MP mary summer

“I have ultimately taught myself that life truly begins when you let go of the past, and live in the moment.” — Mary Pimentel

By Mary Pimentel 

My mother inspected my sleeping father and 3-year-old me and decided that we weren’t enough. She vanished in the night in search of the ultimate high that would never satisfy her yet always keep her coming back for more. My mother became friends with this monster, drugs. Very quickly she then worshipped the monster and allowed for it to have command over her entire existence. The monster that dripped into her veins became the cloaked figure that would not only destroy her but inevitably everyone that ever cared for her. Five children she birthed into the world, and all five she damaged.

When I woke up the morning after she left, I didn’t know the massive part of me that longs for a mother’s touch was just forming, that it was only the beginning. I didn’t know that 12 years later I would cry myself to sleep as I read books about drug addictions, trying to understand how something that could be bought off of the streets was more important than me. Years from that moment I would understand my mother’s reason for departing and hate her for it no matter how close we would become. Her leaving me helped mold a sensitive yet strong personality. Mentally, I have lived and learned plenty on my own, more than I would have liked to.

For the rest of my life, my mother deserting me will constantly rest in the back of my mind day after day. It will always affect certain decisions I make and emotions I feel, but learning to appreciate the ones around me rather than longing for the ones that have gone has made all the difference. I have ultimately taught myself that life truly begins when you let go of the past, and live in the moment.


My mom and dad weren’t together for very long, and truthfully I don’t think I was meant to happen. Since her leaving, I have often attempted to put the pieces together. Why did she disappear? Was there another man? Where did she go to first? Wasn’t I enough?

Over the years my dad’s lips have been bolted shut over the idea of the monster that stole my mother away. I do not blame or condemn him for this, for I know the pain he endured after her vanishing. He was catapulted into depression and had his heart broken, left with a daughter whose features resemble the very woman he now hated. Everything I know is due to my own investigation through other family members or asking my mother herself. But who knows if what she has told me is true, for I know the monster is always lurking.

MP mary collage

Over the years, Mary’s mom has mailed packages containing letters, cards, photos, drawings and books, even some dealing with Hepatitis C and drug addiction.

All of my younger years lost from a mother’s love and affection took a toll before my pre-teen and early teenage years. She teased me with a half-truth about her addiction. So I tried to help my mom get better, and I thought that she was trying to help herself get better too. However, I learned that it isn’t my monster to fight, and he was smirking in the shadows every time I came to her aid.  The monster now laughs at how I once believed I was special enough to ruin his bond with my mother. The words I say are trash to the lines he whispers into her mind at night.

In my well-being and self-esteem, my soul, there has been a heavy hole dug. It is dreary, filled with lost hope and love. In there lie the few memories that I like to believe were spent with my genuine mother, no monster present. No part of me is willing to patch the hollow inside of me, nor will I act as if it does not exist. At 18 years of age I simply acknowledge and accept what has happened to me, and understand that it does not define me as a person. I am much more than a girl whose mother left her behind for a drug. And this discovery is only a chapter of my life so far.


The view from my upstairs bedroom window overlooking the roof and darkly painted night sky flows into mind. It is the view I encountered almost every night as I asked the moon the lingering and still unanswered question, “Will she ever come back?” In reality, I am now well aware that whether or not my mother decides to pop into my life is simply due to how heavily she allows the monster to influence her thoughts. It has nothing to do with how much I miss her.

As a child, she visited me sporadically. These are the memories in which I feel as though the monster wasn’t there. I watched her circle into the cul-de-sac on her cherry red motorcycle, and then together we rode letting the wind tickle our faces. We pulled leaves off of trees and colored the textures and shapes into scrapbooks. She is an artist. We also carefully walked along the edge of sidewalks with our arms spread out wide as we tried not to fall into the street, then called the hot lava.

Years later on a Mother’s Day, she startled me with a letter explaining that she wanted to kill herself. At the tender age of 13, I realized how deep in despair she had fallen, and for that moment we traded the roles of mother and daughter. That was the beginning of the wall that I started to build between us, and on that day I began to distance myself from her no matter how much it hurt.

(Click on images to view captions.)

