For over a year I have been writing blogs about addiction and recovery. Hopefully, they have been helpful to many readers as they explore areas of concern that the family member is having with their loved one -- the alcoholic/addict. In addition, I hope that they are written with an empathetic touch, yet still an unbiased, professional tone.
However, I wanted to share something very personal with you, my readers: my own daughter's relapse. I doubt if I would be the complete clinician if I did not walk in some of your shoes, share the same trials and tribulations, victories and successes. So, I'm hopeful that you won't be offended if I share my recent heartache and despair with you.
My daughter (let's call her Lucy) was and is a beautiful 21-year-old. Though every mother thinks their child is beautiful, Lucy really is. Almost 6 ft. tall, a knockout figure, dark straight hair, olive skin and almond shaped smoldering eyes. She could have easily been a model. I can say this, as she is adopted, so I had nothing to do with her amazing looks. However, this beautiful young lady is covered with tattoos scattered about her body with little or no thought as to what she is permanently inking. One looks like a car engine and is supposed to be a music box; another is a musician that I don't think she has ever heard of and whose hair covers most of his face. Her ear lobes sport gauges that are so big, the middle part of a sugar ice cream cone would fit comfortably through it.
Though I'm not thrilled that Lucy has decided to permanently use her body as a grease board, it does not make me love her any less.
Let me take a paragraph or two to give you a little history. As I said, Lucy was adopted and from an early age starting pulling out her hair. Defiant toward teachers and combative at every turn toward her father and me, Lucy would fly into uncontrollable temper tantrums. By the time the 7th grade rolled around, Lucy could not attend the public school system and was sent to alternative schools in and out of California that specialized in behavioral issues. I honestly don't know when the dabbling into drugs took effect, but dabbling quickly turned into addiction. Lucy became a garbage pail for any drug from acid to mushrooms to heroin. Cutting and anorexic behavior became the norm as well.
Lucy managed to graduate from high school and opted to live with her birth grandparents in Oregon. Our communication at that time was tense and volatile and I had no idea if she was clean and sober or continuing with her addiction. Lucy made it clear that she had no interest in considering any of my suggestions for continued education or career choices.
After a few years of doing little but lying on the couch, Lucy moved down to Los Angeles and reconnected with some family members professing that she needed a fresh beginning for her life. Lucy swore that she was clean and sober, and these family members embraced her with open arms. Sadly, sobriety was the last thing on her mind, and so started the revolving door of rehabs and sober living housing.
Gratefully, somewhere along the way, Lucy did embrace a clean and sober life style. She attended AA meetings regularly, had a sponsor, and got a job and her own apartment. On her first year birthday of sobriety, we gathered like a flock of geese holding wads of Kleenex as we watched our loved one receive her one year chip. Finally, after all these years, maybe, just maybe Lucy might be on her way to experiencing the goodness that a sober lifestyle has to offer and we in turn could take a long awaited sigh of relief. That was 14 months ago.
Sadly and unfortunately many alcoholic/addicts become complacent about their recovery. They foolishly think they can start to pick and choose their recovery path believing that they now have learned when to cut off their alcohol intake, or because their drug of choice was alcohol, one line of coke is no big deal. The recovering alcoholic/addict knows that this thinking is "b.s.", but they forge ahead anyway.
So was true with my dear Lucy. She strongly stated that she hadn't relapsed, as smoking a joint three times a day had nothing to do with substance abuse. However, that was just the beginning of the downward spiral. Lately when I see her, she is unfocused, easily agitated, defensive and dirty. This last week, a planned family dinner witnessed Lucy making several trips to the bathroom. Was she throwing up her dinner, and back to the days of bingeing and purging, getting high or both? Regardless, it was clear that her clean and sober days were over.
I have spent many sleepless nights and shed buckets of tears over my daughter's disease and the devil that has her as a captive audience. But, there is nothing I can do, as she has not sought help and my involvement (for the umpteenth time) has more often than not proven futile. I am left with prayer. Praying that her "higher power" will take care of her and that hopefully one day, like once before, she will pick herself up from the ashes and scratch and claw her way back to a healthy lifestyle.
I share this story with you, so if you have experienced something similar, you will know that you are not alone. There seems to be strength in numbers, even if you don't know the person next to you. I am a professional counselor -- an expert in my field, yet I don't have the answers for my child, or can show her that her decisions are poor ones. Instead my heart breaks with the same pain, sadness and fear that any loving parent has when their child is heading 100 miles an hour for a brick wall.
Thank you for allowing me to open up my heart and soul to a caring population of family members and friends who travel the same path as so many of us do on a daily basis.
Carole Bennett, MA
For the majority of my adult life I have dealt with the torture of my family’s substance abuse.
Posted: August 19, 2010 07:00 AM