I’d like to tell you about my daughter, my only and most precious child… Crystal Marie. Though, first I must set the stage to my life at that moment in time and prior to that for you to see the whole picture. I was the oldest child of five and from a very young age was responsible for helping raise my brother and then sister. I would cook, clean, and care for them from age eight, maybe earlier and by 11,12 I was cooking dinner for them nightly. I did this up until approx. 13 years old while my parents were working hard to build their American Dream business.
I married young, to a “bad boy” who was four years older than I was at 18. My parents didn’t like him very much and never really gave us their blessing. Today, I believe I married young to escape my so much responsibility at a young age, I just wanted freedom like my other friends. My husband and I moved to Houston Texas where he (Crystal’s biological father) and I both had business opportunity there, as well as family, so it made our decision to move an easy one.
Soon after moving there I would find myself in a very difficult situation.
Within the first two weeks there, living with my husband’s brother (temporarily), I learned how serious his drinking was, then, one early evening I walked in on him and his brother shooting up cocaine. This was the first time I ever saw him do this, and never knew he had ever done it. I was shocked, afraid, and very concerned. One thing led to another and the fighting began, fighting for weeks, then off and on for months. Within a few months we moved to our own place, I thought things would get better now that we had our own place and privacy. I had heard of alcoholics and addicts but I never really knew one, so I thought.
His drinking got worse, the cocaine got worse, then the fighting and abuse got worse, it all soon became an everyday thing. Then one day in one of our “fights” while I was getting beat up by him, he put me through a kitchen window, then pulled me back through it again, into the apartment as he continued to hit and kick me. An artery in my wrist was cut, needless to say, blood was everywhere. I ended up in the hospital, needing 15 stitches, care, and much rest. While in the hospital, I learned I was just under three months pregnant with Crystal.
Right then I decided I was done, I would no longer take this physical, mental and verbal abuse, especially, with a baby coming. When released from the hospital, after being married for only ten months, I left him.
I left with a cousin of mine, who to my advantage, happened to be visiting Houston at that time. He took me back south, to Marietta, Georgia to my parent’s home and I never looked back.
Crystal was born on a Wednesday at 3:56 in the afternoon in Atlanta, Georgia. My best girlfriend was in the delivery room with me when I had my beautiful baby girl, Crystal Marie, 8 lb ,2 oz.
I started a new life at 19, as a single parent with my awesome little sidekick, “Crystal pistol”. I followed my parents again, when they moved back to south Florida. Crystal was raised in South Florida from age three on…
Crystal was always a fun, funny little girl, a showman, she loved acting, singing, dancing and being the center of attention. She was very independent even from a very young age. She wanted to do everything by herself, and was a take charge kind of kid with everything she did. I believe she was a born leader, but she really didn’t have a choice either, she grew up very fast as I supported the household. Me being a young single parent, working 2-3 different jobs, Crystal was with private babysitters a lot, and sadly, was allowed to do more things than I as a parent would have allowed.
When Crystal was eight years old, I married a great man. He and Crystal hit it off from day one and their relationship only got better in time. Crystal adored her new “Daddy” and he adored her. In a couple years, in the beginning of middle school my husband adopted Crystal and she proudly took his name. She called him Dad, and to him, she was “his daughter.” He loved and cared for her as his own. They were very close. He was a great Dad and great provider.
Crystal never wanted for anything. I came from a successful entrepreneurial family and he was a successful entrepreneur himself. Other than me struggling as a single parent, working two and three jobs at a time, a good life is all Crystal really knew. Her Dad was very active in Alcoholics Anonymous and was very proud and outspoken about it. He helped a lot of people particularly men get sober.
Crystal made good grades but excelled more in hands-on activities and studies. She took lots of after-school activities and programs. She was in acting and drama classes, art classes, ceramics, golf, and gymnastics. She was a cheerleader a few times over and coached cheerleading in middle school and again in her early high school years.
Crystal was very popular, people liked being around her… for one, she was hilarious and always had you laughing! She also had a huge heart, she treated everyone as if they were the most special person in the room and her friends would tell you the same. She genuinely cared about people and how they felt. She was like a little counselor to her friends or anyone who needed a kind ear.