A wall wasn’t started because of selfishness or fear, it was built because after so much effort of trying to help my mother get better, I realized that there wasn’t anything I could do or say that would work. In the end, I realized it was her willpower that needed to step up and confront the monster. I was continuously being lied to about her sobriety. I experienced mental breakdowns — hers and mine — that I wish I could forget. There were times where I was her favorite and times that I wasn’t. Our relationship never truly felt like mother and daughter, it felt more as if I was a friend that tried to help her become clean and someone she had fun with sometimes.

Our separation didn’t happen all at once, however, It was a slow and agonizing process. It was hard for me to let go. In November 2015, she was blocked from any type of communication with me. Occasionally she sent a letter in the mail; I was still too tender to respond. I had heard it all before. “I will get better. We will get better. I miss you. You are my favorite.” It was a cry for help that I had to ignore at the time. I had to heal and rebuild strength in order to let her back into my life. I had to fully accept who she was and the battles she had.

Now, we are strangers, yet connected by something that is unable to be seen. She is no longer blocked, but I see her once or twice a year. The difference in our relationship now compared to my pre-teen and early teenage years is night and day, but it is better this way. I’m not the only one to admit that she is reflected within my mannerisms and appearance, and it weakens me still. The furrow of my brow or the pouting of my lips is enough to make my father tell me “Don’t make that face, you look like your mother.” Right now my mother is miles away, hopefully growing, as I sit here, hopefully growing.


For a long time, my mother’s absence made me feel that a part of my life was missing. I couldn’t glance at a mother and daughter in a supermarket without my eyes watering. I couldn’t hear words of encouragement from any older woman in my life without imagining the words coming from my mother instead. A day did not go by where I wouldn’t hold a photo of us, or a letter from her, and weep myself asleep. Tracy Chapman’s “The Promise” and Hoobastank’s “The Reason” are songs she dedicated to me, and they are still to this day my ways of talking to her and connecting to her, even though they sadden me greatly.

For a long time, I couldn’t think of her without being thrown into heartache and tears. Talking to a therapist helped immensely. It was soothing to have someone let me explain my brokenness without being judged. She made me understand that my mother’s departure does not mean that I am not special, that I am not unworthy of love. It is a problem of hers and only hers. If it is too painful for me to speak to her while she is unsober, that is okay. And if it is too painful for me to speak to her while she is sober, that is also okay.

I owe my strength to handling this better to my therapist. I have learned that communication during grief is the key to recovery. I still think about my mother every day, and I always will. I will continue to experience things in life where I ask myself, “Would this be easier if I had a mom to talk to?” This sensation of loneliness has made me strong.

One day when I have children, I will aspire to be the mother I wish I could have had. I will never leave them questioning my return, and I will shower them with affection so that they will never struggle to remember what my presence feels like.

Today I am strong with an open and forgiving heart. Every day I live with my mother’s lips, freckles, passion for writing, thrill for running, creativity, impatience, and free spirit. I’m sure there are more traits handed down from her. I live my life with pride and appreciation knowing I share so many qualities with such a beautiful human being yet with sorrow knowing that something evil took away the chance of having a mom to braid my hair and wipe the tears from my first heartbreak. I love her immensely still, and no matter the negative, I am living.


MP mary grandparents

Mary with her grandparents, Raymond and Debbie, after the Miss Newman Pageant in September 2016,

My mother fell into the world of drug abuse before she became a teenager. At an age when a girl should be playing with dolls and playing tag at school, she lived a life of abandonment, sexual abuse, and then later drug abuse. The monster that shot into her system told her that the despairing childhood she lived didn’t exist. Soon she met my father and had me, but the monster continued to remind her of the freedom that eluded her. So she left.

Several times throughout my life I have tried to reconnect us. It was hard, but I now accept that my mother is a drug addict and will recover when she understands that she has power over the monster. All it takes is for her to stand tall and admit she needs help.

Mom left me as a toddler and teased her affection to me throughout my entire life. I hope one day – drug-free — she can watch me graduate from college and walk down the wedding aisle. I hate the aftermath of what her leaving has caused for me, but I am appreciative because it has made me treasure a parent’s love more than anything and realize its effect on a child. I can’t thank my father, stepmom, and grandparents enough for their support and the life they have provided for me.

