A New Jersey mom who spent nearly half her life addicted to heroin and crack is sharing her inspiring addiction recovery story as she fights for custody of her 9-year-old daughter.
Madison McManus was 15 years old when her then-boyfriend introduced her to the hard drugs
"I was always very self conscious and never felt comfortable in my own skin," the now-28-year-old said. "I felt like I wasn't a part of. But alcohol and drugs brought me out of myself.
"They were like a temporary mask and I didn't have to worry about if I was good enough or going to fit in. I didn't care."
Avoiding the social pressures of adolescence felt euphoric, McManus said.
It didn't take long for things to spiral out of control, though, landing McManus in rehab several times.
When McManus turned 19, she became pregnant with her daughter and stopped using.
But after her daughter was born, McManus began using again.
"I didn’t know it was a relapse because I didn’t know anything about recovery," the mom says. "It got out of control when my daughter was two.
"That's when I lost her."
McManus' mom took custody of her daughter, as she spent the following six years living on the streets with a full-blown addiction.
"I had gotten arrested and had a bunch of warrants because I ran from court," she said. "I was so beat down."
Each time McManus was released from jail, she'd go right back to the city streets, she said.
She described what she was experiencing as "the insanity of addiction. It's a disease."
McManus's last binge began in March 2018 and ended four months later -- on her daughter's birthday.
McManus says she remembers it clearly.
"Nothing in particular happened," she said. "I was just tired. It was early in the morning and I was so tired. I rarely slept, I would fall asleep anywhere -- backyards, front lawns.
"I put my hand on my head and just cried to God, who I didn’t know at the time."
Two hours later, McManus was in handcuffs and facing the decision that would change her life: Jail or rehab?
McManus chose the latter, and has been clean ever since.
She eventually went on to live in a halfway house then a sober living facility, all while learning for the first time how to be a functioning member of society.
"It was hard," she said. "I had no idea how to live, how to clean, pay bills or take responsibility for my actions."
But through years of rehab, therapy and guidance from her higher power, McManus learned to live on her own, landed a job and saved up enough money to get an apartment.
All that's missing from her life now, McManus says, is her daughter.
"When I came into recovery it weighed really heavy on me that drugs brought me to a place where I didn’t have the ability to take care of her," McManus said.
"It pained me every day. Through working on myself I've come to learn about the disease of addiction, and that I'm not alone.
"I had no choice but to forgive myself. I could beat myself up every day or I could change myself from the inside out, get on spiritual grounds and strong enough where I could be a good mother to her."
And so, McManus is going back to court this month. But this time, it won't be for drugs, rather, to win full custody of her beloved baby girl.
"I’ve been building a relationship with her, talking to her every night on the phone," McManus said. "It's scary because I want to be the best mom i can because I lost so much time. I am grateful to be in a place where I can be present and show up to see her, and talk to her every night.
"I'm grateful that I can fight for her."
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