A New Sobriety, A New Beginning


During a theraputic session with chemical dependency counselor, David Warner, left, Theodora Triggs covers her mouth as she cries. CLARENCE WILLIAMS / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times Article
By Sonia Nazario, Times Urban Affairs Writer
Sunday, February 1, 1998

On the outside, Theodora Triggs is a woman transformed. Her eyes are clear and her shiny dark hair is pulled back into a neat ponytail. Her jeans, sky-blue shirt and white sneakers are spotless.

Now, she is cleansing the inside—the dark impulses that fueled her obsessive pursuit of heroin, leaving her little daughter Tamika tossed in the turbulent wake.

“Sobriety is the first thing in my life,” Theodora said from an Anaheim rehabilitation facility. “I don’t have to wake up sick anymore. I don’t wonder where my next dollar comes from. I’m working for a total life change—a change of everything inside of me.”

Although her journey will last a lifetime, she already has taken some encouraging first steps. Theodora and those around her have even allowed themselves to harbor the thought of mother and daughter being together again some day

Only three months ago, such a prospect would have seemed criminal.

After Theodora and Tamika were featured in The Times’ “Orphans of Addiction” series, police and social workers found them living in the garage of a filthy Long Beach home.

Within easy reach of the girl were crack pipes and hypodermic needles, some of them uncapped, one filled with a brown liquid believed to be heroin. Human waste filled a broken toilet.

“My heart sunk,” Theodora recalled of that November

morningwhen the authorities arrived. “I was scared. I was losing my daughter.”

Theodora was permitted to put 3-year-old Tamika in the social worker’s car. She told her daughter she loved her and then pressed a cross into her tiny hand.

“God is doing this for a reason,” she told Tamika, who responded tearfully: “Mommy! I want you!”

“It will be all right, sweetheart,” Theodora said as the car drove away.

Theodora was arrested, and Tamika became one of 531,000 youngsters in the nation’s foster care system. She was placed in the loving home of a woman in Bellflower, where Tamika is said to be on the mend—like the mother whom she talks of missing so much.

At Oasis Treatment Center, where she has lived
since November, Theodora encourages her daughter, Tamika,
to blow out candles on her cake. Tamika, 4, had never had a birthday party before. She now lives with a foster family, but Theodora hopes they will be reunited some day.
Photo courtesy Oasis Treatment Center

Treatment Center, where Theodora now lives. A group therapy room was filled with pink and white balloons, Barbie plates, piles of presents and dozens of guests, most of them patients at the facility.

At the center of it all was Tamika and a big cake with four candles, the only ones ever lit for the youngster on this, the first birthday party of her life.

“I want another birthday party,” she later told the center’s founder. “I want to have lots of parties.”

As for Theodora, the affair was bittersweet, providing a glimpse of the future while reminding her of what had
led her to this place.

“What kind of mother was I? . . . I abused her,” Theodora said of Tamika. “It’s hard for me to grasp and accept
that.” But, she said, “the more the fog lifts, the more I accept.”

Copyright, 1998, Los Angeles Times. Reprinted by permission.