On The Outside Looking In- Family Reunions, Mental Illness And Addiction. Genetics Or Bad Luck?

For the past 16 years, my niece Stephaney Mahaney has gone on and off her medication for Bipolar One and Schizophrenia. Stephaney also self medicates with meth or marijuana. 

Some of you may have lax opinions regarding marijuana being a safe drug but, addicts bounce from marijuana to other things. My mother did and my niece, Stephaney did too. 

Family Event Planning when you have someone in your family with a mental disorder and addiction issue can often be both chaotic and emotional. 

When your family has a “history” of traumatic events caused by one family member to the others, don’t expect them to forgive and forget. 

My twin sister, Cindy and I are the only people in my family who have consistently forgiven my niece. CONSISTENTLY.

At fourteen, Stephaney stole Cindy’s car and credit cards for a shopping spree and joy ride with her friends. Respecting our property is unheard of to my niece. She also stole my credit cards too. 

Back then, Cindy and I thought it was something that wouldn’t happen again and didn’t press charges. We screwed up by not doing anything. How badly? Check out her rap sheet.

My son, our husbands and even Stephaney’s own children are quite literally afraid of her when she is out of control. For three and a half years Steph was on probation and stable but, thirteen years of the sixteen, Stephaney has literally been out of control. 

Getting my entire family in one place at the same time is a hurdle but, getting my family in one place at the same time while trying make everyone get along would take a magician. 

Dealing with yet another “Stephaney Emergency” when I’m headed to a scheduled event or with a Client or driving to a Texas Prison hours away make it impossible for me to drop everything because someone called to tell me “Stephaney is acting crazy again!” It’s been a reoccurrence for a year now. 

Neither I nor Cindy can drop a business engagement to turn around and return to town trying and calm Stephaney down. 

A few weeks ago, we were at the Star Test with Makenna when my niece, Leigh Ann called to tell us Stephaney was on the roof of Cindy’s home screaming Bible verses. 

We couldn’t leave Makenna in Granbury and told Leigh Ann to call the police. By the time the police arrived, Stephaney was off the roof and in the driveway demanding to take a shower. 

The technical “glitch” here that led police to allow her to enter Cindy’s home and take a shower with her terrified sister, Leigh Ann hiding in her room was due entirely to the fact that Stephaney had lived with Cindy and the entire police department in Weatherford knew it. 

Although Cindy had kicked Stephaney out in October after popping her with a meth test, the police thought that by allowing Steph to shower, there wouldn’t be any conflict. 

Occasionally, the police can calm my niece down and since Weatherford is a small town, Stephaney knows many of the officers. 

By allowing Stephaney to enter Cindy’s home when Cindy obviously wasn’t home, Stephaney won the battle with the police at Cindy’s house.

Due to our schedule that fateful day, we were to do the Star Test with Makenna before bringing her home and heading to a scheduled Baptism at Harris Hospital and public speaking engagement in Dallas at 7PM that night meaning our scheduled was slammed for the entire day. 

Leaving the Star Testing site, Cindy and I headed back to Weatherford to drop Makenna home and drove up to find Stephaney in the driveway wearing one shoe. 

Leigh Ann was in the driveway with Stephaney who was taking items she had left in the garage and loading her car while arguing with Leigh Ann. 

By the time Cindy and I arrived to the chaos of Leigh Ann and Stephaney yelling at each other, Britney (our friend) had arrived to “rescue” Makenna from the chaos. Subsequently, Britney called the police AGAIN and, Makenna took a video of her mother screaming about “her babies” which is based in part on a hysterical pregnancy that Stephaney often convinces herself of. 

The reason Makenna took this video was to use it to beg her mother to get help. 

The neighbors always come “outside to watch the action” which embarrasses my sister to no end.

Since Stephaney hopped in to her vehicle after realizing we had called the police again, she fishtailed her way to Santa Fe. Once on Santa Fe, Stephaney parked her car to go accuse construction workers of planting bombs. 

The construction workers called the police about a crazy person (Stephany) running down the road. Although Stephaney wasn’t driving, her car was towed and she was transferred to JPS Psych Ward for the second time in two months. 

Britney had taken Makenna to get something to eat and actually passed by the police and, Stephaney. Sadly, Makenna had to watch her mother get arrested AGAIN. This time, on a mental warrant. 

Cindy and I had to be in Fort Worth and left in order to have time to walk my dog, change clothes and be at Harris Hospital where my client, Deanna was having her baby. 

The baptism was scheduled immediately after the birth. We could not be late regardless of what family drama was going on. We are never late. 

