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Hang onto Hope

My children are my life. Some people talk about parenting the “terrible twos” or teenagers, as if they are somehow harder than other childhood stages. I don’t think there are hard and fast rules to parenthood. We all just try our best to raise children in spite of all the challenges. For me, the hardest stage is parenting adults. You can’t ground them when they do something wrong. You can’t make their choices for them. You can’t protect them from the big scary world. You can advise but the advice falls frequently on deaf ears. You can love them. You can pray for them. But they have their own lives, choices, plans and dreams.

I always thought I was a good mother. I wasn’t perfect and never thought that my parenting was but I LOVED my children with all my heart and I TRIED! My older son found his own way with typical teenager/young adult trials, but lives a good life, responsible, caring, loving. My daughter had a more difficult journey. She was addicted to meth and heroin. Brittany and I had our heads in the sand for many years. When it could no longer be denied we kicked her out and she lived on the streets off and on. What hurt the most were people who said, “Yeah, we knew”. I was so angry that no one TOLD me!

Addiction runs in my family. My father celebrated his 20 years sober anniversary shortly before he died. Before then, he was like any other addict: Self-centered, manipulative, abusive. I had told my children since they were little to never use drugs. I told them even trying it once could be all it takes. I was right.

My daughter’s journey was harder, living on the streets and experiencing all the pain that entails. We don’t talk about the details. I can guess the pain she went through but I don’t want to know. Not being able to protect my child is one of the most painful experience I’ve ever faced.

Just over 5 years ago, she put her addiction behind her. The pivotal moment was when she STOLE MY CAR! While she lived on the streets, we would let her stay in our garage periodically while she tried treatments like suboxone, This particular time, she used it as an opportunity to steal my car to go get drugs. We pressed charges. We had to sign a waiver stating we understood this could result in harm to her. We did it anyway. She was lucky. The police were called to a domestic disturbance at her boyfriend’s house where she was staying at the time. When they arrived, they ran the plates of the car and discovered it was stolen. My daughter locked herself in the car and refused to get out. The police broke the window and dragged her out by her hair. I was grateful. She was a little white girl. Would it have ended that way if she was a big black man?

That was the turning point. She was arrested and sentenced to 30 days in jail followed by 30 days treatment. The 30 days jail sentence happened right before Thanksgiving so she was allowed to spend Thanksgiving with us and then report to the treatment facility the next day. When she did her 30 days in jail, before reporting to the treatment facility, she conned her brother to take her to a friend’s house where she bought drugs. That damaged their relationship and it’s still trying to heal. When she checked into the treatment facility, they found the drugs but let her stay. She spent 30 days getting clean but her attitude didn’t change, she was still the spoiled, manipulative girl she had been before stealing the car. She was lucky again though. She was scholarshipped to another 30 days at a different facility. There she learned why she would want to be clean and how to face the challenges of life without drugs. When she was released from the second facility, she moved into a clean and sober living house and underwent 9 months of outpatient therapy. That was 5 years ago. She now lives independently out of state. She has a mentor and mentors two other girls. She speaks on panels, sharing her story. She works – self supporting. More than that she is the daughter I always dreamed of; loving, giving, kind.

Before she got clean, I had given up. I thought I would never trust her. We called her “Lucy” like the character from Charlie Brown. She would hold that football out, daring us to trust her and when we did she would snatch the football away, sending us tumbling. She had lied to us. She stole from us: the car was only the last straw, she had stolen and pawned things for years. I couldn’t imagine having a relationship with the addict she was.

But she proved me wrong! Despite all the pain, my dream daughter was still there. Bound by all the drugs and lies, but still there. I am so proud of her but not because of anything I’ve done. It’s all her. She fought like hell to get where she is. But I want to tell anyone who is battling a loved one who is an addict, don’t give up. Your loved one IS THERE! It’s a long journey from addiction to recovery but it can happen. I believe strongly that you can’t just do 30 days and call it good. Getting clean is just the first step. So much more needs to happen. I highly recommend longer stints in rehab and then a follow-up plan like outpatient. It’s not enough to just stop using. You have to fix what drove you to drugs in the first place.

Don’t give up on your loved ones but DO NOT ENABLE! Let them fall. Let them suffer. Let them hit that bottom so they have the motivation to get clean. Be there for them when they need encouragement in recovery but if they’re using, let them suffer the consequences of their actions. My daughter just got her 5 year chip in November. I thought it was hopeless but I was wrong. I had to learn that while she is my life, she needs to live her own life. She is not an extension of me. She is strong, fierce and amazing. She shows me why you never give up. She shows me I can have hope.

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