She knew how to make people laugh and that made her even more attractive. She was witty and quick with the one-liner and comebacks. Crystal and my husband would always joke with and gang up on me, in a fun kind of way, we had a lot of fun and were always laughing. I told her over and over, I was her biggest fan, she would have me in stitches laughing. I really loved being around my daughter, she was my world and I enjoyed her company so much as did many.
Crystal was also a defender of the weak, handicapped, or underdog. She would stand up to bullies with no problem, even did some scrapping… she had a huge heart and was a kind soul, but tough too, she wouldn’t take any “crap” and she wasn’t afraid of anyone, and if she was, you wouldn’t have known it. She showed no fear. After a few years of a private Christian school, Crystal begged my husband and I to let her go back to the local public school system. She wanted to go by our home where many of her friends went. It was an ongoing battle and eventually, we gave in, and so, she went there for 11th and 12th grade.
Today, I still kick myself for that one, a decision, I feel one of my biggest mistakes. Crystal’s last year of H.S. was rough, she was always in trouble for talking and joking in class. Soon there was “partying”, mostly drinking, so I thought. She made new friends we weren’t fond of and she knew it. She graduated high school with decent grades, and we knew she was capable of better. She was very smart but her interests were not in school.
On the last day of 12th grade, after one of the “graduation party’s”, on the way home, she wrecked her brand new car. Thank God she was okay. Apparently, she had been “partying” much more than we realized, we also learned that some of the partying actually started in 10th grade at the Christian school. She told us ‘all the spoiled rich kids got drugs easy.” This was a big wake up call for me, we were all always busy, going going going and now here we are… what had I missed?
We handled the wrecked car and put boundaries and rules in place in order for her to stay living at home. Crystal began to have an attitude with everything we said and did, rules and guidelines were a problem for her. She thought she knew everything and had all the answers, and we didn’t know anything… but she still agreed to our guidelines to live at home. I enrolled her in aesthetician school with me, where I was already attending. We also took micro pigmentation (permanent make-up) classes together, which we both graduated from together. I was so happy she was doing productive things, and we were doing them together… how cool!
Very soon I learned she wasn’t that interested in this school either and again was more into partying and boys. She was drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes and marijuana.
Even though she agreed to our guidelines, in time she began doing what she wanted anyway, this became a problem for all of us. She met this older guy we did not like and started spending a lot of time with him. More problems followed, bad attitude, rebellion and noncompliance to our rules and boundaries. Then the Xanax bars came… Xanax bars, weed and alcohol all combined. A disaster waiting to happen.
I feared where she was headed and had no idea what to do about it, but I was on it this time. Our rules became more strict and our antennas were up regarding everything she was and wasn’t doing. More problems followed and it went from bad to worse pretty fast. I was out of my mind with the rebellion and bad attitude, it seemed we were always going through something stressful!
I started playing detective going through her things, always suspicious. I would find Absolute bottles and beer cans under her bed. She became unwilling to live by the house rules and so then, on her own accord she moved out. She moved in with this older guy about five years her senior, he lived six to seven miles away from our house. I was not happy about this and honestly scared. At least when she was home, I had some idea of what was going on and thought I had some control.
Many sleepless nights and unproductive restless days, I began to follow her and this would now become an obsession. I would sit outside this guy’s apartment in my SUV with a baseball bat and watch, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I needed to help her somehow. All of my attempts to help fell south and I realized how powerless I really was. Eventually, weeks would go by without any communication, then weeks turned into months… I knew when I didn’t hear from her, it was not good, something wasn’t right.
I never felt so powerless, helpless, and fearful in all my life.
I was a complete mess, I cried and prayed all the time, living in complete fear, my behavior was nutty, and the chaos it brought to our family was even crazier. I couldn’t sleep but wanted to stay in bed all day. Normal everyday functions were impossible for me to do. My life’s focus was Crystal, Crystal, Crystal, and how I was going to save her. She was ripping my heart out, she was my every thought, worry, and concern from the moment I opened my eyes until I would finally fall asleep at night. Her moving out and the unknown just tormented me. She wouldn’t answer calls or call me.
I never felt so powerless, helpless, and fearful in all my life. She was my everything and I didn’t know what to do to help her. My husband had 18 years clean and sober at the time and he couldn’t help her, I didn’t understand that; if anyone should be able to help her, he should, so I thought.