If clients knew the crazy shit going on in our family minutes, hours, days or weeks before their event, they would be concerned about our sanity. 

It’s never been an issue because even if my house was on fire, I would go to work. Cindy and I have stronger work ethics than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. 

Heading to Fort Worth to meet Deanna, Cindy and I somehow missed seeing my niece be taken back to JPS in handcuffs for the second time in two months. Our friend Britney called to tell us the police were with Stephaney and that she just saw us drive past her. 

Turning my SUV around to see what was going on, Cindy and I watched the heartbreaking reality of a Medical Warrant Arrest of Stephaney for the second time in the last month hopelessly. 

We had to be at Harris Hospital by 5 so, we left the area Stephaney was getting picked up at in the rear view mirror. We were helpless to change the direction Stephaney’s life had taken.

Watching Stephaney hauled off again for the second time in two months on a mental warrant was so painful to watch for Cindy and I that we both looked away rather than watching her loaded into a transport van headed to JPS. 

We drove to Harris Hospital for the Baptism crying our eyes out and tried to straighten ourselves up prior to walking into the hospital. 

It wasn’t easy to again put our “normal faces” on and pretend we didn’t have a pot full of problems waiting for us back home but, Cindy and I are experts at acting normal. We have to be with our family. 

Cindy and I wearily knew that after our Dallas at IHeart Radio appearance later that night, we would still have to drive to Weatherford and go get Stephaney’s car out of impound again at 11PM before “rolling in” to the next day preparing for a Funeral and other bookings.

Trying to mask our emotions and conduct business obligations when dealing with a relative with Mental Illness AND a meth addiction is and always will be a balancing act for Cindy and I. WE ARE GREAT ACTRESSES. With our lives, we have to be. 

My schedule is often booked up to a year in advance. Like many other parents with similar struggles and heartache, we still have to show up for work and get the job done regardless of what is happening with Stephaney. 

“Looking normal” when everything around you isn’t normal isn’t easy. We rely on acting skills and compartmentalization to continue working when phone calls from Stephaney rolling in. 

My twin and I “shake it off.” We have to because our clients take precedence over family members who always have an emergency or issue. I can’t fix Stephaney. Cindy can’t fix Stephaney. 

Stephaney is an adult. For EIGHT MONTHS NOW Stephaney has been in an insane asylum or Jail!

In 2008, at yet another arrest for being high on meth and incoherent while trying to hide from police in a strangers car, Stephaney died four times after being tazered four times. 

Due to this incident and subsequent arrest, Stephaney has permanent brain damage after losing oxygen to her brain while unconscious. My sister was madder than Hell that while signing a Death Certificate in one room a doctor entered from another to tell her that he had “saved Stephaney.” Why? Because by saving Stephaney, that doctor “gifted Cindy and I with another ten years of chaos and craziness.” 

In 2014, my niece was supposed to be with me at a $300k wedding in Fort Worth, Texas. I drove to her apartment and found it was empty. The day before, I had dressed her in my clothes and taken her to find two jobs that started a week later. I was proud of myself for finally getting Stephaney not one but, two jobs. 

But, as usual, Stephaney didn’t tell me that she was living with a bum she had brought into the apartment who was planning a road trip to Colorado. The problem? Neither of them had a car but, I will explain this later.

Let me FIRST explain how Stephaney HAD THAT APARTMENT, my twin sister had kicked her out for getting back on meth again. 

To get her off the streets, my sister paid all of the bills while WE BOTH bought food and cigarettes for EIGHT MONTHS all the while begging Steph to get a job! 

Explaining to my niece that supporting her literally takes food out of the twins mouths from our budgets is a collosal argument! Steph doesn’t care that we have gone without for years because of her. She also doesn’t care that our husbands have threatened to leave us for helping her. 

Drug addicts tear your shit up. They knock holes in your walls, they steal things they want that you paid for. My sister took classes for home repairs after her doors were kicked in, holes were punched in her walls or she came home to find a room full of addicts going through her things or eating her food because Stephaney let them in to pilfer her mothers home.

Remote controls, lamps, electronic devices and other things were taken apart while Steph was high yet again. Steph is homeless because meth is more important to her than a home or her family. 

Stealing Cindy’s car AGAIN a second time years after her Suburban when Stephaney was only 14. It was the first night of the after bringing the twins home from NICU, Stephaney totaled Cindy’s only vehicle while her husband was in Iraq trying to “save the farm in Texas.” 

