Tag Archives: adult child of an addict

I Grieved in Reverse

It’s been over two and a half months since I’ve heard my drunk mother on the phone and cried myself to sleep because I couldn’t help her and I couldn’t stop her. She couldn’t stop or help herself either.

It’s been over two and a half months since I’ve felt helpless and powerless…just like her.

It’s been over two and a half months since I’ve been bombarded with phone calls from the E.R., hospital, police, concerned people and life line.

It’s been over two and a half months since I’ve heard my mother cry and tell me she was scared because she was bleeding again and knew she would eventually bleed to death. Even though she knew Vodka was killing her, she couldn’t stop. I felt scared…just like her.

It’s been over two and a half months since I’ve heard my mother’s sweet sober voice on the phone. The one that would say “everything’s wonderful” on one of her good days.

It’s been over two and a half months since I laughed with my mother.

It’s been over three years since I tried to force my mother into treatment and she refused. I sat next to her while she spoke to her niece on the phone. Mother was crying  so hard it was difficult to understand her.  She told her niece I was trying to make her go to treatment, she didn’t want to and I was being mean to her.  I wasn’t being mean but I was firm and made it clear she wasn’t staying with me.  She had to go to treatment or go back to her apartment.  My boys weren’t going to be put through this.  I felt bad for her but I was also furious over her stunt of walking my neighborhood and knocking on doors until she found someone to take her to the liquor store. I was angry that she had humiliated herself and my boys…mainly my boys. I tried to protect them from all of the hurt and disappointment that I had known throughout my life and she brought it into my home. She got drunk and Madden had been alone with her. She was a scary mean drunk. It was very emotional for me. I was furious. My kids weren’t going to go through what I had lived through.

Everyone knows you can’t force someone into treatment. But I tried and I failed. I ended up driving her back to her apartment. It took many months before I could speak to her again.  I knew she would eventually kill herself and I couldn’t take it. I had to separate myself from her. It was the only way I knew to protect myself from the hurt.

As I drove home from work yesterday, I thought about Mother and my feelings about her recent death. I let my mind move through different questions and feelings. My thoughts wandered to my friends – How would they feel if they had lost their mom? Would they be devastated? Would they spend a lot of time crying? Would their world be turned upside down? Would they feel heartbroken and hopeless? Would they feel like they had been cheated? Would they miss them? Would they have a hard time? I imagined the answer would have been yes to most of those questions.

I didn’t feel the things I thought my friends might feel. I know this sounds harsh and cold but I almost felt relief…like a ton of bricks were lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I could breathe and finally had some peace. I no longer got the endless, helpless, heartbreaking phone calls. I was no longer tormented with worry about her – wondering if she had enough to eat because she had spent her last three dollars on another bottle of vodka. I no longer had to worry if someone was taking advantage of her, if she was getting beat up, if she was in jail or in the ER or hospital. I no longer anticipated the phone call telling me she was dead. I no longer worried about what others must have thought about me – her only daughter not saving her or not hopping in the car and driving the almost 2 hours with every phone call. I no longer felt guilt about putting my kids and husband first and wanting to protect them from the craziness.

That’s when it hit me – my grief was in reverse. I grieved my Mother throughout her life – my life. The feelings I imagined my friends would have with the loss of their mom where the feelings I had during the life of mine. I felt devastated, heartbroken and hopeless. I felt cheated and missed not having her. I had a very hard time with her decisions and the things she put me through. I grieved her my entire life. I prayed for her and tried to help her. It was only in death that she could have peace. Even though she had struggled in this life, I knew the moment she had taken her last breath she had gone to heaven. That gave me peace.

I wish I had gotten the opportunity to have my mother be the mom that I always knew she could have been. It makes me sad that we both missed out on that sweet mother/daughter relationship. God blessed me with so many sweet relationships and I am thankful for those.

I still cry occasionally but it’s not for what was…it’s for what could have been.

The greatest gift of all was that her struggles and my relationship with her inadvertently taught me to be a better mom and savor the sweetness.

Finding the sweet side of crazy!


Pharmacogenetics and Medications!


I have a love/hate relationship with medication!

I’m a nurse…I know medications are needed and have saved so many lives. But I also know they have contributed to so many bad outcomes, addiction and even deaths. Which makes my heart hurt.

Through the years of my nursing career, it has not been unusual to find patients who are taking thirty different medications on a daily basis. While I am not a doctor, I do understand the process of how this can happen. I’m not blaming the doctors. Medications are over sought, over prescribed, over used, illegally obtained and abused. It has created a healthcare nightmare. We have to take a more proactive approach.

