When our daughter finally told us about her addiction, we immediately sprang into action. Being the college educated, upper middle class, good parents that we are, within two days she was on her way to a ninety day rehab program in the mountains.
It was a good place and they do really good things there but this post isn’t about our daughter – it’s about us, her parents.
Not My Fault….Yeah, Right
One of the first things we heard, and continued to hear, was that it was not our fault. We didn’t cause it and we can’t control it. Addiction is it’s own beast and only our child could fight the good fight. We can support, but we can’t control something that we didn’t cause.
We heard that constantly. Like it was beat into our heads. Until we were close to ready for her to leave and then the bombshell, “You and your family need to get into some type of therapy. After all, we need to figure out what about your family led to her addiction.”
What the hell???? You just spent three months telling me it wasn’t my fault and I can’t control something I didn’t cause. Now all of a sudden, my family is somehow screwed up and I really did cause this and now I have to go to therapy to see why I screwed up my kid?
I wasn’t buying it and neither was Benton. It was a terribly inconsistent message and very damaging to us all. I’ve come to learn through the six years of dealing with this that she has her own demons and they have nothing to do with us. The pain she carries was not put there by anyone. Certainly, some assholes have come and gone who certainly didn’t help things (especially the bastard who introduced her to heroin) but the damage was already there, deep inside her mind.
She had been in therapy, on medication, in the hospital. I left work so many times to pick her up from school because she was having a panic attack. I was late many times because she couldn’t get out of the car. She had a 504 plan with her school. She had boundaries and structure. She had outlets and personal space. She had appropriate expectations placed on her and appropriate consequences when she failed to meet them. She had, and still has, our unconditional love.
I spent way too much time fixating on that comment by the unthinking therapist at rehab. That one statement drilled down deep into what I had already feared and was well into beating myself up for. I was a terrible mom and we just had to figure out how I messed up. Despite hearing the opposite for ninety days from most every outlet, that one offhand statement undid it all and sent me plummeting right back to where I was in the pit of hell.
My own recovery has been long and painful. It’s been full of ups and downs. Deep depressions, anxiety attacks in the middle of the night, health problems piling up one after the other. And yes, therapy. But it was therapy to help me, not therapy to figure out how I screwed up.
When I finally was able to break the surface of the darkness, I realized I could either live my life based on the offhand comment by a relative stranger, I could spend my time trying to justify all of my actions for the last twenty-one years, or I could accept that there was already something in the way she was made that was triggered by several events out of my control. And she, like most of us, is still figuring out how to deal with her own issues and her own traumas.
I’ve gotten to the point (sort of) where I am confident in the boundaries we have set for our own peace of mind, as well as ensuring we are not enabling. Yet still showing love and leaving the door open so it’s as easy as possible for her to walk through it should she choose. But life does go on. And this is a learning process. And we still screw up. And it hurts. I can’t fix her but I can stand at the ready should she need or want my support or encouragement. She is walking her path and while it is not the one I would have chosen for her, I don’t get to make that decision.