A Daughter’s Experience
Sitting here on a Saturday afternoon with my mom, drinking coffee and reminiscing about our journey through addiction and recovery. As mother and daughter we feel we have a unique perspective on addiction. We are both addicts and we have both recovered in our own time.
Looking at our experiences overwhelms me with gratitude for where we are today, but it also brings up pain from when I was a child. The trauma that my sisters and I endured shaped us into the women we have become, good or bad. So I want to get straight into that from my perspective.
Growing up, I remember two things from my childhood: my dad was more present in my life than my mom and there was chaos in our home. My parents fought all the time. I rarely saw them being kind to each other and never heard them utter the words “I love you.”
My earliest memory was being woken up in the middle of the night by my sisters. My parents were having one of their big fights. I don’t remember what the fight was about, but I do remember the look of panic and sadness on my sisters’ faces as we were camped out in front of my parents’ locked door. My mom would always tell my dad to “JUST F***ING LEAVE THEN.” I now know that my sisters thought if he ever did decide to leave, but saw us sitting there, it would stop him.
Much to my surprise, when I recently brought the story up to my mom, she had no clue we were there. She expressed to me that this story makes her incredibly sad and is a powerful reminder of how selfish, delusional, and completely unaware of her surroundings she was. It was her impression that if it was happening behind closed doors, it didn’t affect the outside world. She would lock the doors to protect us. We just wanted in.
Fast forward a couple years, my dad was very present. He kept some sort of normalcy in our family. He was the one who got me up, dressed me, and did my hair. He was the one to drop us off and pick us up from school. On the other hand, my mom would take my new baby brother with her to the “grocery store” or to “run errands” and I would beg to tag along. Her answer was always “not this time,” a phrase I ended up hearing a lot through my childhood. I was confused as to why my brother got to go and I didn’t. I saw the relationship my friends had with their moms. I desperately wanted mine. Sitting here with my mom now, I know that she took my brother with her as a decoy. No one would think she was up to any trouble if she brought her infant son with her. I was too old by that point so I could have blown her cover. I always thought there was just something wrong with me.
I remember this one specific event that is stamped in my memory. One day I walked into my parent’s bedroom and I saw my mom and she was in a frenzy trying to breathe into a brown paper bag. My dad tried to calm me down. He said “everything’s okay, she is going to be fine.” As I share this today my mom is surprised to know I witnessed this. She remembers many fights leading to intentional emotional breakdowns which were intended to divert the focus off the real issues. These fights were always fueled by my dad finding her drugs, money gone missing, and continuous lies. She would intentionally work herself into a state of hysteria. Anything to avoid talking about the real issue. I literally thought my mom was going to die.
A Mother’s Experience
When I finally got sober I was able to come clean to my family. My daughter had just completed D.A.R.E. classes in school and was neither happy nor relieved by my confessions. She was mad and disgusted with me, calling me every name in the book. Then she ran upstairs and slammed the door. I couldn’t understand it; my other daughters had accepted my truth and were actually relieved to know that there was an explanation for my actions. It gave them hope. My initial reaction was to run after her, bang on the door, and insist we talk this out right now. However a strange thing happened. I picked up that 500 pound phone and I called my sponsor. She listened to my sad story and told me to just leave her alone, give her time to process.
It wasn’t long after this that I saw my little girl begin to exhibit some all-too-familiar traits. She made new friends at the skatepark. I was happy she made new friends and taxied her around to hang out with them even though her new friends were much older and more experienced. I was parenting out of guilt. I just wanted her to be happy. 5:00 AM one morning I got a phone call from the police telling me to come pick my daughter up from Denny’s. I arrived to find her and her friends sitting in the waiting area scantily clad. The police officer had given her a jacket to cover up after finding them walking to Denny’s from the motel next door. She was 13.
Thus started a long journey into the abyss of addiction for my daughter.
Looking back I can see the similarities, needing to be accepted, wanting attention. Her behaviors progressed. Still parenting out of guilt, I would address some behaviors, but completely ignore the possibility that she was headed down the same path as me. In time she left home to live with a boyfriend. I would “rescue” her when he would be in a drug crazed rage, but was in complete denial about her actions. How could she be like me after seeing what I went through?
My daughter tells me that during this time, she was starting to lose herself and she did get caught up in the attention, good or bad. She was so young; she just needed her parents to teach her right from wrong. She needed her parents to ask her what was really going on, force her to be a part of, and hold her accountable for her actions. She knew how to manipulate them, and get away with murder so she continued to do so until it ruined her.