So here’s the frustrating scenario (greatly simplified)…

You go to the doctor for an ailment. He/she assesses, diagnoses and then prescribes you a medication. You go to the pharmacy and pick up your medication which is sometimes very expensive. You start taking it and after several days, weeks or months, you learn the medication won’t or isn’t working for you for whatever reason. You go back to the doctor. Another medication is ordered in addition to what you are already taking or in place of the other medication. You go back to the pharmacy and pick up the new medication which may be super expensive. You start taking it and after several more days, weeks or months, you learn this medication isn’t going to work either. You are completely frustrated. This cycle is sometimes repeated many times until a person gets the correct medication or gives up. Not to mention, it costs a fortune in money, a person’s time and bad outcomes (drug/drug interactions, side effects, hospitalizations, deaths, etc.).

I’m sure you have experienced this or you know someone who has.

In comes Pharmacogenetics…What a great tool!

So what is Pharmacogenetics?

It is the study of how our body breaks down (metabolizes) and responds to medications based on our own unique genetic makeup. Based on the genes we inherited, we respond differently to medications or experience different side effects from the medications. This means our individual response to a medication that is effective or safe for another person may be less safe for us.

This can help doctors prescribe a medication based on a person’s genetic makeup and the way their body metabolizes (breaks down) certain medications. The theory is – it will take some of the guess work out of the process. There are so many for a doctor to choose from, I can’t even imagine the difficult process they go through. I’m so excited to share because I know so many can benefit from this test.

It is a very simple buccal swab. From what I understand, many insurance companies will pay for this test including Medicare. It is expensive but in the long run it has the potential to save so much…lives, heartache, money, time, bad outcomes, etc.

 Here are some great links to give you more information:

CBS Pharmacogenomics

Millennium Health Pharmacogenetics testing

pharmacogenetic tests

Pharmacogenomics – National Institute of Health

Sounds simple enough! Right? The test itself is very simple. It is a simple buccal swab of the inside of the cheek. The problem is – there are so many physicians who don’t know about the test or who can’t interpret the results. So do your research in finding one. Find out if your insurance pays for this test. Find a doctor who is knowledgeable about pharmacogenetics, who will order the test and who understands how to interpret the results. Get a copy of the results for future use.

Even though I currently don’t take any medication other than my vitamins and use my essential oils, my plan is to take a proactive approach and have this test completed on myself, because at some point I will need medications. I want to be proactive and be in a place where I can give my doctor a copy of the report and she/he can order the right medicine for me. I want to cut out some of the trial and error.

I can’t help but wonder how this testing might have helped my mother in her health and battle with addiction. If her underlying issue of anxiety would have ever been controlled in her early years, maybe she would have been on a very different path.

Finding the sweet side of crazy!


Shop for the Sweet!

Shopping cart

Do you ever wonder why some people repeat ugly family cycles and others break them? Me too! So, I was thinking…what if we decided to change our future with a shopping cart?  We could shop for the sweet and leave the junk behind.

What happens when we go to the grocery store without a list? We’ve all done it. We end up with a bunch of junk, an expensive bill, wasted time and we forget important recipe ingredients.

We all know the best approach is to prepare and plan…to go through our recipes and figure out what we will eat for the next week. Then go through our cabinets, pantry, freezer and refrigerator and decide what ingredients we need to purchase. Make the list. Go to the store. Stick to the list. Yay!! The grocery bill is cheaper. There’s not a lot of junk (we’re not perfect). And we have all the ingredients for a week’s worth of meals. Or most of the ingredients anyway. We aren’t perfect and may have to make another stop sometime during the week to grab something. But whatever!

So what if we did something similar with our own history and our family’s history? What if we took a shopping cart and shopped through our past, through our family’s past and decided what we are going to carry into the future and what we are going to leave behind? What we are going to hand off to our kids and what cycles we are going to stop.

I really like word pictures (thanks to Gary Smalley), so years ago I was thinking (which can be dangerous)…Why can’t we shop for the good things (habits or actions) we want to carry into our own families. Like picking the items we need for recipes. So it would go a little like this…Oh I love how you spend quality family time – I’ll take it. I really want to do family vacations – I’ll take that too. I don’t like that mean tone you use – I’ll leave that. I love the way your life is Christ centered – I’ll take that too. I love how you treat others with respect and love – I’ll take it. I don’t like the laziness – no thank you. I don’t like the drinking and drugging – no thank you. I love the way you encourage each other – I want some of that too. I don’t like how you don’t take care of things – I’ll leave that. I love how you set goals and work hard to have nice things – I want that too. I love how you make your kids and their events a priority – I’ll take it. I love how you make health and exercise a priority – I’ll take it. I don’t like that cheating and lying – no thank you. I love how you say I love you so often – I’ll take that too.

