Still, I kept on smoking meth. It was crazy: The drug was what had caused all the problems, yet I turned to it to take away the pain. On the bad nights, I stayed up, talking to my mom on the phone, and aching from missing my baby.
My parents helped me find a lawyer, who negotiated a deal: I would enter a drug treatment program, perform 20 hours of community service, and pay a $550 fine. For six months, I'd be on probation, and if I stayed out of trouble, the drug charge would be cleared from my record.
But we still wouldn't get Cameren back. In fact, DHS assigned us a new caseworker. She immediately suspected that I was still on meth, and warned me that if I didn't get my act together, I could lose my parental rights permanently. That scared me enough to say, "Just tell me what to do." The caseworker felt it would be easier for Derek and me to get sober if we didn't live together, so he went to live with his parents, and I moved in with my grandmother. She also told me about an Iowa self-help group called Moms Off Meth. I took her advice and went.
At my first meeting, on May 25, 2005, I was high. When it was my turn to talk, I was surprised at how emotional I got. Tears were streaming down my face as I shared my story about being arrested and losing my daughter. I was overwhelmed with the guilt and shame of admitting, for the first time, that I'd become an addict -- and was in danger of losing Cameren forever.
Then other women told me that they'd all been down that road, they'd dealt with it, and they'd stopped using. Nearly every mom in the room had seen her child put into foster care thanks to meth addiction. I looked at these moms and thought, "If they can do it, by God, so can I."
Withdrawal made me feel miserable this time. You want to lie in bed, you're very tired. You sweat. You feel nauseous. But every Wednesday, I went to Moms Off Meth. It was inspiring to hear what the other women were doing to stay clean. And I told them something that worked for me. One night the craving got so bad that I called my mom in tears. "Why don't you come over?" she said. Although it wasn't one of my scheduled visits, she figured that the caseworker wouldn't mind. How could it be bad, if seeing my daughter helped remind me of why I had to stay sober? I played with Cameren, and hearing her laugh and coo helped so much. I put her down to sleep and lay down next to her. "I love you," I whispered. Getting my child back would be better than any drug, I thought. By the time I left that night, the craving had vanished.
When Derek saw my success at staying off meth for several months, he joined a treatment program, too. We began dating again, and helped each other stay sober. In September 2005, I went back to college. The next month, I completed probation -- and rejoiced when the drug charge was officially wiped off my record.
Soon I had much more to celebrate. On January 20, 2006, Cameren moved back home with me. That's a challenge I'm up for: This whole mess made me realize that I need to be with my daughter. Getting a second chance to be Cameren's mother is the greatest gift of all.