The reason my sister and I polled our money to pay an attorney for custody was based entirely on THAT NIGHT. Stephaney had demanded to take the twins with her on a joy ride with Abe. The boyfriend who got her hooked on meth and later, knocked her teeth out. Cindy and I knew right then that we needed custody to protect the twins. We were right.

Whenever Stephaney was arrested for drugs or possession or tested positive for meth, social services went to pick up the twins. Cindy kept her custody papers by the front door to greet them. Had Cindy and I not gone to great lengths to save the twins, the state would’ve put them up for foster care. Saving children from their parents or foster care and protecting them from being dragged to drug houses with their mother WAS WHY we did what we did. 

Our mother forgot us all of the time. She forgot we were in the car. She forgot we were locked in a closet. She forgot to feed us. Our mother was a heroin addict that eventually sold my siblings and I for $50 each (there were 4 of us) to go buy heroin. 

Cindy and I knew from our own childhood that if we didn’t save the twins, Stephaney certainly wasn’t going to take care of them. Cindy was forced to quit her job and care for the twins which combined with the expenses of anything and everything the twins needed posed a huge financial burden. By the time the twins were 3, Cindy’s husband had been laid off from work and couldn’t find a job. Steve took a contractor job at Camp Anaconda and his first year there was involved in the Good Friday Roadside Bombing. 

For 8 years, Steve stayed on Camp Anaconda due to his fear of coming home and losing their house because he couldn’t find work. For eight years, Steve heard mortar attacks and even today struggles with PTSD. Love is sacrifice. 

My husband lost his real estate business is 2007. For three years, my husband was unemployed because he had no other job experience outside real estate and development. I worked my ass off to pay our bills while sending money to Cindy to help with the twins. 

I hear people complain about stress all the time. “I asked for 6 Stevia in my tea this is ruining my day, in so stressed out about this.” Quite frankly, I want to slap the shit out of them. Some people wouldn’t understand stress with a dictionary and diagram. 

My husband and I are the ONLY PEOPLE who have helped Steve and Cindy financially with the twins since they were born. Oh sure, the have another set of grandparents who have never bought a pack of diapers or a gallon of milk. Don’t even get me started on them. The ONE RULE we gave the other grandmother was to keep her son (the twins father) away from the twins he had tried to abort by beating Stephaney while pregnant. 

Cindy allowed weekend visits and although Karen knew Cindy was struggling by giving up her job and her husband was forced to find work on a military camp as a fuel truck driver, never once did Karen offer to buy clothing or shoes for the twins. There’s a reason the twins call me and Cindy both MeMe. That titled was earned! 

When Cindy and Steve couldn’t afford to get Steve a vehicle upon returning home from Iraq, I bought him one myself. When Stephaney drove it while Steve was out of town working and ripped out the transmission, my husband gave Steve his Toyota Tundra truck. LOVE IS SACRIFICE. 

Drug addicts have no soul. They have no compassion. They have no empathy. They are sharks that feed off everything you have worked your ass off to have. They steal from everyone close to them. They lie. They cheat. They suck the joy out of your life. Ask me. Ask Cindy. Ask anyone who has lived through the shitstorm their drug addicted family member pulled them into. 

Trying to keep my niece from being homeless because she chose to do drugs and destroy our lives along with her own, Cindy thought renting an apartment would give Steph the push to support herself. 

Instead, Stephaney moved in a homeless guy so, we were not only supporting her but also a deadbeat bum who later would get her arrested for a felony in Oklahoma. 

I spent five days trying to locate Stephaney before finding that she had been the passenger in a stolen tractor trailer truck and effectively, detained in Cotton County. 

Arriving in Cotton County over six hours from Fort Worth, my niece laughed at Cindy and I and told her Deadbeat boyfriend “told ya they would come, they always do.” She then yelled at Cindy and I to “get a loan on our homes to post a $200k bond.” We told her to go to hell and left. She was still high at the time and acting crazy as usual. I was lit about wasting an entire day driving to AND from Cotton County trying to “Save Stephaney” yet again. 

It would be a year before we were able to bring Stephaney home again from Cotton County. I had to pay for the mandatory 6 months of drug rehab in Oklahoma. That’s right. Again I tried to rehabilitate my niece and also told her it was the last time.

For three and a half years after the Cotton County arrest, my niece was stable, employed and taking her medication. I believed we finally had my niece back and for the first time in her life, stable. But, I was wrong again. 

Throughout the 3 1/2 years Steph was gainfully employed at El Fenix in Weatherford, she was living rent free with Cindy. What was she spending her money on? Court fines, hair follicle tests, and probation. She owed Oklahoma over $28k for her joy ride in that 18 wheeler. Two years ago, Steph was also fully supporting her Deadbeat boyfriend, Arthur. What she wasn’t doing was supporting her twin daughters.