These behaviors continued to progress, as they do. In her twenties she had moved on to drug addict boyfriend #2 and I started helping them out financially with rent, etc… Everything I knew about recovery, everything I would say to a sponsee went out the window. I loved my daughter so much, but was blinded to what she really needed, tough love. Eventually she ended up pregnant and they moved in with us. I couldn’t deny anymore that she had no control, but still thought my love could save her.
Once our beautiful granddaughter was born with high levels of opiates in her system, Child Protective Services got involved. She couldn’t stay sober. After trying to force her into recovery, dragging her to meetings, watching her pick up newcomer chips with hope in my heart, I would be devastated when she would be nodding off the next day. After finally giving it to God and listening to others who had been through this before me, I got the courage to put my foot down. They came home one day from God knows where with the baby. I kicked the boyfriend out and gave my daughter a choice. She could stay with her daughter and go get help, or leave with him. She chose him. I wasn’t surprised; by this time I had completely accepted she suffered from the same disease as me. I am forever grateful for the people in my life and the tools I have acquired in recovery. Sometimes it takes me awhile, but every single time that I trust God and get out of his way, miracles happen.
After a few months of hard living, she was ready to ask for help. Full of fear, we embarked on a new relationship as mother and daughter in recovery. Of course her experience was a little different from mine. She tells me that she remembers feeling helpless and full of fear, fear of a sober life, fear of feeling, of losing her antidote that helps her “show up” for life. She only called us because she was out of options. Her boyfriend at the time wanted to get away from the life they were living and she would be alone. She would no longer have her partner to help her scheme and plot on how they would find their next fix. So she called; she had to face her family and her daughter that she left behind, a daughter that was calling someone else “mom.” Filled with guilt and shame for all her past actions, she found a spark of faith that she could repair some of this wreckage if she just does what her mother says. So she did.
The detox was rough. A young 24 year old who felt like she was 70, her body breaking down, no control of her bodily fluids . . . so weak. Rehab was a bit better. She started to feel better each day that passed, but her plan was to get out of rehab and come back home and live her life. Something shifted when she was in there. She found God, Fellowship, and Hope. She then insisted on going to a halfway house, and an all women’s halfway house at that. This house helped her restore a relationship with her daughter. She still tried to push and see what she could get away with, but little by little her perspective seemed to change. This house held her accountable for her actions; this house was built on LOVE, understanding, and joy, and it was her safe space; this house, as she tells me, taught her how to be the independent strong woman she is today.
She finished her steps, she forgave herself, and she started to see her worth. She fell in love with herself and became grateful for what she had, feelings she says she can’t remember ever feeling. She built a relationship with God and became very involved in the CMA fellowship. She continued to repair relationships she never knew she could have with her family. She became addicted to this new life that she never could have fathomed was possible.
As for me, the last 18 years have been nothing short of miraculous. I didn’t come into the rooms of CMA seeking God and wanting to stay sober forever but so far that is exactly what has happened. I fell into a group of people desperate to stay sober and on fire for this new fellowship growing up around them and I latched on and got busy. I got a homegroup, a sponsor, and started working my steps right away because they told me to. I was sponsoring girls at three months sober and I did service work, service work on top of service work. One day I noticed I hadn’t had the urge to use in months.
My relationship with God continued to grow and with that the miracles kept coming. I was now able to be there for my kids and show up for their “grown up” lives. In recovery, I started to notice my usefulness and skills that had been gone for so long and started to come back. The fellowship allowed me to put these skills to good use. I’ll be forever grateful for this. Over the years I have sponsored countless women and a few men, shared my experience all over the country, been a part of countless committees, listened to my ever growing fellowship, and learned how to form and express my own opinions.
As a direct result of practicing these new principles in my life, things improved on the home front as well. I have a relationship with my parents today that is meaningful and allows me to live in a constant state of amends for all of the years past. My husband and I are happy and kind to each other, and share “I love you” everyday. I am blessed with four amazing, grown-ass kids and eight incredible grand kids.
These are all miracles of recovery, but the biggest miracle has been witnessing my daughter emerge from the depths of addiction. This fellowship wrapped its arms around her, and God has worked huge miracles in her life. When I allow myself, I get to sit back and watch her advance in her career, grow in a loving relationship, make her financial amends, purchase a house, and become an amazing mother. I’ll never forget the day, attending the CMA General Service Conference, her name came up on the big screen as a member of the Public Information and Outreach Committee. I burst out in tears of joy, and the fellowship shared in my joy. All of this in her first five years of sobriety. I am forever grateful to the CMA Fellowship for bestowing this miraculous life on me and mine, and I can’t wait to see what’s to come!
