A couple of years ago, Amanda (Johnston) Squires, 37, a Bristol native, was on the streets, taking drugs, doing bad things and living in a tent or wherever she could find shelter. She hit rock bottom, something that can happen to just about anyone. Think this couldn’t happen to you or someone you love?
“I had an associate’s degree in accounting, was married at 23 and we both worked, had pretty normal cars and would later have a baby girl,” Squires said. “I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease at age 18 and after having my (first) daughter, I got real sick and was put on medication.”
Autoimmune disease affects different parts of the body and there are some 80-plus diseases listed in that family. Those with the disease can experience pain, low grade fevers and tiredness. Seven percent of the population is affected by it, mostly women, and more often it starts as an adult.
Squire’s downhill slide began after having her daughter a decade ago. She began experiencing a variety of medical problems, pain in her back, knees, hands and elsewhere. And with this, she was put on pain meds for relief.
“They pushed a lot of medicine on you and that’s when I got hooked on it,” said Squires. “But they don’t do that now.”
The medications went on for a few years. The start of divorce proceedings was then added to Squire’s plate and her insurance carrier eventually dropped her. The problems mounted and the money was drying up.
“I couldn’t afford the meds and was addicted to them,” Squires said. “So I stupidly sniffed heroin when nobody was around. Then somebody told me it was only five dollars on the street. I eventually did both heroin and suboxone, which you take to get off the streets.”
As if that were not enough, she was later laid off from her part-time job and couldn’t make bill payments. She moved in with relatives and that didn’t work out, so she asked her ex-husband to take their daughter until she could get back on her feet.
“Then I got more depressed, so I started taking more drugs than I needed and I, basically, was living in a tent, living in Bristol, and my ex got custody of our daughter. I was living on the streets, in a pick-up truck and in tents. I slept wherever I could.
“I was living with four or five others, and we stayed together. Eventually, Brian’s Angels gave us a tent. I stole food and other things I needed from grocery stores. I’m not proud of it, but you have to live. Once I went four days without food and I did other things I’m not proud of.
“I almost died a couple of times - I saw the tunnel.”
Along comes the man in the white hat, a good guy who is now her fiance. He helped bring her back to a normal life, a process that would take time.
“He brought a picture of my daughter and said, ‘Look at what you’re going to lose forever if you don’t do it,’” Squires said. “I went to detox and left in signing myself out. When I did, my boyfriend detoxed me himself.”
Today she’s back. She’s smiling, positive and enjoying all the little and big good things life offers.
“I just got custody of my 10-year-old daughter,” said Squires. “I have a seven-month-old baby girl with my fiance and am good friends with my ex. We are all friends. I have an apartment now and also have to thank Brian’s Angels, Diane Berube of the Bristol Housing Authority, the Salvation Army and various churches which have helped me with housing and furniture.”
Contact Bob Montgomery at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 860-973-1808.