Editor’s note: The author requested anonymity to protect and preserve her family.
Smells, they heighten the senses and oh how amazing they can be! I inhale the whiff of my turkey a few hours before carving and I smile. This one perfect moment in the holiday, this one second where the world seems right, visions of Rockwell dance in my head and time stands still if only for a fraction of a minute.
I hear the familiar sounds from the television as the parade marches by with the laughter and songs of the season. Traditions.
I love our holiday traditions, but they fill me with hesitant anticipation and wearied memories.
Something simmers and starts to bubble, but it is not on the cooktop. No, this simmering is inside me. Deep in my stomach; how I wish it was just the craving for the pumpkin pie baking. I can recall the melodies and the aromas of the holidays and quickly dissipate those gut emotions. After all, the aromas trigger special, good emotions, the ones that should bring me joy. However, even for that split second those aromas and feelings are always over-shadowed by the apprehension of something else, something on the verge, the not yet known, our absent “stressor”. You see, I am a mother of an addict.
All of my senses are stretched tight and thin by the smells and that lingering tune playing over and over in my head, “Silent Night”. It sparks memories; yet, I wonder, will it be a silent night? As the holiday season begins, I always reflect.
Then questions flood my mind: Is this the year? Could this be a year that goes as planned? Will my grandkids be running, nicely, of course, through the house all smiles and giggles? Will presents be unwrapped and plates left with crumbs on them?
Silent . . . slowly . . . creeping . . . enters the shadowed alter world, the one I live in. This could be the year of disruption, stress, discomfort, and a family that wishes they could leave. I must stay vigilant and strong; I must be the peacekeeper, and I must make this holiday a happy one, regardless, of what abuse or stress I put myself through because it is my job. I am the mother of an addict and live in a shadowed alter world.
As a mother, you want to “be” that mom, “be” that grandma, and “be” that daughter, the one that provides the absolute, perfect Rockwell-Stewart vision of comfort and warmth that surrounds your family at the holidays. However, this notion of “perfect”, that is a fantasy for us. This fantasy is not an option when you have a child suffering from addiction. My holiday preparations and our traditions depended on my addicts’ cycle of either a good year, meaning no jail time or legal issues, or a bad year filled with arrests and the dark depth of addiction that takes hold, strangling him of a worthy life. It sets the tone for all holidays. Let that sink in, no, wait . . . let a dash of resentment sink in, followed by heaping cups of guilt, layered with a smothering cover of depression that I felt as a mother. That dish is always available at the holidays, I know, I am a mother of an addict.
I think back to a few years ago as we gathered around the table to finally eat that amazing turkey. We always begin with a prayer. My father typically leads this prayer. As every year past, he will pray for the family but not specific names, the food, for a good new year, and to our health. It is during this quiet prayer time that my mind drifts to my secret silent prayer, “Dear Lord, please don’t let him walk through the door, wait . . . sorry, Lord, I didn’t mean it, wait. . . yes, I did, but only for today.” Let me start over: “Lord, please don’t let the phone ring that he’s in jail or dead, at least not today, Lord, I just don’t want him here today not this holiday.” Suddenly, overwhelmed, I think, “Oh no. I am a terrible, horrible person. What mother doesn’t want her child there for the holidays?” Surely, no sane mother would pray for that. Who thinks this way? Apparently, I do. But then, sadness, depression, and hopelessness slide their way in when I remember with tears I hold back. This year . . . this year was a bad year.
Don’t anguish, my soul, be careful, my worrisome heart, you forget, he won’t be walk through the door, he is homeless this year. I am a mother of an addict and do not know where he lays his head this holiday. The spectrum of emotions I feel in just the course of a prayer are now what determines my mood. How can I be happy this year when I do not know whether he is alive or dead, eating or hungry. What right do I have to be joyful?
My journey is raw, and it cuts deep. I have been the mother of an addict for over 15 years. Holidays have a very different meaning for those of us with children of addiction and for family members of addicts. I used to believe that this time of year brought about hope and new possibilities for change in the New Year. However, that is not the case with my journey.
I am a mother of an addict. I share with you the true words of my journey, but it is not over.
I have been powerless, helpless, a watcher while my son has destroyed his life, his brain, and our family, time and time again.
I have been the enabler, the hopeful, the desperate, and the victim to his lies. I have been the believer, the dreamer, the ever-there parent. I am a mother of an addict.
I have inwardly abused myself with questions of parenting, questions of: wasn’t there enough love, did I do enough, was I that terrible, how did it spiral, why can’t I fix it? Why is everything I do never good enough to stop this?
I am a mother of an addict. The emotional spirals and rollercoaster rides throughout the past 15 years have been anything but thrilling. There were times on that ride that I felt excited, exhilarated. I was able to breathe, to laugh. I became a believer again. And then comes the plunge, the gut punch, the sinking to new depths and that turn into either a new unknown of drug use or a return to the same old vices.
I am a mother of an addict. I hide the guilt. I hide the facts. I’ve lied for my addict. I’ve turned a blind eye and prayed. I have also prayed for relief. I have prayed for death. I have prayed for miracles, but mostly I pray for peace.
I have experienced the nights of crying, the endless wait for the phone call to come in that either brings news of death or news of jail. I have experienced the years of silence, the years of “more money”, the years of progress, and the years of relapse. These are a vicious cycle. I am a mother of an addict.
I have watched my parents’ faces as tears stream down and wonder, did I cause this pain, this suffering, did I do enough? I have watched my beautiful daughter grow frustrated, and yet listen, grow mad and distant yet sad for her only brother. I’ve watched my grandkids fall short because another drama involving my addict has taken away time from making memories, enjoying holidays, and family time. I’ve watched my husband fall short of answers, short of temper, and short of money because I am a mother of an addict.
The kind words of others, the encouragement they give, and the realizations of what needs to be done they are all there and yet . . . they fall upon my deaf ears as I try to understand and feel something other than rage, hurt, disappointment, depression, guilt, unworthiness, and stress. I hear them. I know them. I cannot apply them because his addiction has control of NOT only him but ME. I am a mother of an addict.
Lies, promises, and false agreements are the life of my addict. Denial of abuse. Denial to seek help. The search for his next high to kill his brain and take his life. There will never be ENOUGH love, never be ENOUGH money, there will just never be ENOUGH because my son is an addict and that addiction controls him.
This holiday there is a healing change that I have embraced. It can be yours too if you know the suffering I have just laid out.
I choose ME. I choose my functioning family. I choose my husband, and our life. I choose to be the strong and healthy person I know I am and leave my addict to his own choices, his own life, his own problems created by his addiction.
During the upcoming holidays, I choose ME. I will tell myself daily and remind myself that it is NOT me: I did not CREATE this problem; I cannot CONTROL this problem; I cannot CURE this problem. God, grant me the serenity to accept the people that I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s ME.
With these choices, I pray I find the strength and that in turn you may find the strength to choose yourself too. I hope my story gives you the encouragement to find your life away from your addict and that you find
peace within yourself to be the best you that YOU can be this season for all who can and will benefit from your joy and your love. You are worthy!
Terms and Prayer are from Nar-Non Handbook.