There’s no shortage of advice out there for people who have a loved one suffering from substance use disorder. “Don’t give the addict money.” “Never bail them out of jail.” “Stop enabling and being codependent.” The list goes on and on.
All of this is fine and true, but as a mother of a person with substance use disorder, I am bound to my struggling child in a way that most do not understand. The love and connection that I have with my daughter can never be broken. Even though I know all the advice that articles may give for those with a loved one in addiction, there is just something about my experience that only mothers can understand.
Here’s just a peek into my inner world.
1. I hold close to my nurturing instincts.
Many of us moms know the pain of knowing our addicted child may be living in the streets or hiding from us because of their drug abuse. They tend to isolate themselves from the people they love and become absent. I always keep my eyes open in case I run into her on the street.
If I happen upon someone who knows her, I wonder if they know where she is. I ask questions like, “Is she OK?” “Is she eating?” “Does she have a warm place to sleep?” While I know not to enable her by giving her those things, it doesn't mean I don't want to know. I will never stop looking for her when she is absent from my life. If she’s running from the law, I will find her, and I will turn her in. As much as it hurts to dial that number, knowing it will send her to jail, it is the safest place for my daughter when she is in active use. I promise to muster up every ounce of courage in my body to do what’s right—not what’s easy.
2. I remember and love the child I raised.
My daughter was and still is a kind-hearted, funny, and outgoing person. Looking back, I knew I could count on her for anything. We were close. She was my mini-me. Today, I may not like who she is or what she is doing, but I will never stop loving her. No matter what her addiction might bring her to do, whether it’s lying or criminal behavior, I know that she is so much more than just her addiction, and I will always love that part of her who is fighting to get out and survive.
3. I feel the pain of her addiction.
As the parent of a child suffering in the grips of addiction, I can tell you this is not an easy journey. Even though my daughter is the one suffering from the disease, my misery is alive and well. It’s hard to express what it feels like to know your child has a hand in the torture she is experiencing. Although you know this is a disease like any other, there is an element of choice that is not the case with any other ailments. It breaks my heart when she chooses to poison her mind, body, and soul rather than pick herself up and change her life because we both know she does have a say in her outcome. If she accepts help, works hard, and decides to survive, she can change everything. As a mother, watching her opt to destroy her life instead becomes unbearable at times.
4. I am always ready to hear from her.
As trivial as it may sound, the ding of a text message or the sight of her number showing up as a call on my phone is a welcome and coveted occurrence. I look forward to it because it tells me my daughter is still alive. She made it through the night, through one more dose of poison.
Although not all encounters are pleasant and, admittedly, time off from some of our exchanges is also welcomed, those notifications on my phone are cherished sounds that help me get through my day when I do receive them. It is as important to me as any other aspect of my relationship with my addicted daughter. It’s the code or the sign that helps me hang on.
5. I will never give up hope.
Hope is the only thing we have to cling to at times. It is what breathes life into a parent of a child in addiction. Without hope, we have nothing, and with hope, we can lay our heads on our pillows at night, and most get a little more sleep. Hope is what carries us through the day when we wonder if our child made it through the night. We hope for good weather, so our child is warm. We hope something might turn our child around before their rock bottom hits, knowing rock bottom could be the end. Above all, we hope that our children know we will never go away. Hope becomes everything, and, as a mother of an addict, I will never give it up.
My daughter is my world. She is my firstborn, and she owns a piece of my soul that belongs only to her. No matter how old your child is when they travel through this dark place, they are always your little boy or girl. Nothing can ever change that. I won't abandon my daughter’s heart because I simply can't. It's just not possible for me. Her affliction is like any other, and I wouldn't leave her if she had cancer or any other disease that threatened her life. I will gently guide her when she allows me to keep the home fires burning for the day she finally comes back to us.