Examine your unique family…the sweet and the junk. Decide what you want to carry into the future (handing off to your kids) and what you want to leave behind. Make an active decision to leave the junk behind. Make a list…what does your family do well? What attributes and characteristics do you want to carry into your own little family? What do you want to leave behind? You don’t have to take it all. You have to have a list, stick to the list and when you see yourself or other’s throwing the junk in your basket – throw it out. You’ve got a goal.

Bottom line – if we don’t take a real look at our own history, our spouses history and generational family history we will most likely just keeping carrying everything forward – the good, the bad and the ugly. Because that’s what we know, what we have been handed and what has been passed down. Change your future! Change your children’s future!

Go shopping for the sweet stuff and leave the junk behind!

Finding the sweet side of crazy!


You can’t fix ’em


“Mother, quit drinking! You are killing yourself. And me. Just stop!”

I’m a fixer. I see something that isn’t working correctly or someone who is struggling and I automatically have this need to fix it or fix them. But I’ve learned – you can’t fix people. They have to fix their own broken self. We can help, support and love them but they have to do the hard stuff themselves. Showering an addict with all of the love in the world won’t stop them. They have to get to a place where the desire to change is greater than the desire to use. That’s hard.  We can’t drag, yell, push or pull them to that place. They have to be willing to work hard and make many changes. Difficult changes. Ones we really don’t even think about. It’s not just about stopping. It’s really more about starting…starting to do things differently. They have to learn to deal with feelings of guilt, embarrassment, shame, depression, anxiety, coping and so much more. They may have physical painful withdrawals. Depending on the substance, sometimes the withdrawals can be life threatening. They usually have to seek out a different group of “friends.” It’s not as easy as what we non-addicts make it out to be.

Just remember – they don’t drink or use because of you. It’s not personal. It is something within them. Not you. Love them. Who they are when they are using…isn’t who they really are. Remember who they really are and love that person. Take care of yourself. Gather knowledge about addiction and great treatment options so when they are ready for a change – you are ready to help. Our society is much more reactive than proactive. Healthcare treatment for addiction stinks! Seriously. Do your research and have a plan because when the moment arrives when your addict says “I need help,” you want to be prepared. Seize the opportunity as soon as they say they need help because the window of opportunity is very small so you’ll need to act quickly. Have a plan.

Remember it is long term recovery. Recovery is a good thing. Recovery is something to be proud of not embarrassed of. Celebrate the small things. They may relapse. Love them anyway. Unconditionally. Set limits and healthy boundaries. Take care of yourself. Be kind and loving to yourself. Forgive. It does the heart good. Cry when you need to cry. Talk to your trusted people. Refill your love cup so you aren’t running on empty.

Fix yourself. You can’t fix others but you can do love.

Finding the sweet side of crazy!



It’s Not a Choice

I’m not a drug addict or an alcoholic but my life has been greatly affected by several.  I don’t speak from the view of an addict.  I speak from the view of a child (adult child) of an addict.  My mother was what I call a hard core, very low functioning addict.  Over her lifetime she lost most everything.  She was unable to work and was completely dependent on others for most all of her needs.  I hated being pulled into the world of addiction.  I hadn’t made a choice to participate.  I was simply born into the ugliness.  But none the less I was a participant. I was a child.  Her child.  I loved my mother. She was supposed to take care of me.  But instead, I spent most of my life time either watching others try to take care of her or trying to take care of her myself.  It was devastating.  Heart breaking. But as difficult as it was for me…I can’t even begin to imagine her tremendous pain.

It’s not a choice.  Not like you think anyway.  People don’t just wake up one day and say…”I think I’ll become an addict today” or “I think I want to be an alcoholic…that sounds exciting and fun.”  “Oh and I think I’ll just throw away everything or make my life extremely difficult while I’m at it.”  No one does that!  Not one person would ever consciously make a decision to become an addict – to become so dependent, powerless and controlled by a substance they lose their mother, father, wife, husband, son, daughter, job, house, money and sometimes everything.  Because of addiction, moms and dads are stolen from their babies and babies are stolen from their moms and dads.  It is a very ugly, devastating, heart wrenching disease.  Yes, they make a decision to take a drink or use the drug but they never make a conscious decision to become an addict.  Sometimes one drink or one use is all it takes to put a person on a devastating path.  Just one.   It is not a life anyone would consciously choose.