The Daughter’s Experience
When my mother got sober, I couldn’t quite grasp how the program, or God, or the fellowship, could have changed a helpless addict into an active member of society. I thought being an addict meant you are just weak-willed, or you have no willpower, or you just simply didn’t want to stop. I thought recovery meant you just finally decided to stop. It wasn’t until I was deep into my addiction that I thought the fellowship was something I needed in order to get sober. That is when recovery started to become somewhat appealing to me.
I started to go with my mom to meetings, even though I wasn’t serious about staying sober. I could relate to the stories being shared, not the ones of recovery or hope, but those of the desperation and the darkness that consumes us addicts. I would randomly go to pick up newcomer chips; it would make my mother’s day. I was just looking for a diversion to take the focus off the real issue — me! See, I got to the point where years of guilt and shame for the person I had become piled up. I couldn’t stop using, even though I was pregnant. I told myself that when I had my daughter I would be the mother she deserved. This disease is progressive and I couldn’t even recognize the person I was looking at in the mirror.
I lasted a few months to get off Child Protective Services. Once the letter came in the mail and my case was closed, I picked right up where I left off. My parents were big enablers, but with the support of the fellowship, my mother was finally able to cut me off. She gave me the ultimatum to get sober or leave. I believe this was a pivotal moment in my life. See, I chose drugs over everything, so without a thought, I leave. I left behind a worried family, and my beautiful daughter.
My last five months out were my darkest. Every dollar went to drugs. I was barely eating. I now became an IV user and committed crimes just to get high. I was so miserable. No matter how high I got it wasn’t enough. I was entertaining the idea of death because everyone would just be better off without me. This seemed more logical than losing my antidote and living a healthy happy life. I just couldn’t grasp how this would work for me, because until I got the substances out of my body, I wasn’t willing to do whatever it takes.
Then God intervened. We were about to be homeless and my boyfriend wanted to get sober. So, since I’m codependent, I do what he does and reach out. I was completely broken —no goals, no motivation, no hope, no love, and no self respect. I thought I was going to die ashamed and unloved. When I went to detox and rehab, I was so tired that I was just going through the motions, but I learned a lot in 30 days. I got down to some serious underlying issues, got a sponsor, and started to get to work. I started praying. It felt weird but I prayed and kept praying until I found an authentic way that felt right for me.
The support from my family was huge. All I ever wanted was to be a part of. The funny thing is I always was, but I was the one who was shutting off any real meaningful relationships. I started to want meaningful things in my life again. I wanted to be a mother, a daughter, a sister, a devoted partner one day, a badass successful business woman, and a productive member of society.
I made the best decision ever and went to an all-women’s sober living halfway house. This house saved my life. This house was built out of LOVE, joy, service, and understanding. I was able to become a woman at this house. This house held me accountable for my actions. I had the tough love from one house mom, and the kind, gentle, embracing spirit from the other. I have lifelong relationships that are so meaningful to me and women who are still pillars in my recovery today. I was able to find the true meaning of service at this house. I got very involved and started to love the feeling of helping others. I’m selfish to the core, so when I am working within the fellowship, or taking other women through their steps, I know that is vital for a self centered person like me.
I was able to learn how to be a new mother in recovery at this house. I continued to strengthen my relationship with family here, be responsible, found a meaningful career that I still hold today, finished my steps, found freedom, and built a beautiful relationship with my higher power, and most importantly be held accountable for my actions. I lived at this safe haven for nine months, and since then my life has only flourished.
I now can proudly say I have five consecutive years of sobriety. Today I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a proud aunt, a reliable employee, a business owner, a homeowner, and a faithful girlfriend. My life is so different today, I can’t even fathom who that broken woman was five years ago because the changes since then have been so drastic. I started to use so young I didn’t have a life; my life consisted of parties, drugs and chaos. I never knew the woman sitting here writing this could ever possibly exist. Today I am strong, reliable, hopeful, empathetic, positive, caring, loving, funny, driven, confident, and so many other things. Five years ago I was sitting waiting to be taken into intake for rehab. I was required to write down three positive qualities, so I made some up and wrote down three, but knew I didn’t possess those qualities. That is so sad to think of today. This program saved and transformed my life and gave me one I never could have imagined. I am so in love with my full life today.
The relationship with my Mother was very unique in sobriety. No one knew better than she did what I was going through. She was my spiritual guide. Grateful for our relationship today, I feel our bond is unlike anything because we know what it is like to completely rebuild your life inside and out. Today, even in our lows, we get each other. We’re on this beautiful journey together. What a blessing! When I came into the rooms my mom was already so established and involved in CMA. Through her, I was able to feel like CMA was my home. I knew people who saw me as a young, struggling, broken girl trying to find her way, and they embraced this newly sober woman. I knew CMA was my home.