This is my testimony...Kim Mathis
Updated: Jul 7
They call me Kimberly Mathis or just Kim. I am feisty and assertive, known for wearing long blonde tresses, a gold or silver cross pendant, any fashions with a pink hue or leopard print and a killer smile. The strength that lies behind my smile is easy to miss at first glance. The pain from whence that strength finally came, was enough to knock any sane person from the bliss of mental balance and sensibility. A pain that, for a child, seemed too complicated to understand and too heavy of a load to bear. As an adult, its weight paralyzed me with fear, anger, resentment, helplessness, and an acrimonious nature too vile for such a sweetheart.
I was born into this world a DOPE girl. And yes, I do mean fly and fabulous by society's theoretical definition of the word (LOL), but literally as well. I took my first breaths as a drug-dependent infant, born to a mother with an abominable addiction to both heroin and cocaine. I wish it were as simple as being administered weaning medications in the hospital's nursery to fight against the perils of withdrawal from the drugs I had digested for the last nine months. After about a week, I was released to my family in perfect health to live out the rest of my days in childish innocence and drug-free. Unfortunately, that's not what happened.
I spent the entirety of my young and adult life in emotional rehab, trying my damnedest to recover from drugs that I never even digested into my own body. Drugs that I never desired, bought, injected, smoked, or that ever gave me a high. Yet, I resided in a constant stupor. Growing up, my life was layered in both complications and contradictions. I was being raised by my maternal grandmother and my dad, between the crime-ridden sectors of Southeast Dallas and the North Dallas projects. Two areas with no shortage of drugs, staggering crime rates, poverty, and bona fide danger.
Since both grandma and my dad worked, I needed a place to go when school let out. That place was my aunt's house. She happened to live in the projects. It was the strangest set of dynamics. My mother was an addict and I was a uniform wearing private school girl, who lived in the hood. Projects and private school just didn't belong together. That combination seemed to blend about as perfectly as oil and water. My dad is an angel with a human face, though, and because of him, private school was the lifeline to a better future. It was a bridge across troubled waters that extended a pathway from the economic and intellectual elusiveness of the projects to the limitless possibilities that kids within the red concrete buildings of the projects would rarely, if ever, be exposed to.
I attended school with upper-class white folks by day and lived amongst poverty-stricken blacks by night. I guess you could say I had the best of both worlds even though I was struggling to find the best parts of the hood. It was literally from one extreme to the other, like two different worlds existed. On multiple occasions, I had to walk from school to my aunt's house. All too often, that routine walk came with an unwanted surprise, a bombshell so big that I wanted to ignore, and a mental picture I wish my mind could set ablaze.
In my private school uniform, I walked under the bridge and past my mom as a homeless addict who was living on the street. She found refuge under that bridge, surrounded by other addicts, makeshift houses made of cardboard and mounds of dog feces that seemed to blanket the ground. She was dirty, profoundly thin, incoherent, and utterly ignorant of my presence. This pain was far too burdensome for a child. This image was far too gruesome. This lesson was far too damaging, yet vastly advantageous. Knowing that my mom was an addict was one thing, but being a witness to it takes the pain beyond the thresh hold of tolerance.
I got a few other unwanted surprises too that came from being the child of an addict. How's seeing her free base in the kitchen, shoot-up in the bathroom with a partner who overdosed, while she played the role of a paramedic to revive him, and using me as an accessory for theft for your liking? Yep, that's right. She took me with her once as she committed one of her crimes and, right in front of my face, she stuffed a massive bundle of baby clothes under her shirt, giving the illusion of a pregnant belly and walked right out of a store we had gone to. What was even more disgraceful was the lack of shame she portrayed. Everything I saw my mom do, taught me exactly what not to be. I watched her lose every ounce of her dignity to get high and live in the hopeless and deadly cycle of addiction by any means necessary.
"This is the Dallas County Jail, you have a collect call from Rose. Do you accept?” This was a devastating question that I heard far too often and the shameful reality that my mom had landed herself behind bars, yet again. She was a repeat offender who was doing indisputably anything to keep her drug addiction thriving. What was the offense this time? Stealing? Prostitution? Or selling fake drugs? It didn't really matter what method she chose; they all lead to ceaseless dead ends and they were all chronic occurrences.
She went to jail so often that her arrest record was taking on the shape of Pinocchio's nose and the county jail wasn't the only place that had a permanent bed with her name on it, but three stints in the state penitentiary could be added to her criminal resume as well, which carried a stiff sentence of 29 years for the possession of crack cocaine. As a kid, I made more trips to the prison than I did to the roller rink or local library. The only images I had of a healthy mom were those that came from seeing her dressed in a white inmate uniform, with handcuffs to match, sitting behind a glass window. Jail was no place I ever wanted to be, so I became frantically intentional about my choices and hell-bent on breaking the cycle of addiction.
