Pamela Aldridge, 45, left, and her oldest son, Shawn Christensen, 26, have worked out together for more than two-and-a-half years at Trapper Fitness Center. Aldridge, a recovering methamphetamine addict, discovered her biggest supporters while trying to get clean are her children.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Pamela Aldridge, 45, left, and her oldest son, Shawn Christensen, 26, have worked out together for more than two-and-a-half years at Trapper Fitness Center. Aldridge, a recovering methamphetamine addict, discovered her biggest supporters while trying to get clean are her children.

Unbreakable bond: Craig mother and sons mending past, making up for lost time

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Pamela Aldridge looked into the green eyes of the young man, a stranger it seemed to her at the time, who had been following her around the Kum & Go convenience store.

As she moved through the store, the young man kept stopping in front of her.

Then she looked closer.

It clicked.

The boy’s eyes resembled hers.

Years later, and long removed by several life lessons, Pamela can recall exactly what she thought at the moment.

“I know you,” she said. “You’re mine. You’re my kid.”

At the time, Pamela was in the throes of methamphetamine addiction. She weighed 72 pounds, and was usually awake for days on end.

“That was a horrible feeling,” she continued. “Once you realized you (had) looked your son straight in the eyes and had no clue who he was … that’s how far my mind and drug use was.”

The storybook version would go that the moment at Kum & Go changed Pamela’s life forever, and prompted her recovery. And, her life did change, and she did recover.

But, it came after time. First, she had to fall further.

She spent the next few years dealing with criminal issues.

She continued using.

She lived under a bridge for four months.

“I didn’t have a job, the court took my kid away … I didn’t have dope,” she said. “I ruined everything. I was prepared to die.”

Those last few words she said to her middle son, Trace Christensen, also of Craig. The words marked the moment Pamela’s children stepped in to nurture her back to health.

Now 45, Pamela said her children saved her life.

Trace, 24, helped his mother stay clean, and so, too, did his half-brother, Shawn Christensen, 26, the son Pamela once saw at Kum & Go and didn’t recognize. They have been successful — and Pamela, too — for about five years.

For the last two-and-a-half years, Shawn has helped Pamela keep her addiction at bay by working out with her at Trapper Fitness Center.

The process has helped them mend parts of the past, and look forward to the future, they said.

Pamela said a healthy lifestyle agrees with her. She works out every day. She can bench press 205 pounds. She weighs 148 pounds.

“So I am twice the person that I was,” she said.

Her children are a big reason why.

“They loved me enough to (help me) grow into someone that could have something to offer them,” Pamela said. “They gave me my life back.

“At this point for my children, all I can do is pick myself up and become someone that they can look up to.”

Pamela said she was a hardcore addict. Dependency started early.

At 5, she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and prescribed tranquilizers each day. When taking the pills was no longer an option, she started medicating herself.

At 9, she started smoking marijuana and it wasn’t long after that she began to drink.

Fast forward some years, and she came across meth.

“It was instantaneous,” she said, of becoming addicted. “The first time I smoked it, I was in love.”

She hung around an auto body shop, where she said there was a drug culture.

Over time, her addiction worsened.

“I really damaged both my body and my brain,” she said. “In just four years of use, I still, five years later, have trouble. What I used to call normal is just a really strange thing.”

Throughout her use, she distanced herself from family in fear that her addiction would drive her to stealing and taking advantage of people she loved.

She served a short stint in the Moffat County Jail, and was released on probation.

She slipped back into using, and missed probation appointments, leading to a warrant for her arrest. Custody of her third son, the youngest, was taken away.

Her life was out-of-control, she said, and she had a foot in the grave. That’s when she said the words that she did.

That’s when Trace pulled her out.

Her son’s words were forceful, but loving.

“Trace took me with his big old arms and picked me up and shook me and told me, ‘Mom you’re not dying, you’re not done and you have to be here,’” Pamela said. “‘I need you and you’re going to make it.’

“He wasn’t nice about it and that’s probably what I needed. He made me live, he made me promise, and that’s the first promise that I ever kept.”

That night, after Trace spoke to her, Pamela did something she had rarely done — she prayed.

She “asked the Lord to take away the pain, make everything stop hurting,” she said. And the next day, she added, she believes He did.

Clean, armed with purpose and faith, and vowing to keep a promise, she saw things with a clear mind, and had a concept of the future, even if it was just a day or two down the road.

Trace and Pamela lived together, and the son kept an eye on his mother while she tried to rebuild her life.

Court-ordered classes through a counseling center started to make an impact, she said.

But, sobriety isn’t easy and doesn’t come easy. Make no mistake about it.

“There’s no fun in it,” Pamela said. “There’s responsibility, there’s facing all your mistakes. It’s facing the real world. It’s looking through the eyes of the people who love you and feeling bad, sorry and guilty for what you put yourself through … and for what you put them through because you weren’t there.

