Love comes in many different packages. Love is in the eye of the beholder, but at the end of the day, love is just love. To Tonya, love is acceptance. Love is understanding, and love is forgiveness. As she recalled the past 18 years of her life, she proved that loving an addict requires much more of the above. Most see staying with an addict as a sign of weakness but this woman was anything but that. Bobby, her child’s father, disappeared shortly after discovering she was pregnant. He vanished without even a goodbye and didn’t return until four years later. During the course of those years, she gave birth to her baby at 24 weeks gestation. She was told that her baby girl probably would not make it, but she stayed by her baby’s side until she was able to bring her home. She had no support of a father, only herself and her parents to care for this beautiful child. Instead of becoming a statistic, Tonya went to school and fought against the odds until she had a career to support herself and Emily, her daughter. She landed a career working in the local police department where she is still employed today. After returning into her life unannounced, she allowed Bobby to visit Emily as long as he was clean and sober. He bounced in and out of prison and mostly lived a life that was an unacceptable environment for Emily. When he was good, he was good…but when he was bad, he was awful. Aside from the bad times, they shared good years together as a family. He remained sober and walked a clean path for a long time. Tonya finally felt like she had the white picket fence scenario she always longed for. One day, he returned home with gifts for his family. She questioned where it all came from and he told her that he was just now able to access his storage from his previous marriage. She accepted this story as she watched her daughter’s face light up with excitement as she accepted her new things. The family sat outside soaking up the evening. All seemed right with the their world until a policeman pulled up in the yard. Tonya greeted him warmly but was not returned with the same mood. It only took her seconds to realize that this was a criminal investigation. She glanced at Bobby, but he stood there expressionless. She took a step backward and said to the police officer, “I work in your radio room so you can only imagine how embarrassing this is for me. I do not know what is going on, but if you tell me what you are looking for I’ll do whatever I can to help you find it.” He then explained that Bobby had broken into 27 storage units in another county and stolen all the possessions he had just given his family. She then signed a consent form for them to search her house and watched in disbelief as they ripped the “gifts” away. When she sat down to let it all sink in she realized she had missed all the signs. He was using again. When addressing the issue of helping the police she said, “I had two choices at this point. Stand by my man, or stand by myself. In case you’re keeping score, the only one taking care of my daughter was myself.” After many days of soul searching, she went to visit him. Her main question was “WHY?” He explained to her that he could no longer take being unable to provide for his family. Like most felons do, he had trouble finding a job. His exact words were “Nothing ever changes for me no matter what I do. Nothing ever changes, so why try?” She walked away and went on about her life. She didn’t hear from Bobby for a long time and she found herself in another relationship. After the fail of the relationship, she lost her father and found herself in a bad place. When Bobby heard the news of her father, he called her. He told her that he had been writing her letters the entire time. The former boyfriend had never given them to her. She began to visit and write to Bobby on a regular basis. The couple formed a relationship and are still together today. Although still incarcerated, Bobby attends NA and AA meetings. He also takes classes on stress and anger management. Their daughter is 17 years old now, and they have come a very long way from the distraught couple they once were. He is pursuing his GED and they both hold high hopes for their future. When he is released, they hope to own a farm. Tonya feels as though her friends and outsiders do no understand. She explains that Bobby’s addiction is an illness. In her last words of the interview she said “Maybe I am just a dumb person who is asking for miracles, but I know..no matter what he thinks or feels about me, I love him down to my soul, and I would never turn my back on someone whom I love..no matter what mistakes they have made.” And she didn’t. She remains faithful to Bobby and will continue to live as if he were by her side everyday until he returns to her.
Photo By JTillman Photography