“Maggie C. Romero has written an amazingly heartfelt and detailed account of the struggles she and her family face when dealing with an addicted child while also coming to terms with her own demons and ultimately learning to care for herself. Addiction is a family disease and this book really stresses that point while focusing on the special relationship between a mother and her child.” David Parnell, Facing the Dragon.
I have a few fantasies left. One of them is that Angie, wherever she is, for once in her life gets very lucky. She is blessed with a savior, someone like Doc tried to be back in 2007. You never know, as long as she’s alive, if she reaches a point where she wants to turn her life around, where she starts to dream of what might have been, if she’d made a different turn in the road so long ago, there’s always a chance that this could happen. This is my fantasy:
Angie meets someone: A Very Good Person. That someone makes her see that she still has the power to save herself and turn her life around. So she starts to try. First, she gets clean. It was agony, but she does it. And the savior helps her stay clean by staying close by, offering support, and being her NA sponsor. Days go by, weeks. She gets a little job in a bookstore to pay back her savior for buying her food and to pay for her small, furnished room. She keeps her head above water. Weeks turn into months. She’s still just putting one foot in front of the other, going to her job, coming home and reading books. Even when she was a using junkie, living in my basement in Virginia, she loved to read books and do Sudoku puzzles. The months go by, and she notices the change in seasons. Summer is cooler this year; the fog never seems to leave the city. She and her savior start to go out a little, leave the city in her savior’s car. They go to Big Sur one weekend, do a lot of walking. Angie’s savior tells her all about her life and the lessons her own pain has taught her. Angie listens and thinks about that. She reminds Angie that life has been hard for her too, but one day she just woke up and determined to embrace it as a gift instead of a curse. And that’s when she started to be happy. Her savior asks her if she would ever want to go back to her life before drugs, to her family.
And then the miracle happens: Angie remembers.
My story begins with a confrontation with my mother in. I was a 200-pound embarrassment to her, and after dragging me to a diet doctor I became addicted over the next ten years to the amphetamines he gave me. Here’s an early excerpt from the Introduction:
“It was a crisp fall day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and there was just enough of a breeze to kick the fallen leaves up into the air. I could smell the apple orchard across the street. She was on time. My classes were over for the day, and I spent too much time primping for her visit. I couldn’t fit into pants anymore so I wore one of my long, flowing dresses that concealed my body nicely. I had raced over to the hairdresser for a quick blow dry before my ten o’clock seminar that morning and my hair looked good. But I think I had too much makeup on. Dang—an old habit from high school. I just wanted so much to look pretty for her. She really needed me to be pretty.”
From Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope, September 5:
“I have learned that addiction is a disease. It may never go away, but with the help of my Higher Power, I can learn to accept it and then try to live with it. I once heard that addicts need special help when they were ready for recovery. Immediately, I agreed because this is what I wanted to hear, so I enabled, paid her debts, and manipulated her through her crises, thinking that this would keep her clean. What I did not realize is that I was doing this with expectations. When it did not work, I became angry.
Going to Nar-Anon meetings, I learned about the effects of manipulating and enabling. Thanks to the program, I am able to make decisions and set boundaries in my own way, and in my own time. I believe that by dealing with the suffering and challenges in my life, with dignity and courage, ultimately good will come from it, even though it may not always be apparent to me.”
“I am sometimes at odds with my recovery groups about the nature of addiction: is it a disease or a choice? I don’t want to force my views on them. There’s a wonderful Cherokee tale told by a grandfather to his grandchildren:
‘There’s a battle inside all of us between two wolves. One wolf is jealousy, greed, dishonesty, hatred, anger and bitterness. The other wolf is love, generosity, truthfulness, selflessness, and gratitude.’
‘Who wins the battle, grandfather?’
‘The wolf you feed.’
Insist that our loved ones are choosing to be addicts, that they want to stick a needle in their arm and live in a gutter, and we feel justified in our anger and our bitterness. Keep feeding those feelings, and they will consume you. I choose to believe that my daughter is wired differently and is prone to addictive disease. That’s no surprise, since four generations in my family have all had addictive disease in varying degrees. For whatever reason we still are unsure of, whatever life stresses beckoned her into that dark place, she became a victim of addiction.”
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has said: “I’ve studied alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and more recently obesity. There’s a pattern in compulsion. I’ve never come across a single person that was addicted that wanted to be addicted. Something has happened in their brains that has led to that process” (qtd. in Sheff).
Writing, for me, is self-discovery. At times I feel confused or I want answers, and when I write about it, the mud often sinks to the bottom and I can see things more clearly. It’s a clarification process. Often I start a piece, and by the time I’ve finished it, I’ve answered some questions. It’s sort of like, as Lillian Hellman said as she described the term “pentimento,” my “old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing, and then seeing again.” “Pentimento”—a term in art where sometimes, the artist changing his mind, paints over what he had previously put on the canvas. Thus, he repented. Many times I’ve written stories that ended up nowhere I had intended. I thought I wanted to write about one thing, but ended up writing about something else. It’s a real excavation process, as we mine our depths often coming out so much richer in self-knowledge than we were in the beginning.