Addiction is a lifetime commitment. Once an addict, always an addict. That’s what my mom has always said anyways. She will be an addict in some way for the rest of her life. Even during sobriety you are a “recovering addict.” Given that my mother will always be an addict, her family will continue to fall into the disease with her. We will forever send positive vibes her way and hope that she gets sober for herself. We also have to find ways to recover from being on the other end of the addiction. The serenity prayer is a favorite of mine. God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and Wisdom to know the difference.
The most important thing in this world to me. Everyone’s family is different, and everyone values their family in a different way. Family provides love and support to one another and is one of the most important influences in a child’s life. My upbringing was unlike most of my friend’s childhood. My Dad raised my brother (Josh) and I pretty much on his own. I was always jealous of my friends and seeing how they all had mothers in their daily lives. I have always appreciated my father, but as I have gotten older, I value him more and more. I was about 3 whenever my parents got a divorce. I do not remember it at all, which I guess is probably a good thing. Little did I know then that a love triangle was about to form! It’s a good one guys, grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy.
Ok, so here we go. My mom cheated on my dad with a co-worker when she worked as an EMT. This co-worker of hers also cheated on his wife with my mom. Involved in this were 5 children. My mom had Josh and I, and my soon to be step dad had 3 little girls. I don’t want to put my ex-step dad’s real name in here, so we will call him Danny for fun! Apparently, the thought of how this would affect us children never crossed their minds… or it did and they just didn’t care. It’s about to get confusing here, try to keep up 😉 So my mom and dad got a divorce and so did Danny and his wife (we will call her Sally). My mom married Danny, and my Dad dated Sally for years! It was fun to have bonus kids around with us and I love, yes still love, my step sisters. My mom and Danny moved to Virginia and I do believe this is when courts got involved with custody of all the children. How wild is it that the courts always pick which household a kid is going to live in? Statistics show that women are awarded child custody in nearly 90 percent of all cases. How messed up is that? Up until I was 8 years old the courts decided who I would live with. I remember living in a trailer in Hyde, and then a house by the ocean in Virginia, and then I think Danny and my mom moved to Colorado. My mom’s side of the family is split between Virginia and Colorado.
Anybody reading this that knows me well, knows that I am a Daddy’s girl 100%! I was terrified of flying, so the first year we were to fly out to my mom’s in Colorado I latched onto my dads’ leg in the airport and refused to get on the plane. This was when they still allowed people to go all the way to the terminal with you. Josh would fly alone that year to visit my mom. When it was time for the next visitation with my mom, I decided to get on the plane with my brother to fly to Colorado. My dad hired the stewardess to watch over Josh and I because we had a layover and were super young. I don’t remember much from my childhood, but I do remember that day. I remember during the layover we went into this room and ate shortbread cookies and played video games. It’s a good thing my dad had paid for the extra assistance, because when we arrived to Colorado that year my mom had forgotten that we were flying in that day, or forgot what time we were flying in. The stewardess waited with us until she arrived. My memory is so foggy. I think that I have tried to block out some memories or I am just getting to the point where my new memories are taking over the old memories.
One year my Dad took me and my brother to meet with our stepdad, who was going to drive us to go visit my mom. Danny was driving a box truck, kind of like a fed-ex or USPS. I’m not sure where he worked at the time, but it was either Fed-Ex or USPS. So, my brother and I rode the whole way to Colorado in the back of one of those trucks. The metal “beds” in the back of the truck, I think they are there for packages to be placed on, but for this ride we were placed on them. They were cold and metal, so obviously they were not the most pleasant things to ride on for that long of a trip. I believe that this is the same year my mother didn’t put us on a returning flight home. My dad got in his truck, a red Toyota, and drove straight from spring valley to Colorado Springs. The trip was about 1500 miles and it took him around 25 hours to drive straight through. This next part is my favorite part. My mom, brother and I were driving and I waved and said there is my daddy! How creepy is it that I would pick out my dad driving the opposite way at night in such a large city so far away from home! I’ll never forget that, my Hero <3
I’m not exactly sure how many trips I made to Colorado, but I do know that each time I went something bad would happen to me. Danny and my mother would get a divorce within the first couple of years they lived in Colorado. Reason for divorce, Danny cheated on my mom! My gram was the one who caught him cheating first, she was driving home from work and she actually spotted him with another woman. The only good memory I have of Colorado is going to an arcade with my brother. The arcade was “Nickle a play” …. and as you guessed it all the games were a Nickle! My mom’s boyfriend would drop us off there a lot. We would spend most of our summer at that arcade. I didn’t know it at the time, but my mom’s boyfriend was into doing drugs, mostly cocaine from what I was told.
