Describing what it is like to be an addict’s mom is difficult to put into words. To cover all that we go through could (and has) filled an entire book. In light of the sad fact that every 11 minutes someone dies from an overdose, I want to give you some insight on the grieving we do before we actually lose our child for good. At some point, if you don’t already, you will know someone who’s child is an addict, and you need to know a few things about us. To start, we have an enormous cloud of uncertainty hovering over us every minute of every day. Not only is it hovering over us, it is so deeply embedded in us that it becomes part of our being. It dictates our actions, our feelings and our emotions. It dictates our relationships, our conversations, our reaction to a phone ringing and our sleep patterns. That’s the short list. Whatever your child's addiction is becomes our addiction.
We don’t have the pleasure of bragging on our kids or posting their accomplishments on Facebook. Instead, we watch other parents’ posts and feel a sense of sorrow and loss. We grieve at what we aren’t able to post.
We sometimes dread seeing them. We grieve the fact that as a parent, seeing our child brings dread.
We hide our legitimately prescribed medications and our purses. We grieve that we can’t trust our child any longer.
When our child loses yet another job, we grieve.
When they talk about wanting to change but don’t have the drive to follow through, we grieve.
When they talk about a future that we know they will not achieve unless they make those changes, we grieve.
When their behavior affects our other children and we have to choose between them, we grieve.
When we don’t hear from them, but know what they are doing, we grieve.
When they miss family gatherings and holidays, we grieve.
When we hear others saying things about them that are true, but hard to hear, we grieve. When we look into their eyes and see their immense pain, we grieve.
When we have to fight to hope that things will get better, we grieve.
When we think of what could have been, we grieve. When we see the writing on the wall, and prepare ourselves for the worst, we grieve.
It is a constant battle for them to fight the pull of their chemical addiction and a constant battle for us to maintain some sense of emotional equilibrium inside of us.
I grieved on a regular basis and did not realize it until it was time to grieve the loss of a child and I didn’t know how. When I was told that my son was dead, I didn’t cry. I asked questions and listened to every word the detective said while I made a mental list of who to call first and how to tell them. Being an addict’s mom had trained me to be non-reactive. The tears finally came, but not until I thought about how I was going to tell his little brother. It was hours before I finally sobbed. God gave me incredible strength that day, but He didn’t pour all of it out as a result of Hagen dying. He had been, for years, building up that strength. People have expressed concern for me because they didn’t see a broken woman falling apart every five minutes. To them it seemed I was running away from the inevitable. They did not, and could not understand that I had grieved so much while he was here, that I had already walked through most of the stages of grief. It wasn’t until these past two weeks that the finality of him not being here has settled in. As I sat contemplating why it hit me the way it did, I realized that I had grieved everything but not seeing him again in this life. I handled it just as I had every other problem or situation we found ourselves in because of his addiction. The Word tells us that as Christians we do not grieve as the world grieves because of the assurance of a reunion, and that is a precious promise. As a Christian mom of a Christian addict, I can tell you we do grieve, but it is different. Faith does not shield us from it. Our grief is long and multifaceted, and the majority of it comes while our child is still here. I’m tired of grief. It has dictated my life for far too long. Hagen’s addiction died with him. And so did mine. When I have those moments of pain that come out of nowhere, I comfort myself by thinking of where he is instead of where he isn’t. I cry because I miss him, but I do not let grief take hold. That isn’t an easy task, by any means, but God’s loving embrace and the knowledge that Hagen is the best version of himself he has ever been, makes it possible.
If you have someone in your life, who’s child is in active addiction, give them grace. Whether you, or they, realize it, they are in some way grieving. Your love, compassion and friendship can and will help them through that part of their grieving process. Knowing what they are going through will help you know how to pray for them, and THAT is what they need most.