Disclaimer: This story contains details of child abuse and drug addiction that may be upsetting to some.
“My mother began her life just like most everyone else. She was born the third of four kids to two loving parents who were doing the best they knew how. Angela came first, then Spencer, then my mother, and 7 years later a baby sister, Duncan. My mother was a very nervous and anxious child and did not stray far from the comfort of her mother who she followed around everywhere. People would often comment to my grandmother that she never ‘cut the cord.’ And knowing my grandmother, she probably forgot. This was very tough on my grandmother as she had 2 other children to care for, so she did what any mother would do – she sought help. Back in the 60’s it was not uncommon for doctor’s to prescribe tranquilizers to children. Of course this is not common practice today because we all know how addictive tranquilizers such as Valium and Xanax are. As a result of this, my mother learned very early that peace equals taking a pill. She could not know this habit would have such dire consequences.
My mom didn’t have an easy time growing up. Her brother tormented and abused her far beyond the scope of what is normal sibling rivalry. She ended up running away in her teens and was in and out of foster homes where she would again become the victim of abuse. And because she was given a pill to calm her as a child, one can only assume by this point she was of the mindset that taking a pill would equal peace. By the age of seventeen, my mother was pregnant with me. She had been pregnant the year before, and after being forced to endure an abortion, she was determined to keep me. She tried to hide her pregnancy with me for six months, but she was discovered when her sister Angela noticed that one night my mother no longer had a belly button. I have often come back to this when I needed the reminder that she did in fact love me even though at times I felt very little love from her.
I entered the world very early on the morning of May 3, 1979. Mom had an easy delivery and was enamored with me as soon as she saw me. Unfortunately, after we returned home from the hospital, she would only remain home with me for 2 weeks before she took off again. The abuse in the home was still very prevalent and she just couldn’t take it anymore, so off she went… on the search for peace. Of course not being able to bond with me in just two short weeks, this would have a negative effect on our relationship as I grew older.
By the time I was six months old, she was around so little that my grandparents had to get custody of me to be able to properly care for me, so she begrudgingly signed custody over to them and took off again. There I was, with two very tired grandparents who just simply did not have time for me. I was also diagnosed with ADHD very young, so that certainly did not help things. I ended up mostly in the care of my mom’s younger sister, Duncan. She was only 11 when I was born, so her early teen years were spent with me. Growing up, I never felt the love of a mother and this hurt me deeply. I knew from overhearing the adults in my home that my mother was out somewhere high on pills, and how dare her choose pills over me. This last sentence would play out in my brain for years to come and I would struggle with self worth for many years. I would see my mother very little during my childhood and I missed her terribly.
In 1985, my mother met who would become the love of her life, William Hastings. I fell in love with him too and he treated me just like his own. He was tall, handsome, and lived very dangerously. It would seem Bonnie had met her Clyde. By the time 1986 rolled around, William was on the run from the law, so he and my mother packed up and took off to Colorado. They hid out in a town called Florissant. My mother often said it was the place she and William were most in love and together and she wished they had never left. After a few months, Will was picked up by authorities and served a lengthy prison sentence.
Mom came back to Pensacola, but I still barely saw her. She would often call me and tell me she was coming and I would run up to the end of our driveway and wait. I would wait all day with my little Winn- Dixie bag full of clothes and my favorite toy in full exasperation that my momma would soon arrive and take me away with her. Most times she would never show. My grandma or another family member would have to physically drag me crying into the house. I was also dealing with some of the same abuse my mother had endured in the home and I desperately wanted out.
When Mom did come and get me, we had such fun! She would pack up her car and we’d go to the beach and listen to Stevie Nicks and drink Grapico and eat Cheetos all while swimming and soaking up the sun. I would cry and beg her to stay, and sometimes she would, but then she would just take off again. Those trips became even fewer when mom lost her license permanently in 1988. I try to remember the good times but there were bad times, too. She would leave me for days at a time when I was visiting her and I was way too young to fend for myself. I also witnessed my mom almost OD on more than one occasion. I remember always being afraid she would die.
By the time I was a teenager, I was good and angry and downright resentful of my mother. In her search for peace, the pills, she had become even more agitated and seemed to have very little, if any, peace. I hated her, but I loved her. I wanted to be nothing like her, but I also wanted to be just like her. I was starting to rebel with my grandparents and my mother, still resentful of them for taking me. I smoked cigarettes and drank beer with my mother as early as 15 and quickly moved onto marijuana and other harder drugs. I was really starting to live up to what my grandparents would often say – like mother, like daughter. Yeah, whatever.