I’m not sure how old my mom was when she started using drugs, but it seems like she was probably young. She has only met her biological father once. That asshole told her that he had his own family and didn’t want anything to do with her or my gram. That is enough to break anybody’s heart. My gram, who I have always called Nanny, has been an addict for most of her life as well. She met one of my grandpa’s (Frank) in a mental hospital where they were both placed after attempting suicide. I loved going to my Papa Frank’s house! He would always take me to Taco Bell and we would get soft tacos and those cinnamon twists. He always knew how to make me smile and always treated me like we were blood. Unfortunately, they would eventually get divorced and my nanny would move to Colorado.
My nanny met my other Papa in Colorado Springs after moving there. (I always called my grandfathers on my mom’s side Papa, and I called my dad’s dad Grandpa) This papa would go on to adopt my mom. I have heard stories that my papa was really mean to my mom and her siblings growing up and he was an abusive man in his younger years. One year when we were really young, I was at my Papa’s house and no one was watching me while I was outside with the dog. I was just a little girl and I didn’t realize that the dog did not like to be pet while eating. That dog whipped right around and bit my on my cheek. I screamed so loud and my brother came running. I ended up going to the hospital and getting stiches. I still have the scar to this day from that bite. Boy was my dad furious that this happened while I was under my mother’s watch.
I remember one time my brother and I were in Colorado for a visitation with my mom and I lost my Papa’s calling card. The calling card had 700 minutes on it and I would sneak using it to make phone calls to my dad. This was back before we had cell phones and had to use phone cards to dial long distance. Anyways, I somehow misplaced the card. When my Papa found out that I had lost the card, he made me look for it and wouldn’t let me stop until I found it. It was like playing marco-polo with myself. It took me hours to find the card, but I finally found it under his recliner cushion. I often wondered how mean he was to my mom, aunt, and uncle when they were young. If he got this upset over a stupid calling card, I can only imagine how mean he was if they did something to upset him. I heard that he also pushed my nanny down the stairs one time and she had to go to the hospital. Their relationship was not healthy on them or their children.
My mom lived in an apartment in Colorado Springs for a couple years. Looking back at this stage of my childhood is always an emotional rollercoaster for me. I know now that at this point in my mother’s life she was using drugs. The apartment building she lived in was huge and may have even been public housing. My Uncle and his family lived a couple floors below my mom. It was nice to know that Josh and I had some family close since my dad was so far away. I hated going to Colorado though because I always felt so afraid. My dad, my protector, was so far away. The thought of him being so far away from me was constantly running through my mind. I was glad to at least have my brother with me, and I knew that he would never intentionally let anything happen to me. Josh and I would walk down to the gas station many times during our summer stay with our mom. I don’t remember seeing her a lot when we would go visit. Now that I am looking back at my youth years, I feel as though we spent more time with my Aunt, cousins and Grammy than we did with my mother. One time I spent that night at Emily’s house, a friend I met. Emily was the daughter of my one of my mom’s friends. The mother was only about maybe 30-35 years old, and she was allergic to water. Yep you read that right, water. She did drink a good amount of Mt. Dew though. You’re probably wondering why my mother would trust a lady that says she is allergic to water to babysit her child. Hold on it gets better. The father had Grand-mal seizure’s and just sat inside the trailer all day and smoked. I look back now and I think why in the hell did she let me stay there?
There are some good memories from Colorado though. I remember my gram took me on an “outing” one day. She planned out a day to go look at open houses, and all the houses were mansions! I knew we could never afford to live like that back home. My Aunt took us to the zoo a couple times that summer. Nevertheless, I always wanted to come home. I hated being away from my dad.
A couple years later my mom would try to move back to Pennsylvania. She actually stayed with Dad, Josh, and I for a little while and got a job at St. Charles. I can’t really recall how I felt about this situation at that time. Thinking about it now, I feel like it was probably awkward. Josh and I were old enough to know that they weren’t going to get back together, and it was most likely messing with our heads that she was staying with us. She ended up moving back to Virginia and stayed with my Uncle until she got back on her own. After my mom lived in Virginia for a couple years, Josh and I would go visit more often since it was closer. My mom worked at a restaurant/bar for a while, and lived in a small apartment above a barn. I really liked this apartment above the barn though, it had a certain peacefulness to it. This would be around the time of my mom starting to date Jimmy.
