I had the best childhood. You were the best mother. I looked up to you….until I didn’t. I watched you live your life as a strong, independent, single mother-of-two, who always worked numerous jobs to give us the little extras. You filled our lives with every cultural experience and luxury, yet you kept us grounded and exposed to many ways of living. You were our rock.
As I think back on the last 13 years, I was blind to your struggles and denial took over. I watched the strong mother I love become a person I didn’t recognize anymore. I’m sitting in the back of the grocery store watching you be questioned and searched by the store police. I feel my body physically react to what I can’t mentally process. I sit very still in an attempt to control the shaking. The nausea creeps in as memories of the last few years remind me of what I’m scared to admit.
The man says to me, “Did you know your mom was using?” I respond no but deep down I did. Maybe I chose to blind myself from it to protect the heroine image I’ve had of you all my life. I didn’t want to see you as an addict. Denial is real. You stole from a store while grocery shopping with me that day, and it wasn’t the first time.
Nearing the end of my high school career, I watched you become a shell. I watched you lock yourself in your room and I watched my father be taken to federal prison. No one told me anything. You never opened your bedroom door. You slept for days which lead to months which lead to years. My brother wasn’t sent to school and to this day has never graduated.
As more time went on, our house was foreclosed. We were evicted from the next apartment. Our utilities weren’t paid. We showered with cold water. We would cash in quarters and you would steal food from your work’s kitchen to bring home to us. You would steal from our grandparents. You would take any earnings or extras I had for “bills”.
I never questioned anything. I’d be happy to help with household expenses. Whatever we needed. You temporarily moved in with me and said you’d cover the rent to thank us for helping you. We were evicted. Eventually, I dove into my work. I kept myself very busy. I stayed with friends and I stayed away.
I just couldn’t deal with it at the time. I didn’t understand. I lost a father to prison and I lost a mother as well. You told us you had cancer. You said it was heart issues. You said you were depressed. You never told me of the issues you had with pain killers and that you now have to go to a clinic every day.
I wanted to believe it was something else. I wanted to believe in you when everyone else in your life turned their back on you. Fast forward 10 years, I’m getting married soon. Supposedly the happiest time of my life. We’re out shopping when you’re arrested and accused of stealing then searched for drugs. My eyes fully opened for the first time in a decade. It was time for me to see.
Then the painful process of healing came and I watched the anger, the resentment, the confusion flood me. You’ve lied, stolen, cheated and manipulated me. You stole from my husband and I, again. I replayed all the instances that have occurred and I tried to point my finger on where things went so wrong for you.
I can’t seem to get passed the dishonesty. No one told me the truth so how do I help you? Why do you lie and manipulate? The hardest part was seeing my mother, the woman I’ve held on a pedestal my entire life become the opposite of who she represented all of her life. Who even are you? Why did you take this route and where did you go wrong? Was it the stress all the years?
I took a year away. I planned my wedding without you. I planned my baby shower without you as I took space to reflect and process. You misplaced blame and your guilt on me during the process. You’d reverse the situation for me and scold me for not believing in you. You’d tell the family I was crazy and making up stories about you.
As a new mother now, I have my days when I wish I had someone around to “teach me the ropes.” I wish you were able to a normal grandmother. I watch other mothers have the help and support from a grandmother and I grow angry and sad as I see myself alone.
I’ve watched my children bring you the joy and purpose you need to physically recover but I’m not sure you’ll ever be the same again mentally. I know your issues are stemmed from your own unhealed trauma. You had a hard life and you were strong for us for a long time. But I do mourn the mother you once were and I wonder how life would be like today if you were her.
All I can do is better my own life. All I can control is the mother I am to my children. I’ve never done drugs. I made a good career for myself. I have a good man and a family. I have a house and I pay my bills on time if not advanced. I am honest. I am self-aware. My children will be fed and loved and I won’t let stress turn me the way it has turned you.
I love you for who you were and I love and forgive you for who you are now.
Still some days, I want my old mom back.
Submitted in confidence.
REFLECTION: There are women who mourn the loss of their mothers because they were taken too soon. There are women, like myself, who mourn the loss of their mothers because addiction took them. Addiction completely changes a person, it’s a painful thing to watch. Turning your back on a parent is one of the hardest things and at the end of the day, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t cut my mother out of my life in spite of her negative effect on me and my unhealed emotions.
What I can do, is work on how I manage my own reaction to her, and heal my own trauma. My mother has dealt with addiction for over a decade if not more. A difference is that my mom will not admit to this and will not trust us to talk to or help her. There is no openness and loving trust which is needed for a person to fully heal.
There is manipulation, narcissism and lies that act as a guard of protection for her. We were told instead that she was going through cancer and heart disease. I do not believe that this part of her personality will ever heal or change and in result I’ve had to accept this. I had to teach myself to understand that my mom may always manipulate. Instead of letting it anger me, I’ve had to learn a new way to allow her around me and my children.
Toxic relationships aren’t easy but with self-reflection and in changing the way I react, I’m able to maintain. It will always be a work-in-progress. I have to see her as bruised and understand that her way of living is built around years of generational trauma. We will only get help with awareness and acceptance and I hope every day maybe she will. Now I simply let my children bring smiles to her days because she is broken and I want to see her happy.