Arthur would be Stephaney’s downfall. After a year of supporting Arthur, he asked Stephaney to marry him much to my entire family’s dismay but there was a catch, Stephaney was expected to pay the rent and all of the bills for Arthur. 

After months of telling us this bum was paying his own way, the truth came out when Stephaney admitted that she couldn’t buy a car (although she wasn’t paying any rent) because Arthur’s bills were too high. Cindy and I (as usual) went nuts and told her to dump him. The twins didn’t like him and we didn’t either. 

My niece often quotes Bible Scriptures in public places or thinks the world is coming to an end. Whenever Cindy and I hear about another “Stephaney Emergency,” we both start crying and realize that no matter what we do or have done to try and create a normal and predictable life for my niece, grandnieces, husbands and ourselves, getting Stephaney stable has been our biggest failure. We’ve been trying to stabilize her most of her life. 

My niece is beautiful, funny and intelligent when she’s taking her medication. When she isn’t, all Hell breaks loose around here with late night phone calls from the jail or calls from someone who has seen her driving down the road screaming Bible Verses at other drivers. 

Stephaney has memorized the Bible and occasionally refers to herself as JC when passing out verses in public to people she believes “need some Religion in their lives.” Many of you have read my blogs regarding the Christmas disaster at WorthamWorld last year and have a better idea of what can happen when instead of staying calm, you lose your temper when dealing with someone who continues to “fall off the wagon” and self medicate. 

Since Stephaney was born thirty years ago, my twin sister has struggled to help keep Stephaney on track. She was a very difficult child and my sister will tell you flat out that if Stephaney had been born first rather than Leigh Ann, she wouldn’t have had more children. 

Cindy has not only raised her daughters and grandchildren but also cared for our grandmother in her home for 17 years. Cindy has spent her entire life selflessly caring for three generations of family. My sister is literally, a Saint. 

Cindy was driving a car the church donated to her after Larry stole the car she was driving and robbed her apartment in California of everything she had carefully saved up to buy to furnish her first apartment. Larry was and is a POS. A bum that never paid child support and stole everything that didn’t belong to him.

I had moved to San Clemente when a call from Cindy in Texas had me on a plane. Larry had cleaned out her apartment of everything she had including the ice trays. The only thing he didn’t take were the toilet and sink. I loaded Cindy and the girls into her car and drove them to California. 

If I had ever known that Larry would track her down again when she got a phone in her new apartment after months of saving up to afford it, I would have told Cindy not to get a phone but, we didn’t and Larry knew we went to church on Sunday’s. 

Cindy has had far too many “worst days of her life.” We both had abusive first husbands and second husbands who were unfaithful. Trying to assure my sister that we would get her another car and furniture since Larry also stole her car at the California apartment since she was with me in my car, by the grace of God, the church donated Cindy a vehicle. It was perhaps the greatest gift she has ever been given.

Cindy has had a difficult life of trying to ensure that her children and grandchildren are well cared for but neither Cindy or I can control my niece or her behavior. 

Marrying someone with a history of mental illness years ago, Cindy had no idea that Larry was not only Bipolar but also Schizophrenic. How bad? He had another entire family while married to my sister and eventually took all of Leigh Ann’s and Stephaney’s clothing and toys as well as my sisters personal items to move in with his other family. 

I had moved my sister to California with her two daughters to live with me never realizing that Larry would file for divorce in Fort Worth, Texas and lie about having possession of Stephaney in order to effectively “skirt” child support for eighteen years. 

Larry never had Stephaney in Texas. School records in California would easily prove that Cindy had custody of her along but, getting a hearing on child support in Texas when you live in California is a very difficult process.

When we returned to Texas, and because Cindy moved, she missed the only Attorney General hearing that was scheduled to assign child support to Larry because she had moved and the Attorney General didn’t bother forwarding the letter giving her a court date to finally get child support from Larry. 

I’ve often said “we’ve never been lucky” because Cindy and I haven’t. What we have been is resilient. Raising two children without child support as a single mother is a cross to bear but, Cindy was living with me in Texas for four months with me to save money to move to Ridgmar. 

It was while driving her donated vehicle that she was in an accident driving to work that broke her back. Knowing she would have to cover the rent although our grandmother lived with her rent free, Cindy worked for 9 months on double shifts to save up for rent money while working with a broken back. 

