As a parent of an addicted adult child, I can remember the day I found out I was pregnant. She was my first child and I wanted her more than anything I had ever wanted in my life. I couldn't wait to hold her in my arms, rock her to sleep and dress her in all the little outfits hanging in her closet.
As she grew, I would lay in bed at night and think of all the wonderful milestones she would have and all the great opportunities that life would bring to her. The mayhem of addiction that surrounded us while we tried to figure out what was truly going on hit us with a steep learning curve. Before we knew it, our daughter was gone. At least, the daughter we once knew.
Although thankfully our daughter is still physically alive, it hasn’t changed the fact that she’s already died to her father and I. Sometimes we see the little girl we raised shining sporadically in her eyes, but the glimmer goes away as quickly as it came. She is gone and this death is almost too much to bear.
While she has been in active use, her spirituality has left her. She has no self-respect. Her morals and scruples are non-existent and nothing is off limits as to what she will do to get high. Because we have watched her die this virtual death, I have come to terms with the fact that if she continues this way, the path she is on will probably lead her to a physical death as well.
In a sad and twisted way, the virtual death of an addicted child kills something inside the parent too. Even though our daughter may survive this, I’m not sure that as we parents will ever revive what has been destroyed inside of us. Our expectations that we’ve filled our hearts with have disappeared, and our minds have turned to distrust. We question everything that comes out of our child’s mouth, which leaves us to stop listening to anything she has to say.
At some point it’s clear that our bond has been broken and our connection has been lost, killing a part of us that once existed deep within our souls. No matter which turn her path takes, a piece of who we are has died this virtual death right along with her and may never be found again.
Even if our child survives the physical death of addiction, I know that neither she nor we will ever be the same and our lives will be changed forever. In order to move forward, whether she is actively using or in recovery, we will have to find a new way to deal with her. We can’t move forward handling her the same way we have, if it’s to be any type of a healthy relationship. It doesn’t work anymore.
If she makes it through recovery we will need to get to know her all over again. We will have to find a way to trust and believe her and it will never be in the same way as it was before. The unconditional element of love we have for her hasn’t died, but how we access and utilize unconditional love will have to look very different than what it once did.
Just like replacing a blown out light bulb, we will have to replace what is broken with a new fixture. What has died within us is irretrievable and it will be another long and winding road to figure out how to mend the process of loving her in the way a parent should. However, it will all be worth the effort if we are one of the lucky ones who get a second chance and our loved one finds their way back up the rabbit hole and into the light.