Mom

My mother was an addict. She was addicted to prescription opiates, before it was so widely talked about. She kept a shoebox full of other prescription drugs as well. In addition to her opiate based painkillers she took ever increasing doses of Elavil. Different doctors, different pills. At 12 years old, I knew more drug names than any 12-year old should know.

My mom’s addiction overtook her body and mind. The addiction escalated requiring more and more drugs to achieve her desired affect. In the mornings, she would follow me around as I got ready for school, non-stop talking at me. By the time I got home from school, she was groggy and slurring her words. She seemed to go back and forth between those two states. There were times she attempted to manage the addiction. She would reduce dosage, gain some clarity, and pull me in with hope that it would now be better. It never lasted long and the drugs were back.

Her mind and body rotted before our eyes. When I would question her use of these drugs, she claimed she was sick and that I just didn’t understand her sickness, that she needed those drugs. She would go to Canada whenever she could, so she could stock-up,  as they sold Tylenol with Codeine over-the-counter. I was called selfish and uncaring for not “understanding” her sickness.

She used fake suicide attempts to gain sympathy and attention, to manipulate our sympathies. We moved to another state for a few years. When I was in jr. high school, she swallowed some pills and told me I needed to call an ambulance. I didn’t believe her. We had been down that road too many times before. She called the ambulance for herself. They pumped her stomach, they found nothing, but my Dad could have her observed overnight if he chose. We had no health insurance. She begged him not to let them keep her for observation, he acquiesced. We moved back “home” not long after. I remember when I was 20 years old, a junior in college in my hometown, she did it again. She ended up in the hospital. I went to visit her, at my Aunt and Grandpa’s request, and her doctor mentioned the situation as being her first suicide attempt. I was floored, what?

Her father and sister (my Grandpa and Aunt who I love dearly) protected mom from the consequences of her actions. They knew better, but let her create her own narrative. I explained her past to the doctor. He told me he would have her put in a facility to help her. I was so happy, she was finally going to get help. She threw a fit. My Grandpa stepped in. It so happens that my Grandma’s brother was a highly respected attorney and founding partner of the most distinguished firm in town. Grandpa dropped his name and threatened to sue. My mom was not sent to the facility. I was so disappointed. Her doctor suggested I learn about how to set boundaries with her and my family to protect myself emotionally and referred me to my college counseling clinic. I went.

Eventually, I came to understand that I could not save her. Though, I think until the day she died, I held a tiny piece of hope that she would eventually come to save herself. Of course, it never happened. After years of escalating drug use, my mom died at 65 years old from heart failure.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a very long time. Not sure why? I know it is part of who I am and how I relate to my world. I know it. I lost my mom to addiction, long before she ever died, I lost my mom to addiction. Deep breath.

 

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17 thoughts on “Mom

  1. I am sorry for your loss😔❤️, so very tough and heartbreaking to have a parent who is so deeply stuck in addiction. Addiction is so destructive to everyone around the addict, but especially the children; often forced to grow up too early, to become a parent both to them self and their parent😔.

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    1. Ease, thank you. She died in 2011, a year before d-day. I turned to MC for support and it wasn’t there. I think it was the real beginning of the end of our marriage as I knew it. I became angrier and angrier toward him, toward his work and exercise taking precedence. It became starkly clear that he was unwilling or unable to be a friend when I needed him.

      My mom would occasionally threaten that she would haunt me after her death if I didn’t do a, b or c. Sometimes I think about that. Instead, I like to believe that the sickness was in her physical being, not in her soul and that up in heaven with my dad, they saw to it that I would no longer live with dangerous secrets being kept from me. So, my d-day was not a haunting, but rather a gift of knowledge. Of course, rationally, I know it was all just a matter of time and place, but cannot help those thoughts regardless.