“When you start facing your real self, you’re either going to run from it or you’re going to make a change for yourself and the people you love. You’re faced with the question, ‘Will I do dope again?’ I decided I would rather live than die.”

While working a construction site clean-up job in Steamboat Springs, Pamela injured her hip. She heard that weight training could help rehab her injury, and asked Shawn, a frequent lifter, if he could help her with a routine.

Again, she found a firm but loving son willing to help.

“When she approached me I said, ‘That’s fine, but you’re going to do it my way,” Shawn said.

Pamela said Shawn’s stern hand at their workouts helps keep her straight.

After time, her relationship with Shawn, like that of her relationship with Trace, began to improve, Pamela said.

“Day by day, dumb joke by dumb joke, I opened a window into him and trust began to build,” she said.

Mother and son, son and mother, go to Trapper each day to become stronger people. They laugh and joke, and sometimes they remember hard things from the past, but each day they get better.

Pamela gets better.

“It just kind of fell into this really good friendship … and now I know that my children are some of the best friends I will ever have,” Pamela said.

“She’s my mom,” Shawn said. “I’ve never thought of her as (someone other than) mom. She never raised me like a mother, but she’s still my mom. I’m probably happier now than when I started working out with her.”

Today, Pamela said she feels grateful her children let her back into their lives.

She hopes to build on her positive momentum and someday be capable of helping others get out of desperate situations like she faced.

They will need support, too, and she hopes others find loving people like she had to help them.

“I pray that other people will have at least one of the many things that I had to get out because (when addicted) you don’t have anything,” she said. “It’s all dope.”

Pamela said she doesn’t have bad days anymore. She’s had plenty in the past, surely, but being clean and sober surrounded by loved ones is enough to keep her happy.

“You have to take it day by day, do your best and wake up every day with the attitude that something good is going to happen,” she said. “Even if you see just one cool thing throughout the day, it’s a lot more than you would see if you were dead.”

On the eve of Mother’s Day, she urges people to reach out to their mothers. It’s a seemingly simple request, but one that life circumstances can sometimes get in the way of, as she can attest.

“There’s no one in the world like your mom,” she said. “Good, bad, or indifferent, that’s your mom, and that’s what my children have said to me. They’ve told me, ‘I don’t care what you’ve done, you’re my mom.’

“Now that I’m better, I have a huge responsibility to be their friend and help them through the things they are going to face and help them through things that I didn’t do and I missed.

“But, that is the most awesome thing in the world, for a child to say, ‘You are my friend.’”

Comments

jharr58 4 years, 7 months ago

Hope you continue to do well. Turning your life around is the hardest thing you will ever do. God bless & look over you.

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CharminChatty 4 years, 7 months ago

This part of the article says a lot: "At 5, she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and prescribed tranquilizers each day. When taking the pills was no longer an option, she started medicating herself.

At 9, she started smoking marijuana and it wasn’t long after that she began to drink."

And still we hear a few misguided legislators and high school kids and college students claim that marijuana is NOT a "gateway drug". The potheads managed to finagle their way into the "medical marijuana" dispensaries laws in most states, the dispensaries are out of hand and far too numerous, and anyone with an I.Q. above room temperature knows that perhaps 90% of those with "medical marijuana" cards have no more medical problems than I have ever had, and do not need the pot or any other drug. I know someone who owns one of those legalized drug dispensaries with her husband, they sell pot 7 days per week, and she was bragging recently that in a 30-day period, they increased their business from 200 "patients" to 400 "patients". "Patients".... in a Pig's Eye. She also boasted that all a high school kid has to do is to claim he has headaches, and he gets a "medical marijuana" card.

There you go..... your kids have the cards as long as they have the money to buy them, and they are driving under the influence of pot, and the "legalized" pot is their entree into the world of other drugs.... meth, cocaine, heroin. Great.

How about sealing up the Mexican Border and preventing the Mexicans and Guatemalans from bringing in the pot and the meth? Just a thought. Lawmakers everywhere: is anyone listening???

Arizona Lawmakers: Congratulations for doing an excellent, long-overdue job and for having the guts to do what the feds, i.e. Obama and his Communist Czars and other minions, are either too gutless or too stupid to do. Long Live Arizona!! Please, everyone, spend your vacation dollars on a trip to that sunny and honest and law-abiding State! I intend to this summer.

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GreyStone 4 years, 7 months ago

What ?
The marijuana must have been just plain old, illegal marijuana and not the good medical marijuana.

There has to be some distinction between the two.

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CharminChatty 4 years, 7 months ago

Greystone: Although I understand your comment was intended, not for the purpose of seeking any meaningful information, but rather to further your agenda of opening up the borders to allow everyone from Central and South America in, nevertheless I will do you the courtesy of providing you with a serious answer.

