By Katie Justice:

My life story is one that I have always been afraid to share. When I think about telling it, I fear that people will put me in box and label me before I even finish.

You see, my life has not been a perfect life. My biological mother struggled with addiction since she was in her late 20’s, and she used her addiction to cope with bipolar disorder. I, unfortunately, had to witness what addiction did to both her life and mine. Because of her addictions, she left me when I was 13 years old and never told me where she was going. It was heartbreaking because I thought it was my fault. I thought I should have been enough for her to straighten her life out.  I was the one who was supposed to help her.

It was a big burden for a teenager to have.

I never wanted to share my story because I feared that people would tell me I would end up just like her, nothing more than a statistic. This fear made me angry at my mother for turning out how she did and leaving me to bear the brunt of what people thought and said.

I came to realize that this fear should and could no longer have control of me. I realized that I wanted to forgive her, but I had no clue when I would see her again to tell her I loved her and forgave her.

Fortunately, when I was 20 years old, I was able to reunite with her and tell her all that I wanted to tell her. We embraced, cried, laugh and most of all we forgave each other for things that were said and done towards one another. Unfortunately, she still struggled with her addictions and on October 16th, 2010, she passed away due to an accidental overdose.

If she taught me anything, it is to be open to grace and to show that grace to others. This is her legacy that she left for me. I do have a responsibility now, but it is an easy one. It is to show more grace and open my heart to accept it.