Amanda Davis Shares Powerful Story of Addiction, Loss, Healing and Forgiveness
I've read dozens of books on addiction, stories of coping with alcoholism, opioid, cocaine, heroin, and other addictions. The truth of losing loved ones' to addiction is painful, and let's face it most everyone knows someone struggling. This is a true story of how opening some boxes can also open your heart. This is Amanda's inspirational story about her Mom.
This week I received a message from my dear friend Jaclyn Graves. She wanted me to read a social media post from her cousin, Amanda Bradford Davis. In just this short post, Amanda tackled not only a life lived struggling with a parent who was an addict, but the years lost without her Mom, the reconnections made, the tragic loss, and the stigma that comes with addiction. Here's the heartfelt post that brought me to tears, and I hope that will inspire you too.
June 23rd, 2021
"Today marks 2 months since my mom’s passing. I realized very quickly that no one knows what to say or do in situations like mine. Losing someone to death long after you lost them to addiction is a different kind of grief. You don’t get the loving phone calls about how wonderful and loved your parent was. You don’t get the cards or the flowers or even the space to grieve because of the life THEY lived. I realized I was the only love she had left in the world & that love left me very isolated & angry.", Amanda shared on social media.
"I’m sharing this because it’s the most accurate & transparent representation of how life has felt for me since she passed- a funeral with one attendee surrounded by boxes full of what could have been.
I’m sharing this because I know that I’m not alone.
I’m sharing this because someone out there needs to hear that it’s not too late.
I’m sharing this because it's time to end the stigma around addiction & mental health.
I’m sharing this because it’s time to START TALKING ABOUT IT.", She added
I had a chance to reach out to Amanda to learn more about her Mom, her life, her addiction journey, and how Amanda was, and is, able to cope. She was so eloquent with her words of hope and encouragement in her time of grief. We thank her for sharing her story, which we both hope will help someone in a similar circumstance.
"I lost my mother to death in April of this year, but I lost her to addiction in 1993 when I was 4 years old.
My mom’s name was Laura Bradford and she battled addiction with cocaine and crack cocaine in the 90s. She was able to beat that addiction only to continue a lifelong battle with addiction to alcohol.
My dad got emergency custody of me right before I turned 5 so the memories that I do have of my mother aren’t plentiful and are not always rainbows and sunshine. I do have a select few good memories of singing classic rock songs at the top of our lungs, a canoeing trip, learning to steer the truck in her lap, and my beloved first dog- a Rottweiler ironically named “Dealer”. But I also have the memories of running from the police on the back of her four-wheeler and napping on the counter of her favorite bar- Betty’s Lounge. I have vivid memories of my mom being beaten up on our front porch and me jumping on her boyfriend’s back trying to fight him off of her.
I remember the strict instructions to not tell my Dad about the week’s events when I went and stayed with him on the weekends. I remember the calls when my Dad got custody promising she would be at the arranged visitation only to be let down time and time again."
Learning About Mom
"I didn’t get to know who my mom was before addiction until after she died and that was by going through her boxes of what once was.
As odd as it sounds, I found more peace in those boxes than I had ever found in our relationship while she was living. I had seen my mother after she gained the battle scars of addiction (mostly internal). I had seen her as a little girl in my Granny’s photo albums, but I had never seen her in ME until after her death. I had dreaded going through her things afraid of uncovering the remnants of a horrible, scary past, but it couldn’t have been more different."
Memories of Mom
"I found every picture my stepmom and I had ever sent her of me since elementary school and my son since his birth. I found an entire box of my baby memorabilia that she somehow had held onto for almost 30 years through addiction, homelessness, and countless moves. I found random trinket collections just like the ones I have and the best vintage 90’s graphics money could buy. I found pictures of her twenties and couldn’t believe that for the first time in my life I realized I looked just like my mother from her wavy hair to her prominent cheekbones & jawline to her tall, toned body and even our linebacker shoulders that I frankly could’ve done without- ha! I found love in those boxes. A love that was primal & so much deeper than I could’ve ever understood until going through them."
Questions Asked and Answered
"It had always felt taboo to ask about my mom while growing up. Those boxes finally gave me the courage to ask questions about the woman I never got to meet. I got to hear how she was absolutely beautiful and how her smile lit up the room. I got to hear about how charismatic and fun she was and how she had an unparalleled way of making you feel special when she talked to you. And one story came off of everybody’s lips- that she loved me so, so much.
I finally heard about more than her failures in life and began to understand what led to her battles with addiction. I learned that the death of her father who was also an alcoholic was something her heart never fully recovered from, partially due to the stigma of loving someone who society deemed unworthy. And all at once, I felt like I understood my mother more than I ever had before."