In 2007 is when I met my mom’s new boyfriend Jimmy. The first day I met him he was taking care of pygmy goats, and they loved him. I always find it as a sign when animals like to be around people. I feel like animals can sense if someone is a genuinely nice person, or the opposite a complete ass. Anyways, I could tell that Jimmy was a nice man by this. My mom and Jimmy were together for about 15 years, and I was 16 when they started dating. They eventually moved in together into a nice little house with a pool. At this point in time I would have been a senior. This is around the same time I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Another sign that showed me Jimmy was a good man was when he took care of me when I was sick. We had basically just met each other, but he was a caring father to me. This man never treated or made me feel like we weren’t blood and that means a lot to me. I feel horrible for the girls out there that didn’t have a father in their lives. I could never wrap my head around the fact that father’s just leave their children. How is this even possible? I guess in the end they are the one’s missing out, but it does cause so much emotional damage to the children. Anyhow, my mom and Jimmy did end up splitting up around halfway through their relationship.
My mother at this time would fall off the wagon and by that, I mean she started using again. I remember finding a little baggy in her purse with white powder in it. I figured it was cocaine, but I had never been around that stuff so I wasn’t positive. I would later find out that she was snorting it in the bathroom at her work with other co-workers. She got so messed up one night that she threw a brick into the bar’s window and stole Jägermeister. This little stunt she pulled landed her in jail. She would call me from jail and I felt so bad if I didn’t answer because no one else would answer her calls. It costs money to receive and take calls from a jail, but I just couldn’t not answer the phone. I thought to myself, she is all alone in there and no one else in the family will take her calls. She told me a story about how the girls wash their hair in jolly rancher water because it gives their hair a good smell. What a sticky mess that would be! I did think about disowning her when she told me some girl was going to give her a tattoo on her neck. That would have been the end of the line for me!
Once my mother was released from jail she moved in with my Great Uncle until she was able to get a job and get back on her feet again. During this time, she met another Jim. This Jim was a complete wack job. His house smelled like a wet ashtray and he was disgusting. I am not even sure exactly what drugs he was on, but he was definitely on a couple different ones. My brother and I decided to take a trip down to visit our mom. We slept in Jim’s spare bedroom and I could hear this man snore through his door, our bedroom door, and ear plugs. His house was down right disgusting, and I couldn’t stand to watch my mom nod out one more time. She once said to me that she loved Jim. I said “I don’t think his own mother loves him”. I feel bad now for some of the things I said about him, but I was younger and I thought that he had gotten my mom back on drugs. Now that I am older, I see that she is the only one who makes decisions for herself. She could have said no or left him because he was a druggie. She could have decided that she needed help and was not strong enough on her own to say no. Unfortunately, she did not make the right decision and she got sucked back in to using.
When Josh and I were heading back home to Pennsylvania we reached out to Jimmy to see if we could get together for a lunch on our way through. I really thought it was going to be an awkward meal because of everything that he and my mom had gone through. The meal couldn’t have been any less awkward, and I was gracious for that. I don’t remember exactly how long they had been on a break for, but it didn’t even feel like they were separated at that time because Jimmy treated us like his own still. He never pressured us to tell him anything about my mom, and we actually were able to get him and my mom to talk again. Jimmy still loved her and wanted to help her. Almost everyone deserves a second chance in life. Jimmy ended up going and getting my mom from that Jim’s house. She didn’t even have a car so Jimmy took his truck and went to pick her and a box of her belongings up. He moved her back to his new house and they started to work on making their rekindled relationship stronger. My mom got a job close to home at a little convenient store. Jimmy is a safety inspector so sometimes he does have to work away, but this was ok. They were together and doing well again for around 6 years. Sadly, we would soon be hitting an iceberg.
Try to recall the part in this post where I spoke about my papa, the one who adopted my mom. Remember how cruel I said he could be? Imagine the impact he had on my mom’s life, and he is one of the influencers in her life that makes her want to use drugs. He was close to my mom’s uncle and he decided around 2 years ago to go to Virginia to visit. He didn’t rent a car when he arrived in Virginia, so my mom had to drive him wherever he wanted to go. My mom spent a lot of time with my Papa during his visit, and he actually ended up extending his trip to take care of my mom when she had surgery. This is when life would start to fall apart again. She had surgery on her hand, and she was given Percocet post-operatively. Bad idea! She had been “sober” for nearly 6 years. She would yet again get sucked in by the pain pills. Because I don’t live there, I can’t say how often she was truly using, I just know that she did start using pain pills more frequently. I thought that she had it under control though because I would reach out to my Papa to check in on her and see how many refills she had been getting. I figured that he wouldn’t let her abuse them because he knows her history with substance abuse.