I became a college graduate, a mother of three, an entrepreneur, an Income Tax professional, and an NFL wife. My mom's addiction was the driving force behind much of my success because it left me feeling completely abandoned, unimportant, and passionately determined to be different. I started to resent people for not doing more to help her. Anger and frustration had become my closest allies. I didn't trust anyone, especially her since she was relentlessly deserting her parental responsibility to me. My attitude and mouth were nastier and more prominent than my five-foot frame appeared to hold. I engaged in what I call "verbal wars" every day. I used my mouth to defend myself and protect her from the daily cruelty and visceral meanness of kids who tried to mock her dreadful state and absenteeism. Hence the pain behind my smile. I was bitter, angry, gravely wounded, and utterly helpless.
As an adult, I tried to save her. I brought her to my home after her second release from the penitentiary. As joyful as a child on Christmas morning, I was ready to offer her a home, a support system, resources, and all the financial stability she could stand. Since my husband's job as an NFL defensive back was providing us with a good living, it was an opportunity to live life on her own terms, and prove that money simply can't buy everything. However, two weeks later, she disappeared without a trace. Addiction had won again. This felt like a sucker punch to the stomach. After 5 years in lock-up and being drug-free, this deadly game had started over. As truth would have it, addiction is nothing short of brain disease. Though a self-inflicted one, a brain disease, nevertheless. Mom was living with a brain disease.
The drugs had wholly changed the chemical makeup of her brain. She had very little control of her choices, her actions, and even how she felt. I wish I could tell you what triggered her to take a hit for the very first time. What was she trying to escape at such a young age? Or was her introduction to drugs something recreational that had gotten out of hand? To this day that's a question I can't answer. I was born when she was only twenty-two, and by then, she was already a full-blown junkie. What I know to be true is this: drug addiction happens in four specific stages.
First, there's experimentation, then there's regular use, followed by risky use and finally, you arrive at total dependency. My mom was well past dependence. Her habit had become entirely compulsive, uncontrollable, and the only thing that appeared to matter. I don’t think my mom wanted to be an addict, she settled for being one. Drugs didn’t judge her, they made her feel good, and falsely took away her pain. Consequently, they caused me a lifetime of pain. The societal cliché, "you can't miss what you didn't have" angers me. I absolutely missed a healthy, functional, mother-daughter relationship with Rose. I knew so little about her that I can't even tell you her favorite color.
Moms are sacrificial lambs for the stability, growth, and welfare of the lives they create. We turn into raging lions when anything threatens to harm our kids. I wish I knew what that felt like. Not once did I spend a single Mother's Day or any holiday for that matter with Rose celebrating her for giving me life, for the years of uninterrupted atonement of packing my lunch, washing my cheer uniform or working on class projects. I was unable to appreciate her for calming my fears of a monster being under my bed, or encouraging me to do something I was insecure about or for wiping my tears or kissing my boo-boos. There were no fancy brunches, no flowers or cards to give. No Christmas gifts. No birthday candles. But what do you do when you have to live with other people's choices? Relationships are a lot like a business transaction. There should be an equal amount of exchange between the parties, but when we're forced to live with other people's choices, we don't get the luxury of weighing the assets versus the liabilities.
Tolerably, we have to learn how to balance the books, pain versus compassion, not allowing ourselves to fall into a negative status. Far too often we pay double interest on some of those liabilities, enduring the pain now and later down the road. The only way to build emotional wealth is to create a balanced portfolio of faith, prayer, patience, understanding, and self-love. Make daily deposits through prayer. Pray, pray, and pray some more, for strength and endurance. Allow yourself to feel the emotional weight of whatever circumstances hand you and trust your intuition to handle them accordingly. Love yourself by setting boundaries on how much you can take and be discerning about the best way to walk away.
My mom wasn't suited to teach me what I needed, but she did show me the meaning of unconditional love and what it feels like to forgive the unforgivable. You may never get an apology from someone who hurt you or let you down; stop looking for it. Forgive them anyway, even if they're not sorry. People can't give you emotionally what they don't possess. But you can make a deliberate decision to do what's best for you and release the pain. Just let it go. Healing is a choice. You have to consciously decide that you want to be free. When I finally let go and stopped allowing myself to be a slave to the proverbial mental prison that her addiction had caused me, my soul exhaled one hell of a long breath.
Gratefully, my kids are free from the bondage of addiction, from verbal wars, impoverished mediocrity, and jailhouse visits. There are no creepy bridges to walk under, no unwanted or life-changing surprises. More importantly, there are countless, faceless people, just like Rose, living in the hell of addiction and numerous other battles that life has made them fight. There are that many more that are just like me, trying our damnedest to heal from things we couldn't discuss. However, there is good news.
There is no pain that God can't heal, no problem He can't solve, and no burden He can't bear. Your life is not over! It is not too late to live your truth, no matter what it is. Truth is the only safe ground to stand upon. You didn't come this far and pay this high of a price for nothing. God will meet you at the crossroads. Help is on the cusp of your praying lips, palmed hands, bent knees, and bowed head. What is God trying to heal you from? You don't have to be sick to get better and, inadvertently, you don't have to be a drug user to be sick either. You can be blessed by my full testimony in my new book, Dope Girl. Available on my website, kmathis.com