I tried to figure out a way to do this anonymously, but our stories are obviously way too similar. So, with her permission, I am posting this essay from MY mom. The mother of an addict (my brother). If you haven’t read the first article I published on this series, please go read it first so you understand why I’m posting these.
This was NOT easy for her to do. And I would feel guilty for asking her to do it, but I feel strongly about the importance of this topic. I think her truth deserves to be heard. And much to her dismay, I’m very good at persuading her to do things she doesn’t want to.
I am fiercely protective of my mom. Doing things like this is incredibly difficult. So please keep that in mind when making judgments or comments. I will delete ANY comment that is unkind in any way. It’s my blog. My rules. And MY mom who I love in the deepest part of my being. I realize we open ourselves up as a family by posting these personal and vulnerable articles. But again, I believe in this. So we’re doing it. Please be respectful and keep in mind you are getting very small parts of our story that are sometimes out of context and can be easily misunderstood.
If there is one thing that has been harder than any other as we have waded through the murky waters of addiction, it is the direct and painful impact it has on my parents. Years and years and years (and years) of anguish. Mental, emotional, and physical. But they have never given up on him. Ever. Which has taken its toll. Though my brother is currently sober, the repercussions continue. Most of my anger and sadness has come through watching my parents suffer.
My parents are brilliant, loving, kind, and generous. They parented each of their kids differently (as all parents do) and they did the very best they could with what they had. The choices my brother made were HIS choices and are in NO WAY a reflection of their parenting. I hope I never have to know what it’s like to be the parent of a child who struggles with addiction. It’s been hard enough being the sister of one.
I hope these articles will at least open doors for people to feel safe talking about addiction. No shame. Just truth.
Words from the mother of an addict:
“One night in mid-June 2011, very late in the evening, there was a quiet knock on our front door. I hesitated, waiting to see if it came again. It did. I checked to make sure my husband was close by, turned on the outside light and opened the door. There stood two very young-looking uniformed female police officers. “There has been an accident,” one of them said. Immediately my mind and body went cold-fear numb. I invited them in. They informed us that our son had been hit by a car as he had been crossing a dimly-lit highway on foot, and had been taken to Intermountain Medical Center, alive but critical. Any questions we asked for clarification were answered with “that’s all the information we have.”
About a half hour later, we arrived at the hospital where one of our daughters had already arrived, and had ascertained that our son was soon to be taken to surgery. Somehow we got to where he was. He was almost unrecognizable. He was bruised and swollen, and there were multiple beepers going off and tubes everywhere. The smell of body odor and alcohol was overpowering. His eyes were open and I thought I saw a flicker of recognition in them as I took his hand. There was a flurry of activity as we arranged for a rapid priesthood blessing. And then he was wheeled away to the OR.
By then our other daughter had arrived. It took a while to find our way through night-time hospital security to a room where we could wait for the promised ‘two hours or so’ of surgery. Someone brought us blankets. When the sun came up several hours later, we were still waiting. Finally, a tired surgeon appeared and described the intricacies of repairing a shattered leg. It had received primary attention because apparently time was critical in obtaining at least a hope of proper healing. There were multiple other injuries and management of everything was being compromised by total-body alcohol saturation. My own personal numbness continued. I kept thinking, ‘please wake me up from this bad dream.’ Over and over along our way through this maze came the pronouncement, “He is so lucky to be alive.” Really?
I was so incredibly tired. Not surprised. Very, very sad—again. Still there were no tears.
For the next three weeks our family kept an almost 24/7 vigil with our son in the shock-trauma unit at this beautiful state-of-the-art hospital with its knowledgeable, caring staff. Besides being a management problem physically, our son was almost impossible behaviorally. Three or four days into it, my numbness took a long-overdue hike and the dam broke, so to speak. I couldn’t stop crying. I had thought over the previous innumerable years of tear-shedding that they were all gone. Not so.
The time for discharge came. Because our son was uninsured, no interim rehab facility would take him, so he and his badly broken mind and body came home where the 24/7 vigil continued—as did the tender mercies.
Fast forward three years..
