Addiction – What needs to change?


I’m working through some junk. Guilt. It stinks! I choose to write and share because it helps me. And I know there are so many others…just like me. Addiction stinks! But I already said that.

My heart is struggling. I’d like to say my head is disagreeing with my heart but it’s not. My heart hurts and I find myself frequently and quickly wiping away tears. They come out of nowhere. I’m consumed with thoughts of addiction. Mother’s addiction. And her death. This isn’t me. I prepared for this. I knew it was coming. I’m tough. And I’m strong. But I’m weak. I was powerless to Mother’s addiction and the consequences of her addiction. Just like she was.

Now, I’m consumed with a passion for the very thing I’ve spent my entire life running from. I’ve ran from addiction as if my life depended on it. And it did. Now, I’m reading articles, writing, reading books and thinking about addiction in a crazy way. I feel like a hypocrite.

I ask myself – “Why now? Why are you consumed with it now?”

My heart answers “Because, I should have done more.”

The battle continues “but what?” I continue asking myself.

My heart cries out…”I DON”T KNOW!!!!!!!!!! But more!!! Something!”

I know deep down I did the best I could with what I had. I believe mother did too.

I’m surprised by my tears. Oh, that sounds bad. But if your life has been devastated by addiction – you get it, don’t you? I never really had my mother. She was controlled by drugs and alcohol my entire life. So I’m not grieving a close mother/daughter relationship…or then again, maybe I am. It was confusing and messed up. No, our relationship was a slave to mother’s addiction. Her addiction was always a wedge between us. As far as I know, she only had a few short periods of sobriety during her life. That’s sad, isn’t it? I wasn’t raised with her. Not really. My mother was never my “mom.” I’m sure she wanted to be but she wasn’t. That’s what addiction does. It robs us (and them)… of people we love…our hopes…our dreams and sweet meaningful joys of life. But that’s all I knew – mother the addict. I never knew mother before she was an addict. So my tears surprise me. Why am I struggling? I knew she was killing herself. Someone close to me said this about their own addiction…”If I don’t change my ways I only have three options…locked up, drugged up or covered up.” That makes my heart hurt. That makes me cry. Addiction has stolen so much from so many people. What about all the moms and dads who have lost their children to addiction?  It is a devastating tragedy.  Something as a whole needs to change. But what? I’m not sure yet.

I find myself feeling guilty for not doing better, not doing more, not being better. I’m sure those were the same feelings my mother experienced and contributed to her continued drinking. Now, here I am after her death…experiencing some of those same feelings. Isn’t that crazy? I have this image in my mind – Satan sees our tears and our pain…he sits up straight with excitement and grabs a bowl of popcorn to enjoy. He watches with a big smile on his wicked face. He loves to see people in pain. The image makes me want to throat punch him.

Somewhere in all the hurt, pain and disappointment – I stopped believing in her. I stopped believing mother would ever beat her addiction. I lost hope. That sounds bad too, doesn’t it? It was crushing to experience the excitement and hope that she was changing only to be punched in the gut by her continued drinking and drug use. I built a wall to protect myself from the roller coaster of emotions and disappointments that were constant daggers in my heart. Isn’t that what we do? Protect ourselves?

I didn’t help her as much as I should have but I did as much as I could. I hope that makes sense. People frequently told me, I owed her nothing and I could stop trying to help her because they saw my pain and what it was doing to me. I understood what they were telling me. I got it. But I saw her pain and I felt bad for her. I understood – she not only had a physical addiction but she also dulled her pain and anxiety with the substances. She wasn’t strong enough to face her pain. Or maybe she just didn’t believe she was strong enough. She was alienated. Not because people were mean or bad or didn’t care about her but because of her actions. She was mean and lived a very hard life. We were all at a loss. We didn’t know how to help her and it was too painful to continue watching her spiral out of control, standing by helplessly as she killed herself.

My brain knows all the right stuff. I know about boundaries, enabling and codependency. I know she had to want to stop. She had to want to change and she had to do the hard work. But isn’t there more to it? Mother was sick. She had a debilitating chronic disease. A disease we don’t treat like other diseases. Mother had been using for the majority of her life. Not just using here or there…she was controlled. She was powerless for more than forty five years. She had done years and years of damage to her mind, body and soul. Had mother lost purpose for her life? She alienated everyone. Or was it us who alienated her? Is that what we do to addicts? All in the name of saving ourselves and our sanity? She had sweet people who cared about her and helped her…the lady at the library, several neighbors, case managers, family members, the meals on wheels man, the home health nurse (not hers) who saw her crossing the busy road to get to the liquor store – stumbling and dressed in her night gown, she lovingly picked mother up and gave her a ride back to her apartment. There are so many I don’t even know about. I’m so thankful for those who cared for her when I couldn’t or didn’t.

I’m so thankful for all those who cared for me when she couldn’t or didn’t. I think about how much different my life could have been if it weren’t for loving people.

Guilt is a driving force behind addiction. I know my mother was plagued with deep rooted feelings of guilt. She used alcohol and drugs in an attempt to drown out feelings of anxiety, guilt, heartache and everything ugly. I choose to go into the pain and work through it.

I watch and I listen as others respond to addicts and alcoholics with hate filled unforgiveness. I get it. I’ve done it. It makes you bitter. But isn’t there more? How can we so willingly accept God’s forgiveness when we are unwilling to extend it to others? I’m working on this. God can take this tragedy and use it for good.

The truth is…when mother was alive it was hard to do anything because I was always waiting for the next tragic call and I was so busy running…from her addiction. I’m not judging any of you who are enduring this pain with your loved one. I get it. It hurts and it is heartbreaking. I just keep thinking….what needs to change about how we treat addiction?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

One last thing…please watch this video Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.


Finding the sweet side of crazy!


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