ALAMOSA — Putting a face with the person whose weekly newspaper column many of them had read in the past year, Alamosa city councilors recently heard from Amarah, a teenager whose mission is to reach other “kids like me,” children of addicts.
She has also been working with the parents, especially moms who are addicts and residing in the Alamosa County Detention Facility, Alamosa County Sheriff Robert Jackson said when he introduced Amarah to the city council during its November 15th meeting. He said an issue he has been dealing with in the jail is pregnant women coming in who are addicted to heroin. Amarah and other volunteers have been working with these women, he said, and they have helped them change their lives.
“She has touched so many people,” Sheriff Jackson said. “It’s just amazing.”
Amarah shared her personal story with the city council. The daughter of an addict, she spoke about the abuse she had suffered both physically and emotionally from her own mother and men who lived in the home at various times — “There were so many men I couldn’t count.” She told the council her mother moved to the San Luis Valley partially because marijuana was accessible in Colorado.
“I saw my mother doing drugs and things that I shouldn’t have seen.”
She described deplorable living conditions and treatment.
“It was a terrifying experience for me, and there are so many other children who are going through this and don’t have help,” Amarah said.
She added that many children think it is their fault their mom or dad is on drugs.
“I remember my mother told me she wished I was never born,” Amarah said. “I wanted to kill myself because I thought it was my fault … and I was 7 at the time.”
Amarah talked about her time in local schools, both good and bad. Alamosa Elementary was at least the 16th school she had attended in a few short years, she said. She appreciated Alicia Romero as her teacher there, she said, but there were other educators there and at a Christian school she later attended who were not as kind, she said, and did not understand that her brain had been affected by the drugs her mother had taken.
She was kicked out of fifth grade band because her grades were not good enough, and that was so devastating to her that again she wanted to kill herself.
“That was the only thing in my life that was keeping me alive,” she said.
Amarah was taken away from her mother and given to her grandmother, with whom she lives now. She said she was frustrated with the system for giving her little sister to the biological father (Amarah’s stepfather at one point) instead of keeping her with Amarah and their grandmother.
She said her stepfather told her “big girls don’t cry,” and she still doesn’t cry even when she is in pain. She also avoids the color purple because he hit her with a purple paddle. She described other physical abuse by him and her mother.
She said she does not think of her mother as her mother.
“I just call her Sarah now,” she said.
Her grandmother put her in a private Christian school, she recalled, but unfortunately there again she encountered bullying. Her grandmother removed her from that school.
Amarah encouraged the adults to pay attention to “kids like me” who might be suffering abuse and failing grades in school and other symptoms of living in a drug addict’s home. She said because of what she went through and what other children are going through, it is important to get treatment for drug addicts and help for their children.
“I was abused by teachers emotionally, abused by my mother emotionally, abused by her so-called fiancée emotionally. I want to know why nobody helped me. That’s why I want to help kids like me.”
Councilman Michael Stefano told Amarah he had learned a lot through her weekly column and admired her for what she was doing and for sharing her faith.
“Keep it up,” he told her.
Councilor Kristina Daniel said she respected what Amarah was doing as well.
“Big girls do cry,” she told Amarah, “and I hope someday you are able to do that too.”
Daniel added, “The fact that you thought about killing yourself so many times, I am so thankful you didn’t.”
Daniel said others need to hear Amarah’s message, and people need to talk about suicide and that there is help for those considering it. She shared a number for the Colorado crisis line, 1-844-493-8255.
Daniel added that she was sorry Amarah had gone through what she had, “but I am so thankful you are as strong as you are to be able to help other kids like you.”
Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley added, “You are a brave person.” She said many people have read her columns. “You have touched a lot of lives.”
Councilor Ty Coleman also told Amarah he was sorry for what she had gone through and was glad she chose life over death.
“You are going to provide hope for so many kids … not only in Alamosa and the San Luis Valley but throughout the world.”
He concluded, “Keep moving forward and keep making positive decisions.”
(See Amarah’s column on page 4 today for more information about her current projects and how to help.)
Caption: Amarah, left, meets with the Alamosa city council from left Charles Griego, Kristina Daniel, Michael Stefano, Mayor Josef Lucero, Ty Coleman, Liz Thomas Hensley and Jan Vigil. Courier photo by Ruth Heide