Following a surgery that literally cut her in half, my sister couldn’t walk on her own for nearly a year. The depression that came with being unable to walk were hard on my sister. 

Although Cindy had me, her twin sister willing to work two jobs if necessary to help Cindy financially and, give her a place to live until she could get back on her feet, Cindy had the constant fear of being a single mom with no child support and little or no job training so, she went to school in California to get help and an education. 

Being broke with two kids to take care of, Cindy lived with me several times in both Texas and California. I also lived with her between a divorce and relied on her to help me with my son while I was working. 

Cindy and I have always relied heavily on each other throughout our lives and even lived with each other because had nowhere else to go or anyone else to help us. We’ve always only had each other.

Cibdy met Steve trying to learn to dance with 13 lbs of steel fusing her spine and married her one year later after paying all of her bills and supporting her while also buying her two cars. Steve was a Godsend.

The first signs of mental illness appeared when Stephaney was five years old. She was withdrawn and angry for no apparent reason and by 12 years old, running away from home and smoking pot. 

It would take us years to get an accurate diagnosis of why Stephaney’s behavior was so different from her sister Leigh Ann.

By the time Stephaney turned 14, she had decided to take a job as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant where she would learn Spanish. Stephaney is bilingual. 

At 15 years old, Stephaney became pregnant with twins and after telling her boyfriend about the pregnancy, was beaten nearly to death over it. 

Michael Wayne Scherer Jr. Pled guilty to Assault On A Family in 2003.  Michael Wayne Sherer Jr was also ordered to pay $200 in Child Support for Makenna and Maryssa in 2004. 

The twins are now nearly 14 years old and his Arrears are now $39,154.81 Michael has been arrested for Criminal Non Support and still doesn’t bother to pay child support on the twins. 

The truth is that $200 for two children not each but combined ($100 a piece) is the lowest possible set payment of child support in Texas on 2 children. 

Michael (like Larry) doesn’t want to pay Child Support! Cindy has raised two generations of children without the benefit of Child Support. 

Like anyone else raising children without financial support, you can guess what a financial strain raising two sets of children twice in one lifetime without any child support has been on my sister. 

Cindy never received one dime of Support on Leigh Ann or Stephaney and has been paid less than $2k in 13 years on Maryssa and Makenna.

The “family” was Stephaney and the twins she was carrying. Due to the beating, Stephaney was hospitalized with a torn placenta for 6 months awaiting the birth of the twins who were never expected to live. 

My niece also suffered from Type S Protein Deficiency which was discovered while hospitalized. This type of blood disorder causes blood clots and can cause death to pregnant women or the unborn child or children. 

I believe my niece suffered a Psychotic Break after the beating and upon hearing everyday that she would lose the twins, hope. After finally giving birth, the twins were so ill and weak that they would spent four months in NICU. 

Since Stephaney was unable to touch or hold the twins and left the hospital quite upset. After going through so much during her pregnancy at such a young age, Cindy and I effectively “lost” Stephaney to her self medication of drugs while the twins were still in NICU. 

Whenever possible, we invited Stephaney to family events and tried to create a bond with her children. There are very few photos of Stephaney because she was rarely with us at Events. 

I rarely discuss drug abuse or sobriety but, my mother was a heroin addict and I no longer attempt to hide the sad facts surrounding a few of my family members. 

I’m honest. It’s painful but while I may never understand drug abuse, I’ve had to endure the effects of it to those around me as has my sister. 

While Cindy and I have always stayed away from drugs, Stephaney was continually drawn into a world that we couldn’t pull her back out of. The wrong friends. The wrong choices. 

Low self esteem and other factors pulled my niece into a very dark place but, trying to keep saving her often put my sister and I in very dangerous situations when trying to bring her home again. 

I can’t tell you how many times we have put ourselves in danger trying to bring Stephaney out of a bad situation because we refused to give up on her because there have been so many. Parents don’t give up and we weren’t going to either. Or, so we thought. 

If either of our husbands knew the places we’ve been in trying to get Stephaney safe they would have heart attacks! From crack houses to heroin alley, we risked everything to get Stephaney in treatment over and over again. 

A policeman once told us “you are going to get yourselves killed. She chose to be in this area but you two don’t belong here. Go home! I don’t need the paperwork of you getting yourselves killed trying to save someone that doesn’t want to be saved.” It scared us and enlightened us both of how far we were willing to go to save Stephaney. After all, if we were killed saving her, we knew no one else would try.

We have held out hope that one day we could change the situation for my niece and  have always allowed her to see the twins unless she was high but, Stephaney’s relationship with the twins has deteriorated more than ever the past six months. 

