What was once a terrible day for Larina Lacasse is one she now sees as good—the day that saved her. In an essay for Scary Mommy, she shared her journey out of drug addiction and told how the day her children were sent to foster care was day one on her long road to recovery.
At the time, Lacasse saw her addiction as justifiable because it began “inside a doctor’s office with a prescription pad.” She had been dealing with back pain since giving birth to her youngest child and had become addicted to opioids, muscle relaxers, and Xanax. She thought she could appear normal, at least on occasion, but the appearance of normality eventually wore off.
“It was April 7, 2010, and the day started like any other for me,” wrote Lacasse. “I woke up, swallowed a handful of pills, enough to get me going, and began getting the kids ready for school. I believe I was able to get my daughter to her middle school before it all went bad.”
The next thing she remembers is an ambulance arriving at her home where she and her husband had overdosed. This time, the police and child protective services were also there. The children were removed from the couple’s custody and placed in foster care, which, fortunately for this family, meant being sent to their grandparents’ home since they were already fostering the children’s cousins.
“I cried all the time. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that they were gone,” Lacasse explained. “It’s amazing the lack of self-awareness I had back then. How dare they take my kids from me? I was a good parent… except for the drug problem […]”
Lacasse knew that she had to quit using drugs in order to regain custody of her children, but it was easier said than done. She and her husband had tried to stop using in the past, including attending 12-step meetings. But they were stuck in a cycle even after the children were removed from their home.
“The truth is that having my kids taken away was not enough to make me stop,” she admitted. “This actually helped things spiral for quite a while afterwards. Depression set in even further, and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Three months after her children were removed, she was in rehab but relapsed when she was released. By Christmas, she was also heavily drinking, believing that consuming alcohol was somehow better than taking pills. She soon realized she had no control over any substance she attempted to use.
In January 2011, nine months after losing custody, she was sober for an entire day for the first time in years. And she managed to stay sober despite still feeling “hopeless.” She and her husband had separated and she realized that it didn’t matter how many drugs she took or drinks she consumed. They never filled the hole inside of her. Therapy helped her heal.
Tragically, that following November, her husband relapsed and he died. It was a life-changing experience for Lacasse. She had been sober for 10 months and was facing a devastating loss. But for the first time, she understood that drugs wouldn’t help. They wouldn’t bring her husband back.
In January 2012, Lacasse regained custody of her children and has been drug-free ever since. In January 2020, she celebrated nine years of sobriety and said her relationships with her children continue to improve.
“I had to show them things were different in order for them to believe it,” she said. “The path to forgiveness I was seeking was long and difficult. The older two know that I chose drugs over them. It was important for me to acknowledge that, because while it may not have been a choice for me, this was their reality. My choices affected their childhood and their sense of safety in a profound way, and I don’t get to tell them how to feel about that.”
Lacasse wants other parents struggling with addiction and the loss of custody of their children to understand that it is possible to overcome. The day her children were removed from her care was “awful” but looking back, she sees it “as the day that saved my life.”
The goal of foster care is to keep children safe until they can be reunited with their biological parents, and thankfully for Lacasse, that is exactly what happened. She worked hard and did what she needed to do, and the system worked. It can work for other families too when people support them and help them do what needs to be done to regain custody of their children.
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