“I felt as though parts of my life were raining down on me in these woods. This reckoning was long overdue. I was once again the little girl who longed to be close to her big sister and missed her big brother, the little girl who needed attention from her father, and the young woman who needed to be free of her domineering mother. Losing Angie again felt like a death to me even though it wasn’t. There was no real closure, like the day I put Oscar down, Mahler’s Ninth Symphony pounding in my head. I was back in the woods of my childhood where I could scream my frustration and no one would hear me This was not my whole life—just the parts I needed to purge, the parts that held me back, and the ones that told me I deserved to lose my child.
‘You had this coming to you!’ the voice of Guilt shouted.
‘NO I DIDN’T!’ I screamed back, ‘No, I don’t.’
I felt that day in December, with my temples pounding and hearing nothing but the train racing in my head, that I was powerful. I was reclaiming what was left of my life. I’d been in recovery for years and was happier because of it—no question. But often when Angie relapsed I’d felt myself start to crumble like a week-old cookie. I’d want to scramble to help her fight off the Monster. I’d start to cling, listen for her footsteps, and anticipate her movements, her moods, utterly lose myself in my codependency, allow myself to be controlled by the uncontrollable, and panic at the ensuing chaos.
‘Can I drive you to a meeting? There’s one in the same church as mine. Same time,’ I implored, as if going to a meeting would bring some order to the chaos.
‘Mom, stop. You know I hate meetings.’
When she said that I used to feel enraged, and impotent in my rage, with nowhere to go with it. Addiction had a life of its own. I had spent so much energy fighting a useless battle and worse, not allowing my daughter the dignity of fighting it herself.
But not this time—not this day—nearly a decade into her illness. For the moment, anyway, I was done. This struggle with Angie had worn me out, over and over again, and I wanted to put an end to it. All the hurt and pain from my childhood, all the agony of watching my daughter commit slow suicide, were racing through my head at breakneck speed.
I made my way to a clearing in the woods. I was, for a while anyway, transported back to Massachusetts. But I didn’t go back there that day to revisit the judgments of my childhood. I went back to the same place where I had grown up to try to end the battle inside me—and the battle to save Angie—for so long seemingly one in the same—and now, forever separate.”