Around this time, my mother’s prescription pill problem had developed into a full-blown heroin addiction. I was staying with her off and on from the age of 15-18 when she wasn’t kicking me out. This was a very hard period for me and my mother. I was angry at her and I wanted to punish her. What I was too young and naïve to understand then was she was already punishing herself. Oh God, what I would do to hug her right now and tell her again how much I love and forgive her. Some of my best memories with mom were when I would go pick her up and we’d go to this little whole in the wall Po’boy shop in Pensacola and watch Seinfeld and laugh until we peed. We also enjoyed hanging at her apartment and listening to her records – Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar, Dire Straits and Steely Dan. When ‘Landslide’ would come on, we would sing it to each other as loud as we could… she loved my voice, so I would often sing her favorite tunes to her and it always made her smile.
In 2004, I moved to California to be near Duncan, my mother’s younger sister and my sister/mom. Duncan was the only positive influence I had to look up to and I felt a lot of love from her and wanted to be closer to her. After being in San Diego for only 6 months, I met the man who would become my husband. I fell head over heels. We married 3 years after meeting and my mother walked me down the aisle. High as a kite on pills. I was so mad I stopped speaking to her for a while. In 2007, the same year I married, my grandpa had a stroke and became unable to walk. In 2008, William, the love of mom’s life, succumbed to prostate cancer and not even 4 months later my Aunt Angela, Mom’s older sister, died of an overdose. My mother was very close to all of these people and their deaths devastated her. She started to give up; I could see it and it scared me.
Fast forward to 2010, I came to know the Lord and I quit drinking. Drinking was my way of self-medicating. As a Christian, I began to learn about forgiveness and how to extend grace and I forgave my mother. I couldn’t wait to call her and tell her I loved her, I forgave her and I wanted her to forgive herself. When I called and explained this all to her, she began to cry. I truly felt we had turned a page, but these things take time. For the next 9 years we struggled and barely spoke. I had to place boundaries with mom and she didn’t like that.
By early 2019, things were looking up for mom and I. We were in the best space we had ever been. We talked everyday and it was great! I turned 40 that May and had a huge birthday party. Mom came and we went to karaoke and sang and just had the best time! Then when her birthday came around 3 months later, I threw her a big surprise party. She felt so loved! Things were just so good. She really seemed to be trying to get clean. I think being in a good space with me was very helpful. Unfortunately, our happily ever after would not last long.
In February of 2020, I thought I may be need a partial hysterectomy. I told mom about it and she insisted on coming to stay with me. I told her I was fine and would call her if I needed her. The next thing I know, she calls me high on pills and says she is on her way to my house in Tennessee. I told her no, please do not come. As a boundary with mom, I told her I would not see her or talk to her when she was under the influence of drugs. When you are dealing with someone who is mentally seventeen, this is hard for them to wrap their head around, but just because she is arrested developmentally does not mean she cannot understand boundaries. I was firm. She continued on here and arrived in Tennessee and went to my husband’s place of employment and demanded to know where I live. They did not tell her, so she called family and got my address and showed up at my house.
As soon as she arrived I put her and her things in my car and took her to a hotel near my home. I have to be consistent, so I stuck to my guns. She was still high as a kite, and though she was frustrated, she did not give me much of a fight. She knew I was going to follow through with what I had said. I got her checked in and I went home. I came back to get her some dinner and talk about her getting home. I arrived and she was a total mess. Her pills were all over and she was out of it. I noticed the pill bottles were not in her name, so I called the authorities, hoping they would arrest her and we could talk about rehab once she sobered up. The police came and confiscated the pills and left her to sleep it off. I tucked her in and prayed and went home. At this point I had come to the realization I may have to bury my mother as a result of her addiction. It was almost like a big part of me had come to a peace with it, and though it sounds disturbing, it was my reality.
The next day she got a ride home and she did not even say goodbye. I expected nothing less. I got a few mean and nasty texts, but did not talk to her or see her again until I came to town in May of 2020. I went to her house and it was pretty late, but something told me to go by there. I knocked on her door and she answered and looked at me with utter disgust. She told me she no longer had a daughter and what did I want? I told her I was just seeing if she was okay. She said she was fine and shut the door. This was the last time I saw my mother alive.