Our son has lived with us since his accident. For the most part, his broken bones have healed remarkably. His brain damage lingers, but is so much less than at first feared, and is manageable. The great retrospectoscope is an invaluable aid in providing possible meaning and purpose to the challenges inherent in life. With the fallout from addiction come innumerable what-ifs and whys . Like, how did I miss this? Why wasn’t his mental illness diagnosed sooner? Why was this kid so different from our others, right from the get-go? Will this ever end? How is it going to end? And, oh the guilt. Also, what about the collateral damage to our son’s siblings and their need for equal time, to our marriage, to the sanctity of our home, to our daily activities, our personal freedom, even our mental and physical well-being? I have had as a personal goal that I do not want to be defined by my son’s addiction. How is that even possible?
What about all the money that has been spent on failed rehabs, and the promises, and the relapses, and the months, even years, in jail? How could I walk down that long, scary hall in that horrible, cold building yet another time and try to be encouraging through a stupid glass when I couldn’t hear over the people who were fighting next to us? What about trust? Ha! When will the next rehab, the next accident, the next arrest, be? How many times will this man/child knock on death’s door and be declined admittance? Lucky to be alive? Really?
Since the accident, for the first time in at least 25 years we are seeing our son’s true alcohol-and-drug-free personality. We so lament that he has lost so much time and life-experience as his life-course has taken him into the world of darkness, halted-progress, fear, filth, homelessness, purposelessness. That’s a lot to overcome.
Assuredly, it is more than luck that our son is still alive. Once, over a particularly long period of out-of-control using and prolonged despair-causing and havoc-wreaking, as I was petitioning (questioning?) the Lord yet again, I said something like, ‘why did you send us this kid?!’ His response was, “Because I knew you wouldn’t give up on him.” Chagrined, I knew then, and still know now, it is obvious that our son has not yet filled the measure of his creation.
By virtue of my age, I am getting closer and closer to filling mine. This is what I have learned:
Everyone matters. Each of us needs to know that. When we do not, some may seek destructive alternative methods to compensate. God loves every living being in His universes all the same—no matter what we do. And we—I—need to follow His Son’s example. I am so grateful for family and friends through the years who have stood by my son and for the most part withheld judgment and scorn, and have tried to help, and at the very least, offer encouragement. There are plenty of negative, vocal judges out there. I don’t want to be one of them. And because of my son, I have seen the world and its people through new eyes. Satan is real, and his methods are rampant and devastating. He has an incredibly effective tool in alcohol and its addictive cohorts, and he seems to be rapidly gaining ground. Somehow I want to be part of the force for good that stems that tide, maybe just by mothering one of God’s sons who is wobbling.
In my searching, I have found there are many people and agencies out there trying to make a difference. Alcoholics Anonymous, certainly, and the LDS Church Addiction Recovery program which is growing in numbers and success. Mental health diagnosis and treatment seem to be inadequate in comparison to the need. In the midst of all the questions, this big one looms: what do you do with someone like our son? To many of the questions, there are no answers—yet. I continue to be watchful and hopeful, and more aware than ever.
Perhaps the biggest, hardest lesson I have learned is addictive behavior will never be re-directed until the addict decides to do it. All the promises, the money, the time, the grief are for naught until that decision is made by the addict. Then the work begins. And there is always and forever the threat, and possibility/probability of relapse. It has given me some relief when I remember a quote from the recovery meetings: “I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it. I can’t cure it.” Someday I hope to get rid of the guilt.
I sometimes question the wisdom of people who say they are grateful for their adversities, almost saying ‘bring it on.’ I won’t go that far about our addiction experience. But I am grateful for my son and all that I have learned from him. I am so grateful to his sisters and brothers whose worlds have been challenged, interrupted and blessed by his presence in our family. And for my husband who has been the glue and the voice of reason through the trauma. And to the Lord Jesus Christ whose atonement covers even guilt. And ultimately to my dear Father in Heaven who has patiently endured my incessant whining, and has shown me the way and provided comfort through earthly and heavenly angels.”
Thank you Mom. You are brave beyond words and I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without you. I love you.
If you’re interested in reading more articles from this series written by people who love an addict, you can go here.