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      1. Apparently she in her threats grasped every straw she could use for making you do as she wished, which is really awful. Although I do not believe she has any power over what happens to you in your life in terms of making this or that happen to you, rather I believe it is the way you relate to her impact on you that affect you until fully worked on. Our own thoughts or how we relate to hurtful events often hinder our progress, like in cases like this one when she is dead but she has left scars in you, as in a twisted sense of guilt for something you haven’t done anything wrong about, that are difficult to get rid of.

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        1. She did manipulate me in any way she could. And, yes, there are deep scars. I try to heal those, but it’s not easy. Certainly my situation with MC hasn’t helped. I stupidly thought that somehow all the pain of my childhood would somehow inoculate me from future pain. Oh boy was that wrong.

          You know, you said that I didn’t do anything wrong. And, it strikes me, really for the first time, how much I need to hear that, how much I would love if my Aunt would say those words to me, “you didn’t do anything wrong.” I don’t think she ever will. Regarding my mom, I must learn to say those words and believe those words for myself. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

          Thank you!

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          1. I hope you will hear that until you believe it strongly yourself – even if it would be through others than your aunt! ❤️
            Btw, by your aunt saying to you that you didn’t do anything wrong, she would first have to realize and admit that she herself did your mother and you wrong, so the absence of such a validation from her is about her and not about you. And of course by doing what your mother wanted to be done instead of helping your mother the way she needed to be helped, she (they) didn’t do the right thing, whereas it takes a lot of strength to do what you did and tried to do when you were the only one doing it, got gas lighted and threatened for it and didn’t get support by the ones who should know better. And if you think of what you faced and how long you faced this it is no wonder that the scars are deep and will take time and effort to heal, especially when there are other scars to heal from as well. I mean naturally one wants to get healed asap, and might get angry at oneself for not healing faster, whereas we would never expect a surgery to heal as fast as a scratch❤️

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            1. Thank you, Ease. I know you are right about my Aunt. She is not capable of being anyone but who she is and if I want her in my life, I must accept her for that. But, I also must understand that my love for her has to be on my terms, not out of some hope of trying to win her love and approval. And, I also need to learn to love myself, know I did the best I could, and it wasn’t my fault. Intellectually, rationally, I know this to be true. It is my heart that still struggles to accept it. My brother has no relationship with anyone in our family except me. I know that is what he needs to do. I am not that strong.

              My brother is a year older than me. When our parents separated (I was 15, he was 16), he went with our dad. We had fought constantly growing up, but about a year before our parents separated realized we had someone in the other who truly understood and became friends.

              When our dad told our mom he wanted a divorce, I stayed with Mom. I wanted my brother to stay too, but he went with Dad. In addition to my aunt and grandpa saying how unfair this was all to my mom, I had visions in my head of being able to save her.

              A year after the separation, a family friend kicked out her son for staying out past curfew one too many times and other inappropriate behavior. He came crawling back, begging forgiveness and shaped up. My mom liked me being the parent for both of us, until she didn’t. Mom and I were fighting about her latest boyfriend, a drunk, illiterate man. She wanted me to cozy up to him, flatter him, make him feel like he was someone I wanted in our lives. I refused. I was never rude to him, I just refused to fall all over him as if he was some gift from G-d. She kicked me out, thinking I would come crawling back. At that moment, I knew I would never go back.

              I went to my aunt’s house. I should have gone to my dad. My dad and I were very close in many ways. But, he had his issues too. And, for whatever reason, I believed if both my brother and I lived with Dad, Mom would kill herself. So, I stayed with my aunt. Mom blamed my aunt for stealing me away. My aunt never fully brought me in to her heart. I was closer than any outsider, but still an outsider. Staying with her gave her influence in getting me to still have a relationship with my mom. I so wanted my aunt’s love and approval. I would do anything for her. Today, I’ve come to realize that even though I do want the best for my aunt, if I do something for her, it must simply be out of that love, not some inner hope that it will increase her love for me. I still struggle with this. But, am learning, you cannot win someone’s love, it is not a winnable thing. Still, it is an instinct I must fight.

