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An Innocent Toast - Tammi's Story

Imagine being eight years old and toasting in the New Year with a glass of champagne. It was exciting and I felt really grown up. To think I have a picture of the first time I got drunk. Yes that's a picture of me on the left holding up a glass of champagne.

What my parents thought was an innocent toast ended up becoming a lifelong addiction. You see I loved that champagne, it made me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. When everyone else had gone to bed I stayed up and drank.

My dad was the head engineer for a power company. It was his job to start a new power plant, get it up and running then move on to the next job. Some kids adjust easily to moving all the time but for me it was hard and alcohol gave me the confidence I lacked. When I was ten I would sneak and put alcohol in my thermos. It didn't take me much to get the feeling I wanted so I just watered it down or disguised it someway. My parents entertained a lot so they thought their friends drank it or blamed it on my older step brother.

When I was in the seventh grade we moved to Holbrook Arizona. The town was mostly Native Americans and Hispanic kids. I have really blonde hair and blue eyes so you can imagine how out of place I felt on my first day of school. Naturally I gravitated to the kids who drank and smoked pot. I loved the attention I received from the boys because it gave me a new way of getting what I wanted.

I had just turned fifteen and my parents were at their wits end. They were tired of fighting with me to stop hanging out with the wrong crowd. Then one day they confronted me with the marijuana they found. So my parents did what many parents did back then and sent me to live with a relative. Thinking that if they changed my surroundings I would start behaving.

Sending me to go live with my aunt was a mistake. She was a closet alcoholic and pot smoker. We connected immediately. Since I looked much older than I was she encouraged me to find a nice college boy. WOW! College parties were tons of fun and these "hip" guys were bar goers. I was able to do exactly as I wished with little or no consequences. That is until my parents found out and they sent me to go live with my biological father. I left there running after nine months of enduring his sexual abuse. The abuse sent me into a spiral that left me with more hurt, shame and isolation than I could handle.

For a while I was able to pull myself together long enough to meet my first husband and have my first son, Daniel. Unfortunately my addiction took a new turn into the world of meth amphetamines. I could make money now so manufacturing and transporting was my new identity.

In between there were attempts at sober life. Guilt would creep in and I was back and forth between street life and the family I had left without warning. I was fighting for some custody and visitation of my son and fought just as hard to appear as if I had it all together. It didn't take long before I became pregnant again. Sadly my son Matthew passed away in his sleep when he was two and a half months old.

My second husband was abusive and an alcoholic. Feeling unworthy of anything other than his wrath I stayed for 7 years. Somewhere in my thought process I thought having a baby would make things better. However my beautiful daughter Tianna did not change the circumstances and the beatings continued.

I was pretty clever and street savvy and managed to stay out of the reach of the law until I was thirty-one. Then I spent the next several months in and out of jail. Adding to my shame and guilt were all the broken promises I had made to my children. Residential burglary became my next big gig and I found myself heading for state prison. I was released in May of 2005 driving straight to Mesa Arizona with my daughter in tow with hopes of a new beginning. But as always I picked up right where I left off. I was on parole but became an expert at beating the system by getting around urine tests and probation.

On a Friday night in March of 2008 I was huddled in a corner of a filthy cockroach infested motel room smoking a bowl when my phone started ringing. It was my daughter wanting a ride home, but all I could do was silence it. I did not want this life anymore but I truly believed I could not live without alcohol or dope. The despair and hopelessness I felt was overwhelming and I asked God that night to please let me die. No one needed me in their life, all I caused was heart ache. The next morning I woke up and was angry that I was still here. I went downstairs to my truck and before I could light up a cigarette I was surrounded by 20 cops yelling at me to get on the ground. They said I was under arrest for murder. Once again I prayed to God pleading with him to get me out of this mess and if he did I promised I would get clean and sober.

I had given dope to a guy in exchange for a stolen credit card. This was no big deal because all you do is use the card once for gas then throw it away. Neither of us knew this credit card belonged to a man who had been murdered. The station I purchased the gas from had cameras and that's how I got caught. The murder charges were eventually dropped however I received a thirteen month prison sentence for receipt of stolen property and use of a stolen credit card. In prison I volunteered for the substance abuse program which carried a four month tail in a residential program. I put my entire being into getting well. To my surprise things got better, so I kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept my promise to God.


In 2012 I passed my registered substance abuse certification test and am now working in San Joaquin Superior Court's DUI Program. This program has over 500 offenders and I am always amazed at the compassion that Judge Vlavianos has for those that suffer. I was one of those people.

There were some rough patches to mend but I now have an awesome relationship with my family. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for God's grace and forgiveness. I do not regret my past nor wish to close the door on it. It is from this dark past that I can reach out and help people.

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