The Children of Drugs. Addicted As Children
By Chris Earl, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Jessica Stamper found Cedar Rapids to be an oasis, a liferaft when she needed it to save her life.
"To get away from all of the problems I was having," said Stamper, now 27 and a mother of two.
Stamper said she moved to Cedar Rapids four years ago from the Quad Cities where she had used drugs, sold drugs and tried to free herself from the grip of addiction for more than a dozen years.
Growing up in a home with a single mother and an older brother, Stamper still remembers how everything turned as a young child.
"When I was about the age of ten, we started using drugs as a family," said Stamper. "I started on cocaine and weed. There was a little meth here and there. I started smoking weed at ten. My first line of cocaine was a couple of months later."
She never finished high school as Stamper said she had to drop out in the ninth grade. Yet becoming the family's breadwinner proved easier. After cleaning houses, selling drugs became the next step.
"By the time I was 16, I started dealing weed," said Stamper. "That wasn't enough money so I started dealing cocaine and that's how I got my money."
Was she ever caught by law enforcement?
Jessica Stamper said that her "rock bottom" hit when her life became about more than just her or her addictions.
"When I had my daughter, Alyssa," Stamper said about her four-year-old. "She inspired me and I didn't want to lose her. That's why I left the Quad Cities."
Outside of the commitment of being a mother to two young children, Stamper spends plenty of hours through ministry in downtown Cedar Rapids, trying to help others through problems and addictions that be unthinkable to many.
"I've been homeless. I've been without food. I've been unable to pay my rent. Working here is special to me because i know what they go through."
Even with her escape from the environment that was her downfall, Jessica said addiction and drugs still touch her mother. On the way we interviewed her, her brother was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his role in selling meth in the Quad Cities.
* * *
Tara Henderson answered our call and told us a harrowing story of her childhood.
Now 28, Henderson was one of seven children born to a single mother in Chicago. She said, the day she was born in 1984, heroin flowed into her tiny system.
"Heroin. Born addicted to it. All of us were."
Henderson said, by age four, she was aware of the influence of drugs where she lived. When her mother's supply of heroin or other drugs ran out, Henderson said that's when the unspeakable would occur.
"She sold us," she said. "She let men come in and do whatever they wanted so that she could get a bag (of heroin). There was an extreme amount of abuse."
By seven, the sisters were spread out throughout foster homes in Illinois.
Floating between foster homes in Chicago, Bloomington and Elgin, Tara said she was addicted to marijuana as a teenager.
Two years ago, Tara Henderson said she left Illinois for Cedar Rapids to, like Jessica, find a safer places. She also has a toddler, an infant and a third child on the way.
"I don't want my kids to ever grow up in the environment that I grew up in. To this day, I have trust issues. I don't trust easy."
Both Jessica and Tara are survivors of some of the most desperate and desolate childhoods anyone could imagine. What do they want all of us to understand?
JESSICA: "Get more educated on it. I wish my family would have been more educated on it because, then, I would not have had to go through it. I dealt with a mother that was using and I had to hide it."
TARA: "Everyone grows up different. Different beliefs, different ways but there's how you view it and how you, basically, live your life. I can't hate my mom for the rest of my life but I can thank her for one thing, she showed me how to not treat my kids and how not to be living. I take that as a positive because I'll never be that."
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