“Her apartment was only two miles away from the condo. I parked on her street and was relieved to see her car, so I knew she was home. Running up the stairs, I tripped over a cat and sent it screeching down the steps. I knocked on her door but there was no answer. I knocked again—again, no answer. Music was playing, so I knew she was home. If she’d answered her phone, I could have told her I was coming. But I was determined to see her so I banged on the door.
Finally, she came and opened it, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth while she zipped up her jeans. Without waiting for an invitation, I brushed past her and approached the bedroom, but stopped in my tracks. Joe, her boyfriend, was lying on the bed, prostrate, his long legs hanging off the end. He was so out of it I don’t think he knew I was there.
‘Mom, come back here,’ she hissed, frantically beckoning me back
into the living room where she was standing. ‘This is not a good time.’”
‘It’s never a good time, Angie. You’ve been avoiding your father and
me, and I want to know why.’
‘Mom, I know you’re worried. Joe’s really trying to kick the stuff,
honest. Me too. We’re detoxing right now. That’s why it’s not a good time.’
‘Not a good time…’ Summer of 2005 was upon us, and Angie had been struggling with serious drug addiction for four years. First it was methamphetamine, then cocaine, and now meth again. There had been countless betrayals, one rehab, and brief, blessed periods of sunshine between the clouds, not to mention the accomplishment of earning her college degree. The highs and lows were exhausting me. But I was so sick of it all and frankly really angry with my daughter for not trying harder to work on her own recovery. She had so much going for her; it was such a waste.
‘I can’t deal with this, Angie. You know what you need to do, forchrissake—just do it!’ Pausing to take a breath and looking back toward the bedroom, ‘And get rid of that creep on your bed,’ I hammered.
I turned and left the apartment, slamming the door. I was furious—and terrified. It was so overwhelming after all we’d already been through, to be watching her in the middle of another relapse. Had Angie learned nothing from all her suffering so far? And what about me? Was the teacher still teachable?”
Excerpt from my award-winning memoir, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Maggie C. Romero
Yes, I used the word “teachable.” What was it that I needed to learn? Angie was 26 that year, an adult. I needed to leave her to face the consequences of her own choices. I raised her along with two other children with a strong moral code. But Angie had an illness, something that trumped all the lessons from her upbringing. You don’t tell a drug addict to stop reaching for drugs, or an alcoholic to stop needing the numbness that a drink provides. Addiction is unlike cancer or diabetes in that it is spiritual in its outset and then becomes a physical problem. But telling my daughter what to do was totally ineffective, and it was wearing me out in the process.
The effects of living with the disease of addiction were destroying my life. In 2008, I had a nervous breakdown and had to retire from my teaching job. As all addicts need to find their bottom in order to recover, so do their families. That was mine. That was where the rubber hit the road for me. I stopped obsessing over my grown daughter and tried to get my own life back.
But first I needed to find “the grace to release my addict with love, and stop trying to change her,” as it says in the Naranon pamphlet. What could be harder for a parent? It’s the hardest lesson of all, letting go of an addicted child. But I have finally found the strength to do that, by using the tools in my recovery program. I have learned to accept what I don’t have the power to change, and to have faith that life for me is unfolding as it was meant to.
And so it is: faith and acceptance go hand in hand.