Mother was only fourteen when she took her first drink.  She writes about it in her papers I found after her death.  She found some beers and she and a friend hid them.  They went back later and drank them.  This was the beginning of her life long war with addiction.  There is no way she could have known the steps she took that day would put her on the most difficult path she could have stepped on to.  How could she possibly know drinking a couple of beers at fourteen would lead her to a life of abuse of pills, use of cocaine and heroin, shooting up, snorting…not being able to care for me – her only daughter, spending time in the penitentiary, losing her nursing license, 5 unhealthy marriages, destruction of relationships, being surrounded by corrupt and evil people, darkness like most of us could never imagine…and on and on and on.  No.  Mother didn’t consciously choose to be an addict.  Her sweet dreams and hopes got shattered somewhere along the way.  She traded a life full of sweetness for a life of survival, broken dreams and devastation.

Mother had a tumultuous relationship with her own mother.  They fought A LOT.  Physically fought.  Verbally fought.  I remember witnessing those fights and seeing Mother cry a lot.  I think Mother wanted her mother’s (Nanny) approval and wanted to feel her love.  I think Nanny wanted Mother to make better choices and get on a different less destructive path and she didn’t know how to show Mother she loved her.

Mother suffered from anxiety.  I didn’t really understand this until I was an adult and had someone very close to me who has had to deal with severe anxiety. I’m not sure Mother or anyone else understood her anxiety in her younger years.  By the time she did understand, it was much later in life and she had already been treating it in a very unhealthy way for years.   Mother had self-medicated and treated her anxiety through the use of drugs and alcohol for most of her life.  Her unhealthy relationship with her mother and others, lack of coping skills, lack of self-esteem, the stress of becoming pregnant at sixteen, and an addictive gene all contributed to her recipe for disaster.   Some prosper and come out stronger and better in spite of their challenges.  Mother did not.  It defeated her. I can’t tell you exactly what caused mother to become who she became. But I know these things contributed to her journey.  I know she was controlled and powerless because I witnessed it. I watched the devastation.  I tried to stop it many times.  I suffered the broken promises my mother made to me and the heartbreak I lived with on a daily basis.

One of the most difficult times for me regarding mother’s addiction was about 10 years ago.  Mother was living close.  Close enough that I was witness to more than I ever wanted to witness.  Her cute little apartment was soon a very scary place.  I would stop by to find her place destroyed and she would be drunk.  Once, Madden (who was about 6 at the time) and I were driving to get a movie and as we approached the street to her house we saw an ambulance with the sirens and lights on turn down her street.  I had a bad feeling and figured they were probably going to Mother’s apartment.  Sure enough, they were.  I followed.  Mother was drunk and belligerent.  Her head was covered in blood.  She told the EMS guys that some guy had knocked her over her head.  The scene was all too familiar to me.  Mother was a mean drunk and would look for a fight.  She would spew her hatefulness and some other jerk or addict would hit or push her usually resulting in a broken bone or head injury and an ER visit.  My sweet Madden was just a young blonde headed little boy.  He witnessed the event.  I think most normal mothers would have sheltered their kids from something like this but I’m not normal and I felt like these tragedies could be a life lesson for my boys.  I have no doubt there is something genetic about this terrible tragic disease and I wanted my boys to be aware of the path they could be on if they chose to use or drink.  Besides, mother needed love.  We all do. We could love her and show her love while keeping healthy boundaries.  I wanted them to know – deep down…she was a scared, heartbroken, lost young girl.  She was more than what she had become.  I tried to separate myself from her as much as I could.  It was too painful to watch and be a part of. I tried to focus on being the mom my boys deserved.

During this same period, I received multiple phone calls from Jeff (one of my lifelong friends) because of different events related to mother.  He was a police officer in the town mother lived in.  One time, he called sometime in the wee hours of the night or morning.  He told me he was at Mother’s and they needed to get in.  There were complaints from neighbors that she was inside screaming but they couldn’t get her to answer the door.  He wanted to know if I had a key so they didn’t have to break down the door.  I told him I didn’t have a key but would be right over and maybe I could get her to open the door.  I rolled out of bed and drove over to her apartment.  When I pulled up, there were policemen, firefighters and EMS personnel.  They were all standing by a window.  I was thankful for my friend.  It was comforting to me for him to be there because he knew some of my story and always went the extra mile to help me and make me feel loved.  My friend told me, they were talking to her trying to get her to open the window. But so far, she wouldn’t.   I stepped by the window and tried to speak to Mother.  She responded.  I asked her to please open the window and let us in.  She was so confused and much of what she was saying didn’t make much sense.  She finally managed to unlock the window but it was an obvious struggle.  The police were able to get inside.  What we found was heart wrenching.  Mother was completely naked lying on a mound of dirty clothes.  Her bedding was off her bed.  Her apartment was destroyed.  There was no food in the apartment.  Drug paraphernalia was everywhere. There were roaches and the house was a complete mess.  Mother was completely psychotic. This was the worst my mother’s house had ever been.  This wass the worst I had ever seen my mother.  She had always taken pride in keeping a clean and tidy house.  I have no idea how long she had been laying in that mess.  She was taken to the ER and then went inpatient.  I was convinced her psychosis was permanent.


