My first few months in the support group for mothers with addicted children were rough. The stories depressed me and felt foreign even though it was my reality. I was not at the beginning of the addicted journey with loved ones, but at the time, I didn’t realize all that was going on. Naive to their truth, I knew they kept using alcohol or drugs, but I had very little knowledge of addiction.
As they fell deeper into their bondage, I reached my hand down and offered my help. It didn’t take long before I was being pulled down, rather than being a resource that pulled my loved ones up.
Years later, when I hear the stories of hurting mothers, I resonate with their pain, anger, bitterness, and hopelessness. I rode the roller coaster of emotional distress until I puked, passed out, and fell into a pit all my own. One day, I looked up and saw I was sitting there in a mental mess. Disconnected from their addiction but drawn in by it. They were drowning in drug use, and I was drowning in depression, anxiety, and fear.
In the quiet of the midnight hours, I whipped around from one memory to the next. The spin was nauseating, the first contact with the police and drunken domestic violence to the jail time, prison time, probation, CPS, suicidal attempts, learning of overdose, CPR, and even death.
As each memory hit me, I saw myself disappear. My faith is dependent on my thoughts, and my thoughts became consumed year after year, month after month, and day after day. I woke up thinking of their actions, and somehow those choices ended in my consequence. Where Jesus once took priority stood addiction and brokenness, and that created emotional mess.
My last straw came when my daughter disappeared. I felt the event coming days before. I reached out to new people, and I begged for prayer. I spoke my truth out loud that I was at the end of this ride. I cried out to God to bring me out of that pit of shame and pain, and I began the climb.
When she disappeared, she took my handcuffs with her. Parents in this situation know what handcuffs we wear. We slap them on unknowingly. We walk as shackled prisoners; when they move, we move. Their bondage to substance use creates our bondage to situations they make. The vacuum of addiction sucks us in. The further we travel in their journey, we see the lies, manipulation, and disconnect from reality, but we keep fighting for them, or so we hope. However, they often fight us as the enemy.
Eventually, the cuffs are not necessary. We become numb and do as told, stay as instructed, and run when the whistle blows. Trained to obey our feelings, we live and breathe for a situation we cannot control. My movement in their world went against everything my faith taught me.
I let go.
What does that mean?
First, I panicked. My anxiety rocketed to new levels. I felt more worried than I had in years. I struggled to sleep because I couldn’t calm my mind down. I cried tears that I had pent up for a long time. I do not know when I quit crying, but I did. Once I ‘let go’, I let the healing waters flow. For me, it felt weak and odd, but friends reminded me it was ok to shed those tears. God comforts me and guides me through the healing of my soul. He always will.
Next, I began to unravel the last several years and acknowledge my loss. I grieved the lost pieces of my life. I suffered the loss of time, hope, dreams, vacations, material items due to their theft, and above all, relationships. The more I reached out to people; I learned how little they knew. I was isolated because I believed everyone was tired of being on my merry-go-round. Being selective in what I chose to share meant I wasn’t a burden to those I loved. They knew just enough to know I was struggling.
I apologized where apologies were due. Communication had become so spotty within my marriage that it stopped altogether. Addiction invaded our sacred space where only God should be, and our unraveling was evident. Within weeks of letting go, we were back to holding on. For this, I am grateful.
I sought counseling and Christian guidance from a trusted friend who happened to be my previous therapist years ago. We met and created a devotional plan to run through the levels of misplaced emotions, misconstrued thoughts, and upside-down reactions I manifested through the drama. I needed a reminder of who God is and the role he plays in my life. Without intention, I pushed Him away as I confronted the obstacles of family addiction.
Finally, I joined a Bible study for women in need of healing. I have done one week, and already it is impacting me. Disrupted by their life choices, I quit attending classes long ago.
Letting go was about finding myself holding on. Reteaching myself to rely on God is a challenge. When my phone rings, I fill with fear. Healing will take time; reengaging Jesus in all my needs will take time. Rebuilding my relationships, prioritizing my time, living within the certainty of Christ will all take time.
When we allow addiction to consume our day and control our minds, we end up lost. I held on to hope in recovery. When recovery didn’t come, I swung back and forth on the vines of sadness. We would have another good day, two days, three, and I would revive that hope. When they went back to drinking and drugs, I lost a little more hope. Eventually, you reach hopelessness, want out of life, give up, and fade away. Misplaced hope kills the spirit.
Where does my hope come from?
Hope in Christ alone is eternal. Hope in recovery was always temporal and led to a brick wall. I let go of living in lost faith. As parents, we want to hold tightly to believing in our children. Humans let us down, and they are no different. While I think my kids can win this battle with addiction, I believe most in God’s power to walk them through that victory. I also know there is a responsibility in choosing Christ that must come first. He meets you where you are, but you have to be willing to give him a chance.
I let go of being a ragdoll in a life I despised. Releasing myself from the guilt and fear of failure opened the door to surrender. I always said I knew I couldn’t fix my kids in their addiction, but I kept trying, which turned into a crutch of certainty for them, but uncertainty for me. Letting go was forfeiting my need to be some part of their savior. Even my daily words of encouragement became a sign that mom would always be there. I no longer have that daily communication. God now delivers those encouraging messages. I reinforce when I can.
Letting go brought me back to a place where I am free. Staying here is my hope. Everything God is doing now is to build me to withstand anything of this magnitude in the future. Their recovery is not guaranteed, but my relationship with the Lord is assured. I will recover from the trauma. Restored faith has restored my hope that comes through Jesus Christ.
In this world, we will have troubles, but rest easy, for Jesus has overcome the world! (John 16:33)
If you need to ‘let it go’ and are unsure where to start, I invite you to a prayer of confession. Release your sin to the Lord through confession and repentance through Jesus Christ our Lord, and receive His gift of forgiveness. Leave the words of your heart with Jesus, surrendering the strongholds of the impact of addiction on your life, and moving on toward true freedom in Christ.
Here is a prayer I recently lifted. Make you confession your own and begin the journey toward freedom today!
Thank you Father for inviting me into a space of confession and peace.
I misaligned my hope and faith with wanting to believe my kids out of addiction. As recovery never came, I became more angry, and separated myself from you. This created the space to ignore you, to be angry, and to judge you. My thoughts were so deeply embedded in their addiction and consequences, that their world became all I thought about, and saw. Instead of intentional prayer with you, I was intentionally trying to speak them out of their addiction. Instead of reading your Word, I was focused on addiction education. I used my time centered around things other than you, and even when I could feel you call, I pulled away.
Thank you Lord for your guidance back to healthy thinking, healthy actions, and healthy living. Thank you for your constant care, mercy, forgiveness, and love. In you, I can do all things.
In Jesus Name,