A letter from mom.

To my daughter.

It’s been nearly three years since we last talked.  A lifetime before that you got hooked on drugs…and then on alcohol. A lot’s happened in the past twenty seven years.

Yesterday was Father’s Day and I was, as happens occasionally, alone at church.  The tears leaked out when the music started.  You were there–but only as a whisper in my heart; a memory in my mind.

My life is better than I would ever have thought possible but sometimes the old dreams I had for you, for me, for us sneak back in and I mourn for what could have been. Sometimes, I shut these un-beckoned dreams of everyday things down, and sometimes, like yesterday, I let them stay awhile until I have to say goodbye, so I can survive.

Your oldest son, Chad, became my youngest son long before I adopted him. Maybe he and I started bonding as mother and son when I used to bring him home to babysit overnight and bathe away the smoke, and let him spend a day in dry diapers. Maybe it didn’t begin until I watched him tuck his little hand in the engulfing one of the transport volunteer who returned him to his foster home after the state stepped in. I’d like to think, even though he never looked back, that Chad knew I was there then and that I would always be there whenever he needed me.

Back then, I thought you’d make it.  Back then, I didn’t realize that drugs don’t give up.

At first, I was just another grandmother raising my grandson.

Abused by his birth dad.  Abused by you.  Chad deserved better…all kids do.  I spent my savings on attorneys.  I was strong during court hearings and sobbed my way through the nights.

He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress at age four.  He and I lived through years of his waking up nightly screaming from nightmares he couldn’t explain. We made it through years of his being afraid to let me out of his sight and his “I love you,” to me fifty times a day which was his way of saying, “I’m scared…”

Trauma and drama…drugs don’t give up.

Then I adopted Chad to keep him safe, and  because I loved him with my whole heart.

Cutting.  Suicidal.  Punching holes in walls. Swearing at me.

Remorse. Rewind. Replay once again.

We made it through. Now he is a man.

Yesterday, I wished him Happy Father’s Day.  His little girl is now 18-months-old and a charmer.  I see in her your self-determination and a bit of your curly hair as twice a week we (my husband (her beloved Papa)) and I take care of her so her mama and daddy can go to work.  

What you’ll never know is baby kisses beat drug highs, and even messy diapers are better than alcohol lows.

I miss Chad’s half sisters–your daughters, my granddaughters.  From you, them, and Facebook, I know the oldest lost her virginity at twelve, her slightly younger sister, who I always wanted to scoop up and cuddle because she seemed so sad, posted, “Why can’t anyone see me…I’m hurting too”), and their baby sister who you said told her fifth grade counselor that she had been raped.

We’ve all been raped, tattered and torn. Meth, opioids, alcohol—drugs abuse  families.

I won’t give up, but everyday I try letting go.

 

 

Stop feeling guilty for loving, or not loving, a family addict.

BreakersThe continual drama and trauma that surrounds addicts, takes its toll on the emotions and relationships of the users’ partners, parents, siblings, and their kids.

The ‘normal’ progression of parenting roles changes from caretaker to coach to cheerleader to mentor and friend. With drugs or alcohol the progression regresses, especially for grandparents raising grandkids, eventually forcing a decision between care-taking little ones or their parent.

For years I’ve couldn’t articulate how I felt about my daughter because I vacillated between, sadness, guilt, anger and wanting to believe she would change leaving me saying, “I’m done,” followed up hours, days or months later with, “one more time”.

When I discovered she was first using, first arrested, first pregnant, first on public assistance, first in prison, first embezzling from a friend who gave her a job, and so on it was difficult. I grasped for every excuse for her behavior, until the “firsts” turned into reruns and spinoffs. Eventually I admitted, when a counselor asked me, that I didn’t like my daughter’s behaviors, didn’t like the person she had become. I still couldn’t say I didn’t love her–it seemed inexcusable for a mom and “un-Christian like”.

Today, I think love can’t survive long-time when you are being lied to and emotionally abused. Love can withstand your heart being broken, but possibly not as you watch your grandkids’ hearts on the line. Watching them cry when mom or dad is arrested and their picture is on the news, or as a second-grader they are left sitting forgotten on the school steps, or as a high schooler they try to ignore their drunk dad in the stands at school at 9 AM when their playing basketball. It’s also really, really difficult when you see your other adult children and their kids being hurt by your choices regarding the addict’s choices.

My daughter is not in my life anymore physically but I still pray for her most days, and still hope that she turns her life around. I’m just done holding my breath or wanting to be part of the up and down process.

“I love him/her.  I hate him/her.”  

You don’t need anyone’s permission, or approval, to feel a certain way. And you don’t owe anyone–including the addict, or other children, an explanation.  Unless others have been in your shoes, they can’t imagine the pain, the tug-of-war of emotions, or the struggle to survive.

It’s easy to continue to ‘love’ the memory of the child we raised, the partner we married. What is harder to define, and accept, is how we feel today. Sometimes we are mad at the user, other times we try overly hard to protect them, and sometimes we even tip over to enabling bad behaviors. Sometimes. we are just plain done.

In the end, if you parent minors–yours or grandkids–then their needs must come first.  Don’t let emotions stop you from doing the right thing, and sometimes it takes an outsider like a counselor, pastor, social worker or trusted friend to help you prioritize, help you succeed in following through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Things Kids of Addicts, or Alcoholics, Absolutely Need to Hear.

1. You are not Your Dad and are not responsible for things He does.

Shared genes don’t dictate who you are, or will become…or make you responsible for what your birth dad does. 

