Their Addiction ~ My Journey, “I Dried Her Hair”

Being a mother is incredible. We carry our children for nine months, hold them close to our heart seconds after birth, share their first cry with them, and marvel at every milestone they reach. We feel their joy, excitement, and pain. Each of my children are a piece of my soul.

In the last few years, anxiety entered my life. As substance use showed me new versions of my kids, I began to see a new me. To help, I took time to educate myself, and understand the best I could (which isn’t much). Most important, was learning a new language and form of communication. All to help them, but nothing helped me.

Unfortunately, it was never enough.

The past month haunts me. Our new year began with hope, goodbye to probation, and enthusiasm for new beginnings. However, six days in, our lives shifted from hope to fear. My daughter vanished.

I cannot fill in the blanks from January 6 to January 21. I refuse to ask for an explanation. Those caught in addiction don’t offer the truth. It was a nightmare, I am sure. Through those days, I loved and encouraged. I never invited her back home. I could no longer provide that comfort. It was the hardest decision of my life.

I returned to prayer. For a long time, my words were as empty as my heart. I fell victim to devouring darkness. The lack of control in my life overwhelmed me, and I felt defeated by addiction. I laid down boundaries, but failed to enforce them. I became weak while substance use grew stronger. Through faith, God would guide the days ahead.

When she texted she was out of reasons to live, I replied, “No, you’re not. You’re out of reasons to not heal.” Then, she said she lost everything and everyone, I said, “Different location isn’t losing people. I love you.” When she said she could feel her heart ache, and it was killing her, I shared:

“Let it make you stronger and ready. Either all this happened to force healing, acceptance, accountability, and new behaviors or it doesn’t. That is up to you. I still believe in you.”

As I cried out to God, each day existed in uncertainty, and anxiety intensified. On January 21, I heard the words, “Book a ticket. If I don’t do this, I will be dead.” And she was headed to treatment.

The events of setting up the flight and location played out, and I decided to bring her home for one last night with her kids. She warned me that she was sick and it was bad. Nothing could have prepared me.

She had drunk to curb the withdrawals, and I was upset when picking her up. I handed over a piece of gum, the smell was nauseating.  I realized I am no good at small talk. All I could do was force her to hold it together in front of the kids. She told one story after another, but all I could say was, “it doesn’t matter..” I will never know what is real.

She managed to get through the couple hours with her kids. I was impressed with her kind words to explain her departure. When sober, there is no better communicating mom. She always amazes me with her valuable life lessons in character, compassion, caring, and decency. Drunk or high, she can steal their innocence and tear them down.

Once the kids were tucked in, it began. The shaking, paranoia, constant tapping on her head to get the voices out. Then came vomiting every 20 minutes, the sound of a painful whine indicating body aches. She looked out the window every few minutes. It was difficult to watch.

The following morning, I got the kids up, dressed, fed, and off to school. She laid there wrenching in dry heaves, clammy, and pain. I took her temperature, it was normal. I was thankful, a temperature would stop her from flying. I handed her Motrin and allowed her to sleep, though I had none watching her all night.

Her flight was early. She showered, but I found her sitting on the vanity stool with her eyes closed. With tears she never saw, I asked if she was okay. She mumbled she couldn’t blow dry her hair. She was unable to hold up the dryer. Her strength was gone.

So, I asked if she wanted me to do it. Shaking, I began to dry my grown daughter’s hair. With each gentle stroke, a tear fell from my eyes. She never looked up, and she never saw my hurt and fear. It felt like I was in a movie scene, completely foreign and unreal. Yet, this was my reality in the moment.

I wonder if she will remember our drive to the airport, going back and forth from check-in to security, the long hug as she went through, and looking up at me as she descended the stairs to the trains for the concourse. We both cried and stared until she was out of sight. She will never know I panicked at the time. I saw a sign for Chapel, but it was locked for Covid.

So I found a seat in front of everyone and I cried. I cannot recall a recent time I cried so much. One security lady asked if I was okay, and I answered with an honest, no. I wanted some one to hold me tight, but no one was there. Once she found her gate and called, I left the airport, hoping she wouldn’t leave before her flight.

As I made my way out, I couldn’t remember where I parked. I tried to ask an agent where to go, but I was so distraught I couldn’t get it out. She eventually realized I needed direction to the parking garage. Nothing looked familiar as I made my way through the garage, but I remembered E row, and found my car. I was on my phone but can’t remember with who.

Scheduled to lead a Facebook live prayer meeting at noon, I walked into the church, set up, printed my daily reading, and freshened my makeup. I was filled with peace and joy, but didn’t feel peace or joy. When the meeting concluded, I cried alone, again. A waterfall was released and I couldn’t turn it off. My head pounded from the unfamiliar emotional waves.

I cried at home, and through the night. I woke up with chest pain from anxiety, and wondered if she was awake in her new home across the country. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw us in that bathroom, her eyes closed and mine filled with pain. Will she ever know the depths of my love? Who knew God would use a moment blow drying her hair to bring about a profound reminder of hope.

This is only the beginning. We have 30 days of no contact. I told her over and over it would fly by, but I am devastated. I’ve never gone this long with not talking to my kids. I am here alone, with my grandbabies, so I must hold it together for them. My best friend is gone for now. My dream is she finds freedom and breaks the chains of substance use disorder.

I can’t help, but I can pray. I have a voice again, and I have faith in my silence that He knows and hears the words of my heart. For the thousands of mom’s out there going through the same thing, or worse, I send my love and pray for you as well. Perhaps my only solace is knowing someone in this world understands.


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