As we begin the descent into the final days before our vacation, I have spent some time pondering the last year. The truth of the matter is this family embarked on a train ride to hell several years ago, but we managed to take hold of the train and ride out with scorch marks to prove it. I hate that my child suffers from addiction. I hate that her love suffers from addiction. It’s a monkey they will carry on their back for the rest of their lives. And that’s a scary thing. As parents, it is against the very fiber of our being to watch our children wonder around the world with a problem that we can’t solve. It can never be solved. It can be controlled and there may be times that it is less controlled. Those are the times we must ban together as a family, leaning on each other for support at times when we are too weak to carry ourselves. My book group is reading a wicked philosophical book, and I think it has gotten the best of me!
Anyway, the point to all that, actually there was no point. A year ago, I thought JoDee and I would be celebrating to remarkable milestones. Her 1 year clean time and my 40th birthday. JoDee will not be celebrating her 1 year clean time. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be celebrating her anyway. A year ago I said if she relapses once, if she dicks us over one more time, she isn’t coming and she is not allowed to celebrate with this family. First of all, idle threats help no one. That was a stupid thing to even say because it sets myself up for failure. The promise of a trip to Aruba waived in front of her face is not going to make her stay clean. Many a good parent has relapsed time and again with their own small children’s faces imbedded in their mind. It was ridiculous to think that I could bribe her with a trip. But that is part of the process on my side. On this side I understand that not doing something is sometimes the best thing you can do for an addict. On this side I know that if she is in active addiction and she hates my guts, as painful as it is, I’m doing the right thing for both of us. On this side I know that relapse isn’t about giving your family the finger or doing “whatever you want”, it’s about the disease and the way it reals you in with no remorse. On this side I know that I will never truly be comfortable knowing she will never use again because it can happen at any time. But probably one of the most important things I know is that my crazy, nutty, over the top behavior has saved her life on more than one occasion and I will not apologize for that.
JoDee and I have a bond, no doubt as most mothers do. Though I think ours is slightly different. JoDee and I grew up together. I was just a baby raising a baby and she walked the path of adulthood with me. As she grew into her teens I became better aquatinted with my 20’s and 30’s. As she stumbled into her late teens and early twenty’s, I was growing into my self in my late 30’s (though no matter how old I get JoDee keeps telling people I am 36. She has been telling people I was 36 since I was 28). I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not. It allows her to have an openness with me now that I’m not sure most are afforded (and sometimes it’s even TMI for me!) but it also made her more reluctant to want to tell me that she was an addict for fear of my disappointment. That same reasoning is helping her maintain her clean time now. She has said on more than one occasion that even if she wants to use the idea of seeing the pain in my eyes is too much.
At any rate, we have a lot to celebrate. A lot. 5 happy healthy kids, 1 new addition that comes with the most adorable 3 year old I have seen since my kids were 3, and lots going on with AC and me. 40 won’t be so bad, not the age. It’s just a number. And that’s what I decided about JoDee’s clean date. Her being clean one year on my birthday is nowhere near as important as her being clean, period. I can appreciate the difference now, maybe in a way I couldn’t have 6 months ago. Addiction has taught me a lot of things, about myself, my family and JoDee. But, in the event my plane goes all “Malaysia Airline” on us, I wanted to leave behind my pearls of wisdom:
- When you find out your child is an addict, don’t panic. Take the time to speak to a professional about what you should and shouldn’t do. Do not tell yourself you should feel any particular way, or shouldn’t do any particular thing. There is no rule book. It’s murky territory so brace yourself.
- If your child goes on the run in, oh I don’t know, let’s just say, Arizona, do not tell yourself that you will remain calm when she calls. Do not plan out something intelligent to say because once she does call you will begin screeching so loud your dead grandfather will tell you to shut up.
- Go to NA meetings. Not just Nar-anon or Al-anon. Learn something.
- Forgive yourself.
- When fighting about whose fault it is that your child relapsed, do not throw your significant others favorite shirt into a freshly used litter box and then point and laugh yelling “your shirt has a shit stain” maniacally. It really only serves as proof positive you have gone off the deep end.
- When you tell your then 87-year old grandmother that her great grandchild has a drug addiction, be sure to explain what that means so you don’t laugh at her when she says she didn’t know marijuana was so bad.
- Remember as long as there is breath there is hope.
- Trust is not built over night but can be destroyed in a moment. Try not to allow the guilt over the fact that you can’t trust your child to sit in her own room without jumping through her door yelling “I knew it” while she stares at you like you’re the addict. (In my defense, I thought I would catch her using, but in fact she was plucking her eyebrows…. Sorry, not sorry!)
- And my last pearl of wisdom is I have no wisdom, just experience and your experience could be totally different than mine, so share it. It will help someone somewhere. Addiction breeds in the things we don’t talk about, and it spreads in fear and isolation. Taking steps to battle addiction means bringing your dirty laundry out for all to see, so they can help you clean it.
I won’t be posting anything for the rest of the month, because I am taking a break from all things electronic while on vacation! See you in September!