Christine Schuessler doesn't think she did anything special.
Her daughter, Becky Schuessler, says otherwise.
Christine had more than enough reasons to turn her back and walk away from Becky, but she didn't. She was there when Becky got arrested for the first time in middle school after getting caught with marijuana; she continued to provide and encourage help even after Becky emptied her bank accounts and pawned family items to pay for her drug habit; and she fostered Becky's two young children when addiction left Becky homeless.
"Not every mom would do that," Becky, 29, said, fighting off tears as her mom sat stoically across the table watching her youngest daughter, more proud of the demons Becky fought off than of her role in the situation.
After beginning the year-long program at the Healing House and New Beginnings, a Christian recovery facility in Jefferson City, in October 2019, Becky is now living what she calls her best life, and she is very aware of the role her mom played in making that possible.
"When it comes to my mom, I can never repay her," Becky said, "so I'm going to constantly try to remind her how great she is."
Nominating Christine for the Best Mom Contest, organized by the News Tribune and sponsored by River City Florist, is one of the ways Becky hopes to do that.
Originally from St. Louis County, the Schuessler family — Christine and her husband, Earl, and their daughters, Debbie and Becky — moved to Jefferson City in 2000 to help Earl's sister run Pal's E-Z Stop & Sporting Goods gas station in Brazito.
Over the years, Christine worked as a manager at McDonald's and in the kitchen at St. Mary's Hospital. At age 47, though, she decided it was time for a change. She got her GED and started school through a local branch of Linn State Technical College of Missouri to become a therapy assistant; she now works for a home health care company doing physical therapy.
Christine refers to Becky as her gift from God. She became pregnant with her 10 years after her first daughter, Debbie, was born, and while pregnant, Christine's father, who she was very close with, died.
And together, the mother and daughter survived a near-death car accident when Becky was 4.
Becky and Christine were bonded.
"I had a really good childhood," Becky said. "Most of the time, you hear addicts came from very broken homes; there was none of that. There was never any alcohol or drug use around me, ever, when I was growing up."
Yet, after moving to a larger school district when she was in third grade, Becky began falling in with the wrong crowd, she said. She started drinking at age 12 or 13, and by 17, she left high school, moved to Columbia and began using harder drugs. Despite the troublesome lifestyle, she ended up just barely earning her high school diploma thanks to a lot of help from the Jefferson City Academic Center.
Though she made it through high school, Becky continued using drugs, eventually leaning on heroine and meth. She sold drugs and stole to keep up with her habit. After receiving her first felony — from a car accident she caused while high — Becky became clean for the first time, and in the next three years, she gave birth to two children — Natalie Anderson, now 6, and Raynon Wideman, 4.
Becky said she "tried to play house" with Raynon's father, but eventually, they both fell back into old habits. Together, Becky and her boyfriend were feeding a $300 a day drug habit.
All the while, Christine was trying to get her daughter into a rehabilitation facility and was willing — if only for the sake of her grandchildren — to let her daughter move back home. It didn't stick, and Becky and her children became homeless.
"She's my daughter. I love her," Christine said. "I didn't like what she was doing; I didn't like her boyfriends. But she's my daughter; I couldn't kick her out. Everyone else was against her, and I couldn't be that one. I had to give her some kind of encouragement."
The Department of Social Services intervened, and in the summer of 2019, Christine began fostering Natalie and Raynon, officially receiving court custody on Aug. 28 that year.
But that's not the only reason Aug. 28, 2019, is a memorable date for Christine. After the 9 a.m. court hearing, Christine's husband, Earl — who had numerous health issues — died at 3 p.m. the same day.
"It was a rough ride. I don't know how I got through it," Christine said. "It didn't really seem hard. There was something that was helping us, carrying us."
"That something was God," Becky chimed in, in awe of how strong and level-headed her mother always remained during the incredibly difficult situations she faced.
By this point a 10-time felon, Becky said she hit rock bottom in a jail cell.
"I either wanted to die or change, and there was no in between," she said.
Christine added she felt the same way about her daughter, scared she'd one day receive the phone call her daughter had succumbed to her addition.
That's when the Healing House came in.
Becky got out of jail Oct. 29, 2019, and two days later, on Halloween, she moved into the Healing House.
Always advocating for her daughter, Christine had tried to get Becky to go to the facility months prior, but Becky wasn't ready.
"I had been clean before," she said, "and if I could be clean for three years and still be where I was at then what's the point? I'm going to keep going back. It's who I am," she said she remembers thinking.
"Then God stepped in," Becky explained.
The Healing House provided her structure and taught her how to live, she said. It's also where she was "born again."
Becky was baptized as a child but said faith was never a big part of her life. At the Healing House, she learned God — not drugs — was the only thing that could fill the voids in her life.
After a year at the facility, in which she had occasional visits with her children, Becky commenced the program in November 2020. With her children back, she then moved into a duplex across the street from the Healing House, where she now works full time assisting other mothers working through the program.
Looking back on the hardships the two overcame — sometimes together, sometimes at odds — Christine is very calm.
"I just wanted her to get well," she said. "I'd think any mother would have done it for her daughter. I was raised to take care of my family."
Using her "patience like a saint," as Becky says, Christine is now proudly watching her daughter be the person and the mother she always knew was possible. And while rebuilding trust takes time, the bond they share remains intact.
"She's my best friend; I love to talk to her," Becky said, noting her mom brings her soup if she's sick and sometimes buys her flowers just because.
"Those are from the kids," Christine notes, never the one to take credit.
"(I'm just) grateful I got my daughter back," Christine said.