On June 2,2019 my great uncle would pass away. My mom’s uncle was really a father figure in her life growing up. He was always there for her when she needed someone. He and my great aunt would take my mom under their care whenever she needed it. It was hard on my great uncle and mom when my great aunt passed away. Neither one of them really ever got fully over it. When my great uncle got cancer my would take care of him when she could in between jobs. She had a hard time dealing with him being sick. I thought that she was still doing ok. I was wrong. The sicker my great uncle got, the further away my mom felt to me. I remember the day when he passed away. I felt horrible because I was cleaning and I ignored my mom’s call. I figured I’d call her right back after I was done. I knew something happened when she called Tyler’s phone. Tyler hung up the phone and looked at me and told me the news. I immediately lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. I was so upset about him passing away, and I was disappointed in myself for ignoring my mothers call.
Fast forward to February 2020. My mom came up for a baby shower we were throwing for my brother and sister-in law. She was only staying a few days because she had to go back to work. On the night of her arrival, I ended up being admitted into the hospital with a fever. She went to Josh’s house first to see my niece. After she left there, she was coming to the hospital to see me. My dad was with me in the hospital already and we were waiting for the floor to call with my room number. She said she was going to be coming straight there from my brothers. The trip probably takes about 35-40 minutes. It was like 2 hours later when she finally showed up. She seemed a little weird, but I was on medication and thought maybe it was me. She didn’t stay long at the hospital with me because she wanted to get to my house to rest as she just drove 6 hours. Tyler was still up when she got here and they talked for a little before she went to bed. The entire time she was here she seemed like a different person. She was ditzy and tripping/falling frequently. She blamed this on the methotrexate. She was talking fast and repeating things. I honestly thought she was just frazzled with me being in the hospital.
When I was discharged Tyler came to pick me up and brought me home. My mom was at my brother’s house so I didn’t see her too much that night because I fell asleep early. The next day was the baby shower. Now remember, I had just gotten out of the hospital and I had extreme back pain from the spinal tap/ blood patch. She was supposed to help me with the party and games, but I kept looking around wondering what she was doing and where she was. She did help with the food which was appreciated. People kept asking Josh and I where she was and neither of us knew. At the time I didn’t even know what was going on with her, but as the night went on it was clearer to me that she had been using something. We were watching a movie and she kept nodding out. I didn’t say anything to her and Tyler and I just looked at each other and snickered.
Once she returned home, we would then learn that Jimmy and her split again. She has again fallen off the wagon. I think she needs to get some new wheels on this wagon, it seems to be pretty weak. I asked her what drugs she had been using and she said “whatever, pills, coke or meth”. WHAT?! I remember sitting there and my heart sinking. Seriously, meth. I just couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. How did she go from being sober in my head to like the complete opposite? Was she using at my house while I was in the hospital? I was so embarrassed to even tell Tyler, and even more humiliated that she was here with Tyler alone. I don’t know how she was acting here at my house when I was in the hospital. Tyler said one night she sat out in her car for a couple hours. Ugh. The mortified feelings quickly turn into me being angry, sad, ashamed, and helpless. I am at a loss on this one.
Since this last episode she pulled we have been in contact but it’s just not the same. I love my mother, I really do. I’m not trying to paint my mom to be some kind of monster, I’m just recalling my childhood and how it affected me. Having somebody in your life that is an addict is difficult, and it definitely affects more than just the addict. I am constantly wondering if my mom is using. She is living with the family she takes care of right now, and I can’t figure out if that is a good thing or not. They fight a lot and I know that is bringing back bad childhood memories for my mother. I honestly don’t know how strong she is to fight the will to use. There are times where if I don’t hear from her in the morning I wonder if she decided to use again and accidentally overdosed. No one should ever have to fear this about a loved one. It is an endless worry. Trust has been broken as well. Even when she says she isn’t using; I just don’t believe her. I feel bad for feeling the way I do. The way she is living her life right now gives me such anxiety. I know I need to somehow let it go, but I just don’t know how.
