The Voice of an Addict

This is a text Angie sent me a couple of years ago:

“Maybe any mistreatment you got from me was just your OVERDUE comeuppances for YEARS of the most miserable, ABUSIVE, pathetic excuse for parenting we suffered under you? Did you ever think about that?”

Seventeen years after she confronted me with my diary, Angie’s terrible anger has come back to accuse me again. But is this the voice of strung-out drug addict? Or is it the stilled and angry voice of my little girl? Is there anything left of the daughter I raised in that body? Her rage is not so simple now; it’s much more complex. It’s not just a mother/daughter battle anymore. There’s a third character in this drama: the terrible monster Addiction. Years of pain and anguish doing battle with It have colored Angie’s life since then. Twelve years of drug abuse and the terrible life it carries with it have changed my daughter profoundly.

Yet I have changed too. I have taken the excruciating steps necessary to let go and survive the effects of loving a drug addict. I have learned and am still learning how to bridge the gulf of pain and grief and somehow find myself able to transcend my loss. My story seeks to shed light on how I’ve accomplished this.

But now I must watch her falter on her own. I have no need to chase her where she’s going. I keep her away from my life raft. The phone rings at 7:00 a.m. today. Do I rush to answer, afraid it’s her and she needs me? No, I go back to sleep. In my mind, as I drift off to the oblivion of sleep, I helplessly watch her drown. Just like the frustration dream I had as a child—when I screamed and no sound came out—I couldn’t reach her.

The Making of a Memoir

                                   A Journey of Transformation 

This is a memoir of my recovery from addiction and the effects of living with it. But it didn’t start out that way. I began it several years ago solely as a story about my daughter’s drug addiction. And as I got deeper into the writing of it I realized that there was much more of a story to tell, and that that story began with me in my childhood.

And so I began the excavation process, the unfolding of my life, and laid myself out before the reader in the Introduction. Angie didn’t become an addict in a vacuum. She is the latest in at least four generations of troubled souls. So I allow you, the reader, to get to know me long before my daughter was hijacked by this cruel disease.  It adds another dimension to my very personal story, and allows you to consider that addiction is often a generational illness. And you will see why it is, indeed, “A Mother’s Story.”

Ironically it was my daughter Angie whose disease brought me to a place of wellness and peace in my life. All the ugliness of behavior and spirit that often goes with unbridled addiction is documented in the book, as addiction is a monster that takes few prisoners. Yet Angie was a beautiful young woman with her whole life ahead of her before addiction seduced her. Her tapestry described in the book reminds us that beauty is often born out of loss.

This is a story about my recovery in the face of all this heartbreak.  How I’ve been able to accomplish this is a testimony to the power of spiritual transformation. And so, paralleling the roller coaster ride of her illness, I share with the reader throughout the book my evolving recovery and my journey toward serenity.

This journey has freed my children from the same oppression that held me hostage growing up. Many people who have suffered through the darkness of addiction are consumed by despair. But as I continue to grow and change, my loved ones are the beneficiaries. Perhaps some elements of my story will resonate with you as well.

Memoir-of-Recovery

 

Recovery Blog

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This is a recovery blog, recovery from addiction—my own and a number of my family members. But I’m hoping that it will evolve into other musings about my life. Recovery is a big part of my life right now. But it doesn’t define me. I’m the sum of many parts—and I have more years behind me than in front of me.

You know, it’s a darn shame that addiction has such a bad rap. Is it an affliction found only in industrialized societies? Do pygmies in Africa, some of them, eat too much food? Do descendants of the Inca living in Peru still chew too many coca leaves? And how do their peers treat them if they do? Do they laugh it off: “Oh, there goes Kon again, racing through his chores. Shit, man, I could use some of that stuff he’s chewing. I could barely get off my mat this morning.”

Or, deep in darkest Africa, our pygmy pal Polyps finds herself ignoring her chores so that she can scrounge around for fallen mangoes that she stuffs into her mouth like a hungry dog. She waddles back to her circle of huts looking like she’s about to retire and have another little pygmy. How do her peers view her? Do they inflict shame and flog her with banana leaves?

I’m just wondering out loud if this disease is confined to Western civilization. I guess it doesn’t matter. Right now I live in the heart of New Mexico, one of our country’s hotbeds of drug abuse. When I was house hunting six years ago, I looked at one house about which my agent stammered in horror and full of apologies: “Oh God, this was a meth lab! Let me show you my next house.”

I had been living in the sleek and urban Washington, D.C. area where meth labs were certainly better concealed among the abundance of trees. This house had all the carpeting ripped up and huge empty vats, like witches’ cauldrons, sitting next to the back door. Six small rooms the size of jail cells dotted a corridor to the right. Was this a junkie dorm? Depressing. Nope, I didn’t want to buy that house. Bad karma. I’d heard that Albuquerque, New Mexico was a mecca for methamphetamine production (they filmed Breaking Bad here!), and there are more deaths to heroin overdose than car accidents. But enough statistics. Addiction in all its forms is epidemic in our society. Yet, unlike cancer, multiple sclerosis or diabetes, addiction carries considerable stigma and shame. Fortunately the medical community is trying to lead us out of the dark ages into a more enlightened understanding of addiction. Bloggers like me continue to add our voice to the other voices of recovery.

And maybe in my next lifetime—I’m gonna come back as a chocolate eclair that feeds on and reproduces itself simultaneously—there will be no more stigma around addiction. Just as there are whole hospitals devoted to cancer treatment (such compassion!), there will be whole hospitals (government funded) devoted to addicts and their families. In my next life it will be a no-brainer: of course the disease of addiction warrants as much compassion as any other disease!

Does anyone really believe that a heroin addict WANTS to stick a needle in his arm and live in the gutter? Think about it! Addiction is not a choice—it’s a horrible, cruel, illness that often kills our children before it actually kills them.