“It’s a girl!” The beautiful baby girl I held in my arms was the answer to my prayers. In years to come, Tiffany would become the family mediator between her older and younger brothers. She excelled in sports and academia throughout high school; she earned a bachelor’s degree and was eager to land a prestigious, corporate job when moving to Colorado. Her father and I hoped that her life would be the fulfillment of her dreams and all we had envisioned for her. Unfortunately, Tiffany’s life took an unexpected direction.
Tiffany chose to stay with her older brother while she searched for her dream job. After several attempts at finding a job and working only as part-time retail help, she was not able to earn enough commission to make a living. Her hopes of landing the perfect job were dissipating, and unbeknownst to us, she began to self-medicate as an attempt to cope with her perceived failures. This was discovered on a family vacation to Cancun.
The beautiful ocean view and many beach activities provided our family with several enjoyable hours until Tiffany started becoming agitated and sweating profusely. Our family vacation came to a screeching halt, and it turned into my personal nightmare. I did not know what was wrong, and at that time she was not sure what was happening to her. She was in so much pain, she was not able to sleep for several days at a time. During the five day vacation, I spent three of those days in a taxi going to different clinics and emergency rooms. The doctors provided a few pain pills to help her get comfortable. Finally, the last day, when it was obvious Tiffany was not improving, I called the boyfriend she had moved in with to find out what might be happening.
Based on the information from the boyfriend, it was clear that Tiffany had been experiencing withdrawal from pain pills. This was Tiffany’s first experience with withdrawal. It was not until I returned from Cancun that I realized how serious Tiffany’s condition was. Evidently, her boyfriend was addicted to prescription medication. Feeling disappointed that she had failed to land her dream job; she turned to drugs and alcohol. Tiffany quickly became addicted to OxyContin. She was no longer able to function in the work place due to her drug addiction and alcohol abuse.
I did not hear from Tiffany very much after the family vacation. The times she did call was in the middle of the night when she was obviously drunk. The episodes of frantic calls in the middle of the night increased. Evidently, she was in danger because of drug dealings with different people. Finally, after one particular frantic call from Tiffany, my husband caught a midnight flight to Colorado kidnapping and bringing Tiffany home to live with us.
My nightmare continued. Tiffany attempted to keep several different jobs after she moved back home. Unfortunately, she was not able to function because of her addictions. While Tiffany was living at home, I tried my best to keep her busy and prevent her drug abuse. After a DUI, Tiffany agreed to enter a drug treatment facility which she responded to very positively. She participated in counseling classes that caused her to self-reflect. Tiffany thinks her addiction was caused by her failure to land a dream job right out of college. Even though Tiffany never got to the root cause of her addiction, she had high hopes when she was dismissed from treatment. She could think clearly, once she was sober.
Now that Tiffany was sober she was able to secure a sales job that paid on commission only. She really enjoyed getting out and making cold calls. However, it was not long after being released from treatment that Tiffany was back to abusing drugs and alcohol again. Her addiction was so bad, I could no longer keep her from accessing drugs and alcohol. She continued to see different doctors who treated her for a bipolar disorder and anxiety. She knew just what to tell the different doctors to get the drugs she wanted.
After spending three days visiting family and attending our high school reunion, my husband and I returned home late on a Sunday night. The first thing I did after arriving home was check on Tiffany, who still lived with us. I was concerned about her because, while away, she had not answered my calls. I found her lying on the bedroom floor with blood on her face, and she was barely conscious. Because of her addiction, I assumed she was inebriated and had fallen, causing her nose to bleed. I got her up onto her bed so she could sleep off the alcohol. As I helped her, I noticed she was not able to use her feet to help get herself up onto her bed. A few hours later, Tiffany asked for help to go to the bathroom. I left her to find her own way. I could hear her crawling down the hallway to get to the restroom. When I went to check on her, I found her lying on the bathroom floor in a pool of dark brown urine. Alarms went off.
I drove Tiffany to the local emergency room. At that time I did not think her condition was life-threatening. The hospital staff became very alarmed because of Tiffany’s vital signs. Her limbs were slowly dying, which caused deadly toxins to compromise her heart. She was quickly life-flighted to a city hospital where doctors were unable to diagnose her condition.
Finally, a neurologist at the hospital assessed Tiffany’s condition. He approached me and said, “Your daughter’s condition is very grim. She will need to have both legs and right arm amputated.” I was not alarmed at first because I thought he had mistaken me for someone else’s parent. I pointed over to where Tiffany was lying and told the doctor, “No, you have the wrong person, my daughter is over there.” The doctor was not mistaken; he was referring to Tiffany. My heart sank and my legs weakened as I processed what the doctor had said.
I could not give consent to amputate because that was Tiffany’s decision. The doctor offered to perform a radical surgery in an attempt to save Tiffany’s limbs. He cautioned that surgery could release more toxins, potentially causing cardiac arrest. Due to Tiffany’s toxic condition, surgery consisted of bleeding out all of her blood, replacing it with donor blood.
After a seven-hour surgery, the doctor reported that due to compartment syndrome, he had to remove dead muscle tissue in both legs in two procedures called fasciotomy and debridement. Tiffany had compartment syndrome due to a lack of blood flow to her limbs, causing the muscles in her legs to slowly die. Tiffany survived that first surgery and has endured many more since.
After emergency surgery to save Tiffany’s limbs, she spent 30 days in the intensive care unit where she underwent several more surgeries and was on dialysis for kidney failure. She had wound vacuums attached to both legs. From ICU, Tiffany went to physical rehabilitation for 30 days to learn how to use her legs that had most of their muscles removed. Finally, after two months Tiffany was able to come home.
Just when I thought the accident had sobered Tiffany up, it became evident she was abusing her prescription pain medication. She spent 30 days at another drug treatment facility to overcome prescription medication addiction and abuse. Tiffany was kidnapped from Colorado back in 2008, and she continues to struggle with addiction at the time of writing this book. She gave me permission to share her experience as part of my story. Her hope is that maybe her addiction and my journey to cope could inspire others.
The tragedy happened to my daughter Tiffany, but affected me tremendously. During Tiffany’s traumatic experience, other crises also altered my life. For instance, I was in the middle of building a new home and just began duties as a first-time school superintendent. I enrolled in a doctoral program and traveled to a different city nearly every Saturday for three years. Meanwhile, I had a shoulder replacement, and my husband had back surgery. I started a new superintendent position at a larger district. My youngest son got married and his house burned down Christmas morning. In the meantime, I finished my dissertation, studied for and passed comps and orals. Soon after that, my father disowned me, and my oldest son fell and broke his back two months before his wedding. All of these events happened within a three-year time frame, during Tiffany’s recovery at my house.
My life revolved around an addict and my identity soon became “the mother of an addict.” Tiffany’s addiction seemed to consume my whole life. Some of the traits of an addict include lying, cheating, stealing, manipulation, verbal and physical abuse, and unemployment. When I realized I had assumed the role of the victim in Tiffany’s addiction, I escaped through reading inspirational and self-help books. The feelings of being victimized, helpless, and hopeless are what triggered my transformational journey to self-mastery. When I realized my transformation had been triggered by tragedy, I felt inspired to share my story.