Although my parents brought me into their lives a little earlier than they’d planned, I had a great childhood. I was the oldest of three siblings, we lived in a nice home, and my parents had a happy marriage. My mom was able to stay at home with us, and we were fortunate enough to be able to afford a family vacation together every year.
I was especially close to my mom, and even though were only 19 years apart, she was able to successfully balance being both my mother and my best friend. She was never the type of parent to smother me or to force her opinions on me, and she encouraged me to love myself. I felt like I was able to talk to her about anything. Everyone that knew my mom loved her. She was beautiful, thoughtful, and honest, and she always put others first. No one could have ever predicted what was in store for my mom and our family…
I’d moved away from home to attend college and my mom and I continued to have a close relationship. During this time, my younger sister with a rebellious nature, fell into heavy drug abuse. As she spiraled out of control, my parents grasped at how to help her get back on the right path. They eventually gave her an ultimatum: go to rehab or no longer receive financial support. She declined help and left home.
During her time away from home, my sister began dating a young man. Although he had struggled with addiction problems of his own, he convinced my sister see that she should go back home and get her life back on track. To ensure that my sister was staying on the right path, my mom and my sister’s boyfriend kept in touch. Their friendship grew into something that none of us ever saw coming…my mom began having an open affair with my sister’s now ex-boyfriend.
Rumors then began to surface that my mom had picked up a bad drug habit. There was no way that could be true. I didn’t believe it. My siblings would call me with reports of evidence they’d found around her house, that they believed to be proof of her drug use. When confronted, my mom denied everything and convinced me that she was okay. It wasn’t until she came to visit me one evening, that I was forced to face the truth. She’d stayed the night at my house, and when I woke her in the morning, I found her asleep with a crack pipe resting on her chest. There was no more denying it – I had to face the reality that my mother had become a crack addict.
I can’t quite explain what I felt in this moment of realization, but I knew I needed to help her. If anyone could open her eyes and convince her to seek help, it would be me. I tried being calm and non-judgmental and made the effort to just listen to what she had to say. I offered my complete support. When that didn’t work, I tried implementing tough love and ultimatums. I tried to help other family members understand that their attempts to help her were only further enabling her. I tried everything I could think of. My attempts were always met with lies and more distance between my mom and me. She was unwilling to accept any support, and she was not seeking to make any changes to her turbulent lifestyle.
I felt completely helpless. There was nothing I could say or do to save my mom from herself, and she didn’t want my help. I constantly felt the weight of my inability to help her on my shoulders. I observed her physical appearance change. She began dressing differently, speaking differently, and she abandoned the hobbies that she used to love. I felt like my mother – my best friend – died and someone else took over her body.
This continued for about 3 years. I never stopped trying to help her. It felt like we had switched roles. I was now the parent, and she was my child.
One day, my mom informed my family and I that she had decided that she would attend a drug rehabilitation facility. Although we suspected that her change of heart was due in part to some convincing by her boyfriend, we were still ecstatic that she’d made a positive decision about her life. Her choice to go to rehab gave me new hope that she would beat this addiction and that we could heal as a family. She attended rehab for one month. I drove 5 hours, one way, every weekend to visit her. It was a huge relief to see that she was being guided in the right direction.
Not soon after she returned home from rehab, she relapsed.
Through this struggle, I have finally come to terms with the fact that I don’t have any control of this situation. I made the conscience decision to shift my focus to my own well-being, and to offer my love and support from a distance. It took me years to recognize the fact that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t force my mom to accept support that she didn’t want. I felt really guilty at first. I felt that if I focused on my own life, that I was giving up on my mother’s.
I’ve grown to realize that our own well-being is just as important as the wellbeing of our loved ones. When my mother was in rehab, she gave me a piece of paper that said “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I still have this piece of paper on my refrigerator to this day: it’s a daily reminder for me to focus on this perspective. We can’t always control or change the situations that life presents. The only thing we truly can choose to change is how we respond to them. This certainly doesn’t mean that I accept my mother’s drug abuse. It simply means that I’ve recognized where my efforts should be spent, in order to live the best possible life for me and for my loved ones.
I will always be here for my mom, and I will be her biggest supporter if she ever does decide to seek help again. We see each other a few times a year, and although our relationship is much different, the tension between us has dwindled. I know that she will reach out to me if she ever wants help, and she knows that I will always be here to support her. If/when that happens, I will be able to offer the best support possible, because I am in a healthy place.
I wanted to share this because I know there is someone else out there who is feeling the weight of helplessness on their shoulders. I hope that through my story, you are able to see that focusing on your own well-being is not a selfish thing. Your emotional, mental, and physical health not only benefits you, but also the people around you. Radiate love and acceptance, find peace in what is, and continue to be hopeful for what the future holds.
An interior designer, social butterfly and planner extraordinaire who always stops for photo booths and loves her two sweet kitties and her wonderful boyfriend.