On October 24, 2020, I was coming home from a trip out of town and it was getting dark when I got a call from one of my oldest and dearest friends telling me my mother had passed away. I didn’t want to believe it and I had to pull over and call my grandma to confirm it. She said she had drowned as a result of an overdose. I just started screaming, ‘Why momma, why?!’ I knew I could lose her this way, but I never gave up hope we would be able to have the mother/daughter relationship we both so desperately wanted. I prayed and prayed for her and God had answered so many of my prayers. Why didn’t he save my mother? I wanted to question God, but in my heart I knew he would have been happy to help her; she had to give up her will and she just couldn’t do that. I later found letters when going through her things where she had mentioned just wanting to die and that she did not want to be brought back. She didn’t want to live anymore. I have tried to understand this. I believe her heart was just broken and she had given up.
I came into town to be with family and celebrate mom’s life and went to karaoke and sang all her favorite songs, just like she would have loved. Not many showed up for my mother; most of her friends had either died or were no longer on speaking terms. Mom was so misunderstood and judged so harshly by others. I know she was hard to understand, but had they lived her early life, they may have understood better. Me and my mother’s sister, Duncan, wrote mom’s obituary and it was beautiful. I went home and threw myself into work. It wasn’t that I was trying to avoid grieving, it’s just that I had grieved my mother most of my life. I just wanted to listen to our songs and remember her in the best way. I finally understood my mother and I realized it wasn’t that she didn’t love me, she just didn’t love herself and had no idea how to love me. My mother’s addiction was never personal towards me. She was self-medicating and doing what she had been taught to do – take a pill when you need a little peace. Unfortunately, that one pill turned into many and numbed her instead of helping her.
In May of this year, my husband surprised me with a trip to Colorado and he got us a cabin in Florissant. My mom loved Florissant and always talked about going back and settling there with her ‘forever man,’ William. My heart breaks that she never got back to the place that held so much of her most joyful memories. Florissant is so beautiful and still so primitive. It sits right below Pikes Peak with nothing but a biker bar, 24-hour gas station, and the Florissant Fossil Beds (appears those two weren’t the only wild beast to roam the meadow). You could get lost pretty easily here and never be found and heck, maybe that’s what they wanted. With the hand she had been dealt, I can’t say I blame her.
On Mother’s Day we were still there, and behind our cabin there were these huge boulder rocks you could hike up into. So, one afternoon Justin and I decided to go for it. We hiked up to the biggest rock with a perfect view of the Pikes Peak and we sat down and decided to play some of mom’s favorite tunes. I closed my eyes and prayed and asked God to let mom visit me. Not even five minutes later, 2 black birds (apparently William came to join his beloved) began showing off for each other and then flying back to one another. I began to cry. It was so beautiful. I decided to play our favorite song, ‘Landslide,’ and as I began to sing the words I could swear the birds were dancing to the melody. I felt her there with me. I kept thinking, ‘Oh how I wish I could call her and tell her about this gnarly experience,’ but I knew she was there. Silly, huh?
I just so happened to bring along some of mom’s ashes to scatter so a part of her is right where she wanted to be on this earth. I wasn’t exactly sure where to spread them as she was not very specific about details of her time there, so I asked Justin to just drive and I would know when I saw it and I did because she showed me. As we were driving towards the fossil beds, there was a beautiful meadow right below the peak up on a hill and there was a black bird just standing there. We stopped the car and we walked up the hill and I took her ashes and spoke with her and then scattered some of her into the wind. As I turned around, I looked down and there was a beautiful wildflower all by itself and I remembered when she and Will used to take me on wildflower picking adventures. I began to cry again and I walked down the hill singing, ‘Took my love, took it down, climbed a mountain and I turned around…’ I miss her so much. I will never forget her. She was an original.
It has been nine months since I lost Mom. I still can’t quite believe it. I planted a garden in her honor. She loved to garden. Most days you can find me out there singing to her. I now know this old world was too much for my sensitive and anxious mother. I will live the rest of my days in peace knowing my mother no longer has to suffer. I hope if you take anything away from our story, take this – oftentimes we take things very personal that just aren’t. If you have a loved one who struggles with substance abuse, please don’t take their actions so personally. They are just trying to survive. Love them and teach them by being a consistent example. Place boundaries where they are needed and do not enable them. Pray for them and come to peace with the fact they may never be who you want them to be. Love them anyway. Thank you for joining me on this very hard but cathartic journey.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tiffany Rodriguez. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter for our best stories, and our Youtube for our best videos.
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