I’m her Mother, for goodness’ sake I should be able to help her! This was a nightmare. I just couldn’t believe this is where we were at, what happened? Almost overnight our life went from really good to falling apart at the seams.
My marriage was being affected, my health, I had no joy, no spirit or energy to do this anymore, I only felt stress, heartache, and despair. I just couldn’t face the reality of this person, this “new person” our beautiful, smart, and loving daughter had become. It was a bad nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. My husband and I learned about the Marchman Act, in the State of Florida.
Crystal was over 18 and was now considered an adult so, now we had to go through the courts and let the state step in. The legal system does not allow the parents too have any rights, once their child is 18, even when you are trying desperately to help save their life! You have no rights anymore once the child is 18. Yes, even when trying to save their life!
So with the Marchman Act, she was served and had a court hearing. In short, the judge told her 60 days in treatment or 6 months in jail. She went to treatment, she did great, got out, and started going to AA and NA meetings… She attended meetings with my late husband who was very active in the program. She went to meetings regularly with him and loved it. I was going to Al-Anon, we were all going to meetings and church together. I was so happy we were doing all of this together as a family.
Eventually, I started an Al-Anon meeting in BOCA, called The Best of Both. It was Al-Anon with AA participation, where we could hear both sides. We were all going to this meeting, as it is a family disease and the whole family is affected by it. This disease wreaks havoc over and on anyone in its path, no exceptions. I couldn’t have been happier we were all getting help and we had our girl and family back! Praise God.
One Day at a Time everything started getting really good again…and having “program” and “God” was awesome. A great blueprint for anyone’s daily life. The glue that holds everything together. Crystal moved back into our home, she got a job and started meeting people in the program. She was clean and sober for years, working and doing great. She was awesome! I was so happy, we all were. It’s amazing, when you take a beautiful human being and put drugs into their body, how they change, they become someone you don’t know and honestly don’t want to know. It changes them in every aspect of the world, inside and out, health and looks, attitude and disposition. You don’t recognize who they become and you don’t like who they have become, although you love them with all your heart… they are still your child.
Drugs change them completely, physically, emotionally and mentally. You take the drugs out and life is restored, we were so thankful we had our girl back! I believe, God, and daily maintenance are key to survival in sobriety. You must never forget where you came from, and where you ended. Play the tape all the way through…Stay humble, do service, and giveback. They say, “you can’t keep it unless you give it away”.
God is a huge factor and key to staying humble and grateful. Crystal was on her way, and we were so proud to have her active in and part of our family life again. Soon she met this great guy, we really liked. A good guy with values, and good upbringing. We did things together, we traveled together, life was good and I was on cloud nine. I was so happy spending quality time with my girl.
Approximately two years after dating they got married. They had a great life; we were all so happy. He really adored her, you could see it in his eyes, as you could see her love for him too. They went to church together, they had a big family, special events, dinners and big family gatherings. I was so happy for her. They lived a great life, lots of loving family and a very privileged lifestyle. Million dollar homes, a collection of high dollar cars, motorcycles, and all the toys. They traveled in and out of the United States. I was very happy knowing she finally had a good man. She was safe, loved and well taken care of. Her Dad and I were so happy and proud of her in so many ways.
Crystal became pregnant with twins, we were all ecstatic about these babies and their future, it was so exciting. Around 20+ weeks Crystal began to have complications with her pregnancy. Then just barely 22 weeks she had to have an emergency C-section. (Crystal had approximately seven years clean and sober at this time) These babies were so premature, they could fit in the palm of your hand, they were literally the tiniest babies I had ever seen. Crystal’s daughter Angelica, weighed only a pound and only lived a few hours after birth. It was a very bitter sweet time.
Crystal’s surviving son weighed just over 2.4 pounds at birth, he was so very precious, and so teeny tiny. This little guy was in the NICU, with touch and go issues every day… Crystal would bring her breast milk to him every day and stay for hours on end. Meanwhile during this difficult time, we had to have a small private funeral service and burial for his twin sister, Angelica.
