Mother’s Day was yesterday, and I did what many normal families do. I am a 28 year old mother of 4, so I spent my morning getting the children ready with my husband, and we went out to eat with my mother and step-dad. To the other families eating around us, we probably looked just like them. They never would know that 8 years ago I was out on the street near death from my crack and heroin addiction. They wouldn’t know that my mother, who looked so happy playing with her grandchildren, spent countless sleepless nights wondering if she would bury her only child; and she had no grandchildren then.
I started my addiction at age 14. I was severely depressed and suicidal, so I didn’t care about the consequences of addiction. I didn’t think I would live to see 18, so what did it matter if I tried heroin and coke? At that time in my life, my mother and I were at constant odds. I was angry and hurt over my parents’ divorce, and her subsequent choices that made me feel like an unwanted burden. I was sneaking out of my window at night and getting high with adults in my neighborhood. It was the summer after 8th grade and I was planning to kill myself before the next school year.
Then, the first time I got high everything changed. After that first rush, I experienced relief from my emotional pain. I felt release, even if it was temporary. I was free from the emotional torment, as long as I stayed high. I was 14 years old and I closed my eyes and thought to myself, “hell yea, I can live with this”. I thought drugs would save my life, but I had no idea the cost of such an exchange. I had no idea it would try to kill me. I mistook the drug induced relief of pain as my salvation.
I can’t tell my whole story here, but I want to take you to the day my mother dedicated herself to doing everything humanly possible to try and save me. That summer was ending, and I had run away from home. I didn’t stay gone long, but it was a wake-up call for my mother. Until that point, she explained away my behavior as typical teenage issues. I came home to pack a little bag before going into my first psychiatric hospital stay and my mother stopped me in my room; she held me tight and sobbed, she apologized to me and swore she would be by my side. From that moment on, she never broke that promise.
Through over 30 psychiatric hospitalizations—children’s unit, adult unit, voluntary, involuntary, residential, and inpatient across the county; she was there. She brought me birthday cakes in locked wards. She cooked thanksgiving food and ate it with me on long-term state hospital units. She brought Christmas movies with her to play during visitation during the holidays. She came to visit me when I was a shaking skeleton on detox units. She went above and beyond in heart breaking circumstances to try and make things slightly less horrible for me.
She paid for my cell phone when I turned 18, and I used it as my lifeline. She agonized over how much to give in and how much tough love to give out. When I left home repeatedly to go on crack and heroin runs, I had that phone with me. I called her in hysterics, lost in project buildings trying to escape from men I didn’t even remember meeting. I called her at 3am to come pick me up and rescue me from sexual exploitation. I called her crying, just because I knew she loved me and would listen. I called to let her know I was still alive. I called to ask for help, and she was there in a second. Her willingness to help was always a phone call away. She was just waiting for me to be willing, hoping I wouldn’t die before that.
Even after I stole from her, lied to her, broke her heart (and her windows…with bricks). Even after I went to detox again and again, and again. Even after I blamed her and turned on her. Even after I treated her like the enemy standing in the way of my true love—drugs. Even after I ruined so many birthdays, holidays, and mothers days because I was too high to think clearly or put anyone’s needs above my addiction. Even then, she never hesitated to accept my pleas for help. She never broke her promise to be there for me.
So, to my mother who took long car rides, sometimes to very dangerous places… To my mother who took planes and spent every dime she could… To my mother who knew the hospitals and rehabs like the back of her hand… To my mother who always welcomed me back home… To my mother who suffered from PTSD from the constant stress of worrying over a drug addicted and mentally ill daughter… To my mother who held me at 14, before the full madness of addiction took hold, and promised to be there for me—and kept that promise… To my mother who never gave up hope on such a hopeless addict, through all the hell and near death experiences; thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU!
We sat together eating brunch on Mother’s Day this year, with my husband and 4 children who you adore beyond measure. Such a simple, normal thing to do; yet for us it is a miracle. I never would have made it without your tireless and unconditional love. So, happy Mother’s Day—we made it.
(Nothing I said should imply that addicts who die weren’t loved enough, or that love alone can save an addict. I just want to thank my mother, and offer hope to mothers of addicts currently using. I was a down and out junkie, but I made it. Recovery is possible. Keep loving, and offering help.)