By Laura Whitlock – 1/4/19
Black spirals on tin foil. I didn’t understand what they were. It looked like someone had taken a black magic marker and drawn spirals on square pieces of tin foil. The spirals were perfectly drawn. The tin foil was an exact square. But what were they?
I found this artwork in my daughter’s room or backpack… I don’t remember now. I took a photo of it with my phone and sent it to my older daughter, thinking she would know what it was. The phone immediately rang and she told me that it looked like her sister was smoking heroin.
That’s when I knew.
That’s not when I should have known.
I should have known when the property manager at the house she was renting told me that her roommate reported that my daughter was using heroin. “If she were my kid, I’d want to know,” she said. But you see, that’s not true for most parents. It wasn’t for me. I made excuses. The roommate is just bitter because they had a fight, I told her.
I should have known when she went from the ace culinary school student aiming for perfect attendance and top grades, to drop-out. Must have been too stressful, I told myself.
I should have known when we went on vacation to the Jersey shore and she had episodes of depression and endless sleep. She misses her boyfriend, I told myself.
I should have known when she got fired from her job at the pizza place. I should have known when she got fired from several other jobs. I should have known when she wrecked her car. But, I didn’t want to know. How could someone I love so much be in such a dark place? She’s so smart. And so beautiful. And funny.
I finally fully accepted that my daughter was addicted to a drug that will most likely end her life, months after I should have known. I didn’t want to know. If I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have to deal with it. I wouldn’t have to lay awake at night, tracking her every move on my phone, just so I knew she was still alive. I wouldn’t have to kick her out of my house for using drugs. I wouldn’t have to fight with my partner about her, even though I knew she was right. I wouldn’t have a knot in my stomach every time my phone rang and it was my daughter, or worse, someone I didn’t know, like the police.
If I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have to try to fix it. Or soften it somehow.
You just have to let her hit rock bottom, the people in group would say.
Really? Rock bottom for heroin addicts is most often death.
Yes, I can do all those things to help myself. Be strong! Set boundaries! Don’t enable! You can’t cure this. It’s not your fault. But I couldn’t let myself stop trying to save her life. I love her. Unconditionally, I love her.
And, I love myself, too. I didn’t know how I could endure the pain if she died. I started to prepare myself for this eventuality. This is something that parents of addicts do but they never talk about it. They steel themselves for the call, or the knock on the door, that robs them of their child. It was a fear that I carried around every minute of every day.
Should I let her hit rock bottom? Here’s the thing about rock bottom. You never really know what someone’s rock bottom is. I did everything I could to keep her alive and safe. Things I thought were surely her rock bottom weren’t. I’m not sure she had a rock bottom. One time she told me that she didn’t want to be an addict, but she didn’t know how not to be an addict. She didn’t know how to stop.
Someone told me once that going through withdrawal from heroin was like having your head held under water. Every cell in your body fights the withdrawal. Every cell wants heroin. I can’t imagine how that feels. And I can’t imagine how anyone could just decide to stop using one day without help.
I did everything I could to help her. I paid for her and her boyfriend to go to a methadone clinic. Didn’t work. I took her to counseling. I kidnapped her from her boyfriend’s clutches when I heard she had been raped by her drug dealer. (Surely that was rock bottom! Nope.) We had an intervention and she finally agreed to go to treatment. And she got out. And she relapsed. And she went to treatment. And she got out and went to sober living. And she relapsed. And she went to treatment.
But this time, she didn’t relapse!
The last time I saw her on drugs was six years ago. I put her on a plane to Nevada to a different treatment center. I held her in my arms and we both cried. I didn’t want to let go. And I committed the memory of her walking through security to memory. I didn’t want to forget what she looked like. I can tell you what she was wearing, what the color of her suitcase was, which security line she was in.
And she did it! She chose to live. She gave me the greatest gift a mother could ask for, more time to love her unconditionally.
The one thing that got me through it all was the one thing I did know. God had a plan for her. And God was there for me. He was there for me on the countless sleepless nights. He didn’t mind my ceaseless praying and pleading. He knew. He knew what I didn’t know.
I am so proud of the woman she has become. She now works to help others who are addicted. Because she knows.
By Laura Whitlock – 1/4/19
Just One Mom’s Journey Through Her Child’s Addiction