By Lynn Yount
Time was running out on any chance Melissa Eggers had to see her kids
again. “I was blinded by my addiction,” she says. “By the time I
realized that I needed to change something, it was almost too late.”
Melissa’s parenting had reflected how she was raised, in a
super-strict household with very little affection: “Drill sergeant
type of parenting,” she calls it. And her drug addiction only
exacerbated her inability to express real love to her children. Even
when she had custody, yelling was her primary interaction with them.
“All I knew how to do is just yell at [them], and that stems from how
I was raised. I didn’t know any better.”
But she had barely seen them in two years: 9-year-old Jayza and
2-year-old Julius had been in foster care. A hearing was scheduled to
terminate her parental rights and make them available for adoption.
Desperation drove her to seek lasting change.
“I just knew that I needed some long-term help. . . My counselor [in
substance abuse treatment] told me about Anna Ogden Hall, and … from
the second I came to orientation, I knew this was the place for me.”
Coming to Anna Ogden Hall was just part of an involved and difficult
process: Paperwork, court dates, supervised visits, family therapy.
But once she took it seriously, the process paid off. The children
were allowed to come live there with Melissa.
“I was like, ‘No way!’ I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I went from
not having any contact with them for almost two years to … within
three months of me being here I was able to get them back.”
Reunification was just the beginning of an educational process, as
Melissa still had to learn how to be a loving parent – a vital piece
of UGM’s holistic approach that seeks to break cycles of addiction
and/or abuse within families.
Julius had been a baby when he was taken away and was able to bond
with his mom relatively quickly, but Jayza was justifiably skeptical.
“I just thought that they were little troupers, and it wasn’t until I
got them back that we went through a three-month transition period …
it was terrible. My daughter just didn’t – and I don’t blame her –
didn’t trust me, didn’t think I was a safe person, and so we battled
Melissa’s time in jail and prison, plus the other conflict and
instability fueled by her addiction, had made Jayza a skeptic. She
needed to see a consistent difference in Melissa to believe it, to
respect her as a mom. “She was always guarded, like, ‘What’s going to
Jayza expressed her insecurity in all kinds of rebellious behavior.
But it was a blessing in disguise, a lesson that was invaluable for
the family’s future.
“God taught me so much through that about my parenting, what I wanted
to be as a parent,” Melissa says. “And it taught me a lot about her,
too – that she does have a voice and she is angry about some things.”
Melissa understands it will take time, faith, and consistent effort
to break the unloving “drill-sergeant” cycle she previously
perpetuated from her own upbringing. She wants to understand her
children’s personalities and needs instead of yelling.
“I think the trust building is going to come over time, but I have a
little bit of trust, [Jayza] trusts me a little bit now. … We’re
building an attachment again because we really didn’t have that, and
just learning about each other and communicating.”
And she wants to teach them about the one who changed her own life
and can give them life: “I want them to know about Jesus. I think
that’s got to be #1.”