Something that often weighs on me is the pressure I always felt to be there for my mother. As a child there’s not much choice in what you endure, her path was my path . When you have a parent who doesn’t deal with life on their own very well, becoming an adult and making choices for yourself, about them, can be so heartbreaking. Even now after all I have been through I know there are so many choices I have made, good and bad, that were about her. For me there were two sides to becoming the adult child of an addict, one is about the constant pressure and anxiety to become more than what she was, and the other was how hard it was to always feel responsible for her. Of course there was always that hope inside of me that she would change, find sobriety, be the mom I always needed her to be. Finally be someone I could be proud of and that could be proud of me for the woman I have become. Instead my memories are filled with moments of her needing me to pick up the pieces.
I remember feeling like maybe my mother was going to turn her life around when I first moved out. Reality was, I was her only source of income at that point, sadly I saw that as a way to force her into being responsible. She was working and sober. She was doing well on her own, it felt so good to see her that way. Looking back I know now that it was the last span of time that I would truly see her doing well. Eventually she would move in with my grandparents, playing the role of caregiver to them. It seemed like that move made her feel like she was doing something admirable, while in reality it gave her the chance to sink inside herself once again. Her addiction was different this time, it came with what seemed like a permission slip that her doctor signed.
At this point, I had become a mother myself. This transition in my life was hard on her. She often expressed feelings of abandonment to me, the feeling that I had left her behind for a family of my own. Not so much of an excitement to be a grandmother but more of a focus on her own need of me. Somewhere in the 2 years between my first born and my second, I lost my mother. Not in the physical sense, but who she was and the light inside of her was gone. Although I always held on to hope, it was the last time I ever saw that light. Its strange to me that I think of this as the time when she slipped away from me, but she also became a constant hurtful responsibility for me at that point too. As the prescriptions multiplied she made my grandparents life harder and harder. Nothing ever made me more resentful than seeing them go through that with her.
We began to try to control her addiction as a family. She had become nothing more than a slumped over shell of herself. Drooling, sleeping mid sentence, gone….just gone. Attempts at pill counting, a locked safe and dispensing her meds like a facility only made things worse. Phone calls from my grandfather became constant, she was angry and hateful, and stealing pills. She would drink down bottles of cough medicine if she got desperate enough. Walking in to see my grandmother on the floor cleaning up vomit next to my passed out mother is something I’ll never let go of. All with no remorse, she had no concept of what she was doing to herself or her family. That’s the luxury of being the addict I guess, you don’t have to feel anything, but the people who love you will never feel anything more sobering. I internalized and felt everything she couldn’t.
Eventually my grandparents went to live in an assisted living and my mother moved into an apartment by herself. I had no idea how she would function from day to day. I became her emergency contact and at times felt like that was all I was. She was the stereotypical drug seeker, visits to both prompt cares and the ER in one day became her routine. I’d get phone calls from pharmacies refusing to fill meds, the ER needing her to be picked up, all the time. And then the call came from the jail. She had drove up onto the sidewalk in front of her apartment and got a DUI. In my mind I felt relieved, thinking maybe this was her bottom.
I used to always say to her you will end up in jail or dead, She would laugh and tell me to
“stop trying to be so perfect.” I was the know it all, she loved to use words like “high horse”, and “you think you are better than everyone.” Here I was once again hopeful that this DUI was the reality check she needed. Not to prove myself right, but to have my mom back. To hopefully salvage our relationship, to love her through it, help her to see that she had so much to be present for. I wanted jail to be the bottom, I just wanted to be able to let go of the gut wrenching fear I always had that she would end up dead. Instead I ended up faced with that obvious lesson, the one where you cant want sobriety for someone, they have to want it for themselves.