One Woman, One Island, One Choice
Tawny sat in the middle of the floor with her arms hugging her legs and head buried in her knees. She rocked back and forth bawling uncontrollably. Tears streamed down her cheeks soaking her golden blonde hair that hung over her face, and the sleeves of her purple San Jose State sweatshirt.
“Oh, God! What am I doing?” She whaled.
Just a few hours ago Tawny’s worst nightmare came true. Her mother confronted her about her eighteen-month secret of abusing drugs like crystal-meth, cocaine and ecstasy. She thought for sure she had everyone fooled. In paralyzing shock, Tawny played the intervention over and over in her head.
For more than a year Debbie watched her daughter’s life unravel. What began as an innocent night out with friends every now and then rapidly escalated to all-night partying five to six times a week. Over that time, Tawny’s entire personality transformed from friendly, warm, caring and affectionate to cold, distant and down right ugly.
She consistently missed work. She ignored the simplest of responsibilities. She snapped at anyone who questioned her. Other than meaningless chitchat, she barely spoke. Worst of all she paid little attention to her eighteen month old son Jordan.
Deb gave Tawny every opportunity to pull her life together by constantly dropping hints and trying to discuss what was going on, but her attempts all fell on deaf ears. Day after day, her daughter’s once bright future spiraled downward into a deep, dark, bottomless black hole. The destruction of her daughter’s life was one thing, but watching her grandson suffer from parental neglect of a drug addict became too much for her to bear.
Still haunted by vivid memories of her own descent into the dark hell of cocaine abuse twenty years earlier, Debbie knew a user when she saw one. She didn’t need confirmation from anyone. She knew exactly what her daughter had been up to. She even knew what drugs she had been experimenting with.
For Debbie, a rejuvenated faith in the Lord helped save her life. Being born again with a renewed spirituality, helped save her life. She hoped her faith would have some kind of positive effect on Tawny, and bring an end to her horrid way of life.
Before the partying started, they were best friends with an unbreakable bond ever since Tawny started high school. They shared everything, even their most intimate secrets. Deb knew that bond would now be put to the ultimate test.
For months Debbie prayed for the strength and wisdom to pull off some kind of intervention. Like many other nights she fell asleep talking to God as tears soaked her pillow. But, there was something different about this one particular Sunday morning. She woke up to a warm, bright northern California sun with a calmness, strength and serenity she had not experienced in almost two years. Her mind, body and soul were engulfed in an incredible loving spirituality. She knew immediately that her prayers had been answered. Like a divine intervention, the day of reckoning had come.
Debbie walked through the kitchen towards the back door with her arm around Tawny’s brother Tyler, who Tawny adored. He was two years younger, and they shared the same golden blonde hair, green eyes and stunning looks. They not only looked like twins, they acted it. That is up until Tawny started changing from her drug abuse.
Deb paused at the door to take in the scene. The perfectly manicured Kentucky green grass dominated the over-sized backyard. Right out the door and down three steps sat the ten by ten cement patio, with a dark red brick border separating it from the grass. Positioned to the left was an eight burner gas grill. Directly across, to the right, just over the brick border was an amazingly colorful flower garden dominated by pink, orange and yellow Dutch Tulips.
In the middle of the patio sat the old fashioned, red wood family picnic table and benches that everyone refused to part with. Tawny sat on one bench draped over the table with her head resting on her folded arms. Her friend Katy, who happened to be her only friend who did not get high, sat on the other bench.
Deb took one last deep breath, reached for the screen door and turned towards Tyler. “Let’s say hello to your sister.”
She immediately honed in on Tawny who looked more and more like a hardened drug addict every day. Her skin was pasty white. Her eyes were sunken, with no signs of real life. She looked like she hadn’t showered in days. Her hair was a ratty, frizzed out mess. Deb figured Tawny was probably still flying high from the night before.
