My mom and I had a conversation about raising children a few years ago. At one point she turned to me and said, “I loved playing with all of you guys when you were kids. We would have so much fun.” I don’t really remember what was said after that; I was too angry to listen.
My mom remembers how much she loved having children and raising us. My recollection of growing up is clouded by the memories of the many years she hurt our family by her abuse of over-the-counter drugs.
Not long after my mom got married, she began to suffer from a number of physical ailments that didn’t seem to respond to pain treatment. My mom began overdosing on over-the-counter medications to relieve her pain. But the truth is, those medications have never helped. They’ve never given her relief for longer than a few hours, but the consequences of her abuse have been long-lasting.
Her abuse escalated to the point that when I was in high school and college, there were many times that I would come home to find my mom slurring her speech and having trouble walking. Here behavior said it all: Mom had used something that day. I cannot even begin to count the number of times that I would scream or cry in response because I didn’t know any other way to show how angry and hurt I felt. She told me each time she used, “I am so sorry honey. I won’t do it again.” After a while, I just rolled my eyes. She would do it again. She always did.
I spent so many years being angry with her. I wanted a mother I could call when I needed advice or just someone to vent to, but I’ve never really had that. My mother couldn’t really be there for me because there were so many times I had to take care of her.
I’ve come to accept that my relationship with her will likely never be the “mother-daughter” relationship that so many of my friends have. But our relationship has taught me a lot about the kind of mother that I want to be if I ever get married and have kids. I want to be there for my children to help guide their decisions and to support them as they meet life’s challenges. I want them to have that close relationship with me that I didn’t have with my mom growing up.
Even though my childhood wasn’t everything I would have wished, I am grateful for the relationship that I do have with my mom and every day I’m working on strengthening it. I believe addiction is a disease. No one wakes up one morning hoping to become an addict. I believe all of us need love, support, and prayers during the moments when we cannot seem to help ourselves. That’s why I’m doing my best to be there for my mom as she tries to move past her drug abuse.
Over the past few years, things have significantly improved. My mom has gotten help from mentors, doctors, and self-help groups. Her abuse is now very minimal. There are still days that she slips up, but those are fortunately few and far between.
I’m working to change too. I’ve learned that the best thing I can do for her as her daughter is to be honest about when she has hurt me or another family member, but to always let her know that I love her despite the shortcomings. I care about her and I’m not going to abandon her.
I can’t say I will ever understand why things have played out as they have, but I don’t want that to hold me back from loving her just as she is today. Instead of being angry with my mom’s flaws and failings, I’m trying to look at our relationship realistically. I’m focusing on what is in my power to control: my response to her and to the addiction she is working to recover from. I do not want to dwell on bad memories or past experiences, I want to move forward with what is good in our relationship.
My mom cannot fix the past, but I know that our love for one another can be made stronger. Just as sobriety is something an abuser works through for the rest his or her life, my relationship with my mom is a continual process. I didn’t choose to have her addiction as a part of my life, but I can choose to forgive and accept her as she works through her recovery.