To The Parent of An Addict

March 2, 2016

A page from my journal.

I’m putting it all out there. For other parents of addicts who may be struggling, or anyone else who has thought about giving up.

I want you to know that you WILL get through this. Even though at times, you may feel like you don’t want to. Regardless of what happens next.

You will want to give up. Don’t.

You will doubt yourself as a parent. You will rewind every moment/memory trying to figure out where you went wrong. You will search endlessly for answers. Until you eventually find there aren’t any that will satisfy what you are searching for. Persevere.

At my lowest low, after seeing my only child through several relapses. Treatment programs I couldn’t afford. Watching my daughter continue to digress into her addiction, leading her to the streets. I felt incredibly alone. Isolated.

For what seemed like months at a time, tears would flow endlessly. My insides felt like they were being squeezed by an oversized fist. Unable to visualize a life with light ever again.

You will question everything along the way.

Looking back I could never have imagined I’d be as strong as I am today.

Is it too soon for you to read about hope? I ask because there was a period of time for me when it was too much.

I am not suggesting the fear and heartache for my daughter does not flush into my life at times. But it’s significantly less often.

The most important thing I’ve learned is how to make peace with myself and to step back from my daughter’s addiction a little bit at a time through healthy boundaries. Allowing joy to reenter my life gradually.

It may seem impossible. You will get there too.

If you’re feeling lost, you will regain faith/hope. You will see the light in their eyes again. And you will thank God for giving your child another opportunity to live.

If/when they relapse you will feel defeated, and just when you think you’ve gone as far as you can. You’ll catch another breath and you’ll continue. Because that’s what we do.

The truth of the matter is that one young person may be able to “experiment” with drugs and alcohol and go on to live a normal/healthy life. And others will not be able to stop. It’s a deadly roll of the dice.

Please know. Not everyone is going to understand your journey. How could they? Seek support from those who understand anyway. Find those of us who get what you’re going through.

Otherwise, you may put yourself at risk of self-destruction. At which point you will have given up. Not just on them, but on yourself.

Don’t give up!

You may ask. How did I get from a place of darkness to light/peace?

Yes, through prayer. Yes, through support. Yes, through gratitude. Yes, through compassion. Yes, through laughter.

I have finally learned to let go and let God. Thinking back now, hearing those words from people who couldn’t understand what I was going through used to make me angry. Until gradually then suddenly it brought me hope.

This does not mean that I no longer ache for my daughter. This does not mean that I don’t miss her and worry for her wellbeing every day. Or that I’ve given up on her, I never will. She is my heart.

It simply means I have finally realized that my inability to control this disease. My feelings of defeat in my inability to help my daughter feel whole. And my sense of heartbreak/sadness for her hurt does not lift her up.

Reclaiming my life felt selfish, like I was abandoning my daughter. The opposite is true.

This has been extremely hard and has taken the longest to grasp. I’ve finally learned that I too deserve to be happy. This was something I denied myself for so long.

Because when you have a son/daughter who is suffering (regardless of why) your own sense of fulfillment and happiness becomes irrelevant.

But don’t you see?

It’s everything.

All they want is for us to be happy, and the guilt becomes too much for them to bear. You see, addiction holds everyone hostage.

When our children are struggling, our ability to be joyful (even so) lessens the pressure on them to be perfect. It’s imperative. How could I have missed it?

This requires a pivot in our thinking. No longer can we hold them responsible for our inability to be happy because of their disease. That’s not their burden to carry. It’s ours.

We are responsible for our own joy.

It’s time to end the blaming of the addict for their disease.

To start the healing, we as parents must be willing to share our stories and continue to educate those who don’t understand.

Addiction touches the lives of everyone, yet it’s a disease that’s been declared shameful to talk about.

Addicts are discriminated against on a daily basis through neglect and punishment in a way that is socially accepted. As the media continues to sensationalize addiction and homelessness.

This during a time when treatment is unaffordable for the average low-middle income family while 80% of heroin addicts are overdosing alone.

We must let go of the shame and stand tall for our children. Reclaim our place in this world so our sons/daughters can do the same. Model joy. Model faith. Model compassion, kindness, and forgiveness.

Please know you are not alone. I understand what you are going through. It’s physically heartbreaking, but you must reclaim your life and be your own hero. Don’t lose your sense of self through the battle. Understand, there is no quick fix.

Somehow I found my way to the light fueled by community giving, positivity, gratitude, and compassion.

I’ve somehow graciously accepted that my own joy can no longer be contingent upon my daughter’s recovery. I got there. So too can you.

With love, Shar