MTV aired Amber Behind Bars last night.
From 16 and Pregnant to Teen Mom… Amber Portwood fell apart right before our eyes. We watched. We screamed. We snarked. We even cried. Well, I know I cried when Leah said to Amber "I need you!" in between sobs and when Amber gave full custody of Leah to Gary Shirley. We sat in stunned silence when Amber chose prison over drug rehab.
I braced myself for intense feelings of anger and/or sadness, turned on my TV, and listened as Dr. Drew Pinksy interviewed Amber. Behind bars. Much to my surprise, I actually found Amber to be likable. Possibly for the first time ever. I also came to respect her decision to enter prison.
Dr. Drew began the interview with, "You're not loaded?!" I giggled and cringed at the same time. "Nope, not loaded, but I feel a little bit nervous," Amber said.
To recap: Amber has been in prison for four months now. And in therapeutic community, which is like rehab in prison, for two months. Amber admitted she resisted the move into rehab. But they forced her, because she's in prison and doesn't get to make decisions. Dr. Drew asked, "Why prison?"
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Amber said, "I felt that when I was in treatment, I wasn't getting anything out of it. I was still doing drugs and started to move to harder drugs." Amber revealed that she was abusing Fentanyl patches, which are skin patches designed to deliver a constant stream of synthetic- opiates for long-term pain relief. However, Amber chewed on them, subjecting herself to a potentially fatal dose of the drug.
Dr. Drew asked, "Did you understand you were in that kind of danger [high risk of overdose] at the time?"
"I kinda did. I just didn't care," Amber said. "It all comes down to.. I didn't care. I would go in the mornings to pee screen and I would be chewing on a patch. That's when I knew I just didn't give a f**k."
Dr. Drew asked, "Even Leah didn't matter to you?"
Amber answered, "Yeah. Nothing mattered to me. It's not that you don't love your child. You're a very selfish person when you're an addict. All I wanted was to find drugs, so I didn't have to withdrawal. I didn't care who was in my way."
Amber fully understands what being addicted to drugs has cost her. She talked about a memory she has of lying down with Leah… Leah's head on her chest… listening to her heart beat. Amber sadly said, "I could hold her. I had her."
Amber shared that she hasn't seen Gary or Leah since being incarcerated. This segment brings the only hint of the angry Amber we saw on Teen Mom, but it's not even close to the same raging anger. Thus far, Gary hasn't responded to Amber's pleas to see Leah. Leah doesn't even know Amber is in prison, or, in preschooler terms, "getting help." Amber doesn't know how to explain it to her. Dr. Drew said, "It's not so important what you say, it's important that she get a healthy mom back."
Seeing other children visiting the prison is hard on Amber. She said, "I want that feeling, you know? I talk to Leah on the phone all the time, but it's just not enough. I feel like she's forgetting about me. I know she's not, but you have to physically have somebody there… and I'm not there for her."
Dr. Drew points out to Amber that she wasn't ever really there for Leah. She was merely physically there. Amber disagreed, "I was physically there though, and that was good enough for her at the time." Dr. Drew is like, yeah, not really, Amber.
Amber continued, "I will be a better person when I get out. And a better mom. This is my last chance. You can't really go any lower than prison, other than death."
Dr Drew said, "You were headed to one or the other."
"And I didn't care which was I was going to at that time, which is terrible," Amber said. "I care a lot now. I feel like I'm doing something with myself now. I'm trying to move forward instead of just getting it done because it's court ordered. I'm not as angry. I'm not as depressed. I care a lot about what people think about how I look, think, talk, and act."
Dr Drew asked Amber what she misses the most from the outside. Amber answered, "Sleeping in, going to Starbucks, driving in my car, listening to music, going shopping. I miss freedom. I miss my family."
Amber's Teen Mom fame isn't doing her any favors inside prison. She said, "Some people are really nice and some people are really mean. My story is out there and a lot of people know about it, and that's my downfall here." At the end of the day though, Amber doesn't regret her time on Teen Mom. She said, "I'm going to be able to help more people. That makes me happy. I value [my story] a lot. I feel like I have a lot to give – and I have a lot to learn, but I just feel like I can give more by what I've been through."
Amber's final reflection: "I was stuck in one life, which was partying, and everybody else was just growing into a family. I wasn't in that family.. that's just how I felt. They didn't know what I was going through and I didn't know where they were. And, now, I just want to meet in the middle. I want to be together, and I will be there for Leah.I can be better than what I was. I haven't been there for Leah. She needs more. She deserves more. I'll be home soon, and I'll actually be there for her this time. I'll be that mom she wants."
Dr. Drew said, "I'm very hopeful. You wouldn't have gotten sober any other way. This saved your life."
Now, for me to explain why I now think Amber made a good decision, I have to share something personal. This last season of Teen Mom was a hard one for me to watch. The stories on Butch Baltierra and Amber's addictions really hit home with me because I lost my own father to drugs. No, he's not dead, but he might as well be. I've never known what it's like to have a daddy, but I know how Tyler Baltierra felt when Butch, his own father, said there's nothing in the world he loved more than cocaine. I also know exactly how little Leah felt when she was begging her mom not to leave her. Having a parent who is addicted to drugs is not pretty. It hurts. A lot.
So, as I fought back the tears and listened to Amber's interview, I found myself thinking… I wish my dad would have opted for prison when I was three years old. I would have gladly sacrificed five years while he got the help he needed. Because, honestly, my reality is.. I'm 33 years old still wishing my Daddy would choose me over drugs.
I applaud Amber's decison, and I truly hope she stays clean and always remembers that there is NOTHING more important in life than your family.
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Photo credit: MTV