All in all, drugs are destructive and evil. They steal the souls of human beings and replace them with heartless thoughts and manipulative actions. Drugs are the monster that have taken over my mother and resulted in me once feeling abandoned and worthless… Overcoming this monstrosity has been a curse and a blessing.


Mary Pimentel is 18 years old, living with her father and stepmother, often visiting her grandparents. She represents her small town in central California as the reigning Miss Newman — and was voted Miss Congeniality by her peers. This September she will begin college at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with an interest in Writing and Literature. She also aspires to move to New York one day to continue her writing and possibly attend graduate school there. It is a dream of hers to spoil her parents and grandparents as a show of gratitude, knowing she was raised with such a loving and supportive family.  

Editor’s note: Mary is the granddaughter of my second cousin, Debbie Pimentel, whose grandfather, Pedro, was a brother of my grandfather, Luciano. (Debbie’s mom, Julia, therefore was a first cousin to my late father, Catarino.) I’ve been hearing nothing but great things about Mary from her grandma. Working with her to edit this piece — an essay she initially wrote for a high school class — gave me plenty of reasons to understand why. 


26 thoughts on “Monster

  1. This is heartbreaking and beautiful, Mary. The monster “steals” souls. Exactly. And it stole so much from you, yet your response was to give. You impress me.
    On a writing note, your lede is fantastic. Way to bring us in from the first line.

  2. Shaking a bit and teary eyed, it breaks my heart once again, to see in writing how it has impacted your life Mary, You have so much love in your Heart, so much to give, you have done your very best at everything you set out to do, I know you will succeed in life. I hope that this writing will help you to over come. To move forward in LIFE and reach for the Stars. I held my breath as I read, and watched her pour her heart onto paper, and I know there is such a release of the weight on your shoulders when you can be open. It begins a healing process and allows you to move one. and this is why I support you in telling your story. No other grandmother in this world can be more proud of you of who you are as a woman, as a human being, I love with all my heart as I will till my dying breath. You are such a huge part of me. I am thankful for the every moment. You are Precious, You Are WORTHY! George I thank you for giving her this opportunity. Gracias primo. hugs

    • De nada, prima. Your granddaughter is pretty special, I can tell. She’s a talented writer with a lot of heart and enormous potential. She’s already made a contribution by writing this piece for the benefit of young people and older adults alike.

  3. Mary – you are brave to tell your story. I know that bravery too well. You see my daughter, Amber, came into my life when she was 22 months old when I met her father, Jim. She did not come from my body, but she is my heart.

    When I met Jim he was carrying Amber in his arms. I accepted them both, not knowing that it also meant having in my life an unstable woman – Amber’s birth mother. She, too, had been absorbed by the monster – drugs, alcohol and poor mental health. When Amber was seven years old, she begged her dad to have her live with us (we had visitation before then, and knew things were bad but learned over the years how bad that was). After a long-fought custody battle, Amber moved in on her ninth birthday in late July, and on the Christmas when she was 10, her mother stopped showing up for visitation. I call it one of her best parenting decisions.

    After Amber was grown, Pam, who Amber calls the egg donor, tried to get in touch with Amber. Amber was terrified to confront the demon. It took decades for Amber to feel strong enough to meet her birth mother again, when she was in her late 30s. Amber confronted Pam about the childhood abuses, and in the process, saw a woman still broken by drugs and alcohol, homeless, still unable to make positive decisions for herself. The demon that was Pam died in Amber’s mind then. Today she only feels sorry for her, and a few demons have quieted in her mind.

    I think at times a mother stepping away is a good thing, though certainly painful for the child. My own partner’s mother left when he was six years old, and he cries about it still. I often say none of us gets out of childhood without some damage. Reading your story makes me think you are strong and smart, already seeking and benefiting from counseling, already moving forward. It’s easy to keep one eye on the past; in fact, I just heard someone say in a documentary (poet W.S. Merwin) that there is no present. We only have our past. When we arrive at this moment, it is gone. But while your past forms you all the time, it does not have to own you. Continue to grow your inner strength, Mary. You’ll be fine.