Life with my mother wasn’t always a wreck. Even though she worked a lot, it was fun to go to work with her sometimes and help out. Josh and I had the opportunity to travel at the same time while visiting with her. We made it a tradition to go to the movies and see the newest movie out at the time. One time when she lived in Colorado, she bought tickets for her and I to go to an NSYNC concert. I had so much fun! For the most part, when we were with our mom, we did have fun. She would send my dad money to help with school clothes, and we would get packages from her for birthday’s and Christmas. I always did feel different from my friend’s growing up. All of my best friends had the opposite problem that I had. I didn’t have a full-time mother and some of them had absent fathers. I’m not sure which is worse on a female, growing up without a mother or father. I never did learn how to cook well, braid hair, have shopping dates, etc. One thing my mom was always good with was talking to me and calming me down. She always had a way of making me see where my dad was coming from on certain problems. My poor father had to deal with all of my growing pains, and female problems. I am lucky that I did have really good friends, and their mothers would always look after me. Next sentence might be a little tmi .. but I’m here to open up and help others with my story so here it goes. I felt so bad for my dad when I got my period for the first time. I was blessed to have my best friends Destiney’s mother to talk to. I had no idea what was happening in my life, and I was so embarrassed to talk to my dad about it. I can recall the conversation we had about wearing tampons. My dad sat down with me and said “do you know where those things go?” “…. Ummm yeah I know how they work and where they go” At the time I was so uncomfortable, but now looking back I can laugh about it. This is just one of the many things that we went through together. My father and I never spoke of tampons or menstruation again.
I’ve always loved my mother, and maybe a little too much at times. I often feel at times like I have enabled her by continuing to love and talk to her. I have always worried about my mother, whether she was using or not. This is because as a child of an addict we feel like we carry the responsibility to fix them. The thing is we can’t fix them. No matter if the addict is a parent, sibling, significant other or friend…. we just can’t fix them. We can pay for them to go to rehab, or make the suggestion they go, however in the end if they aren’t trying to fix themselves its not going to work. I am 30 years old, and I have lived most of my life in fear that one day I am going to finally wake up to the call from a stranger letting me know that my mom had passed away from an accidental overdose.
If there is one thing that I have taken away from growing up with an addict as a parent, it is how to be strong. My mom had a chaotic upbringing. She didn’t have an easy childhood, and I feel so sorry for that. My Nanny is also a drug addict, and I’m not positive when she started using. Although I do not blame my Nanny for my mother’s problems, I do in a way hold her responsible for part of it. It breaks my heart to think about my mom growing up and what she had to deal with. My Nanny was only about 15 or 16 when she had my mom, and she didn’t have the father in her life to help her. My mom was close to her cousin, but he passed away when he was about 18 from cancer. This was very hard on my mom because they were so close. They were more like brother and sister than cousins. Perhaps this is when the drug abuse started? I have never really asked my mom when she started using drugs and what made her want to start. I try to watch what I say to her when discussing the abuse because I do not want to say something to trigger her to want to use. She has told me in the past that it numbs her pain. What about Josh and I? Doesn’t she realize that we have and continue to carry so much pain over her? Writing this post has been a struggle for me because it has brought up so many old memories that I wish never happened. I have wondered throughout my life where Josh and I would be if we didn’t have the father we had. Would we have grown up being raised by grandparents? Or maybe we would have been placed in foster care. I never could have made it through this life without my brother or dad. I have the best dad, and it just blows my mind that there are father’s out there that just leave their children. How could my mom even leave her own children behind? I spend time with my niece and nephew and I look into their beautiful innocent eyes and wonder how my mom could have ever left. I may never know how she did it or why, and maybe it’s supposed to be that way.
I didn’t have the best childhood, but it was far from a bad one. My dad did such a good job as a single father raising two children. He never took time to himself. He sacrificed a lot in life to make sure Josh and I had a good childhood. Did we grow up in a mansion? No, far from one. Did we have a lot of money? No, not even close. What we did have though was love. The love that we learned to build is amazing. We didn’t have it all, but who does? I wouldn’t trade my childhood for any other. I am grateful in life to have what I have. I try to have a positive attitude towards each day. I’m lucky that my mom is still alive and for the opportunity to work on our relationship. It’s a struggle some days for me to stay in touch, I fall into a bad place mentally. I just try to stay positive in life. I have a lot to learn still. I have thought about attending al-anon meetings to better educate myself on the part I play in an addict’s life. I know that I have at times let it consume me, and I am getting better at handling it. If anyone has any advice to offer, I am listening! If you are reading this and you are the addict, how do you overcome the desire to use? Please feel free to comment or leave your own story and how you handle being part of an addict’s life. Remember, help is always available.
For confidential free help you can call the addiction hotline at: 1-800-662-4357.
A couple other great resources are:
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
American Addiction Centers: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/alcohol-drug-hotline
Drug Abuse Hotline: https://www.help.org/drug-abuse-hotline/