This was one of the hardest things I personally ever had to do, this tiny little casket, it was so terribly sad, I couldn’t imagine the pain of losing a child. I know it was devastating on Crystal and her husband, but with her son still not out of the woods, there was no time for real grieving. At one month old he needed to have an emergency surgery to have part of his intestine removed. While in the NICU he was hooked up to all kinds of machines and monitors. He had to have one more surgery before going home for a hernia.
This was so much on such a tiny little guy, He finally arrived at home after 3-1/2 months, still needing 24 hour care. He was still hooked up to a heart monitor, a lung monitor and pooped in a colonoscopy bag, not diapers like a baby should. Months of detailed care he began to get stronger and healthier every day. In the first year we saw so many different doctors, as he continued to thrive in his health and growth. He was one of the most adorable babies I have ever seen, with a larger than life personality, just like his Mommy. Crystal was a great Mom, a great wife, daughter and friend. She did Mommy and me classes, and was hands on with him in everything they did, they were inseparable.
Crystal had other Mommy friends, they were always doing kid stuff together, very active parts in their children’s lives…. life was so good. Everything was great and getting better every day. We loved this sweet, handsome grandson of ours, and watching him get stronger and healthier by the day! We loved watching our daughter be such a beautiful, loving mommy and wife, it made us so proud. Things were going so well; they all had such a beautiful life together, what more could a mother want? This was every parents dream for their child.
When our grandson was just three years old, we got terrible news that my husband, his Papa was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Instantly, once again our lives changed direction, this was a major shock and blow to all of us! This was terrible, just terrible, talk about feelings of powerlessness. The Doctor’s gave him three to six months to live. He fought the whole way fighting hard to survive, he wanted to live. With surgery, chemo and radiation he survived two years. The last year was terrible, no real quality of life struggling the whole way. I would bring in AA meetings to our home and the house would be full of his friends.
This was the beginning of the downward spiral of Crystal’s life.
We continued praying, having hope and faith he was going to be okay, meanwhile it was a very trying and difficult year for all of us. The surgery, the effects of the chemo and radiation, constantly driving to doctors and hospitals, it was tolling, especially on my poor husband. We watched the head of our family, a big, strong guy, another bigger-than-life personality, begin to wither away to nothing, looking more and more sickly every day. It was a terrible thing to watch someone you love go through this every day. It tore us up and fear really overwhelmed us as we watched his decline.
Crystal and I never left his side. The last couple months were torturous as we knew time was not on our side. We were both holding his hands at the very end, terrified as he struggled to breathe.
On October 29, 2011 he looked at Crystal, in a very low shaky voice told her “I love you”, then looked at me and said, “I love you a lot”, then in seconds, he took that very last breath and we knew he had passed, his struggle was over. We cried our eyes out, and in a non-selfish way, we felt relieved that he was out of this horrible pain and this nightmare for him was over., little did I know another nightmare was to begin.
We were a complete mess. It was such a sad, devastating time, that just didn’t seem real. He passed at 52 years old…why? How? Why did he of all people have to suffer from cancer? He helped so many people, he didn’t deserve to end this way. This was the worst thing that could have ever happened, how were we going to do this? This man was our rock, our leader, Dad and Husband, part of our life and heart. How does his grandson begin to understand his Papa, he was so crazy about is not coming back? We will never on this earth see him again. We were in total disbelief and shock and just didn’t know where to begin.
This changed all of us almost instantly. Fear and frustration lead me closer to the Lord. Crystal helped me a lot, she was always checking on me and together we stayed in faith. She was my rock for weeks helping me any way she could. She went to the Catholic church with her husband and she would go to my church with me sometimes. She knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, thank God. We liked going to church together. Faith over Fear I kept telling myself as I still felt so alone. Crystal had her son and husband to care for and started being more distant, now calling to check up on me.
Soon she began getting more and more scarce and I would see her less and less. I figured she had her family and I just fumbled through my new life, trying to find me and my new place. Just over a month after Crystal’s Dad passed, she called me and said, she needed help and had to tell me something. She scared me with her hesitance and tone. I said, “Crystal, please just tell me” Reluctantly, she told me she had a “pain pill” problem. I told her we would get through it. I would get her help and I was going to be right there with her, and that we were going to beat it together.