Why? Because the twins are both 13 and tired of losing their mom to self medicating, being arrested and/or out of control again. The twins want their “old mom back.” 

The one who took her medication, went to work and took the twins to Film Alley or bowling or Six Flags. The want the mom they knew from 9 years old to 12 1/2 after she came home from the treatment in Oklahoma that I paid for but, finding the “old Stephaney” isn’t as easy as everyone thinks it is. Stephaney loves the twins and her family but, her choices have made her life far more tragic. She’s been with men who have beaten her and taken advantage of her weaknesses. My niece has never had a decent man in her life. 

If Stephaney would take her medication, she would never feel the need to take steeet drugs but, any parent of an addict will attest that getting someone clean weighs heavily on the person wanting to get clean. It’s a problem for any family who have a relative with mental illness and addiction. Often, they both go hand and hand.

Cindy and I raised the twins as our own and hired an attorney to ensure that Stephaney’s unpredictable lifestyle and choices wouldn’t affect the twins. We became the legal guardians of Maryssa and Makenna. 

I’m certain this decision to take the twins and raise them may have hurt my niece but,  also certain that had we not “stepped in,” the twins would have had a more than difficult childhood. 

Stephaney’s choices would have put the twins in great danger. The same danger our own mother often put us in. We had to protect the twins and did so, legally.

For years now, I’ve helped my niece by getting her dressed up in my clothes and bathed to go look for a job. If only she realized that she is capable of working and eventually finding a suitable mate, I feel that she could have something in life to look forward to. 

I don’t understand why anyone would throw their life away for drugs. I may never understand it. Our own mother made bad choices that affected all four of her children.

My niece attended both my sons wedding and her sisters while crying to me that she may never marry or have a partner to share her life with. Tragically, Anthony accompanied Stephaney to my sons wedding and her volatile relationship with Anthony only added to her lack of self esteem. In 2011, Anthony beat Stephaney so badly that he blinded her. 

Trying to force her to stop seeing him would take Anthony being arrested a month ago. How do you forgive someone who beat you blind? How do you forgive someone who drug you downstairs by your ponytail? How do you accept that being beaten and burned by cigarettes is okay? 

I was furious about the Anthony beating and drove Stephaney to Harris Hospital myself for months trying to repair her vision. The effects of that beating were irreversible. We lost Stephaney again after the beating and she went back to self medicating. 

I did force Stephaney to file assault charges on Anthony who is now looking at life in Prison for Assaulting 6 police officers in January 23, 2018. 

Anthony was dangerous long before the January arrest as these photos of Stephaney will prove. Her front teeth are two different colors because when they were knocked out- she pushed them back in. 

The photo below was taken three months after Stephaney was beaten, drug down concrete stairs and had her face burned with cigarettes for over an hour while neighbors in the apartment complex listened but did nothing. 

The police photos are far more graphic that I filed along with the Assault Report. How would you feel getting a call from Anthony at 1AM stating “Stephaney is in bad shape. She needs a doctor. I’m hiding. Someone called the police.” I was shocked and horrified at yet another late night call but, wouldn’t realize until later that it was Anthony who had hurt her. 

It took Cindy and I all night to locate Stephaney. When we did, she was wearing sunglasses at a convenience store off Las Vegas Trail. The sunglasses didn’t hide the choke marks on her neck or her ear that had been burned when Anthony put out a cigarette in it. The sunglasses didn’t hide her torn cheek or battered jawbone. 

Stephaney didn’t want to remove the sunglasses but, I made her. I wanted to document what that monster had done to her. I wanted Anthony off the streets before he did this to someone else and, I wanted Justice.

Anthony was someone that had been to Christmas at my home and I trusted. Someone who had been a part of Stephaney’s life for 10 years. Anthony was far more dangerous than anyone in my family realized.Stephaney has never had a good man in her life. For reasons I may never understand, the men she’s attracted to are horrible people.Stephaney’s choices in life have angered my sister and I while saddened her twin daughters. Over and over again, my sister and I have tried to get Stephaney on track but like a light switch, normality can easily become chaos.

Arthur didn’t beat her but he did take all of her money while calling her fat, stupid, worthless and weak. Arthur used mental abuse to hurt Stephaney.

It’s something that scares her this spending her life alone instead of with the wrong people but, I’ve reinforced that I was alone for years and quite happy to not dread coming home to a Mr Wrong. I prefer to be alone than with someone who beats me down, is unfaithful to me or unworthy of me. I’m picky. Stephaney isn’t. 

