The harsh reality of Zehara’s upbringing came to light when she came to Maple House. She said that her “inner child was crying out for help.” She recalled that, at the age of 11, a classmate noticed bruises from the abuse she was receiving at home. A teacher got involved, and, before she knew it, Zehara and her siblings were taken away from their home. Throughout middle school and high school, she fought with other students and got into trouble frequently. By the age of sixteen, she was pregnant with her first child. She had another child when she turned 21 and moved into a home for single mothers. The second baby’s father asked her to move in with him in Barstow, and so she did. His mother, a drug addict, also lived with them. Even when Zehara and her boyfriend broke up, she still spent time with his mother. One day, Zehara said she was “bored and curious,” and this woman introduced her to meth.
She handed me my first pipe. From that moment, I was hooked.
She started smoking meth every day. Soon after, she got involved with a man who was nearly 50 years old. He was an addict and a dealer. Her addiction escalated, and she went from smoking to needles. She would leave her kids with his mom and spend all her time on the streets with him selling and using drugs.
After she gave birth to her third child, she was able to stay clean for a couple of months. One day, the newborn had a seizure, and they rushed him to the hospital. The doctors found meth in the child’s system, and he was taken into CPS custody. Zehara suspects that his grandmother must have smoked near the baby because she was staying sober at the time. Next, CPS took her other two children, and Zehara started using again.
When they took my kids, I went downhill.
She confessed that she used drugs continuously during this time. Even when she had to pass a drug test to continue visitation with her children, she used someone else’s urine to get by. Eventually, she stopped going to get tested altogether. She said, “That’s when the once-a-week visitation turned into once-a-month because I kept messing up.”
When she got pregnant again, she said, “Time was ticking. They were going to adopt my kids out. I was still using drugs, but I’ll be damned if they’ll take my baby.” With that newfound determination, Zehara came to Maple House, but she feared that she had waited too long to get her kids back.
I had it in my head that they were going to take my baby. So what’s the point of getting help. What am I doing this for?
The more discouraged she got, the more her case managers would push her to stay focused on her goals. They reminded her that she needed to get sober for herself. She said, “I lost hope, but Maple House kept encouraging me. I learned so much about myself. My inner child was crying out for help, and my inner self got help. I got a lot of things answered about myself. Maple House really pushed me. I didn’t give up.”
After completing 118 days of treatment, Zehara moved into a transitional home for six months. Now, Zehara lives with two of her children in her own apartment in Redlands, and she has reconnected with her family who have been a strong support system for her in recovery. She will receive her high school diploma in two weeks from Redlands Adult School and hopes to one day work at Cedar House.
Zehara reflected on her experience: “I was young, dumb, naïve. I dated a drug dealer for 6 years. I didn’t pay attention to my kids. Maple House gave me a whole different view of life and taught me to keep moving forward.”
If it wasn’t for Maple House, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t think I was worthy. Maple House changed my life.