Stacy and Tony Brown have experienced a 20-year journey full of challenges, perseverance and persistent hope. Stacy is the operations manager at the distribution center and Tony is a chef at the Burger Stand. They have four amazing children. Part 1 of their story describes their challenges with addiction and losing their children to State custody.
Stacy and Tony lived a precarious life where meth played a prominent role. For Tony addiction started when he was 15 years old. “I went from using to selling. I became probably one of the biggest sellers here in Topeka. It went from bad to worse. I had cops watching me and it was a crazy lifestyle. There were some days I looked forward to it but then it became a necessity. It was something we had to have to go to bed, to get up, to go to work. It finally came to the point where I was losing multiple jobs. I couldn’t hold a job.”
Stacy went on to share that things in their house were getting shut off. “We were bouncing from house to house; motel to motel. It got to where if we didn’t have the drugs, we couldn’t get the kids up and take them to school, so they were truant. The end began when we were staying with my grandma. I was getting kids in and out of the bath and our youngest, Evan, who was about 1 ½-2 years old, went into my grandma’s room. He pulled down a lamp that was on my grandma’s dresser and it didn’t have a shade on it so it burned him. A couple days later I had him at a house that I shouldn’t have and a lady saw the burn marks. Even though I explained to her how it happened, the next morning she was at my parent’s house, shaking the fence and telling them that I had burnt our Evan with a dope pipe and that he was unresponsive. She went to the cops and the cops showed up asking to see Evan. He was obviously responsive, but the cop was up and down. He said they would let us take him to the hospital to get the burn checked out. I went inside to get some shoes and stuff on to take him but by the time I got out of the house, they had already put him in a cop car and taken him away. It was a nightmare. We got to the hospital and they wouldn’t let me explain my side even though the doctors could tell it wasn’t from a dope pipe. They still kept him because they said I should have gotten him medical attention. I don’t even know how to explain how I felt. It was the worst way you can feel. Three days later they came and took the rest of our kids.
We had left Alexis and Caleb at my grandma’s and Anthony was with us. We stopped at my cousin’s house and she said, “You need to get to grandmas; they just came and took Alexis and Caleb.” Anthony was about 10 and he just looked at me and said “Mom hide me. I don’t wanna go.” I said, “Anthony I have to take you back there because if I don’t take you then I don’t have a chance of getting the rest of them back.” We showed up to my grandma’s. I called the cops and I was not nice; I threatened them. I told them to bring my kids back. They showed up 15 minutes later and took Anthony. He was a big kid and he grabbed hold of me like a baby. I walked him out to the van and had to puthim in it. That’s the first time they got taken.”
Stacy added, “When the kids got taken the first time, we got clean pretty easy but then we went back to using. I was really good at manipulating the system. When I stopped going to take UA’s, we stopped going to take them in the middle of a case worker switch so when they called me on it, I said the caseworker said we didn’t have to take them anymore since the kids were getting ready to come home. The new case worker went with it. If we walked in and they said let’s do a UA today, I would switch the conversation and by the time I was out the door, they forgot that they wanted me to take a UA. So, that is the drug world. You learn to manipulate people.
The first time the kids came home, we didn’t even know they were coming. We thought we was just going to pick them up for an overnight and the foster mom said they were coming home. I didn’t second-guess it for a second. I was the happiest person alive. Tony shared “We weren’t ready. We got clean for six or eight months, something like that, and we thought once we got the kids back, we could just go ahead and keep using. Our electricity got shut off when we was using – and we ended up going into a motel and it was reported. To be honest, if they wouldn’t have ever reported us, we would still be there. I’m glad they turned us in because if they didn’t, our kids could be in addiction because some of them were at the age when I started. This entire thing made us stronger people. We have made a lot better decisions and being clean now, we definitely make better decisions.”
Stacy continued, “I was getting my kids back and I really didn’t do anything to deserve to have them back at that point. We started using more frequently just to do day-to-day stuff. Then the electricity got shut off and the school called us in on it. We had only had them home for six months and they came to take them again and this time instead of putting Anthony in the car, I had to put Evan in the car because they had already taken the older kids from school. I put him in the car and they took him.” It was another two years in the system for them and another two years in addiction for Stacy and Tony. Their children were now at adoption status and their daughter had written a letter to the court stating that she never wanted to come home. This was the turning point. Things had to change, and they made the choice to step out, take a wild leap and move forward with the goal of getting their kids back.
Stacy said “I had every intention of cancelling rehab the morning I went. Tony asked me “Are you ready to go?” I wanted to say no, but I said “Yep.” I packed my bags and he dropped me off and that was really hard because Tony was the only one I had left. For me to commit myself into this place where he wasn’t going to be and being afraid he wasn’t going to go into treatment because that is just how drugs work… that was a hard step for me. He didn’t go into treatment that first night and he went out another night.”
Tony followed up “When she did go in, at first I just kept telling myself I have to get out there and make some money. That way we have money while we are in there. I kept telling myself, if I get this done today then I will go tomorrow. But then I ended up going. I’d been up for a couple of days; I fell asleep as soon as I got there. When I woke up, I got to see my aunt, who worked there. She was just kind of standing there and just looked at me and said, “You’re going to be alright.” I knew I was ready for it. I was tired of running. I was just tired of everything. I was worn out. I was ready to accept that change and just keep going from there.”
Stacy added “We both regret our past, but it has made us stronger. There have been a lot of times when different people will say we shouldn’t talk about our past because if people don’t know they won’t judge us by it. Judge me! Because we recovered and that doesn’t happen all the time. I am not proud of the person I was, but I am definitely proud of the people we have become. Our kids know what happened out there and it’s always a possibility that our kids go into addiction, but we are great examples of why to never to do it. One of my more frequent prayers is to never have to watch our kids go through addiction.”
Check back next month to discover how Stacy and Tony stepped out of addiction and choose to live joyful lives in the midst of loss and adversity