My husband and Cindy’s husband adore us and support us in every way. Find someone who lifts you up I told her. After all of the times we’ve found Stephaney beaten and bloody over a drug deal gone bad- it’s incredible to us that she continues to choose the worst boyfriends in the world. 

From visits to the hospital with Stephaney to visits at Psych Wards, Jails and impound yards, trying to get my niece help has been one of the most painful and emotionally debilitating things my sister and I have had to endure. 

I’ve told my niece over and over again “If you can’t find someone to respect you- keep looking!” My niece has suffered four Psychotic Breaks and all of them were due to abuse from people Stephaney knew and/or trusted. The wrong men. The wrong choices.Stephaney loves her twin daughters but, sometimes love isn’t enough. My entire family have rallied around the twins to give them the love and support they need to grow into the strong and educated adults that they will become.

At 13, the twins love their mom but, both want their “old mom” the one they had for three years of sobriety back. 

Getting my niece back isn’t as easy as it may sound. Hopefully, her latest stay in Wichita Falls can get her stable again but only time will tell. We are running out of ways to save Stephaney. 

So, for everyone telling us we are enabling her, ask yourself what you would do if you were in our situation and, it was your child. You don’t know unless you’ve been there yourself. Waiting for that next phone call. Wondering what unexpected thing will happen next. Hoping for the best and yet, fearing the worst. 

No parent or relative should ever have to see their loved one beaten half to death or hear that their loved one was beaten solely because she was pregnant. Fifteen years old, pregnant with twins, beaten and kicked, punched and thrown down the stairs, my niece was literally tied to a bed throughout her pregnancy to keep from losing the twins. Did we lose her then? Or, was it after the years of self medicating? We will never know but refuse to believe we can’t get her back again and more importantly, stable. 

Our sadness is profound but, our sadness includes both of Stephaney’s children who have witnessed her ups and downs and throughout it all, wanted their mother happy and safe.

Some of you say “move her home.” We have three children living with my sister that need normality and predictability. This type of advice infuriates us. If Stephaney would stay on her medication, we could and certainly would help her. We need her to choose to help herself. 

For all of you suggesting it- why don’t you move an unstable person in with you? Let us know how it goes. Cindy and I have both experienced the drama and subsequent fear of the strangers Stephaney brings into our homes and must put the children first! Stephaney must make better choices. 

If we hadn’t had custody of the twins, Stephaney would have lost them to the state. We saved the twins from the childhood we had survived with a drug addict for a mother. Cindy and I were determined to give the twins stability. 

It hasn’t been easy when a phone call disrupts our lives notifying us that Stephaney is at a restaurant calling everyone Satan or saying she’s saving the world. 

My sister and I rarely cry in front of our children and children. We must appear strong when are hearts are literally torn in half. What will happen to Stephaney when we die? It scares us. 

My son and Stephaney’s sister resent all of the effort we put into getting Stephaney help but, what choice do we have? 

My niece spent her days off from work going with us and seeing her daughters when she was up to it. 

Cindy and I gave the twins the stability that their mother couldn’t. For over ten years, my niece getting arrested for this or that has become a regular occurrence. 

My sister cries everyday and asks “what did we ever do to deserve this” while I continue to try and find help for my niece. 

Maryssa and Makenna know that their mother could be fixed on Lithium, Seroquil and her other prescribed medications but, getting Stephaney to take the medication is another “hurdle” altogether.

A few weeks ago, for the second time in two months, my niece was committed on a Mental Warrant to JPS. As usual, Cindy and I went to the tow yard to retrieve the car my niece often lives in. 

For three months now, getting my niece’s vehicle out of impound 4 times has cost us nearly two thousand dollars. When you have a relative that struggles with addiction and mental illness, it’s a very expensive “Merry Go Round.” The medication. The jail bond. The tow fees. I could go on and on but, you get it. 

When I was young, I considered being a Private Detective when I grew up. Yesterday, Cindy and I used our detective skills of finding Stephaney’s car since it hadn’t been impounded when she was arrested on foot. 

Stephaney’s car is important because she often lives in it. Without her car, she would be on the streets. Many of our friends tell us just let the car go. But, without her car, Stephaney is quite literally, homeless! 

This particular detention was unusual as Stephaney is almost always driving other than the last time she was taken to JPS after parking her car and walking down Santa Fe yelling the end of the world was coming. 

Her car was parked a few blocks away and since and since the city had a contract with a tow service, Stephaney’s car was towed again although she wasn’t driving it during her previous incident. There is a money racket going on when the City has a contract with the Towing Company and for obvious reasons, a conflict of interest.

