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How This Girl Forgave Her Mom For A Time When Drugs Came First

Tara Keo is a single mother to Sokinna, 16, and Kayden, 2.
KUOW Photo/Jason Pagano
Tara Keo is a single mother to Sokinna, 16, and Kayden, 2.

RadioActive's Sokinna Keo has learned to find forgiveness for her mother's past as a drug user. Here is their story, in Keo's words: 

When my mom was in middle school, she fell into a bad place. She told me she got expelled from school and started hanging out with "the wrong people."

My mom wanted to become a successful lawyer, but her goals hit a bump on the road when, at 14 years old, she learned that a baby bump was on its way. She didn't even realize she was pregnant with me until she was almost five months along. She was stressed out, but it didn't stop her from making the pregnancy work. 

"I got a job, I got my license" she told me. "I was working in the beginning when I was 16 to try to support you."

My mom never went back to school. But at 16, she studied to get her GED. I still remember going with my grandmother to pick her up from class. I'd always bring my mom a little box of cereal.

Growing up, I was really attached to my mother. I had to watch her go through a tough time that I shouldn't have witnessed. She was using drugs.

I remember coming home from school and bringing her Goldfish crackers and crafts I'd made. I thought that was all I could do to support her and let her know I was there.

Sometimes my emotions got in the way and I would break her possessions that I saw as representing her addiction. I didn't know how else to stop it.

"I feel like I was a bad mother to you," she said, "because I was selfish and inconsiderate of your feelings. I always put my addiction first. It always came first, before you."

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "I feel like I was a bad mother to you. I always put my addiction first. It always came first, before you.", "style": "pull"}]]She wasn't in it alone. She and her friends stood by each other, but not in a good way. I remember these friends. I remember how they'd come to our door and ask for my mom. I'd want to lie and say she wasn't home because I knew why they were there.

It hurt seeing my mom the way she was. She'd be out half the time, and if she wasn't, she'd be up all night at home. 

We'd still bond sometimes. She'd tell me jokes from a funny movie or stories about her growing up here in Seattle. When we had tension, I'd go to stay with my dad's side of the family. It was my safe place.

At some point, my mom's addiction hit an all-time high. She didn't see it as a phase. "At the time I really didn't care," she remembered. "I never had the thought of quitting because at the time I just felt like there was no reason to quit."

Then everything changed. She was pregnant again. My mom was scared. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know if she was ready to give up her addiction. 

She went to the clinic, ready to give up the baby. But instead she decided to give up her addiction.

My little brother, Kayden, is two now. I look out for him to make sure he doesn't go through what I did.

Kayden's a blessing, but it wasn't easy. My mom was sleep deprived, and occasionally went through withdrawals. But that wasn't enough to stop her from making a better future this time.

"I just felt like I was ready to be a mother," she told me. She said she felt like she let me down, and now she had a second chance. "Instead of being selfish and just thinking about myself, now I think about all three of us."

A lot of people in my position would have a bad relationship with their parent. We talked about it.

"Kinna, be honest with me [about] all the stuff I put you through since you were a kid. I  selfishly kept myself happy and didn't even think about your happiness. Do you honestly forgive me? Do you resent me?"

"I don't resent you at all," I told her. "I understand the position you were at. I forgive you." 

This is not a sad story for us anymore. At the time it was sad, but because it was so long ago we choose to laugh about it now. 

I see my mom as strong for me and my brother. Because I know who she really is, I've forgiven her.  What's more, she's forgiven herself. 

My mom and I bond often now, a lot like sisters talking about school and boys, and making fun of my dad.

As her daughter, I feel the responsibility to make a future for myself, maybe in law, much like what she wanted, or as a business woman in New York for a top magazine company.

I feel like this experience has taught me a lot. I know when it's right to go with the flow but mostly when to walk away and choose a different road. Like my mom told me, "Even though you saw me go down the wrong path, you chose to go down the right one."

RadioActive is KUOW's program for high school students. This story was produced in RadioActive's Fall Workshop at the Tukwila Community Center, in partnership with Tukwila Parks and Recreation. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook.