Mary sat there with her eyes rolling back into her head; her mouth foaming a bit. Her newborn baby was sleeping in her arms while she jostled him each time she would nod out and try to keep focused.
She looks up at me and says, “you just want to take my baby away from me. All of you Social Workers are the same.”
I stare blankly. I am new at this, but I can’t let Mary know that. I am just 25 years old, and she is well into her 40′s. She is not new at this, not by along shot.
Little does she know it isn’t her newborn I am after, it is her disease.
“Do you have any other kids Mary?” I ask, as I fill out her assessment.
“Yeah. 4. They all were taken away from me because people like you don’t think I care about my kids. People like you think I have no heart, and all I care about is drugs.”
I clarify for her that people like me what to see her clean, healthy, and safe.
After an hour long assessment I learned Mary has been using for more than ten years. She doesn’t even remember how old she was when she started, but she does remember the first time she sold her body for a hit of heroin. She tried rehab too many times to count, and currently she is high on the doctor-prescribed methadone mixed with a hit of heroin.
The air is thick with concerns, and I am forced to send her back out on the street with her newborn wondering if she has a warm place to stay tonight. I asked her and she laughed at me and said, “yes where else would I bring this baby?”
She still thinks I want her baby. She doesn’t know I want her disease.
I want Mary to claim war on it. I want her to fight with me. I want her to have the ability to see herself as more then just a drug addict. I want her to see herself not as a prostituting drug whore, but as a loving Mom.
It is clear she is an addict, but it is also clear to me she is a loving Mom as well (the baby is swaddled in a blanket, fed, and she is cooing at him. She bathes him in kisses, and opens her diaper bag for a pacifier). That baby deserves his Mother to fight the war. That baby deserves a better life then getting passed around the drug world, because if he stays he will never get out.
I really don’t want to take her baby.
After a few more meetings and evaluations, Mary refuses my advice to go into family residential treatment. It is the only way for her to keep her newborn son, and for them both to be safe. She isn’t ready for the fight. Her disease is telling her that it is more important then her kids. Her disease is running Mary.
Mary isn’t fighting because she hasn’t “hit bottom” or reclaimed the right to her body, her life, her choices.
By now I am sure you know the outcome, Mary lost her baby to the state. Her 5th child to the system. I was just another Social Worker that had to report it. I was, what she said I was, a baby snatcher. I wish I could explain why, but nothing I said comforted her. She refused treatment, and I, ethically, could not let her continue to take care of her 1 month old on the streets she sells herself and buys drugs on.
You may be reading this and thinking “I’ll never get this low,” “This isn’t me” “my story is different” or “it hasn’t consumed me” “I have control of it”.
Don’t fool yourself, Mary thought all of these things as well.
Addiction is all the same disease.
It will consume you if you don’t choose to consume it. It will make you give it everything. It can push you to do things you never imagined you be willing to do. It will cost you not only years of your life, but your loved ones. It will take all of who you are, and what makes you “YOU”, and give it a slow and painful death.
As a professional in the field of Addiction I can tell you this: You can not do it alone. You shouldn’t have to do it alone. If you needed surgery to remove tumor, do you take the scalpel and do it yourself? No. It is the same thing my friend, the VERY same thing.
A disease is a disease is a disease.
We (professionals) aren’t here to take your babies. We aren’t here to pass judgment and tell you how bad you are. We didn’t get a degree in this to make fun of you, or to watch you pee in a cup.
We did it to help you fight. We are here to reclaim you.
I am no longer 25 years old, and I may not be in the business of rehab anymore (instead I am a stay at home, blogging Mom). However, Mary, and all the other people I sat with in various rooms at various locations will always be in my heart.
I will always feel like I am a warrior against Addiction.
I will always want to win the war, support addicts and their families. And I am here to tell you….
you are not alone with that monster.
Don’t let the Addiction win.
Reclaim yourself, your life, and what you rightly deserve.
I am not a “blogger,” even though I have a blog. I am not good at writing.
I have tried. I have written as catharsis. Anything I write eventually ends up used against me. I even used to write poems long ago, but what I got in return for pouring out my heart effectively put a stop to that.
I don’t know where to begin or how to form a coherent compilation of a jumbled life. There is much I will leave unsaid.
I am a child of a mentally ill parent. The woman who gave birth to me, whom I am supposed to call Mother, has schizophrenia. I am sure there are many other diagnosis that could be added to that, but we will keep it simple. As if there is such a thing as simple with schizophrenia.
The shame. The guilt. The fear. The secrecy. Being judged from HER illness.” Crazy by association.” As a result, I think I have been depressed and angry my entire life. I never was able to have a “childhood”. The early years are a blurry nightmare. Memories that are locked away by choice and repression. Sometimes I feel like I am made up of nothing but scar tissue. Who am I? Will I be judged based on her illness forever? How long will I carry her baggage as well as my own?
By some miracle I was given a reprieve. When I was 5 I went to live with an Aunt and Uncle and their two sons. God only knows what they thought of the feral child they received. Merging into a “normal” household was difficult. For all of us, I’m sure. I was a child who fended for herself and had to adjust to a new way of life. At some point I started to call my Aunt & Uncle, Mom & Dad. My cousins were like brothers. Although I was still reserved and doubtful about the security of love, I loved them.
But then like a piece of property, like a borrowed casserole dish, my “owner” demanded around the time I was 10, that I be returned. Returned to hell. I remember having an early birthday party with my friends before I left. I didn’t understand. Why would they send me back? What did I do wrong? Why was I being punished? Part of me still doesn’t understand. Even as an adult who has actually been given some of the information that as a child I was not privy to. Only those that were adults at the time will ever truly know the whys of it all.
I became the caretaker. I felt thrown away. Invisible. Damaged. Unwanted. Unlovable. Once again fending for myself in every way. Any time I made my NEEDS known, I was told I was selfish. Like dinner. How dare I expect dinner. Or school clothes, or to have my laundry done. Or or or… infinity. Any time I tried to speak up to ask questions of my family or tell someone that something wasn’t right or even to break free of the twilight zone I lived in, I was brushed aside and told “we’ll speak with your mother”. Yeah great idea. I was screaming. No one heard me. No one saw me. Or they chose not to. Selective blindness. She was the adult. I was just the child who acted out.
Unheard. Screaming inside. Unheard. Seriously!?!? How could family simply go on living their lives like mine was disposable?
Not ONE person in my family could admit to the secret that was my mother. So I became the problem child. It wasn’t her it was me. It wasn’t HER sick twisted warped behavior, it was somehow MINE. It wasn’t because I didn’t have a functioning parent or that I was subjected to abuse and exposed to things no child should be exposed to. It wasn’t because I was expected to be her caretaker, therapist, mental and physical punching bag and be sucked into her warped reality. No couldn’t possibly be that! According to them, I was a “bad” kid. I was wrong. It was ME. I had problems. I was the cause of the problems. All of the dysfunction was MY fault.
I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me. It has affected every aspect of my life. When I was a teenager, I finally found out what was wrong with her. Not because I was told, but because I wrote down the names and doses of all her medications and a person in my life was able to tell me what they were for. Needless to say confrontations were served all around. I stopped staying at “home” when I was 16, spending as little time there as possible. Still being labeled the problem child, I moved out completely at 17.
I have gotten therapy ad nauseam. I asked that I be given every psychological test known to man to see was I anything like her. Would I turn out like her? Was there something wrong with me? Despite my many flaws and admitted quirks and dysfunctions, I AM SANE.
So I still may not always know who I am, but I AM NOT HER. Nor will I ever be. I am bitter. And yes I am damaged. But I am ME. Whoever that is.
And for all the people telling me I have to forgive. For the so called family who abandoned me and still to this day judge me, shun me, and blame me, instead of facing the reality of HER illness, I give you a ginormous mushroom print. FUCK YOU.
I wish I could write like our favorite Aunt Becky, but I can’t. My words will be misspelled, my commas will be out of place, and there will definitely be run on sentences, but I swear like a trucker so somehow I think I will fit right in.
So back story: BAD shit happened to me when I was a kid.
There were days when I didn’t know if I would make it. Days that I wasn’t able to deal. I would burn myself or punch a wall just to feel… something. I made it through bruised but not broken.
I just wish I could tell the young girl that dealt with all of that what I know now.