              My brother went off to college a year before me. At the end of his sophomore year, my freshman year, our dad died. It was shockingly fast. We found out he had cancer and he was dead four months later. My brother went overseas for a year of school. During this time, our mom applied for credit cards in my brother’s name, putting herself down as his spouse. He came back to tens of thousands of dollars of debt. It’s a big long story, suffice it to say she wasn’t held accountable. My brother stopped all relationships with everyone in our family. I was, and am, the only exception. His strength was far, far greater than mine.

              My aunt’s husband, my uncle by marriage, had been very hard on me in high school. Child support was an issue. It was my job to ensure my Aunt and Uncle received that money, or I needed to go live elsewhere. They had bailed out my folks financially too many times over the years. That was the talk, but in reality it never happened.

              I know my Uncle wanted to make sure I didn’t turn out like my folks, that I knew my choices were my responsibility. He wanted me to understand what my parents, my Aunt and my Grandpa did not. . .Our life is not completely up to fate, as we do have control over and responsibility for our own inputs. One day, after I finished college, we were driving somewhere and he told me how much I was like a daughter to him and how proud he was of me. Ease, I cannot begin to tell you how much that meant to me. Their sons are like little brothers to me. I cannot sever ties. And, I love my aunt. I don’t know what the point of telling you all of this, but I know it is relevant to my healing in some way.

              My brother and I aren’t as close as we used to be. We speak from time-to-time. He and MC are old friends, that is how I met MC. I feel a deep connection to my brother that is based on shared history we experienced in our childhood. But, in some ways I am closer to my little cousins. I don’t know. . .

              And, I don’t even know why I am thinking about all of this right now. Perhaps, I am still needing to heal these old wounds before I can really begin to heal the new ones. I thought I had moved beyond all of these old wounds years ago, but when d-day occurred, the life I thought I had made for myself turned out to be an illusion and I am struggling with figuring out how to go forward, knowing that getting through all of this gives me no guarantee that something else down the road (probably unrelated to MC or my past) will pull the rug out from under me yet again. I have spent so much of my life pulling myself up, and I am not sure how to find that strength within me again. But, I know I need to find it. I cannot live as a victim. I cannot live just to survive. I want to live to thrive. Sigh. . .

              On the other hand, maybe, I just need to accept these are wounds that cannot be healed and I just move forward from there?

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              1. Yes you are right, it’s strange how even though we know what’s right we have this stage of getting over it and exchange old thought patterns with new better ones, feeling stuck because even though logically we know what’s right it still takes time to really feel it, and we need to have self compassion and let the grief and healing take its time too.

                I don’t know if it necessarily is about strength though since you have another relation to that side of your family than your brother, after all you lived with them and saw other sides of them too, spent moments with them that your brother did not. And I guess you feel indebted to them too for taking you in, so it’s more complicated than to say that he is stronger and you weaker. It’s simply the way he needs to deal with it, and again you have different experiences since you lived with them and saw other sides.

                It is great to hear that you got such an important heartfelt validation from your uncle, that he saw things the way they were with your mother, aunt and grandpa. And it means especially much when you get it from someone who was strict on you. It’s good that you are close to your little cousins too. At the same time it totally makes sense that you still feel this strong need of your aunts love, I mean she stands for a mother figure since your mother did not take on that role, and subconsciously it was likelier that your aunt would take on that role? Maybe she felt she betrayed your mother if she took you fully to heart, or was she like your mother in the sense that she also manipulated but in minor forms?

                I don’t know if you need to heal these old wounds before the fresher wounds or if it can be done simultaneously. But old unhealed wounds will simply keep hurting and keep getting reopened as long as not worked on, because you will think of and feel them more now since you are in pain from new ones, which reminds you of the old. I mean it puts you emotionally in that corner where you again feel hurt, used, unsafe, in need of validation etc so even though it’s another situation the/some basic feelings are similar and takes you back emotionally to that spot?