The cost to get her car back after being impounded less than 4 hours? $298.00 because the city benefits from having a car towed whether you were driving a car or not. 

Many people have decided to give us advice although they have no idea what we’ve been through trying to get Stephaney help. These “know it all” types accuse my sister and I of enabling Stephaney by buying her gas or groceries. 

They tell us to cut her off. They tell us we are mistake trying to find help for my niece and, they have no idea what dealing with a relative who struggles with mental illness is. 

These friends and relatives actually have no real idea what life with an addict struggling with mental illness is like. How do I know this? Because none of the people giving us their opinion have dealt with a drug addict suffering from mental illness. My sister and I have as our mother was Bipolar and also, a heroin addict. 

Believe it or not, Cindy has a few #Cindyism quotes for all these people trying to give us advice without any knowledge or experience.

Over the past three months, my niece has been institutionally committed three times. Cindy and I would love to tell you that these “stints” in Psych Wards have helped Stephaney but, they haven’t. 

Nineteen days at JPS or ten days at JPS getting her on medication and stabilized effectively “fly out the window” within days or hours of my niece being released.

When picking Stephaney up from an institution, we always beg her to take her medication and find a job because we realize that stability is important to keeping her on track. We try to trust her to take her meds and “straighten up” but, we are consistently disappointed. 

Trusting someone with mental illness to take their medication is a difficult choice for anyone who wishes so and so would stay on their meds.

Many Prisons house patients who should be in a Psych Ward. The issue is so profound that numerous Prisons have become the only place that an addict can get off street drugs and get on with their lives. It’s sad but it’s a statistical fact.

Cindy has paid for a phone for Stephaney the past 15 years so we can find her when we lose her to the underworld of drugs. 

Two days ago, I saw Stephaney at the apartment we had moved her into with a strange man. I was concerned about this and called Cindy. My niece often chooses friends that abuse her trust. 

Yesterday morning while I juggling client emails, Cindy went to the apartment to go over not having “friends” stay with her and found she wasn’t home. 

Panicked, we began calling the Jails after a lifetime of knowing that if she wasn’t at home, she was in jail. Stephaney was arrested for burning Bible verses on a bench in Willow Park.

Cindy and I dropped everything and drove to the jail. We asked for the location of the arrest and where the car had been towed. We provided paperwork for the last two stays at JPS. We told them she has been diagnosed with mental illness and had the paperwork to prove it. 

Parker County Jail wanted Stephaney’s medication but, it wasn’t on her. We assumed it was in her car and set out to find it. 

Since a car hadn’t been towed by the city, we drove to the area and searched for the car. 

Using our self taught “detective” skills to trace her steps, we found her car with a blown out tire about a mile from where she was arrested and called Longhorn Tow.

We had wanted to find the car to get Stephaney’s medication but, it wasn’t in the vehicle. The vehicle was locked so we also paid for the tow driver to unlock it and searched frantically for the medication that would cost $3k to replace for Stephaney. 

Since Cindy and I took medical records to the jail regarding Stephaney’s last two releases from JPS Psych Ward, my niece was transferred to a state run Psych Unit in Wichita Falls. 

The last six months of trying to appear as normal as possible to Clients, friends and relatives has taken an emotional toll on my sister and I as well as Stephaney’s daughters, Maryssa and Makenna.

We had taken Stephaney with us to film in California six months ago believing she would have fun and never realizing she was at the beginning of a downward spiral that would include three arrests and two mental warrants over the past six months. 

Although she must have enjoyed our vacation, my niece was withdrawn and occasionally sullen during the trip to California. We assumed that she was arguing with her idiot ex boyfriend Arthur or Anthony.Stephaney often took calls or texts from either of them and her lack of self esteem was the direct cause of both Anthony and Arthur. 

Cindy and I argued endlessly over the idiots Stephaney fell for but our pleas to hold out for Mr Right fell of deaf ears. I believe if my niece had ever had a healthy relationship in her life that she might have leveled out but, I could be wrong.

For those of you wondering why Cindy and I decided to “out” ourselves regarding this very personal matter, it should be noted that we know other friends facing similar issues and, we want you to know that you aren’t alone. 

Mental illness and addiction destroy families. Staying strong or positive when someone you love continues to disrupt the normality of your life is stressful. 

Only time will tell if this latest long term stay will stabilize my niece but we are hopeful that we can once again get Stephaney back on track so that she can reconcile with the twins and be the mother that she has yet to have an opportunity to be due to her mental illness..