This past week has been one of reflection for me. I think there are times where I struggle with grief more than others, and times where I realize that I am headed towards a place where I can embrace the parts of me that are like my mother. Its in those times that I can focus on who she really was and strip down and separate the addiction from her. It also causes me to reflect on the times that I only saw my mother for who I wanted her to be. Times where I wanted her to be sober and present so bad that I tried to force her to change. My wanting her to search out recovery came from a place of love and concern, yet it also came from a place of enabling. A place where I thought I could love her into changing for me.
When my mother got her DUI and I had picked her up from the jail, I wanted nothing more than to have her asking for my help. When the asking didn’t come, I forced it. I talked to her day and night about recovery and convinced her that rehab was the only way out of the mess she was in. Looking back I realize I created the road to recovery for her and she had no drive to get clean. She agreed to go to a 30 day inpatient rehab and I agreed to pay for it. I felt so proud of her, like once she was sober she would see all the things she had in her life to live for.
We picked her up for rehab, she was out front suitcase in hand. She seemed clear and ready. She was loving and excited. During the drive she became more and more altered and started to fade. By the time we got to the facility she could barely speak or walk. She was agreeable but clearly not ready. I did her intake for her and she laughingly admitted to having shoes full of Xanax, dumping them out on the floor as they took her in. I should have known then that this had nothing to do with her wanting it, it was me, me wanting my mom back so desperately.
She did stay there, and she did get clean. I would visit on Sundays and things seemed headed in the right direction. I had completely given into the illusion that she was going to see how hard it had been for me and change it, somehow eliminating the pills would make her see the world through my eyes and make her want what I wanted from our relationship. Like somehow she’d be equally as excited about this as me, in the long run. And then family day came. My aunt and I went together, to the some what ceremonial day where your loved one faces you, and you both admit to how you feel and apologize. Its like the confessional day of addicts before they go home from rehab. I am a believer that this day serves a purpose, and gives addicts who are motivated by sobriety, a positive opportunity to clear the air. My experience was not that way.
By the time family day came, many of the other people there were calling her mom, and if not that than “Valerie” Really Valerie? My mom had gone by her middle name “Lynn” my entire life, and now she was this some what cocky version of herself and had started going by her first name “Valerie.” I don’t know what bothered me more the idea that she could just change her name and be some new fancy person, while I still had so much hurt inside of me, while I was wanting the her I was missing to be there. Or the fact that it crushed me for other people to call her mom. She was my mom, I had waited and cried and begged for her to be my mom. And now she was so excited to be a mom everyone but me. They didn’t know her, or what we had been through. I’ll never forget A young man named Michael, told me I was so lucky that “Valerie” was my mom. I realized in that moment that I had so much anger inside of me towards her, and that I wanted rehab to make her who I needed and instead she became what a room full of total strangers needed. I can admit that I was selfish in that, in a lot of the ways I was feeling. Who cares if other people loved her, or if she supported them in the way a mother does, she was clean right? That should have been enough for me, whatever that looked like. After all, this was her journey, and it wasn’t about me.
I did my part that day and talked honestly in that room, with all of her new found “children” and their families. I told her I loved her, and in some ways pleaded my case about why I was worth her sobriety, or why my two boys were worth her being a grandmother. But honestly, no mother should ever have to be convinced to be one. But bigger than that, No addict ever chooses to stop for someone else, I was wanting something she was not capable of, because she wasn’t ready. Changing her name, or acting how she thought she should for other people, didn’t make her truly want to be her. She had no idea who she was without her addiction to hide behind.
She was clean for two weeks after returning home. We spent a lot of time in that 14 days together. Its strange that even in those moments I never felt like I really had her back. The soul I knew didn’t exist anymore, and I missed her. Then Michael moved in with her when he got out of rehab, he was 22 at the time. He had been a heroine user, and loved pills as much as she did. He called her “Mom” and she began to introduce him as her son. They were using together and pushed me from their lives. Michael and “Valerie” were made for each other. It was the perfect example of why some children of addicts become addicts. Where she felt judged by me she felt supported by him.
My motivations and wanting to help her, were genuine, I was wanting her to find her way back to us. But wanting it for her only pushed her farther from me. We were strangers more than ever before, and I had been replaced by someone who didn’t want sobriety from her. She could live without expectation. And I could go on living without my mother.