After 18 years of substance abuse, coming clean on the road to recovery

By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times

Amanda Reed holds a hand made Mothers Day card her daughter made for her. Olivia’s House in East Lake provides substance abuse treatment services to women with children up to the age of 10 years old. (Frank Couch / The Birmingham Times)

Amanda Reed hit rock bottom when her 12-year-old daughter wouldn’t speak to her.

Reed has three children—ages 12, 9, and 2—and was in and out of jails during her 18-year addiction. She finally had enough when she called her parents after being “missing” for six months. Reed hadn’t actually been missing; she had been locked up in a Shelby County jail for outstanding warrants.

“My mom said, ‘Why are you calling me now? Where have you been? Your kids are worried about you. I’m worried about you.’ I said I needed her to put money on my books. ‘You’re calling me for money?’ she asked. I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ My mom said, ‘They’ll feed you in there. Don’t call me again asking for money.’”

Reed waited a week before calling again.

“I said ‘I don’t want any money. I just want to tell you I love you and miss you.’ Then I asked if I could speak to my 12-year-old daughter. [My mother said,] ‘She doesn’t want to talk to you.’ I said, ‘Well, can you tell her I love her?’ My mother put me on speakerphone and called my daughter in the room. I said, ‘I love you, Alexis.’ My daughter said, ‘OK.’ It broke my heart.”

A Shelby County judge gave Reed—who was hooked on everything from pain pills to heroin to crack cocaine—a chance to get clean at Olivia’s House, a 17-room inpatient facility in East Lake that provides care for chemically dependent women and their children.

“He let me go to work release, and I had to go to a treatment facility for eight months. He said, ‘You mess up, I will send you to [the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, in Wetumpka, Ala.,] for five years.’”

Reed said she had a list of rehabilitation centers to check into. When she called Olivia’s House, they answered the phone “every single time.” She has been a resident at Olivia’s House since March and said it has been a “lifesaver.”

“I’m very grateful to be here. I love the staff,” said Reed, who used to spend $300 a day on her drug habit. “I was prescribed legal prescriptions from a doctor for years.”

Reed said it took about four weeks to get admitted into Olivia’s House.

“Since I have been here, my eyes have been opened to a new way of life,” she said. “It has been amazing!”

“I [had] chalked my life up to being on pain pills for the rest of my life. I’ve been on pain pills since 1999, and [my habit] only got worse. My mom called me a ‘doctor-made addict.’ When I lost my job and insurance, I went to the streets for my medicine.”

Things have been looking up for Reed since she’s been at Olivia’s House. Her family and children speak to her and visit.

“I’m so blessed because my family has allowed me to be in their lives still,” Reed said. “For a long time with my addiction, I thought my family didn’t want me. I’m the one who ran. My mom showed me pictures of myself a year ago, I didn’t even recognize myself. I asked, ‘Why didn’t you say something?’ My mom said, ‘I did. I even offered to pay for you to go to rehab, and you told me you didn’t have a problem.’ That’s how bad I was.”

Reed said, “I love this way of life … wouldn’t trade it for anything. I wouldn’t want to go back and use. I know if I did it would be suicide.”

To read more about Olivia’s House, click here.