My husband recently said, “Don’t love our daughter to death.” I responded, “You can’t love somebody to death.” Can you? He did not explain, and I thought he meant not to enable her to return to drug use. We were perhaps enablers, not of addiction, but her lack of responsibility. I think of her childhood, even her very early years, looking for those signs we missed of trouble to come. I imagine every parent looks for the things they might have done wrong when their child fails at something in life. Of course, we made mistakes as parents; but were they mistakes that drove her to addiction?
Cary said to me recently, “I do not know how to be a mother.” I told her that no one knows how to be a mother. Did I think about it before I became a mother? Did I consider that maybe I am not qualified for this role? There is no handbook on parenting and a plethora of opinions on the right things to do. Every child is different and advice not always useful. Hindsight is valuable and worthless.
Cary has said, “It’s not your fault.” Literature tells me it is not my fault. Still, as a parent, you have guilt. She said that people share horrible stories of their childhoods that might offer an explanation about why they turned to drugs and alcohol to ease their pain. She has no tragic stories to share from her childhood.
I ponder her high school years when her path towards addiction was beginning. She was smart and had friends. She had friends who were driven to succeed in school and those who were the rebels. She was, and still is, the rebel. At meetings at school for the gifted programs, they said they were waiting for her to step up. She had leadership potential. She did not want to be a leader. She marched to her own drummer. Or did she?
Unfortunately, she was just like the friends that family educator at rehab described from his youth. Cary also did not know when to leave the party and stayed until the party was not fun anymore. She said once that the time came when she used drugs not to get high, but to feel well.
It was ironic that as we dealt with the consequences of this recent relapse, someone suggested a joint to deal with that emotional pain. Her drug use drove me to prescription drugs to deal with the depression. My summer and early fall passed by with me just sitting for hours on the front porch. I accomplished nothing for months. I could not concentrate on anything. This was not my first time dealing with depression, but it felt like the worst time. There are millions of people using antidepressants and/or therapy to get them through their emotional pain and countless others who refuse to face it and race around trying to escape it or sit in bondage to it.
Someone recently told me that he was a believer in heredity in alcoholism and drug addiction. I agreed with that, as even anecdotally we see that history in drinkers and drug users. There is usually not just that one random person in your family who has a problem when you check the extended family. I downloaded an article titled Overcoming Addiction, A Harvard Medical School Special Report. It offers this about addiction. “More recently, we’ve recognized that excessive versions of normal behaviors such as gambling, shopping, and sex also can lead to addiction. The notion that pleasure-seeking exclusively drives addiction also has fallen by the wayside. We now think that people often engage in addictive activities to escape discomfort—both physical and emotional” (1). So, it is not the object of the addiction that is important. Yet even addicts make distinctions and judgments. Cary told me that she has been at meetings when an alcoholic would say, perhaps even proudly, “I never did drugs.”
I will try to be the support Cary needs, being more honest about my expectations and my limits than I have ever been, while pushing her towards independence. It feels like a delicate balance of pushing without placing too much stress on her. So many people think of addiction as weakness, but I consider the struggle an addict faces to get clean and stay clean. It requires strength, and I wonder if I would have that strength or succumb to the struggle that you know will last a lifetime. That lifetime struggle is something we forgot as months and a year of clean time passed. I do not want to break that fragile thread of recovery but help to weave it into a strong rope.
Harvard Health Publications. Overcoming Addiction Paths Towards Recovery. 2012. http://www.health.harvard.edu/addiction/overcoming-addiction-paths-toward-recovery.