A few years ago, I was reading about one of my favorites, Naomi Judd, and how she sadly died by suicide. This is what her daughter, Ashley, said about her death:
“When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important to be clear and to make the distinction between our loved one and the disease,” she continued. “It’s very real … it lies, it’s savage.”
I believe that. We all know how substance use disorder can change our kids: change their minds, change their lifestyle, change the values we taught them. In my daughter’s case, as long as drugs were flooding her system, she ceased to be the daughter I raised. So yes, I make the distinction Ashley has called for. And I pray that someday the general public will have as much compassion for our lost children.
I remember my daughter before this disease took her away from me. And I take comfort in those memories—because I can separate her from her disease. It’s a surreal exercise, I know. But remembering our children as they were—and as they can be again—is profoundly comforting to me. It doesn’t change the present, but it puts things into perspective. Smile about the birthday parties and the piñatas. They happened. I did my best with who I was at the time.
We all did.