Karla Baker grew up in tiny Grand Saline, Texas, but got out “just as soon as I could,” says the 39-year-old mother of four.
She was already an addict; following her mother’s suicide, Karla began stealing Adderall from cousins and other kids at the age of 12. By the age of 15, she was using marijuana, as well.
“It wasn’t because I wanted to get high; I just wanted to stop hurting,” she says.
After graduating from high school, she moved to Dallas, where she was introduced to even harder drugs.
“I discovered ecstasy, then crank, then ice [methamphetamine],” she explains. “When I found meth, it was all over. I loved it. It gave me energy, made me happy, and changed the way I was feeling—until it didn’t anymore.”
Her own trauma became a generational issue as she started having children. That’s when her interaction with Child Protective Services began.
“I was actively using; I can remember being seven months pregnant, smoking meth and crying because I didn’t want to be smoking meth, but I didn’t know how to stop,” she says. “I tested positive for drugs at the birth of three of my children.”
When her youngest child was born, CPS told her they were removing all of her children.
“I don’t blame them,” Karla says. “It’s the craziness that comes with the addictive lifestyle. I don’t even remember feeding my children. I’m not sure they ate a lot of the time.”
Because she had willing relatives nearby, CPS was able to place her children with family.
“My baby went home with my cousin and his wife,” she says. “My other children went home with another cousin. That’s what started my journey to recovery.”
The trauma of her drug abuse was both physical and spiritual.
“I was still bleeding profusely from the meth use,” Karla explains. “They had to give me several units of blood just to get me stable enough to go home. While I was getting blood, I called my children’s youth minister and asked her to come up to the hospital. I told her what was going on. She brought her pastor’s wife, and at that point, I just prayed for God to take my addiction away, no matter what it took.”
As soon as she was released, she began working toward recovery.
“For the next two or three weeks, I slept a lot and ate a lot,” she said. “Then I went to the family group conference with CPS, and they gave me the news. The original goal for my case was adoption; the secondary goal was family reunification. Adoption was the primary goal because I had so much drug involvement. They didn’t think I could do it.”
And she didn’t’ blame them; Karla hadn’t been clean during her entire adult life.
But she was determined; she went to an in-patient facility in Dallas to begin her detox.
“It was a great experience for me because I took it seriously,” she explains. “I went in and I wanted to learn the techniques to change my thinking. It’s not just about not wanting to use; no one wants to use. It’s about knowing how to function without drugs.”
She continued with outpatient treatment, and she continued to work with CPS and the judge in her case. Eventually, she even began helping to lead recovery meetings.
“During the whole time I was doing my meetings, I was having my evaluations, I was having my substance abuse counseling,” she said. “CPS was eventually able to change my goal, and I was reunited with my children.”
She continues to work hard on her recovery.
“My oldest is the only one who really remembers in detail,” Karla says. “She was 11 when they were removed. She tells me about things I’ve blocked out. They’ve had counseling during our CPS case, and we’ll go back to counseling if needed, if they struggle with life. I know what that’s like.”
Karla’s case isn’t typical; it’s estimated that 67 percent of Texas CPS cases involve parental substance abuse, and not all have happy endings.
“For parents, I’d say to make sure you’re not just checking the boxes in your CPS case,” she says. “Take advantage of the services you’re offered. If you’re not in a CPS case and you want to get clean, reach out. Call me. Call your local church. Say something, and someone will find you help.”