'It's the greatest gift' | Women in Recovery Reunite with Families for Christmas
LENOIR CITY, Tenn. — For sixteen years, Tierra Wiggins was addicted to methamphetamines. She doesn't remember all of her Christmases, but she knows they weren't great.
"It was just hiding and just being alone, being scared, hungry and cold, not caring," Wiggins said. "So, really depressing."
Her two kids, Cheyenne and Dakota Wiggins, remember worrying if she were okay. Cheyenne, 13, said she would ask her dad every year to see Tierra.
Dakota, 11, had not seen his mother since he was two.
"The only thing I remember was us leaving the apartment that we used to live in," Dakota said. "For me, it was just nerve wrecking."
Nine years later, Tierra is now celebrating 10 months in recovery at the Beauty for Ashes Freedom House in Lenoir City. And this year, she received the best Christmas gift of all: getting to spend the holiday with her two children.
"It was a bittersweet moment," Tierra said. "That's the first time I've ever got to see him open a gift. He was too little when I left their lives."
As part of her recovery journey, she's been able to restore her relationship with Cheyenne and Dakota. They recently moved closer to her so they can visit often.
"I'm happy and glad that she's here again," Cheyenne said.
"The good thing to know is that God has brought her back to our lives and that we love her again," Dakota said.
This year, some of the Beauty for Ashes women were able to celebrate their first Christmas with their families in many years.
For Mandi Ward, this was the first sober Christmas that she celebrated with her daughter.
"Every second with Marligh has been a blessing and I learn so much from her," Mandi said. "It's beautiful to see her become like me."
Mandi's parents, Krissy and Jimmy Bradford, are thrilled to see her in recovery. The past few Christmases at their house just haven't been the same.
"She would be around us, but she wouldn't be with us," Jimmy Bradford said. "Now, it's like she's a brand new person."
Marligh, who just turned 8 years old, has enjoyed spending weekends with her mother. And this year, she said Christmas was extra special.
"I loved my Christmas with my mommy," Marligh said as she hugged her mother tight.
Krissy Bradford said Mandi and Marligh have built a relationship of conversation, love and joy. It's a big change from when Mandi was suffering from addiction.
"Being here at Beauty for Ashes was the greatest gift," Krissy Bradford said. "We get to love the memories we're making. They're memories we can cherish, not ones that we try to put away."
Tessa King is now the house director of Beauty for Ashes. She's spent the last three Christmases with her children, but still treasures every moment.
"We're so grateful for it," Tessa said. "[Family] is the most important thing that should in your life."
She enjoyed watching her fellow women in recovery make amends with their families.
"We have one that has a father that struggled with the same thing," Tessa said. "For him to stand up... cry for her and to see her do the right thing, it's helping him do the right thing."
Her son Seth Hankins admires his mom's ability to help others through recovery.
"She's always loving on me," Seth said. "And she has joy about teaching other people about God and Jesus."
While those in recovery can struggle during the holidays, these women are thankful for receiving the "greatest gift."
"This Christmas was great and the restoration with my children, spending time with them, making memories, that will last a lifetime," Rachel Russell said.
"It was really good to have my mom back," her daughter Grace said. "Our family felt broken and my mom was always on something... This year, it was really good."