                I don’t think we can leave the wounds as is though, rather that we need to work on old wounds too, since you fall deeper whenever you experience pain if you are not healed. Maybe you need to kind of figure out what defines healing for you and what you think you need to feel healed, so you differentiate it from what a healing is not connected too? As in healing is not connected to whether you get your aunts or anyone else’s validation or that healing will not protect you from future events or change the past, rather that as you said healing has to take place for you to live fully, with an acceptance of the past. To know that healing will make you stronger if bad things occur because you are stronger when facing it. And to believe that you can pick yourself up now as well as in a possible future, but to accept that these things take time and to not compare yourself with others since we all have differing luggage of old with us whereby the process it takes to heal differs too, that we just have to ensure that we keep trying to get forward so that one day we reach the intended goal, instead of giving up trying and losing it all. I know you know this, but it is reaffirming to hear/read and say/write it😉.

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                1. Ease, you know I know you are right?! I seem to suffer from the knowing-doing gap.

                  My aunt is complicated. I do think in many ways she held back from me because of my mom. When my mom died, she was less held back from me in many ways. I do think there were also minor manipulations, but I don’t necessarily think they were conscious choices. I’m not sure. She knows I wanted her to love me as a daughter. And, I do think, at times she uses that knowledge to her advantage. Again, I am not really sure it is conscious. Regardless, I know the only person I can change is me, my reactions, my motivations. So, I work on that. Clearly a work-in-progress. Damn knowing-doing gap!

                  What would being healed look like to me? I am not really sure. Maybe, not feeling so disconnected from and orphaned by the world. Maybe, being able to let go of the pain and sadness that consume too much of thoughts and days. But, maybe, most of all, just being able to fully engage and connect in my life. I guess I am not really sure how to do more than live in spite of the pain, actually relinquishing that pain to the trash heap of the past is a whole other ball of wax.

                  I really appreciate all of your thoughts here. Seeing it, hearing it, interacting with knowledge from someone else’s vantage point is hugely helpful!

                  ❤ TL

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                  1. I think in a way your expat-life contributes to such feelings since you are always eventually on the move, always leaving behind and being left? Especially since the only stability in such situations is sought/has to be found in the marriage, since you both kind of only have each other to rely upon in between and in the midst of these moves? I don’t know how to reach such a closure, but did you try therapy and working on your pain with a therapist or the like? Maybe it would help? Maybe it’s connected with forgiveness and acceptance, both of yourself (I mean for things you might blame yourself for doing or not having done, but had no blame in) and of others (who hurt you), since it hinders your progress, although it is hard to do if wounds still feel fresh and is a progress in and of itself, as you mentioned in an earlier post. For myself I find comfort in my faith in many ways (as in God knows and wants good and is Just, that I might not see all this justice until in the Hereafter, that He won’t lay a burden heavier than I can bear and that whatever occurs to me is for the good, since hardships erases sins and makes me turn to Him even more etc), and in general people find comfort and strength in their faith so hopefully you can draw comfort and strength from yours too? Maybe the question should be what do you think is hindering your healing? Maybe if you define the obstacles it will get clearer?

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                    1. Again, you are spot on. I had several years of counseling after d-day. In some ways, very helpful. In other ways, there are just blocks that I need to remove before I can go forward. I think my therapy was so focused on my trauma that I just wasn’t yet able to move to the next level, how to start really engaging in life again. I think getting my Masters was great, but in other ways I think I threw myself into an action plan almost too intensely, too soon. Perhaps slow and deliberate would be a better place to start. Counselors have emphasized their greatest worry for us is not really developing roots. And, I do feel that as well. We are done being expats in two years from now. I love this life in many ways, am scared about leaving it behind, but also do recognize that such a move, staying put, developing roots, may be a much needed missing ingredient.

                      Yes, G-d. I have mixed feelings on G-d. I identify strongly with my religion. But, I am not one who believes in G-d being some kind of corporeal being, but rather a life source and energy that underlies the ways of the universe. Sometimes, I find myself questioning even this idea. When I think of all the struggles of the world (e.g., the Holocaust, Syrian children being maimed or killed, families being pulled apart by war and/or ruthless authoritarian regimes), it is hard to believe there could ever be a greater good in any of that. So, yes, I do struggle with my faith in G-d. I do. I love my religion, I love my Jewish identity. I love our stories and traditions, but I would be lying if I did not say that I struggle with a belief in a higher power.

