Nobody Told Me There Would Be Years Like This

A story on how addiction affects the whole family. Written by Lynn, a mother of a former Mahala’s Hope resident.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be mom. I planned it out well in advance. I would be married by 25. He would be my best friend. We would have two kids for sure, maybe more. They would all be brilliant, breeze through school, hit the college honor roll and go out into the world and repeat my plan. Graduate, get married, and have my grand kids, who would all be brilliant and do great things. Scott and I were married by 25. Our first son was born in December of 1992 and, 14 months later, our beautiful baby girl came into the world on Valentine’s Day 1994. Perfect. We had our third child, our second son, five years later in August of 1998. We were on track and everything was going as planned.

Scott and I loved being parents. We still do. But the best laid plans sometimes do not come to pass. We found that God’s plan often runs on a totally different time table. We have learned a lot from all three of our kids. But the hardest lessons would be taught in the depths of our daughter’s addiction to drugs and alcohol over the last nine years.

I am the problem solver type. There was never a problem I could not solve, or so I thought. My daughter is brilliant and beautiful, talented and artistic, but there was an undertow that I missed somehow. Looking back, hindsight being 20/20, there were signs of anxiety and depression when my daughter was very young. Somehow, with all my problem solving, I missed the signs. I just kept on solving problems.

After graduation, my daughter took up with friends we did not really approve of. The boy turned out to be very abusive. His mother did the best she could to help, but her help was a lesson in how to numb the pain with a pill. That’s my recollection of the start of the wild ride we were on for the next eight years.

Her using continued no matter how hard we tried to control it, to fix it, to stop it. Her behavior was disrupted for sure. I could see what it was doing to her. What I did not see was what was happening to us, her family. She became my obsession. I knew she was lying, using us, and not taking care of her responsibilities, continuing to use. She lost job after job, she cheated, she did whatever she thought she needed to do to keep using. But we continued to solve problems for her, pay bills, work to fix broken relationships; we did whatever we thought we could do to get her to stop. We spent so much of our energy hiding the truth. Drug and alcohol abuse is horrible. It’s a creeper. It creeps in slowly and soon takes hold. Like a cancer, it took several years before I could say that is actually a disease. It took me some time to see that this is a family disease.

I believed that we had to take on the responsibility of doing for our daughter what she seemed unable or unwilling to do for herself. I felt compelled to intervene all over the place. But as timed passed, our situation got worse. We had forgotten that we had a choice in the matter. Every time we solved the problem, paid the bill, hired the attorney, or covered the expenses, we were choosing to live in the chaos from crisis to crisis.

She made bad choices for sure. Her first time in rehab was in 2015. There were four other attempts to pull her from the brink. The first time, I was doing my problem solving thing, and it wasn’t her idea. She did not really see the problem. By the third attempt at rehab, I found Al-Anon. I could not be more grateful for the experience, strength, and hope I have found.

Last year, our daughter came to us asking for help again. This time there was something different in her request. We found Mahala’s hope. Scott was able to convince our daughter to take a field trip, to check it out. They had a space for her. We jumped at the chance to find our way back, our way out of the chaos. This time, it was her choice, and we were empowered with Al-Anon.

Mahala’s was a blessing. The staff was amazing, and our daughter began to thrive again. She found her way back to her creativity. She worked hard. She loved the animals and she belonged. For the first time in long time, she felt she could succeed. There are certainly gaps in recovery. Rehab really needs to be followed by transitional care and sober living. Relapse happens, and it is hard. Therefore, the whole family needs recovery and the addict needs a place to find hope, to let go of shame and guilt, and the family needs to let go as well. Mahala’s freed my daughter from the shame and guilt of addiction and empowered her with the skills to begin to build a happy and healthy life for herself. Today, she continues her sobriety in a sober living home. We continue our recovery as well. That’s the choice we have made together. Together we can recover form this family disease.