You do not owe anyone answers about your parents, or their behavior, regardless if the person asking is a family member, friend, stranger or teacher. Always acknowledge questions respectfully by your words, voice tone, and body language, but only share what you want.    “I don’t know. ”  “Thank you for understanding that it hurts to talk about my dad,” or “If this is really important I’ll give you my mom/grandpa/foster dad’s cell number and you can talk to them,” are all appropriate responses to insensitive inquiries.

2. only your mom can choose to quit.

As much as you want your mom to stop drinking, or using drugs, you can’t make her quit. I tried, others tried.  Addictions are hard to break…but help is available.

Your mom drinks too much (or uses drugs).  It’s not because she doesn’t love you, or because of something you did, or didn’t do.  It’s because her body now is used to the chemical changes drugs or alcohol cause and she physically needs the temporary escape or ‘high’ feeling that she gets when using.  This craving overrules logical thinking and even terrible consequences like losing you or being in prison (whatever is applicable). Depending on child’s age, and circumstances, this can lead to a discussion of problems in her getting a job, dangers of seeing her existing friends, or a need for counseling to face problems.

3.  YOU AREN’T A VICTIM.

Life is hard, but you can do “hard”.

Everyone eventually has tough things to face.  You know Kevin’s mom commited suicide, Jax is  bullied because she is overweight, and others have terrible diseases like cancer.  Remember how we saw on TV that some dads are killed protecting our country.  You can choose to stay mad (or sad) or blame your dad/mom for how you act, but you can also choose to accept responsibility for what you do. You know how you’ve been hurt, so you can help others who are hurting.

Again for older children or teens more discussion can be helpful, e.g. “In NO HERO former Navy SEAL, Mark Owen, wrote, “Only focus on your three-foot world…focus on what you can affect.” Good advice.  Don’t dwell on what might happen if your dad returns. Get good grades so you can go on to be the game developer you want to be, and learn to control your temper.  It’s my job to keep working on the things that will make it so you always live with grandpa and I.  The attorney says he thinks it will only be a few more months until the judge lets that happen.”

4.  life isn’t fair.  get over it.

Listen.  Be honest.  Don’t preach.  Honor their feelings.

“I agree it sucks that you have to spend every other weekend visiting your mom and she won’t take you to your lacrosse games.  I have talked with your caseworker and am trying to see if we can change visiting times, but for now we have to do what the judge tells us.”

If your child, or the grandchild you are raising, is unfairly accused of something, and after presenting their side are still over-ruled, then maybe it’s time for one of the, “Pick your battles”, “I can go to bat for you but the consequences may be…” or “It’s a tough break but what can you do differently next time so when someone says something mean about your dad so you don’t get in a fight and end up suspended?” speeches.  Follow up with a hug and “I love you” or whatever physical contact they will accept.

If an unfair accusation that would impact the rest of their life (like a sexual aggression, troublemaker or slow learner) is made then go to the mat both for, and with, them.  

5.  You can trust me.

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You can tell them that you are not their addicted parent and can be trusted, but they won’t believe you until you show up, and follow up, time after time after time.  

If you promise to be at a game–be there.  If you promise chocolate chip cookies–make them.  If you say they will lose video time for hitting their little brother and they hit their brother, then get the facts but give the consequence. Make the video time loss reasonable for their age and circumstances–but do it.  Be consistent and do it again, and again until the message comes through that you don’t hit others.  The more natural the consequence the more impactful.

If they get into trouble outside your home, always listen to their side of the story before commenting or making judgment.  Teachers are people, kids set others up…don’t assume an adult or other child is always right.  Ask questions, and expect factual–not purely emotional–answers. However, also remember that children of alcoholics and addicts have learned to lie as a means of survival.  Be their advocate, but don’t blindly defend them.

Praise effort, progress, and any little thing you honestly can until they start growing in self-confidence and life skills.  Let them hear that you notice what they say, and what they do. Compliment their achievements in front of others and reward good behavior.  A lot of champions are made because they don’t want to let their coach or family or teammates, who believe in them, down.  Talk them up, don’t tear their parent down.

The power of saying “no” to an addict.

“No”.  A tiny word.  A huge statement.   A line in the sand.   A lifetime of dreams shattered.   Your future’s foundation.

Know when to say, “no”.

To the user:

No debates, lectures, or moral judgements.  You did it all before, probably many times…didn’t work then, won’t work now.  The user’s thoughts and life are now theirs to own.  If something impacts you, set a boundary–if not–let it go, “This isn’t your house anymore and you can’t come inside.  Your things will be on the porch from 3-5 Sunday and if they aren’t gone, then we’ll give them to a charity.”

No enabling emotionally or functionally, “Sorry, but you chose to have the first drink, then you choose to drink more, and then you drove drunk.  I’ll always love you, but I won’t bail you out, or ever try to soften the consequences of choices you make, or things you do.”

No sharing confidences or information–not about their kids’ activities or their well-being, or your own feelings if you have custody.  Addicts try to manipulate and control.  You may know when you are being conned–but their little ones don’t.

No playing together.   Play time has passed; reality means responsibility. Sustained sobriety lasting until after their kids are grown has to come first.

To yourself:

No begging.  Stay calm on the outside, even when your heart is breaking on the inside.  Logic or referring to past history doesn’t work in the battlefield of an alcoholic’s mind.

No bribing.  Negotiating keeps the addict in the game and once a user gets what they want, they revert or renege.

No whining.  Nothing makes you weaker in the eyes of an alcoholic–or their children for that matter.  Don’t be pathetic–be self empowered.   Fake it until you can make it…real.

No more.   Sometimes you have to walk away but…

No giving up hope for their changing.  Never stop believing.  God is an equal opportunity, and free choice, supporter.   He won’t make them change, but He’ll give them every opportunity–and all the love and support they need–to change. Sometimes, there’s more gain with pain.