                      You know, before d-day, I had told myself that all the pain of the past had led me to who I was and where I was in this moment. And, though I wouldn’t choose it, I do understand its place in my life. However, after d-day, that mindset was thrown into complete chaos. And, I haven’t really found how to frame the hurt in a way I can accept as necessary to my life and being. I don’t think I can get to that place again. Defining obstacles is a good idea. Forgiving myself and letting go of “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve” is also something I try to do, but am not always so successful with it. I will put more thought into this. Thank you, Ease!

                      One other thought, during our conversation, with your help realizing I need to believe in my heart “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Somehow, I think this is a key next step to that forgiveness and letting go of the “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve” thoughts. To not just know it on an intellectual level, but feel it in my heart and soul. I never really confronted that idea before so directly.

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                    2. What you mentioned is a process you are still kind of in the middle of, it’s not like you have reached the end and it did not work, although you might feel that way when you stress the outcome. But when you were still in the middle of your that earlier process before d-day you would probably have replied as you wrote now; that you did not understand the place this had in your life or see that you would ever “get there”, but you did, right?😉 And maybe it’s just around the corner… Either way, the more you keep taking steps to get there, the nearer you are getting there, you just don’t see the end result now. Just don’t accept for yourself to just be in pain forever or never “getting there”, but believe that it can be better while accepting that it will take time and effort, because you can’t really stress overcoming hurt, rather you have to work through it in your own personal pace.❤️

                      (I will add this in the end, in between commas, since it pertains to faith. I only include it because it is helpful to me and if it is found in your faith it might be helpful to you too. My approach is that a lot of things will not make sense in this world since we only really see what happens to us, as well as to selected others, from the lens of our short life span given on earth as well as with our own limited knowledge/ways overall. I don’t know which attributes you connect with God, but if you believe in a God that is perfect and good and that all humans were given a free will, then you will also see that the mischief on earth is done solely through the hands of people, since those people are misusing the free will they all were given. And that God permits such things to happen since otherwise there would not be a free will at all. So corruption and oppression and murders etc exist, and God hates it but permits it to happen due to the promised free will and as a test to all people, both the ones facing it (do they turn to God) but also the ones around (do we help the oppressed, do we help the poor – do we help whenever we are able to with our hands or mouths, or whenever we are not able to, then at least hating it in our hearts while praying for them?). It hurts to see the destruction and pain caused to so many on so many levels and in so many ways, whether physical or psychological/emotional, but if you believe in the concept of ultimate justice being given on the day of Resurrection, then it gives comfort that whatever is not seen here pertaining justice will be seen in the Hereafter. And that God will punish the people who did wrong to others and didn’t sincerely regret and ask forgiveness both from God as well as the ones he/she wronged, whom he/she should also try to make it up to. At the same time those who were wronged will be rewarded and justice will be set between the both parties here or in its ultimate form in the Hereafter. About the own pain caused by actions of others, then my approach is that we will all be tested in this life, in different ways, otherwise there would be no point with a Paradise, and that through any pain we endure we have sins expiated through it and that the test should always make me turn to God more, that I should never cease struggling with my inner self and by increasing in good deeds and worship.)

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                    1. Ease, Yes, I do think it is an ongoing process. I do think I used to look at the past hurts as something I had dealt with and moved beyond. But, perhaps it is more like a life-long process which we make increasing progress towards over a life-time. And, perhaps that progress is more like looking at the stock-market. If you really step back and look over a long period of time, you see an overall positive trajectory, even though there are certainly some big dips, great recessions and great depressions, along the way. I just have to step back far enough to see that even those recessions and depressions are part of an overall positive trajectory over the long haul.

                      Your take on faith is very similar to how I looked at faith in the past, and it is certainly what I want to believe. I’m just not always there, yet. . . ❤ TL

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