Thursday, January 16, 2014
Towards the end of last year I decided to challenge myself to become a better me and to push myself to get through my emotional struggles and unhealthy relationships so I can move that dark cloud that has been over my head since birth, the darkness of addiction. I've learned that healing doesn't always feel good in the moment. Sometimes you have to scrap the wounds to clean them out so they can heal properly and I am allowing myself to feel the pain because I truly believe that with the help of Al Anon and the 12 steps I will become the person I was born to be. Not everyone understands my decision to "go public", the idea of "I share, you share, we heal" is not something everyone in my life agrees with. Some prefer to suppress their pain while others feel that talking about it prevents you for moving forward. I, on the other hand, believe that sharing my past, present, and hopes for the future is a healthy way to live. As a child and really all through my early 20's I didn't share my pain. I lived by my grandma's philosophy which was smile through it because eventually that smile will become a genuine smile but until that time comes just fake it. So I smiled! Every once in a while a teacher, a coach, or a friend's parent would attempt to reach out to me because they could see the pain in eyes but I found it difficult to let anyone know my truth. It was no secret that my dad wasn't around but my mom being an addict was something I worked extremely hard to smile through and cover up. Living that way is very isolating! I was too afraid to tell anyone, as a child you think you'll be made fun of and as a young adult I thought I didn't want pity or judgment. I didn't want to be treated differently. Not to mention if I say it out loud it makes it real and I preferred to stay in the fantasy I had created so I smiled through it. It wasn't until the pain was so consuming that I felt like I was suffocating and I had to talk. In talking I have found peace in knowing I am not alone, that my feelings are normal, and I realized that smiling through the pain was more harmful to my soul than accepting the pain and facing it head on. Now that I am open about my mother's addiction and all of my issues surrounding it I am able to lean on my friends instead of keeping them at arms length as I did for so long. I'm connecting with people and I am seeing how they have overcome their hardships. I am learning more than I could have ever imagined. I see my Grandmother now, in her late 80's, sitting in her pain. She was once a mover and a shaker, never sitting in one place too long, always smiling. The amount of pain this woman has endured is enough to kill anyone's spirit but not her, she was the life of the party. As long as you keep moving you never have to face the reality of what is your life. I love and respect my grandmother and I know that she has always done her best which is why it is so devastating to watch her age. Her body is slowly giving up on her, not able to move and shake quit like she used to. She can no longer run away from the reality that she has outlived 3 of her children, that her daughter is an addiction, that her marriage failed despite her best efforts, all the pain throughout her entire life. She can no longer ignore, push aside, or smile through it. I call her twice a day and visit her often because she has always been there for me so it's now my turn to be there for her. I find myself watching my grandma just sit, I can see her mind racing, and the tears in her eyes. In those moments I am reminded that I am doing the right thing by talking and feeling because the reality is that in the end if you neglect yourself emotionally your smile will never, truly, become genuine.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Your Addiction My Recovery: IF Her Addiction is a Disease: The last month I have watched two important people in my life lose a parent to cancer. Both were care takers, having their parents live with...
The last month I have watched two important people in my life lose a parent to cancer. Both were care takers, having their parents live with them so they could provide them with love and support every day. They bathed them, changed them, gave them their meds, and in the end they berried them. It has had me fighting with myself and questioning how to handle this unhealthy relationship with my mom. IF her addiction is a "disease" why am I going to meetings to learn how to detach from her. While my friends are bringing their sick parents closer I am learning how to push mine away. If my mom had cancer I would never look at her with such anger, resentment, and frankly at times disgust. I attended one of the funerals with my mom and driving from the church service to the cemetery I could no longer bite my tongue. I was weak and didn't use the tools I have been learning in Al Anon. I said "That was such a beautiful tribute to such a wonderful man. When you go wouldn't you want that. People discussing your accomplishments in family, life, career? People singing your praises and knowing that you did your very best instead of having a dark cloud of addiction over your life? Mom, I want you to want to be better. I want you to want more for your life." Her response was "I think I am doing just fine." I cringed as she reached to hold my hand. I crossed my arms and looked out the window as I continued to explain that I wish she could see that she can be so much more than her addiction. She has zero responsibilities. No Job, recently divorced (to an amazing man who stood by her through years of her abuse), lives in a dirty, over crowded condo in a really bad area purchased buy my grandparents and drives a car that was bought for her, my grandma pays her bills, she just got on government assistance yet she tries to tell me she is clean and sober. No body who is clean and sober would be, or at least should be continent living that life. I just want her to want more. She said she has been looking for a job but no one is hiring which of course I responding with a list of places I have seen who are hiring.... CVS, Rite Aid, Raley's as a courtesy clerk, Starbucks .... she interrupted me "But Charlie I am not going to settle for a job I don't want!" WHAT!?!?! But you will settle for food stamps and your 90 year old mother paying for everything! She said I was being judgmental and mean and that I pick at her like before the funeral service I told her to remove the black from under her eyes and fix her hair which was hanging in her face. I snapped back at her "Mom I wasn't trying to be mean, I was trying to make it so you didn't look like a druggie!" We were going to see friends and some family that we hadn't seen in a while I didn't want them to see her as I see her. I know I have to learn that I am no longer a direct reflection of my mom like I was as a child. She was that mom wearing pjs to pick her kids up from school. She came to school almost everyday to hang out with me and my friends when I was in high school, trying to live through me and I was so embarrassed by her but I also had the overwhelming responsibility to protect her which is when I became an enabler. Protect her at all cost. Allow her to come to my school, hang out with my friends, come on dates with me. I tried to act like it was because she was such a cool mom, she was my best friend and I tried to pretend