FLOWERY BRANCH — Today will be a special Christmas for Candy Hicks and her three boys.
For the first time in her life, the 24-year-old Flowery Branch woman will spend a morning unwrapping presents with her children, ages 2, 4 and 7, as a clear-thinking, clean-and-sober mom.
It’s been a 15-month journey of recovery for Hicks, who at her lowest point was unemployed and shooting up methamphetamine; had her children taken from her by social services, their father in jail; and felt as if she had no hope for the future. Her motivation for cleaning up was the hope of one day being reunited with her boys.
In August 2007, Hicks entered the Hall County Family Treatment Court, a specialized accountability court run by Juvenile Court Judge Cliff Jolliff that requires parents to prove they are straightening out their lives before they are allowed to live under the same roof with their kids again. The court coordinates the efforts of treatment providers, child advocates and state social services with the goal of reunifying families.
"I can definitely say that family treatment court has been the best thing I’ve ever done," Hicks said. "It’s been one of the hardest things, but it’s been the best thing. It made me a better person and a better mother."
Hicks has worked at an Oakwood restaurant for six months now, "the longest time I’ve ever held a job," she said. She’s back living with her children while she finishes up the requirements of the program, which should end for her in April.
Hicks credits the genuine concern Jolliff shows for the well-being of treatment court participants, the support of other parents in her peer group and particularly the encouragement of her children’s Court Appointed Special Advocate, Linda Taylor.
"I would have never made it to residential (treatment) if it hadn’t been for her," Hicks said.
Hicks spent several months in Right Side Up, a residential treatment facility in DeKalb County, where she was granted day passes to visit her children, who were placed in the care of her grandmother. On Christmas Day 2007, she spent just a few hours with her kids.
"I hadn’t been clean that long, so I don’t remember much about last Christmas," Hicks said. "I don’t remember much about last year, actually."
One memory that does stick out is when she had to explain to her 4-year-old son why she was leaving.
"He kind of broke down, and I broke down with him," she said.
There should be no tears today.
Being able to share in her children’s joy this Christmas morning, even if it means being roused from bed at daybreak, takes on new significance for Hicks this holiday season.
"This will be the first Christmas I’ve spent with my kids completely sober," Hicks said. "When you hit bottom and there’s nowhere to go but up, you kind of get a new perspective on life.
"I’m home; I’ve got my kids; and I’m able to rely on myself this Christmas."