“Lord, please give me strength.” She pleaded quietly as her heart began to race. Then she closed her eyes for just a second let her spirituality and faith overtake the anxiety. As she drew closer to Tawny her confidence swelled and a surreal sense of calmness overwhelmed her.
Deb caught that Tawny eyeballed her, but her daughter did not react. Even though she was about to blindside her baby girl with a bombshell, she stayed focused and honed in on her like a laser.
Tawny turned her yes down in disgust. “What?” She snapped.
Deb positioned herself right next to Tawny and folded her arms in authority. She wasted no time. “You have a court date in less than a month for the custody of your son that includes a drug test.”
Tawny did not move an inch. “You don’t think I know that?” She barked.
Without missing a beat Debbie pressed on. “Are you going to pass?”
Tawny snapped her head up with the devil in her eyes. “Yes, I’m going to friggin pass! What do you think, I’m stupid? What’s your problem?”
Debbie scowled for just a second. Then she grinned in a manner that said I know you are lying. “Okay, I just want to make sure because I’d hate to see you lose your son.”
Tawny leaped out off the bench, and sent it flying backwards. The rage in her soul turned her eyes and cheeks red. She snarled like a viscous dog and took off towards the gate that led to the driveway. “Whatever! You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about! Leave me the hell alone!”
Debbie did not move. She just let her daughter run. Within seconds she heard the engine of Tawny’s car. The squeal of screeching tires followed. In a flash Tawny disappeared, leaving behind burnt rubber and her friend Katy.
Deb turned to Katy who jumped up and wrapped her arms around her in a bear hug. They held each other tight as Katy began to cry. “I’m so sorry. I want to help her, but I don’t know what else to do.”
Deb squeezed good and hard for a few seconds and then lovingly took Katy’s head off of her shoulders. She cupped her face in her hands. “Don’t worry honey. Everything will be alright. I know it will.”
Tawny drove around for hours passing all of her haunts, hangouts and drug dens. The only time she stopped was to vomit on the side of the road from the incredible flush of emotions that ravaged through her body. Anger, fear and disgust crashed around in her stomach and brain.
Some how she made it back to her grandmother’s house. By the time she got there everyone had gone. She bolted to the bathroom and vomited yet again. She sat on the floor and hugged the toilet.
The reality of her pathetic life unnervingly began to settle in. She realized the irony of it all, as not too long ago the mere thought of drug abuse appalled her. From the moment she began to learn about drugs, she swore to everyone she knew that she would not only never do them, she would never hang out with anyone that did. Her cold, hard unfortunate truth was that she had become something she once despised, a drug addict. Not only that, she was a drug addict mother on the verge of losing her child.
Tawny managed to pick herself up and stared into the mirror over the sink, completely horrified. She immediately became disgusted at the reflection staring back at her. She began to come to grips with what everyone else already knew. The gorgeous young lady she grew into had disappeared. Her sparkling emerald green eyes were dark and distant. Bad makeup and dark circles under her eyes masked her modelesque face. Her long silky blonde hair had become tangled and ratty.
She bowed and shook her head in disgust, and then looked back up at the mirror. “How the hell did I get like this?”
Her mind began to rewind again, going back further over two years. The scenes played out like a highlight reel and told a very daunting tale.
At nineteen years old she had everything anyone could ask for including: a stunningly gorgeous face, an incredible body, athleticism, brains, personality, and popularity. Every girl wanted to be like her, and every guy wanted to be with her.
She had an entourage of friends. She dated her high school sweetheart. She attended nursing school in pursuit of her lifelong dream of becoming a pediatric nurse.
The only negative aspect of her life was her parent’s divorce. But, even that did not separate her close-knit family. She loved her younger brother dearly. They lived together with their mother. Their father lived only a few miles away.
Tawny took a deep breath and suddenly the hard times began to roll through her mind. The more she remembered the more things began to make sense. The tabloid news story in her brain exploded with scene after scene. It all began when she revealed her unexpected pregnancy to her boyfriend Matt.
“Matt, I’m pregnant.”
“What? Come on. Really?”