Loss and Circumstances
"When she died, I didn’t have instructions for her final wishes. I didn’t have life insurance to pay for final expenses. I didn’t inherit my childhood home or money or valuables. I instead inherited the societal shame of the life she lived, the guilt of how little she got from life, and my personal favorite, a 16-year-old fight with her sister over my deceased grandmother’s belongings. To say that it was heavy would be an extreme understatement. For weeks I shut off from everyone and spent my time buried in the boxes of what could have been. But as I sorted and cried and screamed at God, I slowly began to feel the layers of sadness and anger peel away. I had unexplainable things happen that made me feel crazy and sane all at the same time.
When I broke down about not knowing her final wishes, I got a call with precise instructions. When I had a breakdown at 2 am because no one knew the right thing to say, within minutes one of my best friends called from Miami and said exactly what I needed to hear. There were so many prayers being answered right in front of me that it was almost impossible to ignore the collateral beauty in it all."
Gratitude and Reflection
"What I am most grateful for though is the personal journey of healing from my hatred of addiction that I descended on almost exactly a year before my mother passed away. I had the unfortunate experience of witnessing a friend dealing with her spouse’s addiction to heroin. I saw how hard it was to gain entry to a rehab facility and how subpar the treatment was if and when they were accepted. I saw the lack of financial help available and how “disposable” addicts were treated in our community.
I found empathy for my mother by watching their journey and I decided at that moment that I would no longer be so hard on her. I decided that I would give her grace and forgiveness where I had once given her disapproval and combativeness. Although we only spoke once every couple of months during her last year alive, the quality of our conversations was the best it had ever been."
Woman From the Boxes
"The night before she passed my mom called me at 1:59 am. When I answered, I knew immediately that she was drunk as she told me she had accidentally called me when trying to phone her friend instead. We laughed and giggled about “technology” mishaps and spent the next 2 minutes catching up and saying our “I love and miss yous”. It was perfect- light and fun and charismatic and happy. It was the woman who I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of officially meeting- the woman from the boxes."
"To those who are like I once was and make excuses for their hatred and cruelty towards addicts because of our own negative experiences, I beg you to do the tough inner work. Research, learn, connect and I promise you will come away from it all a completely different person.
To anyone in a similar situation to mine, I hope from the bottom of my heart that you are able to find forgiveness and understanding and to love them anyway. I encourage you to reach out and share your story. I know when I did, it was the first time in a while I finally felt like I wasn’t alone and it brought more comfort than I could have ever imagined."
I told Amanda that this is the making of a great and special book. She should write and inspire more people. I'm so thankful that I've met her and was able to get the difficult conversation started with her. I know people who are addicts and struggle every single day. They try rehab only to relapse. They feel guilty and think that they aren't worth it. They ARE worth it. YOU are worth it. Surround yourself with a good support system and never give up.
I saw addiction firsthand growing up with alcoholic grandparents. I loved them so much and always saw them as the "fun" grandparents that would spoil us like crazy. If we stayed overnight with them, we also saw a side that could have set the house on fire, when they'd fall asleep with a cigarette in their hands. Or, when they'd play music so loud that the cops would come. I knew that it wasn't normal, but I loved them so much that it didn't matter. It wasn't until my grandma passed away at just 57 years old that I realized the extent of addiction. She passed away just two weeks after I graduated and looking back at those photos, I'm just mesmerized. She looked like she was in her 80s' not in her 50s'. It was, and still is, truly hard to comprehend. I miss her so much and wished we could have had more years together. She was one of a kind!
If you're struggling with addiction there are many local agencies that are standing by to help. Please reach out, when you're ready. When I was in college I volunteered at the Third Level Crisis Center on the overnight shift. Many times callers just wanted someone to listen and to make them feel heard. They just needed to know that they weren't alone. Well, you're not alone.
Don't become a statistic and remember that you are loved. No matter what, you are always loved by God and he answers prayers!
Some Local Addiction Agencies
Owensboro Regional Recovery
4301 Veach Rd, Owensboro, KY 42303
Daviess Treatment Services
3032 KY-144, Owensboro, KY 42303
4505 Lucky Strike Loop, Owensboro, KY 42301
Grace Recovery Services
920 Frederica St #405, Owensboro, KY 42301
Owensboro Hope House - Mountain Comprehensive Care Center
2138 E 19th St, Owensboro, KY 42303
Groups Recover Together
3032 Alvey Park Dr W Suite 400, Owensboro, KY 42303
320 Crittenden St, Owensboro, KY 42303
Check your local listings for treatment centers near you.