Having a child who’s an addict is difficult and painful on so many levels. The nightmare exists in so many ways. The lying, the stealing, the manipulation dissolves trust and turns the heartfelt love for your beloved child into anger, resentment and at times hatred. Yes, I said it. The waiting for the knock at the door or phone call telling you your child is dead. Living with that fear leaves you raw. The feeling that you’ve been made a fool AGAIN by this child who has become a stranger drives you to experience emotions you never imagined being able to feel when you first held your child in your arms with all the hope and expectations that come with that moment. As irreplaceable items are stolen and sold at a pawn shop before you even know they’re gone, you are left not only with the loss but also the betrayal.
My daughter is a recovering addict. We spent many years in anguish praying for her, trying desperately to love her, trying to persuade her to get the help she needed yet refused. We tried tough love. We tried helping, not enabling. We listened to lectures from friends, family and even strangers on what we should do or should’ve done. We let the guilt eat us up alive. We let the dishonesty become part of our lives by not being honest about our own enabling actions. We used coping methods that were destructive. I watched my spouse cry more in the years our daughter lived on the street than in all the 25 years of marriage combined.
She’s been clean and sober for more than 2 years. It feels like an eternity after doubting she would ever be free from the meth and heroin addiction that drove her out of our house. Trust is being regained. The child I thought was lost has become a woman that I feel more proud of than I can express. I know how lucky we all are. I know she could have been a statistic like many of her old connections –never getting clean, or getting clean but keeping all the old behaviors that leave them stuck in life. We are so very lucky, indeed.
I’ve forgiven her the hurt she’s caused. What’s harder is forgiving myself. The “what ifs” haunt me. What if I had protected her from her friends that used. Maybe I could have kept her clean. What if I had seen the signs sooner, when she was younger, when it first started. Would that have saved her from the traumas of living on the streets? What if I had done less enabling and more helping her to change, to grow, to take responsibility before she ended up facing the prospect of 2 years in prison for car theft and resisting arrest? That arrest saved her life but could there have been another way. One less painful for everyone concerned.
Do you have “what ifs” that haunt you? Do they drag you down in shame and embarrassment? It’s time to let them go because the “what ifs” aren’t going to change the reality of what is. The story of my daughter has a happy ending. Like I said, she’s clean, she’s working, she starts school in a few weeks. But I have other stories. Stories that don’t end with a happily ever after. I did the best I could. I tried my hardest but life doesn’t always have a happy ending at the end of each chapter but what I think we all want is a happy ending at the end of the story.
I don’t usually quote scriptures when I write but this one called to me. Ephesians 4:31-32: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Isn’t that a beautiful verse? It calls us to put away all the pain in our lives and be gentle with others AND with ourselves. God has forgiven us so we don’t have to be stuck in the pain. God has forgiven us the “what ifs” and provided us a “what is” that we can rest in: John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. There is our path for ridding ourselves of the pain, the doubt, the anger, the bitterness. Give it to God. Stop letting it drag you down. YOU are forgiven. YOU are loved. When we know that truth we know our happy ending is on its way.