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Former Meth Addict Starts a New Life After Brush with Homelessness

Anna Richardson's descent into homelessness began when she got hooked on methamphetamine as a teenager.

Anna Richardson needed a wake-up call.

For 10 years, Richardson had been hooked on methamphetamine—only stopping for brief periods when she was pregnant with her two daughters. In all that time, she never held a job, preferring to sell the meth made by her live-in partner.

But when police raided her home in 2010, Richardson's life came crashing down.

What followed was a spiral of court dates, continued drug use and meetings with a social worker that ultimately culminated in the loss of the 26-year-old Apple Valley resident's child-custody rights.

Richardson, unable to make more money selling drugs or collect child-support payments, couldn't afford to pay rent. In September 2010, she became homeless.

“Once they told me I couldn’t get my kids back, I hit rock bottom," Richardson said. "I couldn’t live with myself without doing everything I could do to get my kids back."


A Teenage Meth Addict

At 24 years old, Richardson was living out of the back of her truck, crashing at friends' houses or sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots.

She couldn't afford to run her Ford Explorer to stay warm, and remembers waking up to find freshly-fallen snow on the hood of her car. She kept only the bare essentials—clothes and toiletries, and took showers at friends' homes whenever possible. So she could eat, Richardson stole food from retailers.

Richardson's road to homelessness began years earlier.

As a child, Richardson's mom tried desperately to protect her and her two brothers from an abusive husband, as her family moved from one trailer park to another in Dakota County.

Eventually, her mother was able to get a divorce. In a fit of violence, however, her father killed her mother's new boyfriend and tried to kill Richardson's mother before taking his own life. 

Richardson's mom fled with the children to Farmington, where Richardson said her mother found a new boyfriend—a habitual drug user. Her parents taught her little about responsibility or practical decision-making, Richardson said, and gave her far too much freedom as a teen.

When Richardson was 14, she tried and became addicted to methamphetamine—a habit that she didn't kick until after the police raid, when social workers removed Richardson's children.

"I didn't have a good, structured foundation to building anything off of," Richardson said. "I didn’t have any role models in my life, and I made a lot of the wrong choices."

Faced with the loss of her two young daughters, Kailey and Isabella, Richardson decided to get clean. She spent 43 days in a Mendota Heights treatment program, then served part of a staggered jail sentence she received after pleading guilty to a child endangerment charge related to the possession and sale of drugs.


"Everything Can Be So Fragile"

Reunited with her children at a family-treatment center in Minneapolis, Richardson started rebuilding her life—and her relationships with her children. After a more than a year spent homeless and in treatment centers—including seven months in Eagan's Dakota Woodlands—she now shares a subsidized three-bedroom apartment in Apple Valley with her mother and two kids.

But the difficulties linger.

Richardson, sober for 19 months, is still paying criminal fines and serving community service. In part because of the felonies on her record, she hasn't found a job, though she dreams of going to school and becoming a chemical-dependence counselor. Currently, she volunteers at Dakota Woodlands as a cook and cleaner.

Richardson worries that her kids could go down the same path she took, and that terrifying thought keeps her motivated.

"With everything I’ve been through, I know all the different possibilities that could happen with my kids," Richardson said. "I started down the wrong path when I was 13, and my daughter’s going to be 10 soon."

Richardson acknowledged that drug use played a significant role in her own descent into homelessness, but urged people to look past stereotypes when dealing with homeless individuals.

"You never know why someone’s homeless," Richardson said. "And to be through that, and know how easily that can happen, I just view it differently."

"In the blink of an eye, you can lose it. Everything can be so fragile."

Editor's Note: Homelessness rates in Dakota County and other suburban communities in Minnesota have risen substantially in the last five years. This letter to the editor is part of a Patch series exploring that trend. Click on the links below to read other articles on the topic.

