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Cover Story

Orphaned by Addicts Page 1

A Utah County teen recounts a childhood of deep lows caused by her parents' constant high

By Maycie Nielsen
Posted // July 3,2013 -

Maycie Nielsen’s gaze is resolute as she says, “I don’t have any sympathy for drug addicts. Only their children. I judge people more than I should. If they do drugs, it’s hard for me to accept them as a person. Drugs literally ruined my life.”

The 18-year-old will start college at UVU in September. She might appear as just one more fresh-faced high school graduate. But, read the story she wrote as an essay when applying for the Willy the Plumber scholarship for children of incarcerated parents and you learn the depths of the painful, even heart-rending education she had at the hands of her mother and father in the destructiveness of drug addiction.

Nielsen doesn’t know how her parents’ addiction began, but she saw the results every day. Her parents funded their meth, heroin and pill habits by stealing credit cards, using fake Social Security numbers, pawning their children’s Disney video collection and taking Nielsen’s birthday money.

In a state where 88,000 people need substance-abuse treatment, Nielsen brings an unadorned honesty to the voice of the victims of drug addicts who are largely forgotten by society: their children.

While Nielsen says she keeps her feelings to herself, she is very direct about who her true parents are. “It is hard for me to forgive my parents,” she says. “They had so many second chances. They blew them all.” Her maternal grandparents, the couple who raised her and her siblings, are the ones she calls her parents.

Nielsen is clear about what she wants from the publication of her story. “I hope [addicted] parents realize what their children are going through. Mine didn’t realize how it was affecting us, that it was tearing us apart. I hope it snaps them into doing good.” —Stephen Dark

My parents started doing drugs when I was 4 years old. My sister, who was just 9 at the time, started playing the mother figure for my younger brother, who was 2 at the time, and me.


One of my first memories of what was going on is from Halloween when I was 5. It My mother and father were higher than a kite and needed someone to take us trick-or-treating. My mom called my grandparents, who came and picked us up. They decided they wouldn’t give us back until things straightened out. A few days later, my grandma received a call from my dad, who said my mom had mixed some pills and drugs and was starting to overdose.

My grandpa stayed at home with us kids and my grandma rushed my mom to the emergency room. When they finished her treatment, my mom said she would be over Sunday night to pick us up, but my grandma said that they were not giving us back.

Within a couple of weeks, my grandma helped my mom check into a rehabilitation center in Provo. My dad told us that he had signed up to get treatment, but he hadn’t. He just continued to drink and do drugs.

My grandparents transferred us to new schools, and we had to change our entire lifestyle. I started to become withdrawn and shut everybody out. I wouldn’t talk to anybody, and I couldn’t sleep at night because I would just cry. My grandparents took me to counseling, but I refused to talk because I hated it.

Two years later, we had moved back in with my parents. They got addicted to drugs again and fought a lot.

One day in June 2002, my parents got into a big fight and started hitting each other. My dad hit my mom, so she picked up her cell phone and threw it at my dad’s head. It hit him hard in just the right spot and knocked him unconscious.

She was so terrified it had killed him that she put us kids in the car and sped off. She drove around nervously for about a half an hour before deciding to return to make sure he was OK, but called my grandparents to meet us there just in case something happened.

When we got back, we had to wait outside and play, but the adults went inside. My dad was awake and madder than ever. He had called the police, but since they had hit each other and were both high, the cops arrested both of them, and we once again had to move back in with my grandparents.

We had just gotten settled into our new house and were finally starting to make new friends and trust my parents again. But it had all been ripped away in an instant.

In July 2003, I turned 8 years old. I was old enough to be baptized and confirmed as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But both of my parents were in jail, and I really wanted them to be there for my special day, so I waited for them to get out. One long month passed, but I still wanted to wait.

September came, and my grandparents told me that my parents might be gone for a long time. I couldn’t wait anymore, so I went on without them.


It was a warm autumn day. The sun rose bright and early. I hadn’t slept at all the night before because it was my big day. I had been waiting for this day for what felt like an eternity. My favorite treats were in the oven, and I got to wear my new pretty dress. Everything seemed perfect. But something was missing—my parents. It tore me apart.

But this wouldn’t be the only time this would happen. I was a second priority in my parents’ lives because drugs were their first pick.

It was a payday in June 2004. My mom said she was going to cash her check and that she would be right back. But three days passed and there was still no sign of Mom.

It turned out that she had cashed her paycheck, driven up to Salt Lake City to buy drugs and then rented a hotel room in Provo. My grandma was at work when she received a phone call from the Orem Police, saying that they had been notified that we had been kidnapped. My grandma assured them that we were safe at her house. But the cops said that they had my mom there, saying that her kids were missing.

