EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a periodic series of articles examining the lives of people who have battled with addiction to drugs.
HUNTINGTON - Motherhood used to terrify 31-year-old mother of two Amber "Red" Brescoach. Stemming from her own rocky relationship with her mother and fueled by her drug addiction, there was a point at which she wasn't sure she even wanted to be a mother.
"I was probably eight or nine months clean before I decided I wanted to be a mom," she said. "I forgot my daughter's birthday my first year clean. I was terrified to be a mom. The woman that sponsors me now was the one that helped me understand that if I wasn't capable of raising my children or wasn't capable of providing for them like they deserved, then that was OK. That doesn't mean I didn't love them I was scared to death of screwing things up."
Brescoach's parents were teenagers when they married and had her. When she was 6, her brother was born and her parents divorced.
Brescoach said she felt she had to grow up then, a fact she resented.
"I changed my brother's diapers, I fed him, I knew what broke him out and what didn't," she said. "I was the first person he called Mommy."
Her dad got sober, remarried and had another daughter, another thing Brescoach resented.
"That made me angry," she said.
Her resentment of her family continued to grow as she grew up, even spreading to her brother. She said she thought her mother hated her.
She started smoking marijuana when she was 12, and continued to smoke and drink throughout high school.
She said she is a firm believer she was born with substance abuse disorder, and smoking marijuana set it off. Self-medicating bipolar disorder, rebelling and numbing her pain from molestations she kept secret, she barely graduated.
"I graduated by the skin of my teeth," she said. "I barely made it. I used and drank at school."
After graduation, she started working at a restaurant in the West End of Huntington. At 19, her grandmother - who was her rock - died.
"When she died, I wanted to die with her," Brescoach said. "I felt like I had lost my whole world. Who would stand up for me against my mom? That's how I felt. When she died, it unleashed the beast."
She lost her job, which she said in retrospect was probably a good thing because she calmed down a little. She met the father of her children at her second job. They ended up using together, she said.
Throughout her first pregnancy with her daughter, she smoked weed.
"After I gave birth, I was given narcotics for the pain, and it was off to the races," she said.
Her second pregnancy was ectopic, and her fallopian tube burst, causing internal bleeding. Sitting in the hospital alone, she said that should have been the sign she needed to change her life.
"Instead I went off 10 times worse," Brescoach said.
Stealing and living in squalor, she said it was a miracle she was never arrested, never had to sell her body and never put a needle in her arm.
"That's not to say I wasn't heading down that path," Brescoach said.
When she became pregnant with her son, she was taking up to 10 Opanas a day. She said she used through her entire pregnancy, though she weaned herself down.
"I knew if I quit, I would kill him," she said.
She started using heroin after she gave birth. Bills weren't being paid. She said while she was physically there for her children, she wasn't mentally there.
Her father stepped in and called Child Protective Services, which came in and took her children away.
"I used to say they took my children from me," Bresoach said. "Today, I know I gave my children up."
Her mother gained custody.
"That floored me," Brescoach said. "I was like, I will be damned if this woman raises my children and screws them up like she did me. That's where my mindset was at the time. I hated her for it, and I was so angry at my dad. Luckily my mother gave up a year and a half of her life for me and for (my children) while I got my stuff together."
Brescoach was told she could go to rehab or she would totally lose access to her children. Sick and angry, she entered the detox facility at Prestera's Pinecrest.
"I didn't have what I hear other people talk about with the gift of desperation," she said. "I just wanted my kids back, and then I was going to go back to using."
She said she didn't believe she could be happy without a substance in her system.
"Two weeks into the program, I couldn't tell you what was said or what was shared, but this light bulb went off in my head. And I think I finally had my gift of desperation that I didn't want to die today," she said. "When we went back, I ended up calling my dad, bawling like a baby and thanking him for saving my life."
Following her stay at Pinecrest, she moved into Project Hope, transitional housing through the Huntington City Mission.
She said she plugged in. She joined Narcotics Anonymous, found a sponsor and worked the 12 steps. She found a home group.
"It was the first time that I felt home," Brescoach said. "It was the first time that I felt that unconditional love that I had been trying to use drugs to fill the void with. It was the first time I felt people really understood me and what was going on in my head."
Brescoach said she needed to be selfish and work on herself before she was able to be a mother, but after about 15 months sober, she got her kids back.
Brescoach said she never realized how much pain she caused her parents.
"That's one of the hardest things," she said. "Today, I realize it has to be one of the hardest things to sit back and watch one of your children kill themselves and be so powerless over it."
Now five years sober, Brescoach works as a behavior specialist at Prestera. She has a home with a yard for her children. She is thinking about going to school.
Most important, she has relationships with her mother, father, sister, brother and her children.
It hasn't been a perfect ride. There have been plenty of bumps and hard times, including a severe stretch of depression after losing her first apartment to bedbugs. But through it all she has stayed clean because of the support system she built around herself.
She said she is alive for a reason.
"When (her son) turned 5 in October, it hit me in the middle of the Dollar Store: 'I should be dead,'" Brescoach said. "I'm not. I'm here for a reason. What that reason is is still to be revealed to me, but it's to help other women like myself. I watch women come in and lose their kids. I watch women come in and struggle to be a mother, and I get to teach that to them today. I get to help.
"This is how I do it: My kids will say, 'We want to go to a meeting.' My kids will go post up on people and they get to feel that unconditional love. I take them in hopes (that) there is a good chance that one or both of my children can be like me. I hope that taking them, one day, if they are like me, they will know where the solution is."
Recovery gave her passion for life, she said, and she will continue to learn from her hurdles.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter @TaylorStuckHD.