My daughter and her husband are raising their children in the rooms.  The children go with them to a NA meeting once or twice a week.  The other nights, they take turns going, or I watch the kids so that the two of them can go together.  At the meeting, the kids know when to be quiet, when it’s ok to talk, when to go in the playroom at the meeting so that the grownups can talk.  They enjoy going because they’ve known these grownups their whole lives and they are loved and doted on.  They know doctors, nurses, lawyers,  grocery store clerks, carpenters, and electricians, and they know the Serenity Prayer.  Plus, they get to play with the other kids there – on a school night.

I overheard one of my granddaughters, Madison,  telling her friend on the phone, “I saw Chris last night.  He was at the meeting with his mommy.”  Hmmm.  How do you tell an 8-year-old about anonymity?  Some of my daughter’s “regular” friends will say to her, “What kind of “meeting” do you go to?  Vada (my granddaughter) told Addy about it and she wants me to go.”  My daughter gets tickled but she tells the truth.  She is not ashamed of her recovery, and doesn’t mind talking to others about it.  She proudly wears her NA shirts, of which she has quite a collection.  The kids even have tye-dyed shirts with the NA emblem on it.  Her husband says that it won’t hurt them to be around the 12 steps, since their parents live them every day.  It might even help the kids, to learn to make amends, accept personal responsibility, etc.   Between meetings and then church twice a week, they are a busy family.  There are worse places for kids to learn about success and failure, their higher power, and that living a good life is a work in progress for everyone.

My kids are living proof that addiction is hereditary.  Their natural father was an addict, both alcohol and drugs.  He didn’t help raise them, thank goodness, but as it turned out he had a hand in their future anyway.  My mother was an alcoholic.  My dad is an alcoholic.  Of the 7 brothers in my dad’s family, six of them were alcoholics.  My brother is an alcoholic.   

The kids didn’t grow up in an addiction household.  Their step-father, who adopted them, and I did not drink.  That’s not to say all was rosy.   I took them to a counselor because they were having emotional issues, especially with their dad.  The doctor confronted me once.  “It is obvious that your husband is an alcoholic.  Why do you and the children not talk about that?”  “Because he doesn’t drink,”  I said.  After talking more about my husband’s history (his father was an alcoholic), the doctor pronounced him a “dry drunk.”  He had learned the behaviors of an alcoholic from his father, a mean alcoholic who was abusive to his wife.

I managed to get them graduated from high school before the drugs and alcohol got really bad.  My daughter completed two years of college, and my son went to basic and AIT for the National Guard.  Then it all fell apart.  They threw away their good starts for the drugs, partying and spiraling away from me.  At twenty-four, my daughter became pregnant, and married her boyfriend, who was an addict, too.  Somehow, she managed to have a healthy baby girl.  Which leads me to my first post in this blog.

So, with the history of my mother being a falling-down, passing out on the couch in the afternoon, scared to bring any friends over, kind of alcoholic, of course I would marry an addict, and then later another man who might as well have been one.  I have carried a lot of guilt about this.  I felt like it was my fault that I had not provided them with a good male role model.  My daughter and son assure me that it is not my fault, that I provided them with a good home and love.  After their adopted dad and I divorced, they started giving me Father’s Day cards, because he had never been active in their lives, and they pretty much hated him.  They said I was both a mother and a father to them.  But still, I could have done better in my choice of husbands.  I’ll never forgive myself for wrecking their gene pool, and their childhood with a cold, hateful man.

In my childhood, dad was pretty much absentee, even though he lived with us.  My mother did damage to my siblings and I, so much so that I’m not sure we will ever mend completely.  The things she told us about my dad – no child should ever hear.  She loved  the older of my two younger brothers in a way that makes me scared even now to ask him what she did to him.   And she could be very cruel.  At fifteen I had never even been on a date, but while drunk she would call me a whore.  I did all the housework and cooking in our home, and had to go to an uncle often for help getting groceries, because I could not drive and we lived far out in the country.  School was my respite, my safe place.  I was painfully shy, but from the time the school bus came until we made the ride home, I could pretend I was a normal girl with a normal family. 

I remembered how my mother was with me, and I vowed I would not be that way with my children.  I protected them as much as I could, and even spoiled them a little.  I would do without so they would have nice clothes like their friends.  We went to church, they played sports and were active in clubs.  They were good-looking and popular.  I was so proud of them all through school.  Then the drugs took them away from me.  Turned them into strangers, people that I didn’t know. 

I was in Walmart once in the midst of their active addiction, and I saw a Walmart employee stocking shelves.  He had on his blue Walmart vest.  I stood in the aisle and cried and cried.  In their high school years, my dream for them both was to go to college.  At that point I would have been happy if my son just had a job stocking shelves.   He couldn’t keep a job and I was sure he was selling pills.  My daughter managed to keep a job until the very end of her active addiction, which was how she was able to hide it from me for so long.  It seemed as if my dreams for them to be educated, active members of society were not going to ever come true. 


Some friends of mine (actually, my sister-in-law and her parents) lost their only brother/son to a massive hemorrhage/stroke. He had a beautiful girlfriend, and he had already bought the ring to become engaged. His parents were holding it for him. He and his dad were on the verge of buying a restaurant. He was 33.