“Do you think I’d joke about something like this?”
Matt gave no reaction whatsoever, which spoke volumes to Tawny.
Her eyes widened, and she tried to get his attention by snapping her fingers a few inches from his face. He just waved her off and continued to stare at the television.
She began to lose patience and her voice rose. “Well?”
Matt turned his head for a split second and shot a scowl. “Well whatever. I’m watching the game right now. Can’t this wait? Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it. No biggie.”
Tawny jumped back and started to hyperventilate. “Don’t worry about it? No biggie? Is that all you have to say? No biggie? Are you out of your mind? We have to worry about it. This is our future!”
Matt returned the anger. “I know. I get it for Christ’s sake Tawn! We’ll get rid of it then. I’ll pay for half of the abortion. It’s no big deal”.
Tawny’s jaw dropped and her eyes grew even wider with rage. Completely stunned her voice became paralyzed, and she could not respond. She exploded into tears and ran off.
With that one smashing blow of rejection, a four-year relationship began to crumble. Emotionally devastated she refused to abandon her unborn child. Her Christian upbringing and her love for children simply would not allow her to do that.
Tawny snapped back to reality for a split second and continued to stare into the mirror, but memory after memory of an emotionally charged pregnancy blasted through her mind and pulled her back to the past. Somehow their tumultuous relationship remained in tact even after Jordan’s birth, surviving battles, breakups and reconciliations.
Being a single mother at nineteen, in an unstable relationship and no plan for the future took its toll. Overwhelming feelings of anger, rejection and resentment darkened her soul. She felt cursed.
She couldn’t remember the first time she pawned off Jordan to her grandmother so she could go out and party. But, she did recall it becoming easier each time as the addiction grew and killed any feelings of remorse.
Her mind became dominated with two recurring themes: getting high and never ending battles with Matt. By now they were both drug addicts, continually wrapped up in their own selfishness and immaturity. They lost track of their son.
She realized a second irony. During a time when she betrayed her son through neglect, her boyfriend committed the ultimate betrayal.
It all climaxed with a crushing blow that shook her to her very core. She closed her eyes again, desperately gripped the sink and hung her head forward as she hit the rewind button in her brain back to that fateful day. The pain in the pit of her stomach was no less now than it was then.
She made an unexpected trip home from work to pick up the bank book she left behind. As she entered the front door the indescribable sounds of pleasured voices came from her bedroom. She tip toed down the hall to the bedroom door and then blasted through it to find her best friend Karen in bed with Matt. Like a cornered animal she instinctively unleashed a brutal fury that shocked even her. She attacked like a wild boar. She couldn’t remember the amount of blows she landed on Karen, but her hands hurt for days. Her rage culminated when she grabbed a picture of Jordan from the nightstand and smashed it against the back of Matt’s head while screaming, “How could you do this to him!”
Starting that night, her drug abuse and promiscuous behavior accelerated. Nothing else seemed to matter because nothing else eased the pain. She could always find someone to party with. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, a sixties battle cry, became her life.
Tawny shook her head hard as she snapped out of her trip to the past again. She shivered from chills that blew through her like an arctic wind. She became nauseous again as shame and guilt wrenched her insides.
“I just can’t do this anyone”. She informed her conscience. She reached into her pocket for her cell phone and called her mother.
At first her mother did not reply.
Tawny fought through her sobbing. “I am so, so, sorry! I need your help!”
“I’ll be right over.” Deb replied without hesitation.
They talked and cried all night long. Tawny confessed to everything, the drugs, her feelings, her friends, the men all of it. She rediscovered why they became best friends. Their bond survived. She made a solemn vow to leave behind all of the ugliness in her life including her boyfriend and the drugs.
Totally clean for the first time in a year and a half, Tawny embarked on a battle to fix her tarnished life. When the drug-induced fog began to lift she realized her life had not been cursed. It had been blessed. She held in her arms the greatest of God’s gifts. Looking up at her with unconditional love was Jordan. Her priorities began to fall back into place.