Yes, the illegal Mexican/Guatemalan marijuana is in many cases dangerous due to additives (not to mention the fact that illegals like to whiz and dump on crops.... witness the E.Coli outbreaks in lettuce recently, where illegals are voicing their anger over our right to enforce our own federal laws, by leaving urine and fecal matter on our food). There is talk now among legislators in Colorado of requiring dispensary owners to grow their own marijuana for the relative safety of the product, i.e. absence of dangerous additives..... also absence of urine and diarrhea.

Sorry, Greystone, because that will cut into the ill-gotten profits of your countrymen. Tough luck.

But hey, Greystone: look at the bright side. If you enjoy food and pot with bacteria from urine and fecal matter, you can do the job after you get it home.

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John Kinkaid 4 years, 7 months ago

Way to go. I have watched you two work out for some time now at Trapper. Now I know why you show up every afternoon. Keep going. I'll support you, too.

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GreyStone 4 years, 7 months ago

Why was my anti drug comment on, erroneously labeled, medical marijuana removed ?

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Anitadunnce 4 years, 7 months ago

Greystone, I've been gone most of the day and am just now reading today's comments. Interesting points by both you and CharminChatty. Since I did not get to see your deleted comment, I have no clue why it was taken down. I am curious about it, however, since I try to figure out why some of the most offensive comments get to stay up, while seemingly innocuous ones are removed, thereby putting those commenters at risk of being banned. If you wish, you could click onto my screen name, and send your "removed comment" directly to me. I would like to see it. Thanks.

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Shaun Hadley 4 years, 7 months ago

Chairman Chatty, One HUGE thing you overlook when you talk about your "Fecal" Marijuana, is that 100% OF ALL Marijuana and Marijuana Products sold in Dispensaries must be grown or produced within the State Of Colorado. If the dispensary is doing business correctly, not a single piece of medicine from anywhere else should be sold in their stores. If you don't believe me, check out Colorados increase in Electricity consupmtion over the past few years - That says it for me. This is something I've been deeply interested in myself, as I really thought this Marijuana came from just where evere they could get it. I did not realize the sheer amount of Marijuana being produced within the State - It's almost overwhelming. I did a lot of research into this subject and I also wrote a small article for a Denver based magazine about it. (Small time publication, yes, I wish it was the Denver post, lol) Of course, some dispensaries have gotten into trouble for being caught purchasing out of state marijuana. But in the small amount of cases, in each circumstance, it was Medical Marijuana being driven in from California. And if you know much about marijuana, you know that the marijuana produced in California is about as good as it gets - No "Feces" to be found. Any Medical Growers who are even slightly proud of what they do would never let even a piece of hair get into their Buds, let alone Human feces. The market is simply too saturated to bring sub-par product to the table. Regulated or not, their products speak for themselves. The legislation you are mentioning, is being put into place to eliminate people who simply grow the Medical Marijuana and sell it to dispensaries. That's what I have learned through direct conversation with several Senate members. Never once, did they mention drafting this legislation to keep out the marijuana from South of The Border. That, again, is already illegal. Ask yourself this - If the Marijuana being sold in dispensaries had "Feces and Urine" in it, would it really be Colorados #1 booming business right now? Do you really think people would continue to use a drug that had something like that in it? Google any number if dispensaries which post photos of their marijuana (Some with the aid of a 200-400X Digital microscope, which would certainly be able to detect any "feces" present) and prepare to be amazed. I'm sure what you say is not unfounded however. There is bound to be some pretty bad things in the Illegal marijuana that is smuggled in from Mexico to be sold illegally, on the streets and in the bars of your home town. Over the course of my research, we heard stories about "Mexican Shwag" having everything from Gas, Gun Powder, rotten food, and, yes, even some "feces". Although no one was brave enough to find out if it was in fact, Humant or not :-) So to sum all that up - Yes, there has GOT to be dinstinction these days.

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Really 4 years, 7 months ago

Who in their right mind would give a 9 year old pot? Did older kids think it was funny to get a little kid stoned? Seriously - I was out of town recently and there are medical marijuana stores everywhere!

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CindyLou 4 years, 7 months ago

I hate to be the voice of logic all the time, but if it truly is "medicine" shouldn't they be getting it through a licensed pharmacy that is run by a licensed doctor of pharmacy?

Heck even alcohol has to go through the proper channells of procurement and taxation, not just anyone is given a liquor license.....I tried getting a liquor license a few years ago and the city of Craig turned me down flat, but if I wanted to get a license to sell weed they wouldn't have a problem with that. Does anyone else see a problem in what is going on here?

I am not saying that it doesn't have its place in medicine, I just want to know why it isn't going through a pharmacy like everything else? If I started growing tobacco and selling cigs I would get my static than if I started selling weed. I mean Really? Really?

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