The Dance of Addiction
by Tamar F
My daughter has been battling addiction from the age of 15. She is 20 now. I belong to Toastmasters and decided it was time to write a speech telling my story.
I felt that I could express myself and reach others if I entered the International Speech contest. I won at the club level and the area level, going on to win 2nd place at the Division level. I know that winning 1st place there would have required a happier more inspirational ending. I don't yet have an ending... only hope.
But thats OK. Winning was never the goal. Telling my story and touching others was what I needed. So, here is my speech... the story of a mother and a daughter.
THE DANCE OF ADDICTION
She was flyaway and curly and every night at bedtime she stood at the foot of her bed and named all of the people that she loved and then she'd count to three and dive into bed. That was then and now is not.
She peers with hollow eyes into the life of a grown up and turns away. She trades away the love of her family for a feel good moment and the hope of tomorrow dissolves into dust that floats up her nose.
Ashes to ashes; dust to dust. Once a happy girl full of kisses and promises, now delivering strategic kisses and broken promises that fall to the ground like withered leaves unable to cling to the branches that gave them life.
I reach for her to stay her course but she pulls away from me to forge her own path through some enchanted forest where demons reign and ghosts wait to inhabit her.
She finds comfort in a world where the days are short and the nights are long - and she tries to remember the names of the people she loves but the names linger - in some other world - In some other time - In some other self. So she counts to three and they are lost as she falls into a dream from which she doesn't want to wake.
This is the song of a mother and a daughter ...
This is the dance of addiction.
The AMA has defined addiction as a disease. Yet many still see it as simply bad behavior. Unfortunately, unlike cancer or diabetes, addiction changes our brain chemistry, our thought processes, our behaviors, causing the addict to act without conscience and without regard to consequence.
But consequences there are. The standing joke in recovery is, "How do I know that I am allergic to drugs?" Because whenever I use, I break out in felonies!"
Addiction is a progressive devastating illness that affects not only the addict but the whole family.
It is painful to love an addict. I spend endless hours tending to her life because she won't. I struggle to control her disease, unaware that I am living my own disease.
And its not until I take a moment and look back and realize how long it's been since I've taken a breath, that I see I am lost in the life that she abandoned; forgetting my own dreams ...
MY Dreams full of HOW and WHEN but never IF. Because anything was possible before this nightmare began - HER nightmare that I can't wake from.
Still, I vow to be her life support and breathe for her until she can breathe on her own - to love her until she learns to love herself. So, every day I WAIT for the smile, and WATCH for the look, hoping for the OK on her face so that I can be OK too.
All the while, I am consumed with fear and I want rescue her and take her away, as if I could keep her safe by removing her, pretending that the demons are OUT THERE and not inside of her.
I go round and round and round with her on a carousel of hope and fear until I'm dizzy from my steps, and my world is spinning and I don't know what's right anymore.
I am cold and tired and I can no longer see though frozen tears.
HEARTBREAK; BOW BREAK; CRADLE FALL;
I give up and give in. I let go and let God. After all these years I finally release my grasp. After denial has run its course and laughed in my face, I get it.
After the pleading and the begging and the bargaining and threatening; after praying and hoping, and not one single thing that I have done or NOT done has helped her come home to herself.
I watch her fall like a leaf in the wind, and though my heart breaks, I don't reach out to catch her.
Reality has melted my tears and I see clearly now. I speak words that I never imagined would come from my mouth. I learn about boundaries. I change the locks on the doors. This is my gift to her. I allow her to free-fall so that she might find wings and choose to fly.
And so I close my eyes and hope and pray that she will reach deep into her heart and count to three, and finally remember the names of the people she loves, that she will take a leap of faith and grab onto the naked branch of today trusting that its leaves will bloom again.
And then maybe she will wake up and do it again, and again, until one day she holds a bouquet of tomorrows, gathered one by one, one day at a time.
This is the story of a mother and a daughter.
This is the dance of addiction.
SIDE NOTE: My daughter is currently in rehab. Again. She had come home in December "for a new start" after the house she was staying in was raided. She was arrested on 3 counts and spent a month in a county rehab facility. I was full of hope that these real life consequences had finally helped her reach her "bottom". However, my heart fell as it became apparent to me that she was still living her disease.
I lovingly had to tell her that she could not stay with me anymore. I had discovered that she was using...again. IV Heroine had become her drug of choice.
I could not watch her destroy herself any longer. I also had to take care of me. My own health and family relationships were being compromised. And I did not feel safe in my own home.
I found myself hiding medications, car keys, and money. I told her I loved her but could not support her addiction. I talked with her and helped her look at options. There weren't many.
Although it wasn't what I wanted for her, I encouraged her to continue using if she wasn't done. It just couldn't be in my home. She considered living in "her" car but I explained I could not allow her to keep the car (my car that I had been letting her use), as the prospect of her driving wasn't safe for her or for others on the road.
She had no real friends to turn to. It would be a life on the streets. A life of using others for drugs and being used by others. A life of stealing to get high and eventual death or incarceration.
She began to consider long term rehab possibilities and she made the decision to return to a quality women's residential program, where she had spent time a little more than a year ago.
She had to fight with her HMO to get them to pay for it again, as she had "a history" with them and they did not believe she was serious or trust her motives. She stood her ground though. She did everything they asked her to do. Her request was approved.
She is nearly a month into it and happy there. She feels she is learning so much... things that she wasn't listening to or was not ready to hear the 1st time she was there.
She is bonding with women and receiving much needed one-on-one therapy as well. I have given her Book One of CWG and it has helped her find her "higher power". That is a concept integral to the world of recovery and one that she has always struggled with.
I am hopeful that her journey brings her to a place of peace and self discovery and that she can finally let go of the fear that has guided her life. I know that she must walk her own path and I truly believe that everything unfolds exactly the way its supposed to. This belief helps me let go of fear and greet each day with hope.
Hope. That is what I have today. Not a guarantee for tomorrow. Not a remarkable and inspiring happy ending. I have today. And I have hope. And I have faith. What more could I really ask for?