    • Thank you, Lynn. I cannot imagine how hard this was for Amber to go through. The demons that you spoke of quieting in her head, that’s truthfully how it feels. The diminishing of their presence is equivalent to starting a whole new life with a brand new mindset. Everything changes, and the healing process is beautiful. Thank you for relating my story with hers and your partner’s mother. I’m very happy that you enjoyed reading. Have a great weekend!

  4. What a tough journey. I can’t believe the words I’m reading were written by someone 18 years old. You are an old soul, made wiser by your experiences. Alcohol took my brothers. They didn’t give it up soon enough or consistently enough to save them. I hope you are proud of yourself. I’m sorry you had to go through what you have, but you can share your story, and maybe save some other young girl’s life from going down that path. Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s very well written, too.

    • Thank you, John. That is exactly what I plan to do with my words, help others. I am sorry about your brothers. Thank you for the kind words and connecting with my piece.

  5. A very hard path and you have done an amazing body of work to understand your life so far. UC Santa Barbara is so lucky to have you. Your writing will continue to heal you and others.

  6. Mary,
    This brought tears to my eyes, but I always knew you were special. From the days of bringing you home from OLM to your High School years. You have always been wise. And have had a wonderful family support system. Its been a blessing to know you and watch you grow into a beautiful young women. Wishing the best at UC Santa Barbara!

    • Oh, I remember the days when you drove me home from school vividly! Thank you for keeping in touch with me as Nicole and I left OLM and continued to grow here in Newman. It’s been amazing to live in this community and meet families like yours. Thank you for reading my piece, appreciating it, and for all of the kind words. I hope you have a great weekend!

  7. Mary,
    This brought tears to my eyes, but I always knew you were special. From the days of bringing you home from OLM to your High School years. You have always been wise. And have had a wonderful family support system. Its been a blessing to know you and watch you grow into a beautiful young women. Wishing the best at UC Santa Barbara!

  8. Thank God you are on the better side of this crippling ghost that tries to invade as many lives as it can. God’s grace is sufficient for every life story. By God’s grace I am not the addict my father was. Keep sharing Mary!

  9. Mary, thank you for your honesty, strength and self-awareness. Your story is heartbreaking, but by sharing it you’re helping yourself and others to heal. You are right to take the time to take care of yourself. I hope you continue writing and healing, and that one day your mom will find the strength to take of herself as well. All the best with your writing and in college, Gosia

    • Thank you for wishing the best upon my mother and I. I will always keep writing, and it brings me great excitement to know that my piece touched you. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Have a lovely weekend!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story, Mary. There is a dreadful feeling of loneliness in our suffering, and yet suffering is universal. How we all deal with suffering and hardship in our lives will make or break us. At a young age you are already emerging stronger, wiser, and more caring. I feel so optimistic for you and for the impact you will have on those you befriend going forward. The world is already a better place because of you.

    • I can only hope that I am helping others. You too are changing the world by offering your words of empathy and kindness. Thank you for reading, and I’m glad you enjoyed! Have a great day.

  11. First of all, congratulations on being Miss Newman – I can see why you got selected – you are beautiful inside and out! Coincidentally, I’m reading “The Glass Castle” right now, and it seems like you went through similar emotional hardship though your story is very different. You are very brave to write about your relationship with your mother. Just the other day, I listened to a talk on the radio by Nora Volkow, the Director of the National Insititute of Drub Abuse. She was explaining the pathology of addiction and it’s a miracle that anyone can ever get out of its clutches.
    Your past must have made you grow up too soon, but you already have the most important insight – only the present counts. Good luck on your journey through college and career!

  12. Mary, this beautifully written, wise and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing such an intimate and honest look at how this has affected you.

  13. Holy moly, you are one strong woman. Not all mothers can mom, and you deserved better, but it hasn’t held you down. You are a very insightful person. Write to us from New York. No doubt you’ll be on your way there soon.

  14. Mary, from someone who also was abandoned by her mom, you deserved better and I am so sorry she wasn’t there for you the way she should have. Your resilience and strength shine through in the way you describe your relationship and formative years. It doesn’t really get easier (I’m 32 and sometimes I really want my mommy), so continue to foster relationships with friends and relatives who can help fill the void a mother leaves. You are an incredible young woman and you are going to do great things.

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