I could not be all things to all people. Thank God I finally figured that out because trying to was destroying me. This is the story of my journey with addiction. I was divorced from my kids’ Dad when they were 15 (a son) and 12 (a daughter), in 2000. Ending that marriage was the first step toward becoming my authentic self & recovery. That doesn’t mean it was easy; it was a devastating time for me and the kids. Particularly my daughter, Julie. I felt like a failure.
During this phase, I learned that I could not control my ex-husband’s (bad) behavior. It took many years to learn to stop allowing that to frustrate me. His idea of demonstrating love to the kids was to give them money. I couldn’t educate him nor stop him. Julie learned to use her father. In 2007, I remarried. We were so in love and so very happy. The kids (ages 20 and 17) really liked their stepdad. He was smart, kind and generous. He filled all of my emotional black holes with love and support. He was our rock.
In this phase of life, Julie went off to college and her addiction to opioids began. She called me frequently with anxiety and complaints, which I thought was normal having just left home, but it never really stopped. I suggested she talk to someone and she found a therapist. That turned out to be a disaster because she lied to him. I eventually learned that she was getting prescriptions for “pain” from the campus health center, which was the beginning of a series of fictitious health problems to support her habit and seek attention. Julie did manage to graduate with a major and a minor along with good grades. That summer, she got a job in her field, which lasted 11 months.
Julie was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder by a psychiatrist in summer 2011, and the roller coaster ride began. I tried “helping” my daughter through the ridiculous amounts of prescription drugs, doctors’ visits, treatment centers, hospitals, PHP and IOP programs. I set rules. I participated in family sessions. I read books. My husband and I went to family therapy with Julie. We went to the 12-week Family to Family class at NAMI. We put a key lock on our bedroom door as our trust in her slipped away. She used our car without permission and sideswiped it on our garage. She bounced back and forth between our house and her Dad’s, as we lost our patience and tolerance. She stole from her Dad, her boyfriend and her Grandma. She hocked her own jewelry. She doctor shopped and pharmacy shopped. She lied and lied and lied. I made it my job to try to control her. I intercepted prescriptions and wrote letters to her doctors. And when she could no longer get Norcos, she began huffing nitrous oxide. After a year of huffing she suffered neurological damage and was losing the ability to walk.
I was trying hard to find the balance between being a wife and a mother when the universe intervened. I had a lumpectomy in November 2013. I broke my ankle in January of 2014 (a plate and 6 screws, crutches for 6 weeks, non-weight-baring boot for another 6 weeks, and physical therapy through May). I finished radiation for breast cancer in March. My husband left me in June. He hired a lawyer in July and moved to China in September (he’s not Chinese and his girlfriend was Columbian). The balancing act was over. Suddenly, life was all about me and the deep dark hole I landed in. I felt like a stronger power was trying to get my attention. It worked.
I desperately needed to make a change with my daughter. It was time to let go and allow her to sink or swim. I realized that I was working way harder on her life than she was, while my life was crumbling. I needed to focus on me. With the support of Julie’s addictions counselor, I told her she could no longer live with me or her Dad. I allowed her stay at my house one more night and the next day she was to tell me where to drop her off – a treatment center, friend’s house, park bench, etc. On July 1, 2015, I dropped Julie off at the airport. She had arranged for a one-way ticket to The Watershed in Boynton Beach.
Little by little I became stronger, physically and emotionally. I sought out a counselor, who helped me to implement the behaviors I had learned about through Julie’s treatment, family therapy, books and classes. I set boundaries and stood firm with them. I communicated directly and clearly. I stopped trying to give Julie advice and gave her encouragement instead. I stopped supporting her financially. I stopped trying to fix the things I could not control. I got my own psychiatrist and my own anti-anxiety prescription. I focused on my needs, wants and the authentic person I wanted to be. I identified my top ten values and human qualities and based my thoughts and actions on them. I moved and bought a bicycle. I made new friends and nurtured the old. I practiced new behaviors, regularly. I allowed myself to stop worrying about Julie and to release guilt. I waited until my heart was ready to see her before going to see her, which took 16 months. I put myself first.
More recently, I joined the LivesinRecovery.com Facebook group which has become a cherished source of ongoing support. It’s easy to access, there’s always someone out there, and it’s for people who have walked in my shoes. I especially appreciate the posts from the book The Language of Letting Go. I have come to depend on them for daily reflection and reinforcement. I could buy the book, but it’s much nicer to receive something from an actual someone each day. And there is no greater gift than to be able to give back to others in need.
Thank you so much for being there each and every day! Thank you to The Watershed for providing my daughter with opportunities to learn and grow, which has enabled me to learn and grow. And thank you for being a significant influence on our journey.
Nancy S., Mother of Julie J.