Tawny struggled with her new life, but no one could tell but her mother. The beautiful young lady reappeared on the outside, but inside she found herself haunted by negative influences and temptations.
A few months later, Tawny sat down at the kitchen table watching her mother prepare dinner. She took a deep breath. “Mom, I have to leave this place.”
“I know.” She replied in a loving, patient voice that sounded like it anticipated the question.
“No. Really leave, and go far away!”
Deb slowly turned around with a smile. She sat down next to her beautiful daughter. She gently cradled Tawny’s face in her hands and stared into her eyes. “I know. Don’t worry.”
Tears began to fill Tawny’s eyes. “I feel like I’m suffocating.”
“Just have faith, my sweet Tawny. Jesus is watching.”
Like a gift from the heavens the answer came a few days later.
“Tawny! Are you outside?
Deb walked through the same door that led to her intervention with Tawny. This time she found her lying on a lounge chair with Jordan asleep across her chest.
“Do you want to get away with me for a few days? We can take Jordon with us.”
With squinty eyes she looked up, “Sure. Where to?”
“Do you remember my friends Jeff and Pat who moved to the islands off the coast of Washington state?”
“Oh yeah sure. I remember them. Nice people”
“Well, they invited me up to see them for a long weekend. I thought it would be nice to visit them together and get away for a while. It might do you some good.”
Tawny lovingly stroked her son’s head. “Sure, why not? It’s got to be better than this.”
During the ferry ride Tawny sat alone outside at the extreme forward of the ship. As the ferry began to move she became mesmerized by the mystique of the San Juan Islands. The ride became a magnetic pull into what seemed like the kingdom of heaven. The setting sun appeared straight ahead, acting like a guiding light. Its fiery hues of red, orange and yellow dominated the darkness of the surrounding sea and outline of the islands. Guardian angels seemed to steer not only the ship but Tawny’s destiny. Somehow, she knew the solutions to her troubled life lie just ahead. A welcomed sense of calmness overwhelmed her, as the weight of the world seemed to lift off of her shoulders.
The three of them walked down the ramp leading to the ferry dock. Not a word had been spoken since they first boarded the boat.
As her foot touched San Juan Island for the first time, Tawny shared her revelation. “This is where Jordan and I belong. This is home.”
Like so many times before, Debbie put her arm around her daughter’s shoulders and leaned in with a kiss on the cheek. “I know.”
Within a few months Tawny, Jordan her mom and young brother Tyler all moved to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The island with all of its history, charm and beauty breathed serenity, security and perhaps a little bit of heaven into their lives. That heaven helped save a lovely young woman and her young son.
Tawny stuck to her vow and dedicated her life to her son. She started working at a local bank. She found part time work as a banquet server at the Roche Harbor resort. And a young local artist, who could not resist her beauty, offered her a modeling job.
On a beautiful warm summer night in July, Tawny and her new best friend Julie prepared to serve at a wedding rehearsal dinner. She suddenly stopped and looked out at the calm waters, where dozens of boats slowly made their way through the docks. She turned left and looked up the pathway that led to the party grounds to see some guests headed her way. She smiled in a way she had not smiled in years. “Wow. This is something?”
“What?” Julie curiously asked.
Tawny let out a sigh and focused back on the water taking in the godly scenery of mountains, water and a setting sun. “Only two years ago I was in hell. Now, I have an angel in Jordan. I live here in what seems like heaven and I just got the feeling that something even better is about to happen.” Then she turned her head back towards the path and watched more guests arrive.
Julie gently touched her new friend’s arm. “That’s so cool. I’m glad you’re here and that we met.”
Tawny continued to stare off in somewhat of a trance. “It’s like my mom, my son and these islands saved me.”
Julie’s eyes tried to follow Tawny’s. “That’s so beautiful.”
Tawny, now totally mesmerized, continued to watch in silence.
Julie finally caught on and turned her attention to the oncoming guests as well. “Who is that guy you’re staring at?”