The following is the story of a young lady who struggled for years to help her mother who is addicted to narcotics. Her story gives us another perspective; that of a child growing up with addiction in the home. It is yet another reason why we need to help addicted individuals get better. There are many casualties of addiction, including children.
Throughout my life, I’ve always wanted stability. I’ve always wanted a normal family, with normal values.
My dad traveled a lot for his job, worked really hard and took care of his family. My mother, a homemaker for most of her life, stayed home to take care of me. She worked as a waitress up until I was four. She was forced to quit her job because of “back problems”. Scoliosis, she told me, curvature of the spine. I remember her having nerve blocks, lying on the floor in pain. She would ask me to walk on her back. One of her doctors finally told her there was nothing that could be done, sent her home with a book titled “How to Live With Chronic Pain”.
I can’t remember when the addiction began or, better yet, when I noticed there was a problem. My dad and I debate on this. There is no doubt, my mom had a tough life, which included tremendous loss and sexual abuse.
Every addict has their reasons. Every addict has their excuses. In PEI we speak about our children falling victim to drugs, to pills. How they are slowing dying from the inside out, turning into babbling zombies that can hardly “keep their head up”.
This is an open letter to my mother, to parents of children that battle with addiction, and to all young drug addicts out there. I am not an inspiration. I am not even going to be persuasive. I am not a recovered addict that has beaten all the odds. I am a child of a narcotics addict, and potentially your future child. This is my story.
I remember visiting my mom when I was young at the treatment center behind Queen Charlotte Jr. High. I did not know what it was, all I knew was that my mom was in there for 21 days. I would ask my father why my mommy had to go. He would tell me she was sick.
My childhood was filled with “policing” pill bottles, hospital runs to get a shot of Demerol (which my mom convinced me was for her upset stomach, which was not completely a lie), and waking up all hours of the night to “check” on my mom.
Many nights during my junior high and high school days were spent listening to my mom puke and cry because pill day was days away. She would cry and beg me to drive her to the hospital “because the pain was so bad” and she needed a shot of Demerol.
I would drive her to the hospital, which was like my second home. I would try to have “meetings” with my mother’s doctor, when we were in the room with my mother, to find out about the medications that she was prescribing her. Asking questions on what each medication did (in truth, whether it was a narcotic or not). I think the doctor saw me as a bother.
At one point, I took my mother into an appointment and tried to ask the doctor questions as my mother sat in the hallway in a wheel chair nodding off. I asked the doctor what had been prescribed to my mother that would have this effect; the doctor said they could not give me that information citing confidentiality. But, what happens when a patient is your mother and you’re a teenager? I began to argue with her that the only reason she could not get consent from my mother is because “she’s doped out of her trees” sitting in the hallway.
I wanted answers. I wanted help. I was more than able to take care of myself. Help was offered by counselors, asking me if my mom was taking care of ME. They asked if there were troubles at home; with my living situation. Of course there were problems. I was more than able to take care of myself so there was no need to remove me from my home, but I needed help for my mom. My mom needed to be helped, I was losing her; she was dying in front of my eyes. I wanted so badly for her to fix herself. I struggled each day.
My dad was away a lot. He would go into appointments with my mom as much as possible, also probing for information from the doctor. It was too much to police. My mother was her own person. She made her own appointments, and the doctor was not able to tell us about those appointments or what was prescribed. I felt like the battle for my mom to “get better” was a lost cause. All I wanted was my mom. My dad and I were alone in this battle, and it seemed evident from every turn I made to try to get her help. We hit a brick wall without her consent or co-operation.
I clearly remember my breaking point. I was 15 years old. I was searching the phonebook for the addictions facility in Mt. Herbert, as my mom mumbled nonsensical words, as she nodded off, sitting on the couch with a cigarette in hand. The anger I felt was rising in my chest. Why does she do this to me? Why does she do this to herself? Why does she do this to me? After years of dealing with her, and being old enough to know. All I felt was that anger.
I was no longer scared because my mother had already `died` on me a couple times. She would nod off on the couch; I would try to wake her up. She would be limp, and pale… clammy. I would have to shake her, slap her, scream at her. There were several times that her heart would stop, or at least I couldn’t find a pulse, or tell if she was breathing. This time, she was well on her way to this state.
I had enough.