 

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MJB August 16, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Congratulations on your sobriety. I pray you continue to be strong and know there is always something better for you in the world as long as you stay away from the bad. Don't let your past define you. You have the expierence and tools to help others. Good Luck!
Melissa Nelson August 16, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Amen to MJB comments..... so true! I am so proud of you for changing your direction in life (this takes a lot of courage) and going down the right path! You can do it! . We have 4 children ages 6 - 16 and my advice for you is.... to stay connected/talk with your children, set boundaries/limits, love them unconditionally, go to church together, get to know their friends and their friends parents, and always be there for them, and have fun together :-)!May God Bless you and your children. I will keep you in my prayers. Congratulations Anna :-)!!
linda August 16, 2012 at 03:15 PM
My love and support to you Anna. I had a not so nice childhood, but only through opening up to dear friends, seeking advice from a wonderful counselor, meditation, my life has become full. You have to seek positive things out, because I learned those positive things you seek, come back to you tenfold. Do not dwell on the past, accept it, learn from it, and move on. Many people before you have done the same. I understand, we understand, but you have a beautiful life ahead of you with beautiful moments to be realized if you let it into your life. Start one step at a time and one day it builds into something beautiful and makes it all worth it. I wouldn't give up my bad experiences in childhood because it did make me more compassionate and understanding for all beings. Stay focused -- have quiet moments to listen to your thoughts, and adjust accordingly and positively. Nothing is bad if we learn from it. Hugs to you!
recovered August 16, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Anna great job if it was all true! But its not! I know not to long ago like 3 months ago u were using METH and selling again ! so dont lie to everyone if need be i can prove it so tell the truth!! I am just a concerned friend stay away from it its the DEVIL!!!!!!!!
Diane Baum August 17, 2012 at 01:04 AM
I am an author and I , with the help of someone who watched her mother crash and burn from meth, have published a book (currently available on amazon's Kindle as well as Kindle for PC) titled: "little girl lost: one woman's journey into meth as seen through the eyes of a little girl." Meth is a harrowing ride into hell where one always chases that elusive high. After the first great one, it is never the same, yet it damages not only the user, but also everyone around them. I know of someone who said that after almost 15 years of sobriety, he still craves the high that meth can give. Our future is on the backs of the children who grew up watching mom or dad get high. I urge one and all to download this story...putting yourself into the shoes of a child who witnessed such horrors.
Anna August 17, 2012 at 03:06 AM
Ok "concerned friend" if u were a friend to me you would know that im sober from meth and have been for almost 20 months. I have no reason to lie and nothing to prove to anyone other than myself. I have come a long way in the past 2 years and I dont need your negative comments on my story. Do you think for one minute that it was easy for me to tell my whole story knowing it was gonna be published? No it wasnt and the main reason I did it was to help any other person dealing with the same things I struggled with.
Shaun Kegler August 17, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Very helpful and positive feedback "recovered". Not too sure what you mean by concerned friend. Wouldn't a concerned friend just contact their friend and offer support, rather than try to make them look bad? So I say yes, prove it.
Jeremy Vangrevenhof August 17, 2012 at 05:04 AM
"recovered"........The name says quite a bit! I hope you have recovered from your spiteful acts of cowardliness! I mean any true friend would at least post with there name!
Diane Baum August 17, 2012 at 01:26 PM
any true friend would be there, holding her friend's hand, not using their own to push her down deeper than she is. Anna...you can do it. Look forward, not back. Your past is only a lesson of what goes wrong. There are so many possibilities out there. I have one piece of advice for you: stay away from people like "recovered." They can only bring you down. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Jamie August 17, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Not such a good friend if you don't know the truth. Why post something that you know is not true? Concerned friend? You don't know the progress my best friend has made, and you need to keep you nose out of what you don't know. Don't spread lies that aren't true. Meth addicts don't just start again and then STOP, and go to take their placements test, and start getting their college life in order. Someone like Anna would start again and not be able to stop. So please keep your untrue comments to yourself, and try to not to make petty remarks to make someone else look bad, because I'm sure you are a waste of life yourself. Sincerely, Anna's best friend since FIFTH GRADE, someone who knows more than you.
penta August 18, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Anna, thank you for having the courage to tell your story. Many would have kept silent. I hope it's helped others in the same situation as well as those who are completely clueless about the consequences meth brings. Stay strong and keep it simple. You can do this.

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