‘She missed school events, birthdays. I longed for a mom I didn’t have to constantly worry about dying every day.’: Woman shares ‘heart-wrenching’ reality of growing up with an addict parent

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“I’ve gone back and forth on this topic for weeks now. I’ve written a lot in my journal, but haven’t been able to connect it all together. This is a tough one for me, which is why I want to and feel the need to talk about it. I want to honor my mom’s life by shedding light on a topic not everyone feels comfortable talking about and a lot of times are embarrassed and/or ashamed of.

I was that girl for a long time. The girl who was afraid of what others would think if they knew my mom struggled with addiction. If they would think I did something wrong to make her like that or I wasn’t good enough to have a ‘normal’ mom. I was afraid to have friends over at my mom’s house because I didn’t know if she would be sober or not. From a really early age, I constantly reassured myself my mom was sick and she loved me no matter what she did or didn’t do or missed out on. I completely normalized my situation.

My mom was in and out of jail a lot when I was younger, typically for drinking and driving or for drugs. There was a year where my Sundays were spent riding with my stepdad to the prison and looking forward to the vending machine food and hanging out with her for a few hours. When she was locked up, I knew she was okay. When she was out, I lived in constant fear of her getting hurt, dying, or going back to jail. She tried multiple rehabs. She would get better for a while but would relapse. Each relapse was harder than the one before.

There were so many times my grandpa or my dad would try to keep the truth from me that mom wasn’t doing so well, but I always knew. She missed school events, sporting events, birthday parties, and dances. The games she did come see me play in were my absolute favorite! There were times when she’d say she would be there and wouldn’t be… and those times hurt like hell! I would reassure myself she’d get better and it wouldn’t always be like that. It was a constant up and down, long, twisty painful roller coaster. She overdosed a few times and acted a complete fool out in public on multiple occasions. As I’m typing that, it’s still so normal to me because that was my mom and what we were accustomed to.

Even with her addiction, there were so many great qualities about her! That’s the thing about addiction, the person you love so deeply is still in there somewhere; they just get lost in a different world. She was an amazing mom when she was able to be. She cooked some of the best food I’ve ever eaten or will ever eat! She was a kid at heart and always got so excited about silly games and toys. Our shows growing up were 7th Heaven and Touched By An Angel. We loved watching movies together, especially on Lifetime. She gave the best back rubs and always told me the baby bear story when she tucked me in, even when I was in my twenties. She taught me how to make a bomb.com chocolate pie and really anything I do know about cooking, except for toasting bread. She always burned the bread. She was the one who taught me how to put lipstick and blush on. She always took great care of me when I was sick and spent a week with me after I had my appendix out. She was really the only person I did want to be around when I was sick and who could handle me (I’m a big baby). She made sure she was at my high school and college graduations and no matter what, she always told me she loved me.

Growing up with an addict was one of the hardest things ever, but losing my mom to addiction is something I am not sure I will ever truly heal from. The last few years of her life, my mom fell into a deep depression. She still always seemed to enjoy our times together, especially when the babies were around. Deep down though, she was lost and felt so alone. I had a hard time sympathizing with her because it was her own doing that got her in that position. But at the same time, when she hurt, I hurt. I think she wanted help but wasn’t strong enough to go through with it. She was tired of fighting. I wanted to fight for her. I tried to fight for her but always exhausted myself in the process. So, after my dad passed away, I decided no matter what decisions my mom made, I would still be there for her and spend time with her and make an effort. And that’s what I did. I made sure holidays were special and spent almost every Sunday night at her house, where we ate dinner and dessert, watched movies and just hung out.

Looking back, the last year of her life was the hardest. We all knew how bad her addiction was, and we still gave it everything we had to be there for her through it all. Her health continued to decline and her Congestive Heart Failure was taking a major toll on her. I was not naive to think she’d be around for many years to come, but that did not make it one bit easier. I think it actually made it harder to know it was going to happen sooner than later. To watch someone you love continue to abuse their body and mind while you have ZERO control over it is absolutely heartbreaking. It takes a toll on you mentally, emotionally, and physically. I can’t tell you how many times I cried, was angry and upset over my mom and her life choices, or how she made me feel. I cried often about how much I longed for a mom I didn’t have to constantly worry about dying every day when she wouldn’t answer the phone or being afraid of what I was going to walk into when I got to her house.

My mom was a crazy beautiful soul. She had a wildflower spirit and was as stubborn and hard-headed as they came. She was never afraid to speak her mind, which wasn’t always a good thing. She cherished her kids and grandkids more than anything. I know, without a doubt, her best days were spent with Micah, Mason, and Myles, and that makes my heart happy. She fought long and hard, but her addiction was too powerful.

Having a parent or a loved one who is an addict is the hardest, most heart-wrenching thing to watch and go through, but I want to reassure you it is NOT your fault! It’s so easy to put blame on ourselves and wonder what we could’ve done differently. The answer is nothing. I’ve wondered my whole life why I wasn’t good enough for my mom to pick me over drugs, and I am finally reprogramming my brain to know I was always good enough. It was never my fault. I am reassured in knowing I did everything I could and even when there was nothing left to do, I spent time with my mom and loved her unconditionally through all of her good and bad times.

Some have to remove themselves completely from the toxic environment and that’s okay. There are plenty of books, articles, and podcasts on what to do when dealing with loved ones who are addicts that can be helpful, but everyone is different and you have to decide what is best for you. Reaching out for love and support from loved ones or going to Al-Anon is okay. Going to therapy or just taking it day by day, minute by minute. It’s all okay to do! You honestly may never know the right way to react and handle the situation, but you should never feel guilty or put yourself down. (Way easier said than done!) There’s no right or wrong, there’s just surviving through it and hoping and praying for a good outcome. It’s not an easy road, but you are not alone.”

Courtesy of Janice

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Janice. You can follow her journey on her blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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