A nice lady I know started a Nar-Anon group for our town. She is married to a recovering addict who now runs a program for addicts. She has seen it all, there’s no doubt about that. I went to a couple of meetings, then it was soccer season, then the holidays….and now I don’t have a good excuse for not going. It was slightly uncomfortable because everyone else there except her and me have family members in active addiction. I live in The Promised Land: my daughter has 5 1/2 years clean and my son has 3 years. People would ask me questions and I would say in the nicest way possible, “Let go of the addict,” and “You are loving him/her to death.” I quickly became an outsider – I obviously didn’t understand what they were going through – I was lucky because my kids were clean – how could I say let them go?
I say it because I know it is the only thing that works. Yes, you are throwing the dice – he might wind up dead if you turn him out on the streets, if you let her live with the crack addicts at the motel. I came to a point where I was prepared to accept that possibility – I’ll be honest, I would have welcomed it. That would have meant no more 3 am car crashes, no more legal issues, no more embarrassment in my family, no more hiding from my friends. It sucks for them to ask you how your son is doing, when they know good and well that he’s an addict, and they just want to see what you’ll say (oh, and the answer to that question is, “I don’t know. He’s an addict and we don’t keep in contact.” Shuts them down every time.) It sounds like I just care what people think, and that might have been the case back then. When I chose to let go and let God, it was almost fun to see the shocked look on their face when they would ask about my child, and I would answer them honestly. No one expects you to be honest, to speak with candor about such a painful thing. Oh, your daughter is at the university, in a sorority and the honor society. That’s nice – mine is living on the streets in another state, and just lost her baby to the welfare agency, who won’t even consider an out of state placement for the child so I can raise my grandbaby.
If there had been a Nar-Anon back when I was living in drug hell, I don’t know if I would have gone. I’d like to think I would have, but who knows? I had to come to the decision to let go all on my own. No one else in my family knew what to say to me – since I was the oldest child with the oldest of the grandchildren; no one else had had to deal with this (yet).
The decision came to me one night. I was fighting the courts in Florida to get my granddaughter, to no avail. They wouldn’t even order the home assessment for me. I was inches from losing her forever. I came home from the airport late one night after being out of town several days for work, to what should have been an empty house. But my daughter was there. I have no idea how she got to Georgia, much less got in my house. She was high, and in the bathroom primping and putting on makeup. To make a long story short, I told her to leave and not ever contact me again. She thought I was joking until I called the police. They didn’t want to take her away, but I was insistent that they arrest her for breaking and entering. The two cops decided not to take her to jail, but they gave her a ride (I found out later, to the nearest crack motel). Anytime she tried to reach me after that, I told her I loved her, but she was not welcome in my house. My allegiance was now to her baby, and I sure couldn’t have her coming around if I could have any chance of getting the baby, or at least visits.
My daughter says it was this decision that got her clean. When she lost the baby, she went on a binge and was even worse than she was before. When I cut the umbilical cord, something in that resonated deep within her. Some primal thing…I’ve lost my mother. After that, she started her long climb out of that life, and she did it on her own. I didn’t help her. Even after she was clean, and there was a chance she might get her daughter back, I didn’t trust her. Finally, she had enough evidence of her recovery that she was able to convince an attorney in Florida to fight for her. The other grandparents and I finally joined her in that fight and she proved to the court that she was fit to get the baby back.
It was a long, ugly trip to that day in court, when the judge handed down a directed verdict, after only hearing the state’s side of the case. It was obvious that my daughter had truly done everything in her power to get clean and get her child back. The state’s case was cloudy at best, but it was the proof that my daughter was a responsible adult now, and determined to stay clean no matter what the verdict was, that made the difference. She was now helping other addicts, speaking at meetings and groups; she had a job; she had her own place to live. Her husband, with whom she had parted ways on the streets, the baby’s father, was still in active addiction. He never did work hard enough to get unsupervised visits, much less custody.
My son’s story is one for another day. I had to cut him out of my life, too, which was a little easier after the experience with my daughter. His road in addiction was longer, and it took him longer to get clean, a full year in treatment, but he made it, too. He now sponsors other addicts, like my daughter, and volunteers at the treatment facility that he went to. Both my son and daughter are very involved in the recovery community, as well as their churches. My daughter remarried, and has a beautiful family. My son is dating a very sweet girl (only the second person he has dated since becoming clean), and we think she is “the one.” He certainly has prayed for God to send the right person into his life, and that he will be the right person for her.
I’m blessed beyond measure. But I haven’t forgotten those awful nights of wondering if they were alive, if they were being hurt, if they were hurting others. I haven’t forgotten how it felt to be so naive that I didn’t know that some drugs cause leg pains and stomach cramps when you don’t have a fix. When I couldn’t understand where all the money came from, and then later, where all the money went. Now I can meet people on the street with my head held high. Because I told the truth about their disease, everyone who knows us knows the miraculous recovery that my daughter and son have made. And everyone I know rejoices with us. And all three of us get calls regularly from the same people wanting to know how they did it, and can we help their loved one get into treatment?
So, I didn’t tell the ladies at Nar-Anon this long story because, well, it’s long, and complicated. But I think I will go back, and maybe not be so cold-hearted this time in telling them to let go. They still need to, but that’s something they’ll have to learn for themselves.