I wanted her by my side. So going to the funeral I went into protection mode and attempted to clean her up but instead of seeing it as me being helpful she saw it as me being mean. I was/am being judgmental and I'm having a difficult time apologizing for that. If I could see addiction as a disease instead of a weakness maybe it can make me understand her more. I have to say I have tried. When I found out she was an addict at the age of 17, I attended meetings with her regularly. I went to every family day at every recovery center. I wrote her cards to express the pride I had in her sobriety. Her recovery was my recovery. I was in it all the way with her over and over again. I'd attend meetings and tell her how proud I was of her just to discover she was still using and her attending meetings was all on act. Over and over I'd fall for it. Over and over I'd feel broken but too afraid of what would happen if I gave up on her so I remained her cheerleader until she made the ultimate mistake and involved a child. It was 7 years ago and it changed everything for me. Now I am trying to learn how to be me without her WHICH is why it's hard for me to see addiction as a disease. Again, one would never work on detaching someone who is ill. I've tried to see her relapsing and continuing to work her NA/AA program as "at least she is trying" but the more clear my vision gets through this healing process I can not buy what she is selling. She relapses about every 4/5 months, it's hard to see that as trying. Will power and being responsible for your actions is what makes it difficult for me to see her as sick instead of seeing her as weak and selfish. So my current struggle is deciding if I acknowledge that addiction is a disease then what? Stay, go, love, hate, protect, give in.... what am I suppose to do as a daughter of someone who has a "disease" that is so toxic!?! I have been able to detach her physical self from my life for the last month, focusing on the beautiful life I have created, but I struggle with detaching emotionally. The funeral I attended with her, the ride to the cemetery, her nonchalant approach to her not being an active member in society makes my heart ache. I do not believe my mother has a bottom I believe she will continue the sober/relapse/sober/relapse cycle until she passes and that makes me so sad and scared for her. I'm trying to do the "right" thing but struggling to know what the right thing is.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
It's amazing how much easier I can breathe now that I have taken the steps to detach myself from my mother's addiction. I believe the two dark weeks I recently went through feeling sad and a bit sorry for myself was because I was trying to break down the barriers that have kept me from detaching... the guilt, shame, fear, all those "great things" that has kept me stuck in the web of my mother's addiction. Those two weeks of depression were caused by change and I've never been one to handle change well. I'm very comfortable unhappy but comfortable) being the victim of addiction and being a crutch for my mom. I'm her go to when she needs someone to feel sorry for her and even those times I have attempted tough love I never actually change my position, it was all just words instead of me taking action. I have always protected my children from her addiction, she is welcome around them but has never and will NEVER babysit them. My sister and I used to drug test her randomly then it got to the point where the test would show she was using, she'd go into a recovery center, we'd fight & cry and promise we will never allow her to be around us or our children again then after a few months of her being sober things went right back to "normal" with her being an active member of our family. It was a cycle so I stopped the drug testing since it felt pointless. I never left her unattended with my children so even if she's high my kids love her and I wouldn't want to have them miss out on time with their Grandma. What the hell have I been thinking?!?! Who choses "ignorance is bliss" when it comes to their children?!?! I would never invite a person to come over and play with my children who I know is an addict so why is my mom an exception? I'm done. She supposedly has 7 months of sobriety but one can never be sure so the next time she comes over she will be given a drug test and if negative, great, if positive she will need to leave immediately. I feel the distance growing between us and at times I've been sad but I also have a sense of relief, like a the weight being lifted! Before this journey, and before my recent dark two weeks, mom would call me 5+ times a day, all day! Never thinking about the time she was calling like early morning as I'm trying to get the kids ready for school or dinner time or putting the kids to bed, she just needed to talk. She dominated the majority of our conversation discussing the drama within her recovery friends and talk about her life and I would just listen. I answered every time she called. I'd interrupt reading my kids a bedtime story to answer her call, I'd stop helping my son with his homework to answer her call. Nothing could get in my way of picking up the phone because "what if she needs me?" I was afraid of what would happen if I didn't answer. Is she on the verge of using and needs to talk? Did she just OD and changed her mind so she needs me to call 911? Is she stranded somewhere because she ran out of gas? All of these things have happened so it's not paranoia, it's my reality. The thought of her being lonely has haunted me my entire life. She put that on me as a child and it's been there with me ever since. Through this journey I FINALLY realized that her happiness is not my responsibility. If I don't answer the phone and she then decides to go take some pills well that's her problem. I have to understand that her life choices are hers and if she is lonely she can go to an AA/NA meeting, she can call her sponsor, she can walk her dog... whatever she does it does not have anything to do with me. I'm not cutting her out of my life but I'm changing my priorities. It's liberating to take control over my life. I haven't had her over to my house in a few weeks and I will talk to her over the phone when it's a convenient time for me to do so. I have decided that for me to live a healthy life I have to detach from her, she is her addiction at least that is how I see her, that's all she's really shown me. She's been an addict my entire life with moments of sobriety. I'm tired of questioning everything she says, I'm tired of trying to force her to want to be a better person, I'm just f#$%ing tired of it all. There's a saying that an addict will stop maturing at the time they begin their addiction and that's certainly the case with my mom. She is a teenager, self involved, financially dependent on her parents, fun yet dramatic, and loud. People seem to love to be around her, she's just a big kid. For my sanity I had to come to terms with the fact she will not change because I ask her to so at this point "it is what it is" and I'm making the conscious decision to walk away from the dream that one day she will wake up and be the mom I always wanted her to be. I have to understand that detachment doesn't mean I don't love her, it means I love me more! As the saying goes "one day at a time" and today I chose my life over hers!