Our many children call us Tutz and Pops. We have three adult children and four grandchildren we have adopted. That is how I start my story because opening with my daughter is an addict seems too raw and vulnerable. So I create a story that may hold some element of grace within it. I like to give things a soft sway, a kindness within. Yet there are things that can only be called what they are, if we are willing to speak our truth. It's hard to move through the shame and fear and find the courage to share the "shit we don't want to talk about". I feel compelled to share because I believe that only when we can speak our truth about addiction will we begin to find a way to heal. Perhaps if I share, others will feel empowered to also and the fog of shame will lift as we realize that while it doesn't make it go away or hurt less, it does lose its power and we can learn to walk beside it with more ease. I don't think it has to be in a defeatist way either - I believe we can live fully and joyfully. We will talk about pain and we will talk about resiliency and hope, because I believe there is plenty of room for both and they can feed off each other and lead to the discovery of a beauty we never imagined possible.
Let me begin by saying I wouldn’t have ever imagined this story being part of my journey through this life. I know I am not alone in saying that because, as I have learned, addiction has no face. It doesn't care who it infiltrated or the lives it tries to destroy. It strips people of their sense of self worth and love and it takes an incredibly strong soul to shake loose of it. I only know this from the side lines though, so I am not going to try to tell the story of the addict, although I know it intimately. I can only tell my story.
As a mother the pain is unbearable at times, especially once you realize you can not save your child. No matter how strong your love or how good your intentions, choosing the road to recovery can only be done by the one suffering from the addiction. What sparks that flicker inside to finally take hold (and we all pray it does) is a mystery really. If we knew the secret of how to awaken that internal flame of desire and strength within another to shift from numbing to recovery, I would have given my soul for that to help my daughter to find the courage to feel again. Instead you watch from the sidelines with hope that "rock bottom" will come soon, before more damage is done to the souls of all those involved, and pray that death won't be the bottom this time.
I was naive to addiction 6 years ago when I walked into my house to find my daughter on the couch, her 4 children (ages 1-7) running around her. She was almost lifeless as she turned to me and said "mom I need help". Followed by " I know you know what is going on ", but I didn't really. I knew her world was falling apart and that there were likely substances involved, but I really was so naive that I didn't know until she shared her truth, she was a heroin addict. POW, that hit my heart and gut hard. At that moment she was in withdrawal and was asking to go to rehab to detox and begin recovery. I'm good in crisis so immediately put my emotions aside and called all the places she told me to until we found an inpatient rehab a few hours away that could take her the next day, which seemed like a lifetime. It was ugly and I ended up in the emergency room with her as she needed something to help her get through the detox she was feeling. I work at the hospital and knew all about "drug seekers" and here I was with my daughter, full of shame, asking for help. It didn't come, she ended up getting some street drug to get her through. More shame. It’s all kind of a fog now, but I was trying so hard to patch her up and get her to a place where she could get help. Which I did, however I now know that is not how you enter rehab, not with any hope for recovery. But I got her there, checked her in and headed home to my husband and 4 grandchildren, bewildered and frightened. My husband and I feeling, well overwhelmed is not even the word that fits here, we looked at each other, pushed the incredible fear and sadness we felt off to the side because we had 4 children to care for. Our daughter was a "heroin addict" , something I couldn't even say out loud for months and even longer without a terrible ache in my gut and tears in my eyes. We thought "we can do this, rehab is what, 28 days, right?" Well she stayed for 2 days and we didn't hear from her for weeks. Was she dead or alive? We didn't know. The kids dad was struggling also and had fallen off at that point. What we did know is we had these little babies to care for who were crazy and confused with all that had gone on and now their parents were MIA.
Scared, exhausted, angry, hurt- you name the emotion, we had it. It was like walking through fire. I remember we would fall into bed at night, muscles aching from lifting and caring for the kids, emotionally and physically drained. It was too much and I think we both questioned at times if we could continue - but we did. Come to find out we are malleable human beings, we adjust to our circumstances whether we like them or not. We had full time jobs which we needed to financially support everyone so we found daycare, enrolled them in school, picked up the pieces and went on. One day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time. We did the best we could, neither of us feeling like we were the best versions of ourselves, but as a friend said to me "maybe you're the best version of your messy self". I think that was true and I was grateful for her words and for all the people in "our village" that showed up to support us. I am still moved to tears to think of how generous people were of their time and resources when we were in need. Our first moment of hope; discovering that genuine human kindness and empathy is rampant.
We can not always move through life with complete grace, we do the best we can. I got to a point that I realized that although I had no control over this situation, of my daughter's recovery or ultimate outcome ( this is a letting go that does not come easy and takes time and practice), I did have a choice of how I wanted to be with our situation. I could live in a place of anger and resentment, fear and hurt or I could choose to find space around it and make the best of our "new normal". I could choose to be with what is and invite in moments of joy. This is a realization I had come to many times in my life, sitting with moments of discomfort and finding my way through, releasing and inviting in positivity and seeing the gifts within. Practicing gratitude. It's hard when we are dealing with things that come into our life uninvited, and I certainly had not thrown a party inviting this in! But it was here and I was going to embrace the situation by letting go of the things that were beyond my control and embrace the things that were, the 4 children needing love and care and my own self care. Well turns out this is the serenity prayer...grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. If my therapist reminds me of this one more time, ugh.
Awareness and realization is the first step, then comes the practice. It is a daily commitment, just like recovery. How ironic. The bottom line is that we are all struggling in one way or another. We all have our highs and lows of life and we can't stop those waves, but we can learn how to surf. Choice is our super power, one of many. Mindfulness, walks and yoga have been some of my tools of resilience. They help me to pick up the pieces and step back into the arena of life over and over again, finding the light within the darkness and inviting more in. I encourage you to see the brave warrior within, discover what you need to strengthen your inner light and live the life you desire. I will share more of my story and perhaps you will share yours and together we heal ❤️
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Love & Light,
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