I’ve been talking to a young friend who is going through so much in her life right now. She reminds me so much of my younger self. She, like me, puts up a strong front, but just beneath the surface you can see the hurt and self-doubt. When asked we will both say we are “fine.”
Every time she says it to me, my heart cracks just a little. See I know that when she says, “I’m fine” what she really means is “This hurts like hell! My heart is breaking. Somebody please just take away the pain.” I just want to give her hug and tell her it will all be okay. I won’t, mind you, because that would make me seem weak or soft or whatever my fucked-up mind thinks.
Still, through talking to her, I’ve been thinking, what would I tell my younger self?
So I wrote myself a letter today. Maybe it will help her or some other young girl who needs to know it WILL BE OK.
I know it’s hard right now, but experience brings knowledge, adversity brings strength. None of that makes a damn bit of difference when you’re hurting but faith, faith gives you hope. The hope that there is something greater out there brings a small amount of peace even in the darkest times.
When you find love, it calms. Love doesn’t hurt; it heals, it comforts, it expands. Love gives. It should not take away.
If life seems to be spiraling out of control, find solace in the small things. Family, friends, music, words. These are your armor against all that will stand against you.
Remember that the lessons learned from the mistakes we make and the paths we choose make us who we are. Never regret them. To do so would mean you doubt yourself. Nothing and no one should make you doubt your worth.
Though it’s sometimes easier to forgive others than yourself, YOU ARE ONLY HUMAN.
Be as kind and love yourself as much as you do those others.
Stand tall without being cocky and be proud of who you become.
I know I am.
PS. If none of that shit works there is always vodka.
We all have letters we’d like to send, but know that we can’t. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser.
Letters where actual contact is just not possible.
Do you have a letter you can’t send?
Why not send it to The Band?
This is what I would like to tell my mom, and probably would if she weren’t in a fragile state. She’s been wheelchair bound since my second child was born and my daughter is now nearing junior high school. How she ended up in a wheelchair isn’t at issue at this point. Needless to say, she is simply too weak to hear this stuff.
Did you ever wonder why I was so angry as a young man? Or why I only had a single friend when I was going through school? You should remember the angry tantrums that I used to pull. The anger I showed you was caused by a deep, horrid certainty that I was useless and doomed to failure. That I could never trust people or achieve anything of moment in life.
While a lot of this is standard fare for a teenager, you never informed dad about any incident as far as I can tell. He was never the kind of man to sit still for such nonsense. Did you stop to think when you told me as a very young child that I was a “surprise?” It didn’t take me long to figure out that “surprise” meant accident, and that you didn’t intend to make me. From that time on, I wondered if everyone would be happier without me, or if I even was truly wanted in the home.
What about the grades, Mom? You know, when I began failing in high school and you would hide the facts from Dad. Of course a child would accept help in such a way. I didn’t want to be in trouble at home AND school, after all. It’s a repeated pattern with you.
Consistently, you would “shelter” your little boy from Dad’s wrath, which was rather corporal, yet never over the top. Yet you failed entirely to protect me from sexual predators. Yes, mother I was molested as a child. I, your little boy, was fucked by a teenage girl belonging to a “trusted” family. My innocence was gone by fourth grade, Mother. Then, listening to your gossip, I learned that you never really even liked that family and thought their mother to be disgusting and immoral. Why, then, was I allowed to mix with them? Did you never wonder why I didn’t have any friends or why I quit playing with the other children from that family? I really believed that my molester was my girlfriend. You have no idea how confused and hurt I was when I saw her with a boy her own age. I had no one to confide in, and as children who are abused often feel that they would get into more trouble.
You were already struggling with demons of your own, of which I had known a little from the time I was in second grade when you were first hospitalized for “stress.” Junior high came around, and while I seemed to be okay, inside I was dying. I felt completely alone, as sex abuse survivors often do. I went through those three years with one friend who I met in fifth grade.
Then, you decided you were divorcing Dad. We moved out and lived for a few months in another town. You went back to father because, as I later found out, he bribed you. Yes, he cashed money from his retirement account and gave you a lump sum of cash to spend at your discretion. That caused me to lose a lot of respect for you. That was a single summer and back to the home. It was fucked up mom.
Junior high progressed. Even then I would have horrid angry outbursts of hopeless despair which should have caused some questions. Mom, why didn’t you do anything to get me help then?
High school came along and I gave up my choir aspirations. I didn’t have the confidence to try out for the high school choir, even though I had pulled straight A’s in all my choir work for junior high and earned a place on the Honor Choir. Indeed, I began to give up on everything then. I didn’t have many friends and had no visitors or invitations during summer breaks to anything. You never wondered why I never went steady with a girl, and asked only one out, and only then after repeated assurances that she would say yes? I pushed away my best friend in this time, in favor of what I thought were better friends. I’m lucky he forgave me, when I asked for his forgiveness.
I joined the Navy, only to flunk their psych evaluation and be sent home after five or so weeks. So there I was in the airport, defeated. You were so out of it, Mom. Dad was obviously exhausted. Apparently, it was getting near to another stay in the hospital for you. Not that they did you any good, except for to get you to decide to pretend everything was okay, so you could get out. Do you remember that ride home and the crazy things you talked about? In any case, Mother, you couldn’t handle your little boy leaving and broke down again. I needed some strength and real help then, Mom. But you, once again, were in trouble. I felt guilty by even thinking, “Dammit, I need my parents right now!” But Dad was dealing with your outbursts and insomnia. And so, once again, I kept my secrets and felt an utter failure. I know you’ve had difficulties Mama, but this isn’t about you right now.
You must realize that I was neglected by you in a few ways. Sure, you kept the house clean and meals on the table, but you never would inform my father of things that he had the right to know, like my failing grades. I was allowed to withdraw unhealthily into fantasy-like video games and television. You didn’t make me do the the things that I should have been doing, Mom. Dad could have helped you with that, if you would have let him. But I knew you, and I played you to keep the bad grades secret, just like any teenager would do, given the chance.
You did all that shit with my older sister, to the Nth degree, keeping her from facing the music for so long that she’s now a drug addict with no job, car, house, or self-respect. I escaped that because all along, since second grade, I have resented you. Yes. Resented that I couldn’t have a mommy that didn’t pick crazy fights with dad as we were watching a baseball game, eating dinner, or whatever. A mommy that wouldn’t freak out at tiny problems and scare the shit out of me with lies fashioned to keep me safe, that only served to inhibit my sense of trust in the world. A mommy who didn’t get so tired she wouldn’t talk to me or Dad and had to be taken to hospital on regular intervals.
I love ya, Mom, but you sure fucked up bad.
Four kids, one alcoholic, another a depressed, self-loathing mess (me) and a drug addict forever child. My oldest brother is the most well-balanced of the four of us, and I truly believe it’s because he spent the greater majority of his time with Father. Why did you “protect” us three from Dad so much? I have a good relationship with my father now, but my brother and sister haven’t spoken with him in years, in any meaningful way.
Do you know why dad was so grumpy all the time, mom? Because he slogged his ass of in a coal mine for twelve hours a day, six days a week and came home to either a batshit crazy or a sweet as pie wife–he never knew what to expect. He paid your way, Mom, and you resented him for it! He never made you stay home, you could have had your own money. Instead, you spent him into debt with secret credit cards, on more than one occasion. I remember the fights. They were the only ones that had any kind of justification. In other words, Dad was right!
You even kept him from forming decent relationships with the majority of his children.
Mom, I love you, but you have messed up three of your kids. That is a fact. I am now thirty six and struggle daily with feelings of empty, horrid loneliness and depression. These things are only bigger for me now, and I resent that you had every reasonable signal that something was very wrong with your child and you did …nothing. NOTHING!
I am now a father, and if one of my children began behaving the ways that I did, I would most certainly get them to someone for help. It’s not normal to rage the ways I did. Now I know it’s because of the injustice of abuse and the feeling that I wasn’t really wanted in the home.
I’m fixing these problems now, Mom, and without your help, just as before. It’s fucked, and I’m still kinda pissed off that all the signs were there. Sure, it was the early nineties. You watched enough talk shows to see at least one child psychiatrist telling parents signs of trouble in a kid. This fucking rock I’ve been toting for so goddamned long is a big bastard now. I’m pissed that I’ve had to do that carrying for so long. I’ve learned so much in my reading that I know that things wouldn’t be so bad NOW, if you would had done more THEN. Maybe you could have found yourself some decent help along the way, too.