So my grandma went to the University Mall to meet the cops and my mother. My mom had gotten high in her hotel room and gone shopping, but she passed out in the bushes at the mall and started hallucinating.

My grandma brought my mom home and showed her that we were safe with Grandpa, and then checked my mom into another rehab.

It was starting to happen again: My parents were lying, stealing and disappearing for days on end. We didn’t know where they were, who they were with, what they were doing, if they were dead. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I couldn’t focus in school. I was a disaster.

When my mom was in jail that fall, we got to visit her the first Thursday of every month. Going to see her was a reward—we had to be good all month long, or no visit.

And visiting wasn’t a normal visit. You had to sit on a bench, with a glass window between you and the inmate, and talk through telephones. The visits were monitored by police officers and were timed—just one hour, and there were five of us to talk to her. We each got 20 minutes to tell her everything that had happened in an entire month.

At school, kids’ moms and dads would come and watch their Halloween parade, their Christmas concerts, everything, but I only got to see my mom once a month through glass.

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Posted // February 7,2014 at 08:24 Bet her panties smell so good.


Posted // February 27,2014 at 11:13 - i hope they throw u in jail and then they ass rape u all day


Posted // July 7,2013 at 23:28

This article made me think back to my childhood, or lack thereof. Maycie's story is a painful reality for too many children. I wish we could stop treating drug addicts merely as criminals. We need to change the way we look at drug addiction and focus more on treatment (early treatment). Drug addiction is a mental health issue and a huge problem for society. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most stigmatized illnesses. When we ignore the root problem, we're not only hurting the addict, but we're also helping to destroy the lives of their families. Children suffer the most when we ignore people's addiction problems. They see and experience terrible things that most adults would be horrified by (I know this from personal experience). If you have people in your life that are suffering with addiction, encourage them to get help. . . and if they have kids, do your very best to be a positive force in their lives- they need it more than you know! 


Posted // July 5,2013 at 10:42

Maycie, thank you for telling your story and speaking your truth. I'm so sorry for the stripping of your innocence. You will grieve that loss for a long time.

I know from experience that these challenges will build a strong voice in you. You have an empathy muscle that has been growing with every disappoinment and heartbreak.   Take as long as you need to heal your heart. You are growing wings to fly above this nightmare and find the lessons that strengthen them as they grow.

By the way, when ignorant people tell you to "get over it", ignore them. You are miles ahead of their limited perspective of life.

I promise you, it will get better.

Your grandparents are angels from heaven. They have been watching over you and your siblings with love and devotion. The fact that you and your sister are in college right now is a testament to the love they have for you. You are so blessed in that way.

Just a little advice from a grandmother who survived a childhood similar to yours. Don't quit school and don't give up. There will be good days and bad days along the way. But don't let it depress you. Go out to the mountains and connect with nature when your heart is breaking. There is healing in our mountains.   REMEMBER "

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ”

I know these things to be true because I walked through this type of trauma. My granny and grandad and my counselors saved my life.   The few kind people in our village, who paid attention to our suffering, were moments of grace were peppered throughout my childhood. I will always be grateful to them for helping me become the woman I am now at 48 years old. Looking back, I see their love and devotion to my healing made all the difference.

Thanks again for speaking your truth. There are so many families experiencing this nightmare right now. It seems logical that our government would try to find a way to heal the meth problems in our community. Too many families in Utah experience this hyper drama pain.

You walk in the grace of Light and Truth. Don't you ever forget that.


Posted // July 25,2013 at 16:31 - I agree with everything you've said, but in order for treatment to work, an addict has to: (1) know s/he has a problem,(2) WANT help, and (3) (and this is probably the most important lesson to be learned from Maycie's story [and yours, perhaps, for that matter]) be committed to change. At various points in Maycie's story, one or two of these elements were present, but never all three.


Posted // July 5,2013 at 13:53 - Excellent comment Terry Jackson-Mitchell! Bless you!


Posted // July 4,2013 at 23:57

I am so sorry. Bless you.  I agree with Spicy, heartbreaking. I also agree with Crystallena, she said all that I would have said. As for Elijah, you are a troll. Unless you have walked in someones shoes, keep it to yourself, because you have no clue.


Posted // July 5,2013 at 17:22 - We have to stick together to heal our community. It takes a village to raise a child. We are all blessed three fold when we hear each others stories with our hearts. Maycie's story must be told, or her families suffering might be in vain.


Posted // July 4,2013 at 17:27

Lighten up kid. You're only 18 and have a long way to go and a lot to get done in the next 60 years.

You can either be angry all of your life, or you can get over it. You're in charge from this point forth.

Stop blaming your problems on othe people. Drop your victimhood.  

Your parents are no longer an excuse. Move on.