Little did I know this was the beginning of the downward spiral of Crystal’s life. I never dreamed of the dreadful roller coaster ride we would be on for over six long years. She was in detox after detox, treatment after treatment. every time, she would get out she would get a few days, a few weeks, couple months, maybe and go right back out. To this day I really don’t know what the truth is about her clean time, except those 6 + years, prior to her Dad’s death. She was kicked out of a few treatment centers for drinking or doing something wrong. She even went to jail for robbing me. She stole some very high-priced items and pawned them off at four different pawn shops, so now she had five felonies. I dropped my charge and the state picked them up.
She would ask me, “Mom how did I get here? How did I get like this? How did it get so bad? I hate this, I feel like a prisoner in my own body. Why Mom?”
So now the state was in control of her. She was in jail for one month, I felt I should leave her there, that hopefully, it was somewhere she would never want to go again. I was angry and hurt that she and this kid she was hanging out with pilfered through my entire house, as I was out of town watching them on the surveillance videos in disbelief that this was my daughter doing this.
It made me sick that my own daughter could do this to me, how did this happen, how can one be so desperate to do this to her own Mom? I couldn’t believe this is where we were in our lives once again. I visited her once while she was in jail, it made me ill to see her there, this wasn’t my girl. She said all the right things though, which I was getting used to, not knowing what truths were anymore.
When she came out, she continued to say all the right things and seemed to be doing all the right things. We were going to church and meetings together again. Then her husband would call me and say she’s back out again!!! This happened so many times, and each time my heart would drop. I watched the first true love of my life, spiral out of control again. She abandoned her husband, son, and me, everyone who loved her for the drug. I tried desperately to “save” her. My life was also spinning out of control, not knowing what to do and doing everything I could think of. I felt so helpless.
I prayed, prayed and prayed, yet I still feared where she was headed. I kept giving it to God because I knew I was powerless over her, and the situation. It began making me physically sick. She was a mess and the decisions she was making made no sense, I felt like I was dealing with a 17 year old kid. This battle went from bad to worse quickly. It took us places I never ever dreamed we would be, or go. Bad, dark, scary places, places I never dreamed I would be or go, and alone with her with no real help close by. What was I thinking???
One day, she broke a window with a brick and her hand and crawled through the window into the house and passed out. I was scared to death when I found her, I thought she was dead, hysterical before I could even get to her, to find she was high, exhausted, malnourished, and passed out. I would get called to hospitals to see her, sometimes, only to see her scream at nurses, yank her IV out, and leave the hospital, against medical advice, because she didn’t like something someone said to her, like the Doctor. Other times her calling me crying, to come get her from somewhere, I would drop everything to get there, to see her being taken away on a stretcher all bloody leaving in an ambulance.
Other times trying to drive her to detox near where we lived, watching her jump out of the car twice while in route! The trauma and stress I lived with, was almost as bad as the disease she lived with. I couldn’t imagine being so addicted to something, that would completely change a person into someone you didn’t know, as you watched it happen right before your eyes, watch them completely destroy everything in their life. Honestly, we must have done this kind of crazy, dozens and dozens of times if not 100 times! Over six years, day in and day out.
It was hell on earth and there was never a moment’s peace. This was the worst, after losing my husband I was scared to death I would lose my daughter too. I kept on keeping on. I tried tough love, the Al-Anon way, I helped any way I could, I wouldn’t take her calls, then I would. I tried helping her every way I could other than giving her money. Money is what destroyed her. Her Dad left her 100K and it all went to drugs. Her husband divorced her and she got double that in the divorce and it all went to drugs.
I didn’t know how I was going to get through this, but we did this hell on earth over and over and over. All I could do was cry and pray, cry and pray. God was our only hope. Fear overwhelmed me, I had faith but I had fear, and sadly I believe at this point my fear was stronger, how could we keep doing this? How can one have faith and so much fear at the same time? She would call me many times, asking could she come detox at my house, sometimes I took her to a hospital and sometimes I let her come home. She would be so sick. It was awful to watch. She would shake and cough and cry and sleep sometimes for days and much worse. It was a real physical pain and I had no idea the detoxing was so painful, physically painful, I never saw anything like it.
All I could do was be there for her, I would cry watching her go through this terrible detox, this dreadful fight which she could no longer control either. I would listen to her moan and groan and cry. She would ask me, “Mom how did I get here? How did I get like this? How did it get so bad? I hate this, I feel like a prisoner in my own body. Why Mom?” And she would just cry, telling me she hated this life. She recommitted herself to the Lord several times over, longing for the strength she didn’t seem to have internally.