I’m taking action now, Mom. I’m a big boy and have been taking care of myself. I’m getting the help I need, but my problems are compounded now by a failed marriage and the breakdown of my little family. This isn’t easier. Time didn’t make this shit go away. Indeed its only become worse.
I will overcome.
I love you mom. I hate you too. I don’t like it, and certainly this is going to be something that I address in therapy. But I’m doing it, finally, and that’s the point.
I am trying to wrap my head around what is currently happening in my life, in the hopes of gaining some guidance and support here. And perhaps someone else will gain, at the very least, the notion that they are not alone in their suffering.
I broke up with a narcissist three years ago, and had no other choice but to move in with my mother. From the frying pan into the fire. I knew at some point in my life I would have to deal with the root cause of my issues, and have gone at it pretty much full bore, but continue to experience bullying situations again and again that leave me stymied. I know, “what we resist persists,” so I must have a lot of baggage to unload, since I feel I am trying my best. At least I am more aware of what’s going on as I become healthier.
I suffer from PTSD and perhaps that’s part of it. I also live in America and work in a very competitive profession. I am very good at what I do, and that again, may be part of the problem. I don’t know how to play the game, and I stick out like a sore thumb. I am very good at moving beyond crisis to get myself more on track.
I lived and supported my Mother for a year before moving on with my own life. New jobs, new town, new friends, but nothing seems to be working out. It’s like the trauma has reduced me to a little child, who knows no defense and was not defended back then. Things keep getting worse.
I was recently fired from a job, and I believed …no, I know it was because I took the means to stand up to my bullying boss. The Human Resources Department is not there to protect you, but rather to protect the company. I am fighting it, but it’s so demoralizing. I was an exemplary employee, and hence, a threat to someone highly insecure, who abused his power.
This happened after a year-long struggle with a therapist who ended up being equally inconsistent in her connection with me, and sometimes outright abusive. My longtime therapist had retired, and again, I fell into the fire, and perhaps because I was still in crisis, not reading red flags soon enough. I did get out on my own and found a better therapist, who I continue to see.
Throughout all of this, I have tried to take care of myself. Meditating, using body healing modalities to release my frozen trauma, exercising, etc. I know that this kind of work can dredge up long-seated problems, and in my case, child abuse and neglect, but this dark night of the soul is taking its toll on me. This might be what happens when you were not allowed to develop a sense of self way back when, but instead were an instrument for others getting their needs met.
The key here is that I do have an authentic self, a connection with my soul, so to speak. It was tucked away, and I’m trying to integrate it into my life. It is a gift and a curse. I have a bullshit meter a mile deep, but I don’t know how to live with all I see. I am the child who saw the emperor with no clothes on, and keeps getting beaten down. Maybe it’s my desire to individuate, and standing at that bridge, outside of the cave, I am stuck, too afraid to take the next step. I want so badly to get there, but it seems like I was given no ego support for such growing up, that I am scared as hell.
But I know I will do it.
It’s hard being a sensitive, empathic person in this world we currently live in. Pressures are greater, and those who chose narcissistic behavior are freaking out- perhaps the old rules aren’t working. I need to have faith that, as I slough off these abusive entities, that my true self will emerge from the ashes.
My daughter is now 25 and has three children. She has been raped and was hospitalized because of it. She has been strangled to near death and is emotionally and physically abused.
She has been married to her abuser for six years now and believes she loves him. He has isolated her totally from all family, friends, any past acquaintances, and moved her to another state. He abuses their children too, who are 7, 5, and 7 months old. He has forced alcohol down their throats, shot them with a BB gun, left them on their own at 6 and 4 years old for hours at a time.
He now owns a gun and is a convicted felon.
My daughter does not communicate with me now. I love her and my grandchildren so much, but do not have any way to tell them that.
I am looking for advice on how to deal with this, help her see what is happening or how to stop this. I have tried to educate myself so I can help her, but she won’t let me help. I guess it has to be this way until she decides differently.
Any advice you can give me would be much appreciated. Thanks, The Band, for listening!