Tammy Hebert

Portrait of Tammy Hebert at Burney Falls

“My life is good today, even though I can’t work because of chronic pain and injuries from a car accident. I take care of my grandson, I volunteer and I help my elderly neighbors in Cassel. I am a resource for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups. If they have someone they can’t figure out what to do with, I’m the person they ask to talk to them.

My teenage years were difficult because I was 6’1’’ and 380 pounds when I was 12, and I got picked on a lot by guys who wanted to see if the big girl could hang in a fight. When I started babysitting in high school, one of the parents I worked for was addicted to methamphetamines. She told me one day, ‘I know something that will help you lose weight.’ I didn’t know meth would also lead me to losing so much more.”

Tammy Hebert holding a chainsaw next to a firewood pile.

“I was hooked on meth in Fresno, and I moved to Burney ironically to get away from it.  But the area was like a meth factory at the time. I was doing drugs, hanging out in the wrong crowd, doing all the wrong things, but I was a functional addict. I was still taking a certified nurse assistant course and working in a hospital when I got pregnant. I quit using for awhile, and I was doing good but ballooned up to 580 pounds. I would relapse at times, but I always sent my daughter to my parents’ house when things were bad.” 

Portrait of Tammy Hebert

“I got busted for drug possession, and that eventually led to me getting clean and becoming a certified drug and alcohol counselor. For four years, I worked in the mental health field and stayed sober until I fell in love.

One thing I’ve learned about getting sober is that not everyone can receive one kind of treatment and recover. For me, I also needed the support and love of my family, which not everyone has, and I needed to separate myself from the people I was with during my struggles with addiction.”

Tammy Hebert next to a scarecrow in her backyard.

“As a counselor, I could never understand why my clients couldn’t just leave an abusive relationship. Now, I know I just didn’t understand. A year after I had gastric bypass, I got down to 260 pounds, and I met this guy who told me he was single and sober. He was lying. The fourth time he asked me to take a hit, I said yes, and I was back into the addiction. I agreed when he asked me to marry him, and he held a knife to my throat that night. He was very violent, and he told me if I left, he’d kill my family. I believed him. I became suicidal at this point because I thought ‘that’s not leaving him’ so my family would be safe.”

Portrait of Tammy Hebert

“It took me awhile to get away from that relationship, and I ended up homeless because of it. I was living out of my truck and praying to get sober again. Sobriety came when I ran myself over with my Chevy truck and was hospitalized after breaking my femur, hips and puncturing my lungs. I believe in God, and he has answered my prayers. But I joke you have to be careful what you ask Him for. 

I’ve been in recovery five different times, and sometimes relapses are going to happen. It can be a trial and error process, but not everyone understands that. Today, I attend 12-step meetings, and I do a lot of gardening. It’s therapeutic, and it keeps me busy. Becoming stagnant or complacent can be a trigger for me.”

Tammy Hebert fishing with her grandson.

“Today, I’m doing good because I know recovery happens and things do get better. But I still struggle with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder from my abusive relationship. I see a therapist regularly, and I’m working on getting my PTSD symptoms under control. I’m sober, and I can walk although I suffer a lot of  pain from the accident. I sleep about an hour every night because of the pain and nightmares. I refuse to take pain pills because I think I’ll get hooked on them. I live with my parents, and I am very thankful for their love. At times, they refused to enable me, but they never stopped loving me.

One of the things I prayed for was another baby, and again, in one of those ‘be careful what you wish for’ moments, my daughter had a son at age 14. It’s not ideal, but we see him as a blessing and we’re making it work. It’s hard to stay depressed when you wake up every day to his smiling face.”