A post on Mom and Dad’s blog today (http://parentsofanaddict.blogspot.com/2010/06/new-partnership-posting.html) reminded me of a phone call I got from a friend a couple of weeks ago. My friend called because her Dad was addicted to prescription pain killers. His doctor had cut him off abruptly and now the man was on the streets buying. He had finally admitted he had a problem and wanted to get help. She was frustrated with the system and didn’t know how to go about getting that help. After I gave her advice on what steps could be taken so that he could get an assessment done and get into a rehab, she began to tell me about her worries for her 16 year old daughter.
She said that her daughter had begun drinking the year before and had now progressed to the point of getting drunk as often as she could, smoking pot and using speed. She had also been cutting herself. My friend had done everything that she could think of. She’d grounded her daughter, taken her to a therapist etc… She was at a total loss as to what to do next.
It made me think back to my journey with H and her burgeoning addiction. It began when she was 14. She got drunk at a school dance and passed out in a snowbank. Luckily, an older friend who at one time had lived with us found her and called me and she got grounded for a month. The next incident (that I know about) happened a few months later. Pretty much the same thing except there was no snow and I grounded her again. Shortly after that she began using ecstasy, smoking pot, and taking speed. I talked to her, grounded her, policed her and did everything I could. After 6 months she went into a day program, which unbeknownst to me advocated “harm reduction” (that whole concept really gets my goat). She “graduated” while still smoking pot and occasionally drinking. At the time, to me it was a relief. Things weren’t as bad. If only I had really understood. I can’t help but feel that way, even though I know that I could have done nothing to change the course of events.
I tried to be vigilant. I called her on everything she stole, on everytime she lied and on everything that she did. But I couldn’t stop it. Nothing that I did helped. This is unbelievably hard for a parent. Knowing that everything you do is essentially useless, that you cannot save your child from herself.
I once kicked in the door of a drug house and dragged her out, I confronted her in front of her so-called friends, I asked the police to hold her in the drunk tank, I told people to stay the hell away from her. I took her to detox and rehabs and counsellors. I searched her room. I did my best. But from the beginning I never really saw it coming. I never saw how bad it could get and how quickly it could happen.
By the time H was 18 her addiction had progressed to the point that she would black out everytime that she drank. She had tried and was using every drug available but crack had become her drug of choice. If she couldn’t get her hands on alcohol (legal drinking age is 19 here and I kept her ID) she would drink mouthwash, extracts, body spray…It didn’t matter what. Once when I thought I had her locked in for the night, she snuck out the second floor bathroom window and jumped off the garage roof. She’s OD and had to be revived, she’s been beaten and left for dead in the field beside a bus stop, she’s been sexually assaulted, cut by a dealer and done things that don’t bear thinking about.
And I didn’t see it coming…Other kids experiment with alcohol or drugs and their parents lay down the law and in the end the kids grow up just fine. But for the rest of us we don’t know that the wicked, evil thing that is addiction has come to steal our children. We don’t see it stalking them and whispering in their ears, filling them with lies and false beliefs.
I didn’t know what to tell my friend. She knew a lot of H’s story already (we were neighbours until H was 19). I talked about the warning signs, gave her the phone number for a family addictions center downtown and gave her my perspective. I told her that I was here if she needed me. That all she could do was the do the best she could. That’s all any of us can do, as sad and scary as that is.
I did the best I could. And addiction stole my child anyway.