This went on and on and on, it seemed so discouraging, but I still held on to that little bit of hope. If there’s breath, there is hope. I prayed that she would be a great testimony to help others, for God’s glory. I just knew this was it, this time she would get it and be able to help other addicts. That was my daily prayer.
Finally, I found a treatment facility that had faith based concepts in California and then sober living, she did both and was doing great. I flew out to California to see her pick up 90 days. I was so proud of her, we visited for three days, had some good talks and some great laughs. She begged me to let her come home for Christmas. I told her not now, she wasn’t ready yet and that I would fly back out there and we would have a great Christmas together.
She wasn’t about to take no for an answer. She begged, pleaded, and manipulated anyone she could, to help her get back home and she did. On Thanksgiving Eve morning, her son called me saying, “Nana, Mommy’s home” my heart sunk…. as I knew in my gut and heart this was a bad thing, a real bad thing. She told people she flew home to “surprise us for Thanksgiving”… although she made it home, we would never see her again.
November 22, 2017, I received the life-changing phone call.
I received the life-changing phone call. The deputies couldn’t tell me on the phone…. I said to the caller, when she asked me if I was Crystal’s Mom…did she relapse again? She said, well I guess you can say that. They said they had to meet me, even in all of this confusion, I still never thought the worst. That was the day my heart and soul changed forever, never ever to be the same. My most precious gift in life, my daughter, my greatest joy and blessing was now forever gone on this earth. Forever missing from our lives. My baby girl gone, lifeless never to laugh again. Along with every dream and desire she had, and we had for her, now shattered, never to be. Crippling me like nothing ever before…I thought I knew pain…. All the pain and loss I lived through already, how could I live without her? How do I go on without her? how? I couldn’t breathe, my heart literally felt like it stopped, part ripped out of my chest. I was suddenly alone, totally alone, as if I was the only one in the world left. Everything closed in on me and nothing mattered, anymore.
The closest thing to my heart was just robbed from me just like that! I couldn’t believe it, I was in shock, literally dazed, unable to comprehend anything. Even though I knew it was happening, I was unable to really process any of this. I was in a fog and would hear people talk but not understand what they were saying. It was like my own out of body experience. The sadness was beyond anything I have ever felt and still lingers every day of my life. Life is different now; I will never again have the “color” or the fullness of “life” I once had. Never… it just couldn’t. I couldn’t. The loss of a child is unbearable and unlike any other loss. It just shouldn’t, and isn’t supposed to be this way. I know I was a good, loving, caring Mom, I wasn’t perfect, maybe not the best, but far from the worst, I know I did everything in my power to help her. Tough love, enabling, fixing, helping her, denying her, putting her in jail, leaving her there, meetings, church, begging others for help and prayer… If it could be done I tried. I spent a small fortune in treatments and help for her, everything I knew to do.
Today, I believe God saved her from herself, from something worse happening. He couldn’t see her suffer this hell anymore, so He took her home.
My Dad once said to me, you know Noreen, if something happens to Crystal, you will have a big hole in your heart, but living like this every day, the pain the chaos the roller coaster, is like stabbing you over and over and over pricking thousands of little holes all over you …. I resented him then for saying that then, but today, I understand.
The large hole is horrible, but I don’t know how much more I could have taken either, I was a nervous wreck and the stress had taken a heavy toll on me. She is with the Lord, and I am here. I’m trying to make a difference any way I can - to give her beautiful life and most important, her death, more purpose. She did not want this, and neither does anyone addicted. It’s a living hell, they are tormented, none of them wanted this.
My Crystal was a great daughter, she really was one of the best of the best and I am proud of the daughter she was before drugs, She was truly a special soul, and really cared deeply about people and her family. She had a heart full of love and compassion. She was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside and was so much fun to be around… I miss her so much. Honestly, it’s a daily struggle having such a loss, it’s always there. Crystal had such a bright and beautiful life and future, now her light, lights up the sky for the world to see. Gods got her and she sits with Jesus, her daughter Angelica and her Dad, and I will see them all again one day, and that gives me peace.