Of course there were the usual murmurings about drug use causing the hemorrhage, but his family insists that was not so, and that he was checked for that. He did have a history of heavy drinking, and he had a hectic life managing two bars/restaurants in a resort town, St. Simons Island. He also had a history of high blood pressure and not being compliant with his medications.

After the hemorrhage he laid in an ICU unit for a week with no brain activity, until his family decided to let him go. His father insisted the young man would hate them if they allowed him to live a life as a vegetable. And that was likely true. He was a vibrant, larger-than-life individual. When they had his memorial service, they rented a hall at Epworth-By-The-Sea on the island for seating for 1,000 people, and it was standing room only. He knew everyone and had touched so many lives.

Sometimes my son & daughter posts notes to me on Facebook, and the family of the young man see them. Sometimes they comment how lucky I am to have them, etc. I know what is in their minds, because it is in mine, too. My son and daughter, who we all just knew would wind up dead because of their addiction, now have happy, healthy lives, and their child, who had a bright future waiting for him, is now dead. They can’t help but think it’s not fair.

It doesn’t make sense to me, either. I am grateful for my children’s lives, but heartbroken for the other family. It is hard to talk to them, especially my sister-in-law. They are still grieving over her brother, and will for a long time. He was the apple of his parents’ eye, and adored by his two older sisters.

I feel guilty when I write or say something positive about my children, and what is going on in their lives, so I’ve learned to avoid that topic around that family. Their son always, always comes up in conversation, and I’ve run out of things to say about him – I didn’t know him that well. It’s very awkward. They have all changed in profound ways, some good, some not so good. There’s a bitterness that they try to hide, but are not very good at it.

The best I can do is pray about my gratitude that I have my children, and pray for the other family to make it through their grief.

One of the hardest things to do when a loved one is in recovery is to stay out of their business.   After years of arguing, pleading, demanding, and crying over decisions they made, it’s tempting to continue that behavior.  It was hard enough to let my son fall on his face because of decisions he made while in active addiction, but it seems even harder now to stand by and watch to see if he makes a bad decision in recovery.

I’ve heard that an addict reverts to behaving as if he is about the age in which he started using.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that my son’s active addiction started 13 years ago.  He has 3 years clean, so for 10 years he was out there in addiction land.  When he got clean, he was 27, so he started back over at about age 18, maybe younger.  He will tell you that is about how old he feels sometimes.  By 30, he should be fairly grounded in a career and a life, but starting over, he’s had to do a lot in a short amount of time – find work when he has no real work history, live on his own, make financial decisions that are a result of his long-term drug use, poor decisions regarding credit  and multiple hospital visits and doctor visits in an effort to get drugs, not to mention the car accidents and other injuries.  That’s a lot to pull out of at 18 – it’s like you graduate from high school and someone hands you the bill for raising you and paying for your education.  I’m not feeling sorry for him-these are consequences of his actions- but I do have some empathy for him living a life of recovery, making meetings daily, working fulltime and supporting himself on a low-paying job,  and having to pay for the actions of the other guy he was.

He hasn’t complained though.  Going to meetings daily helps him stay focused, and church helps him know the struggle will be worth it.  It’s my problem when he tells me about what he is facing, and I would love to have the financial resources to help him, but I don’t.  He’s never asked me to, but I feel a little guilty just the same.  I know he needs someone to talk to about things, and I am relieved that he trusts me enough to do that.  I just can’t help thinking, in the back of my mind, he’s telling me this so I will rescue him.   Because that’s what we used to do.  He’d say:  poor me, mom, and I’d try to bail him out of trouble.  Until I dug myself a financial hole that’s taken years to get out of. 

I have to believe that he can stand on his own feet.  I sent him money when he was in treatment, but once he started working he told me to stop.  That made me really proud.  I want to meddle when he does things I think are stupid (like buying a very large dog).  But, it’s not my place.  I need to treat him like a 30 year-old man.  One who makes mistakes and learns from them-on his own.


The treatment center where my son got clean and then worked at for a year is a remarkable place. When you cross through the gates you get the feeling that this is hallowed ground, that there is possibility of recovery. Only after several visits did I feel that just above the treeline at this beautiful place there was a swirling, churning commotion. My son explained it to me when he became the intake coordinator at the facility. He said every day he sees the demons come in on the backs of these men and their families, fighting with all their strength to hang onto their souls. I mean, he said he actually saw the demons. It was a tough job, being on the front lines with these demons. Many men turned and walked away from the opportunity to get clean. Some came in with the demons still on them. Some broke down and could pray with the staff for release. So where did these demons go when they were set loose from the men? They were constantly nearby, waiting on some weakness in the men there, waiting on a staff member to lose footing, stirring up contention and confusion as much as they could.

Sounds remarkable, I know. But it is true. My son said the warring angels stand constantly at the ready, to protect and fight for those who sincerely seek God’s grace and mercy. Many men fail to make it through the year-long program. But those that make it have a 70%+ chance of staying clean out in the world when they leave Potter’s House. The facility has been in existence for more than 50 years, and they have an amazing record, considering that you never know they exist unless a family member goes there.

I think of Potter’s House a lot, and they are always in my prayers. They are not some namby-pamby God is all sunlight and rainbows kind of place. The staff there gets down in the mud and fight for the men’s lives, battling demons of childhood sexual abuse, dysfunctional families, long-term incarceration, and so much more, in addition to drug and alcohol abuse. They are realistic about the power of the world and they walk the power of the Word.

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.