.

She went through a progression of programs in Jackson including Aspbell Recovery, Recovery Court and JACOA, along with joining Narcotics Anonymous.

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