It’s 3AM and the ten year anniversary of my mother’s sobriety. “I need you to come get me from the hospital”, she says. “I had another anxiety attack and I just didn’t know what to do.” The words come out through sobs and shrieks. My mother has checked herself into the emergency room and all I can think about is how unfathomably upset I am with her. I can’t believe she’s doing this to me again. Those words “I can’t believe she’s doing this to me again” seemed to enter my mind more and more around this time in my life. I blamed her for destroying my relationships. I blamed her for destroying what family I could have had, but I had to keep holding her up because I’m the only person she has left.
My mother became addicted to methamphetamines after some seventeen years of marriage with my father. To her knowledge she was never an alcoholic or drug addict prior to this time. She dabbled in both from time to time, but nothing had ever gripped her like this.
I was six or seven when the problem truly started and fortunately I don’t quite remember the beginning. I don’t remember the smaller fights or her staying out all night. What has been burned in my mind are the big fights. The yelling and screaming. The not coming home for a week or more. The empty house with just my brother and I trying to get by.
Luckily we weren’t in that situation for an elongated period of time, about six months or so. My father did all that he could during that time, but it’s hard to do much before divorce papers are filed. Every time he tried to come take us away from that situation my mother would call the police. It hadn’t gotten to the point where social workers could have extricated us from the situation. There just wasn’t enough evidence. We cried and begged her to let us see him and when my mom stopped showing up for court dates he gained custody of us and was able to move us into his home.
Months after I took my mother to the emergency room for the last time I found drawers full of pills. Prescriptions, most of which I couldn’t pronounce. I mean heaps of drugs overflowing from large storage drawers. Looking at them, I wasn’t sure if there was an end or a bottom to this container. At first I told myself this was normal behavior and I know and have known that she takes medications for various medical conditions like anxiety, extreme back pain, depression, insomnia, and even restless leg syndrome. With so many chronic illnesses running rampant who am I do deny her this release? What I failed to realize fully until this time was that my mother was using these many and varying conditions as a crutch to continue using drugs in a different way. To her these were all viable reasons to be taking a slew of addictive meds. When I confronted her about the issue she developed the quickest anger I’d ever seen. Someone who was supposed to always love me and support me would say some of the most hurtful and destructive things possible in order to guard herself.
After ten years of building a new relationship with this woman I had to come to terms with the fact that she was poisoning my life. I tried, quite literally, day in and day out to be there for her. I became so unhealthily dependent upon making sure she would be okay. As she became used to this treatment my mother fell into a constant state of crisis, which was destroying my life once again. Yes, there were times when the mother I knew and still love came to the forefront and smothered me with the kindness and attention that I’d always wanted. Those were the times that kept me going. Those were the reasons that I couldn’t give up on her. However, those moments were few and far between. She didn’t even know who she or I were anymore. She desperately clung to a life that didn’t ever exist. The moments in which she “mothered” me she imagined me as an eight year old girl – helpless and struggling. She was unable to see the twenty-five year old woman in front of her that was dying to save her mother.
I held her every time she cried. I gave her advice about how to get her life together. I went to counseling with her. We went over and over how our lives could have been different if she would have gotten help earlier. She blamed my father and my brother and myself for not throwing her into rehab at the first signs of addiction. So, here I was trying to do anything I could to get her to go.
What was I to do? This person had already been through rehabilitation and was actually currently working for that very same non-profit women’s recovery center. In the eyes of an outsider she had it all together. How can I make this woman get the help she really needs? Will she ever be what I want her to be? Will she ever be happy and whole again? All of this gave me doubts about my own health. I started to believe maybe I had tendencies towards anxiety and thought about researching anxiety medications. Maybe, she was the normal one and I needed to seek medical attention.
I read a student’s beautiful story that illustrates my next point perfectly, “It is a treatable disease with wide-ranging effects on both the individual user, as well as his or her loved ones”.
I decided that I needed to confront my own addiction to my mother’s behavior instead. I started going to counseling alone. Not just to talk about events passed, but my current relationship with her. I realized that it is not fair of me to project my idea of “mother” onto this woman. That isn’t what she was anymore.
Unfortunately, the drugs had their effect and caused chemical imbalances in her brain – some of which I believe were present prior to the drug use, but that’s neither here nor there. My point being I had grown by myself and didn’t need a mother figure any longer.
After I received a rage filled phone call from her it all made sense. She made some deplorable statements towards me that I have clung to for some time. It was the fuel I needed to move on. I decided in that second I didn’t need this poisonous person in my life any longer. I did all that I could for her.
It took much longer than I would have liked, but I came to terms with my own adulthood and the fact that I had made myself the person I wanted to be regardless of whether she was in my life or not. I know I don’t ever want to let that happen to me. I’ve made the appropriate and healthy decisions to make sure I never go in that direction. I understand now that her addiction has controlled her and made her a different person. I can’t blame her for that, but I have to be healthy. I truly want what is best for her. I hope she can be healthy and happy, but she has to find that on her own. There’s no way I can make her experience happiness and fulfillment. Now, I can see her in a different light.
And now, I mean this in the best possible way, I can be the person I wanted her to be. That thought doesn’t make me sad in the slightest. It gives me hope that I can live fuller than I could have previously imagined possible and love stronger than I had ever received before.
Trisha Miller is a freelance blogger from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan that promotes an all around healthy lifestyle – including mental health awareness. You can find her on Twitter and can check out her blog thatdangvegan.com.
Image courtesy of unsplash.comFebruary 5, 2016