I’m the mother of a heroin addict, still in active addiction, and I want to share how I’ve learned to live with a parent’s worst nightmare. My book’s first draft started out as an account of my daughter’s addiction and all the horrors, her loss of self, her loss of soul, that accompany it. But as I got to the end, I realized that her story really began with me, and my story began with my father, etc. It became a story of the generational nature of addiction. And so I rewrote it with an Introduction, where I share my childhood and Angie’s with the reader so that you will know us; you get to know Angie before she was corrupted by addiction and, in my case, perhaps understand why I behaved as I did throughout Angie’s addiction. And as I paralleled her roller coaster ride with my own recovery, it ceased to be a simple story about drug addiction and took on the shape of a memoir, as I show how this tragic life event has changed and transformed me.
I begin with a question in the Prologue:
“Where might my daughter be now if fate, or genes, had been kinder to her? Now, several years into her illness, I am coming to terms with the terrible legacy that began generations ago in my own family and which I have unwittingly passed on to my daughter. All these years I’ve diligently searched for answers, clarity, and solace in the face of terrible pain. Like a gift from the universe, it has come to me slowly, and it is with me now. But it’s been a hard won victory.”
Angie’s illness was the catalyst, as I say at the end of the book “that catapulted me into a cave of my own discoveries…” I found myself at the end of this tunnel, “and I would always—still— reckon with the survivor guilt that has challenged my right to be happy while my daughter still struggles with addiction.”
From Daily Word, 9/29/2015:
“Change: I gracefully move through life’s transitions.
As colder days approach, trees shed their leaves and animals prepare for hibernation. They instinctively move through the seasons. In contrast, humans are prone to resisting change even though we know it is an essential part of growth. I may notice myself worrying or fighting change. Then I remind myself I am able to prepare and move through any change I encounter.
I envision myself shedding old beliefs and ways of being just as a tree releases leaves. Like the hibernating animals, I prepare my mind and body for a time of quiet and reflection. I see divine order in the leaves reappearing each spring. My life also follows a pattern. I emerge from each season stronger, wiser, and more loving.
‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. —Ecclesiastes 3:1’”
“Several years ago I paid a heavy price for my involvement in my daughter’s illness, and I didn’t want to keep losing, one by one, the parts of my own life tapestry I had worked so hard to create. I have had a wonderful and interesting life, and I can say that now, and feel it in my bones, without embarrassment or guilt. My work in this transformative Program has reacquainted me with my own worth and humanity, both of which came seriously into question when this tragedy struck my daughter.
Well, welcome to your second life, Maggie! I guess it’s never too late to learn how to be happy. Jennie Jerome Churchill has shared with us her definition of happiness: ‘Life is not always what one wants it to be, but to make the best of it as it is, is the only way of being happy.’ That sounds like her take on acceptance to me. So how do I make the best of living with a cloud over my head, a cloud that will always be there, even if Angie at last finds recovery? By focusing on gratitude—my recovery is grounded in it.”
I’m very happy to be a Finalist this year in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards for Nonfiction. http://nmbookcoop.com/2015-Finalists-List.doc Woot-Woot!
I am so happy to be part of the growing recovery movement in addiction. My story is one of many stories out there testifying to the power of spiritual transformation. As our numbers grow, so does our strength. Blessings to all this Thanksgiving and always!
From Experience, Strength and Hope, July 24:
“I admit that I am powerless over my life’s situation, that my life is unmanageable. My friends do not want to be around me when I am out of control. I do not want to be around me! I am learning to take my pain to my Higher Power and let that power handle it while I go out and play.
By not acknowledging my powerlessness, I am lying to myself. Recovery is not easy, that is why we are here, why we go to meetings, and why we work on ourselves. The Steps are written in a specific order for a reason, to bring us to a healthy, sane and serene life, learning to live life on life’s terms. Because of this program, life can once again be good for us. This is the hope of recovery. I remember that as a child I was powerless over my alcoholic father, and his physical abuse of my mother and me. It was frightening growing up in abuse. But you know what? I survived, and I believe I can move forward. If we stay in denial about our situation, we cannot begin to hear the message of recovery. When recovery begins, there is a completely new life out there waiting for us.
Thought For Today: Once we accept our powerlessness, we can learn to live a better life. However, just because we have recovery, does not mean there will be no more problems. It means that now we have the tools to help us recover without being crushed or broken.”
Though I didn’t write this, I could have. It’s my story. There are so many of us in the world with similar stories, and sharing our experience, strength and hope empowers us all. Every day in recovery makes me stronger and more able to cherish what’s good in my life. Especially at this time of year, that’s an awful lot to be thankful for.
“’Recovery is when fun becomes fun; love becomes love; and life becomes worth living.’” (Melody Beattie)
“Now I tune into the life that is going on all around me. My sadness around Angie doesn’t weigh me down anymore. It’s there, of course, but I elevate myself when I remember to count my blessings and be grateful. Like a snake that has shed its skin, I feel fresher and more ready for life and its daily renewable force. My son now has a wife whom I adore and two beautiful little girls whom I visit often. They, along with Caroline, Gene, and my wonderful friends and extended family, are the flowers in my garden. They are, along with my work and my other passions, my happiness. Every day that I let myself embrace life, I find contentment. I just have to keep my heart open. “Agape” is one of the Greek words for love. Agape—open—ready to receive.”
Naranon’s daily reader:
There is a lot of great literature in the 12-Step programs, and this is one of my favorite books. Its focus is on the family and friends of addicts, and it passes on many of the tools of the program to manage and cope with loving an addict. It’s a very slippery slope we’re on, trying to remain loving and supportive without being destroyed by manipulation, abuse and, often, guilt. Page after page in this resource I feel as if I’m reading my own story, reminding me once again that I am not alone in this battle, that there are millions of warrior mothers like me out there. There is strength in our growing numbers, putting an end to our feelings of isolation and giving us hope for the recovery movement.
“Thoughts become things; choose the good ones.”
“I know addiction is a brain disease, and I’m certainly no expert on how or why some people are afflicted with it. Why do certain people abuse substances? Why did I depend on amphetamines for ten years? And how could I stop and never start again? Why did I smoke all those years and why was it easy for me to stop? Why have I been a food addict all my life and why am I just one bulimic episode away from relapsing? I have no answers to these questions. But I do know that learning to love and value myself through my work in all the Twelve-Step Programs I attend has made it easier for me live well and put an end to my self-abuse.
“Expectations, when dealing with loving an addict, can be killers. We want our loved one to seek recovery and remain there, of course—for the rest of his life. We want the nightmare to end and to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. As my friend Michael said at an Al-Anon meeting: “We all live in this forest. We can remodel our house, add to it, and greatly improve its value. But we’re always going to live in the forest.” Philip Seymour Hoffman’s recent death reminds us that “once an addict, always an addict.” We may stop abusing substances at last—and forever if we’re truly blessed. But we always carry within us the addictive gene/tendency to pull us back into that dark world of relapse and—in the case of this brilliant actor—destroy us.”
Of course, there is always the possibility of relapse. But I like to remember that there are MANY success stories of addicts and alcoholics who have gotten and remained clean, one day at a time. But this is a cunning and ruthless disease, and it will bite us in the back if we’re not careful. So it’s important to remain vigilant and guard against complacency. People with cancer need to be careful in recovery; so do addicts.
I’ve been talking a lot about detachment lately—and how the practice of it has given me much well deserved peace. But it sure gets me thinking about the topic of “attachment” to our loved ones, and what that has entailed. That, to me, is what much of our healing journey is all about. Shedding light on one helps us attain the other.