I learned drug dealers where coming to mother’s apartment. They would give her drugs and while she was messed up, they would take possession of her place.  They would set up and deal out of her apartment. This makes it very difficult for police to catch these criminals because they are always on the move going from victim to victim or addict to addict.  There are some evil people in this world.

It was obvious those bad people had camped out in her apartment for a while.  My guess is – when she became psychotic they split and left her there to die.  They had ran out of toilet paper so they had used towels to wipe their bottoms and just thrown them all over the apartment, we found a crack pipe, a butcher knife lying by her bed.  At one time, someone had sprayed a fire extinguisher all through the living room so there was white fire extinguisher powder all over everything in the living room.

While mother was in the hospital, I had to go by her apartment to get something for her.  I was scared.  I knew those bad people had access to her apartment.  My husband told me not to go but I’m hard headed and don’t always listen.  I parked down the street a bit so I could see the front door to Mother’s apartment.  I dialed her number.  The phone rang and the answering machine picked up.  I said something like…this is Judy’s daughter and I need to come in and get some things for my mother.  She is in the hospital.  If you are in there…please leave.  I hung up.  A few seconds later I saw two big old scary guys walk out of her apartment.  Then they pointed at me.  Which scared me.  Who were they? Pictures of myself, my boys and my husband were in her apartment.  Do they know where I live?  They know what kind of car I drive.  Now, I was scared.  I called the police station and asked for a police escort into mother’s apartment.  They were kind to come and help me.  I was able to get in and gather the things I needed.  It seems like it was several weeks before her psychosis cleared up.

As a young mother trying to pave a different way for myself and be a different kind of mom for my boys…these events almost broke me.  Incidents  like these happened frequently.  I cried a lot which was completely out of character for me.  I started feeling depressed.  I felt hopeless and helpless for mother and her situation.  I had no idea how to help her.   Everything I tried was unsuccessful…she always went right back to the drugs.  It was like they were a very strong large magnet and she was a tiny piece of metal that couldn’t escape the grip of the magnet.  No matter how hard she pulled or tried to break away – the magnet was so much stronger than she was.  I had to back away even more.  I knew I couldn’t save her.  She had to do the really hard work to save herself.  I tried to set healthy boundaries and take her food and toiletries.  But I knew I had to have healthy boundaries otherwise my boys might be robbed of their mom too.

Mother had used for over 40 years.  During that time, she had behaved in ways that caused her so many regrets, embarrassment and guilt.  As long as she was using she could numb those feelings but as soon as she started getting clean or sober she had to deal with all of those feelings.  That was hard.  I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be.  In 40 years, she didn’t deal with many of her feelings.  She just kept running and numbing.  So every time she got clean her mind and heart were flooded with bad feelings and guilt.  She didn’t process things as they occurred so she had to deal with them while she was sober.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to deal with so many years of disappointment all at one time.  It’s hard enough to deal with things and feelings as they occur.

Mother wanted to do good things in this world.  She truly did.  She was controlled and powerless.  I share my story for Mother and others who are affected by the terrible disease of addiction.  I couldn’t share when I was in the middle of it because it was too hurtful and I was still completely powerless to Mother’s addiction.  I share so minds can be opened, people will know addicts and alcoholics aren’t just weak people.  There are good decent loving people who struggle with addiction.  They don’t need our judgment.  They need love.  I couldn’t save Mother.  Some can’t be saved.  You try everything you can think of but we still lose them.  Addiction is tragic and affects the whole family.  It is a disease that is generally met with judgment and ugliness.  It’s a disease we have to hide.  We can’t openly discuss it.  We can’t openly say…”Hey, I’m dying over here….help!”  It’s devastating.  I never got a choice.  I was just placed into the life of an addict and then pulled deeper and deeper as she was pulled deeper and deeper.  It’s not a choice…not like you think.

Show love. Do love. Set healthy boundaries. Show compassion and forgiveness. Take care of yourself. Make informed decisions…sometimes all it takes is one use or one drink to put you on a tragic path.

Finding the sweet side of crazy!