After years of being addicted to methamphetamine, Victorene “Vicki” Hampton-Tubridy is celebrating the holidays with her family, including her 11-month-old son, Ayden, the child she nearly lost because of her addiction.
She and her children are planning to have Christmas with other family members at her mom’s house in American Canyon. It will be a celebration after months of uncertainty, struggles and at times despair.
NAPA, CA – Victorene Hampton-Tubridy was addicted to methamphetamines for 20 years and lived along the banks of the Napa River near Trancas Street for a couple of years starting in 2003. She would jump over the guard rail she is sitting on to get to her campsite. She has the feet of her youngest child and his birthdate tattooed on her chest. The date is also her clean date, the last day she used drugs. She has been clean for nearly 10 months
A few days after using methamphetamine on her 37th birthday last January, Hampton-Tubridy gave birth to Ayden, her sixth child, at Queen of the Valley Medical Center. She had relapsed after being clean for 18 months.
Ayden was born prematurely, at 32 weeks. He weighed 4 pounds, 6 ounces.
“We both tested positive for methamphetamine,” Hampton-Tubridy said.
Before she went home, a Napa County social worker came to visit her at the hospital where Ayden was expected to remain for weeks. “She said, ‘You can’t take your baby home,’” Hampton-Tubridy recalled.
Ayden would be placed in foster care and eventually adopted, she remembers hearing. She might never see him again. Her mother, who had become guardian of her other children over the years, would not be able to help her out this time.
“It was unbelievable,” said Hampton-Tubridy, struggling to explain how the prospect of losing custody of her baby boy deeply touched her soul. “I don’t think that I can ever explain it.”
“I sat in my bed for two days and really thought and thought and thought and thought — what can I do, what can I do? I can’t allow this to happen to me and to my children. It all came to me.”
She had to leave Ayden behind at the hospital (he would remain there for more than a month). “It was a horrible experience. I knew then that I had a problem that I couldn’t fix on my own,” Hampton-Tubridy said. “I mean, I always knew I had a problem — I didn’t think it was that serious.”
The day she left the hospital, Hampton-Tubridy asked her mother to take her to the Napa County Mental Health offices on Old Sonoma Road to seek help. She was determined to regain full custody of her son.
In the meantime, two children who lived with her in south Napa moved in with her mother in American Canyon, where her eldest child also lives. A teenage son lives with her brother, while another teen boy lives in a group home.
After an assessment, Hampton-Tubridy was enrolled in Napa County’s adult outpatient treatment program, where she followed all the suggestions she was given, she said. She underwent daily sessions, including group drug counseling, therapy and Narcotics Anonymous meetings as she started court proceedings to regain custody of her baby son.
“I had to jump with both feet and get on the winning side,” Hampton-Tubridy said.
She had to cut ties with addicted friends she had met over the years — men and women who could lead her down the bad road again.
She learned to say “Hi!” but kept moving whenever she ran into them in Napa. “And that was hard to do,” she said.
Hampton-Tubridy, who said she also suffers from bipolar disorder and anxiety, had to become honest with herself, get rid of resentments and regrets, and share her story with others.
“It hurts, you know, and it’s embarrassing and it’s humiliating,” she said. “It’s like a cleansing process.”
One of four children, Hampton-Tubridy never finished high school. Growing up in Rohnert Park and later in Napa, she always felt different from her peers and never fit in. Learning was difficult. At 16, a boyfriend introduced her to methamphetamine. And for the first time, she said, she felt fulfilled. “It was amazing to me.”
It was also addicting. “It was an amazing feeling because I felt so different and so yucky my whole life that it felt amazing to me. And that’s what attracted me to it and that’s what kept me searching for it and searching for it and searching for it and doing it and doing it.”
She became defiant, disrespectful. “She was mean. Just plain mean,” remembered her mother, Victorene Chase.
Hampton-Tubridy stayed with men to feed her habit. She had babies with them as they supplied her with methamphetamine. Her oldest child, Ana Castro, is now 19.
Hampton-Tubridy was arrested and jailed for a variety of offenses, including drug possession, being under the influence and driving on a suspended driver’s license. In 2010, she was jailed in Solano County for stealing two cars she planned to sell for drugs.
Over the years, she underwent inpatient and outpatient treatment in Napa, Vallejo and Benicia. But it was all for the wrong reasons, she said. “That was my get-out-of-jail card.” she said. “I did it for the wrong reasons.”
Her mother raised her children as Hampton-Tubridy struggled with her addiction. Hampton-Tubridy lived in homeless camps along the Napa River when she could not stay clean and stay with her mother. “She’d stay away for days at a time,” her mother said.
Now 70, Chase recalled bailing her daughter out of Juvenile Hall and jail multiple times.
That was a mistake that hindered her daughter’s chances to get clean, she now believes.
“I did everything I could possibly do and then some,” said Chase, who lost her husband two decades ago. “I didn’t want to accept she had a problem.”
“The kids always came first in my life,” said Chase, who worked as a waitress and cosmetologist to support the family. “They were my life. My kids come first. And that included my grandkids. I did everything I could for them.”
Chase was all smiles in November as she snapped photos of Hampton-Tubridy and Ayden after her daughter graduated from Napa County’s outpatient treatment program on Old Sonoma Road. Ayden’s foster mom was also there, smiling.
Months into the journey, Hampton-Tubridy, who is on disability, continues to attend group therapy and NA meetings. She is now on Step 4.
She touches base weekly with her sponsor by texting her or calling her.
They meet in person every other week.
In November, Hampton-Tubridy started working a part-time job for Goodwill in Napa. She now works the retail floor up to four times a week.
After being allowed to see Ayden under supervision, then a few hours three times a week over a period of months, Hampton-Tubridy was able to regain custody of Ayden in early December on a trial basis. A hearing to award permanent custody is set for January.
Chase said she is proud of her daughter’s ability to battle her addiction. So is her eldest child, a Napa Valley College student. “I just hope that my mom can be a mom again,” Ana Castro said.