A week of bitter sweetness.  I have had a happy, bubbly girl all week.  Last weekend we had “respite” to rebuild body and soul, while she stayed with her dad.  Although I confess to a growing sense of anxiety throughout the afternoon of her return, this time at least, it was not warranted.  I sat in the car across the road from the school bus stop, 4pm sharp as always.  On a grey, cold, winters day, the windscreen was spattered with sliding fingers of raindrops.  I saw other parents waiting for their kids, and thought how different their experience of this minutae of parental life, felt from mine.  They read books, or scold their grumpy toddlers while they wait.  Me?  I have palpitations and pray that I will see her familiar, much loved figure dancing down the bus aisle as it pulls to a halt.  You see there have been days when I have sat in this place and watched the bus come, and then go, and I have been plunged into darkness.  Those are the days when she has “disappeared” from her life.  The “runaway” days.  There is never any warning; any subtle change in body language or facial expression to alert us to the possibility that all of our lives are about to crash and burn again.

This week, every day I pick her up from the bus, and she is sunny, bright… normal!  I feel like a regular mum, doing regular mum things for her girl.  We shop together at the supermarket, and buy school stationary.  I give in to the pleas for chocolate at the checkout.  Not only do I give in, I join in, and savour such a simple, loving time of togetherness.   I announce to both daughters that from here on in, they will take a turn at cooking each week.  Older daughter grouches, and drifts off to spend time horizontal watching tv.  My other girl, simply picks up a chopping board and knife, wrestles the lid from a jar of bolognaise sauce and gets stuck in. Dinner was beautiful, and daughter, proud of achievements and the resulting praise, inhales her food with great gusto. 

Today I have arisen from two days of bed bound sick leave.  I cancelled clients, put life on hold and had a love affair with the safe and nurturing cocoon of my bed.  Endless Oprah and Dr Phil shows, interspersed with self help books, sleeping, coughing and nose blowing.  I rarely sucumb to “bugs”, but know that chronic stress causes your natural immunity to plummet.  I feel no sense of guilt or frustration for my abdication from life.  Instead I have extended a loving hand of nurturing to myself, and walked the healing talk I dispense to others… “love yourself first, so that you are strong and healthy enough to love those around you”.  I am walking my talk.

Dusk is falling and my much loved vista is still and tranquil.  Tonight will be a full moon, and when I wake for my now habitual 3am contemplation, it’s light will illuminate my room, and remind me that in these times of change, some things remain strong, certain, never ending and illuminating.

As is so often the way, I manifested a body/mind physical ailment or two in the past few weeks.  Mirroring the sensation of numbness and “stuckness” in my mind and spirit, my physical body went out in sympathy.  The whole right side of my body became heavy, numb, almost a sensation of paralysis.  I could hardly lift my right arm, and my right hip and leg felt dead.  Amidst rampant fears of early onset MS and Parkinsons (it doesnt pay to have a medical background at a time like this), I visited friends who are energy balancers and healers.  After a beautiful healing session, complete with wracking sobs released from the basement of my being, I once again had a working body.  In my own daily work I see the indisputable link betwen our psych and our physical self, and yet it never ceases to amaze me when my own ceathing mind creates such powerful physical havoc. 

Darling daughter was away for three days staying with her dad.  It felt like respite care for me and my husband.  Having barely connected with each other these past few earth shattering weeks, we made a conscious decision to spend much of our weekend in emotional and physical communion.   Friends came for dinner with their endearing 5 month old puppy who was the focus for much of our attention.  We ate, we drank, we laughed… we did “normal” stuff!  A one hour soak in the bathtub, complete with candles and cups of tea, literally dissolved the hardened layers of rigidly controlled emotion that I had papered the cracks up with for weeks.   Laying in the deep hot water, with nothing more than the flickering organge glow of the candle, we remembered to breathe deeply, and let each other in.  Both of us have errected our own personal fortifications in an effort to keep on going through the maelstrom of shock and grief.  Such fortifications effectively keep each other out too!

Besides the bed I have an ever growing pile of library books and pamphlets from addiction aid agencies.  I am trawling through them, as and when my mood allows.  At the darkest times,  such reading only adds to the agony.  In the more balanced moments, I am able to suck the facts and knowledge from the pages, and somehow side step the emotional blackness contained therein.  I have spoken to many people now about the trials we currently face.  What has been truely stunning for me, is the new awareness of just how widespread and perverse the monster of drug addiction is in our society.  People I have known for years are responding to our raw honesty, with their own vulnerable tales of  addiction experience.  We have made a deliberate choice not to hide or soften any of the truth.  We’re telling it as it is… and in return others are sharing their stories of despair, triumph, and sometimes failure.  It helps to know we are not alone on this journey.   I am buoyed by the stories of lives lost and then re-found through the process of recovery.  The stories of failure and bleakness, I choose to park upon the shelf and cover with a dark, thick drape cloth of denial.  That will NOT be our story, I tell myself.

I have returned to my sanctuary and started walking on my beach again.  Contrary to my irrational fears, my heart has not exploded with grief.  Just the opposite – the sounds and smells of sea and salt, are balm to my soul.  I understand that we are standing at the start of what may be a long and winding road, with many a hill to climb.  I have made a conscious decision to nurture and love myself, placing my own wellbeing at the centre of my personal universe.  Without physical and emotional strength and health, I may not make the distance.  Keeping myself well and balanced, is the ultimate gift of love to my daughter.  If I am strong and whole, I can model such a possibility to her.   There will be times when I slip.  Times when a cup of tea and a piece of toast is all I can handle, and a raw food salad literally makes my insides crawl.  Times when staying in bed and pulling the duvet over my head, is the only option, and the beach walk with have to wait for another day.  But still, my intent and my intention is “wholeness, balance and peace for me… and my child”.

It’s Friday.  We made it through another… eventful week.  Monday we went for our admissions interview for the odyssey house youth program.  My daughter didnt want us in the room for the interview, so father and I spent an hour and a quarter sitting in the staff cafe drinking weak tea and talking around in emotion charged circles.  Comparing notes, offering somewhat stiff solace to each other.  It seems so strange that this journey has thrown me back into such close circles of orbit with this man I loved so many years ago.  When we made our child together, he was my world, and I had built him up into a vision of so many things he was not.  On this rainy cold Auckland day, sitting in the staff cafe I see him simply as the father of my child.  He is short, thin, and looks completely used up.  A combination of overwork and over stress.  I have no doubt that he loves our child with all his heart, and shares the pain I feel as we watch her struggle.   All our differences of the past seem irrelevant, and long forgotten.  We are unified in this battle for her life.

After her admissions interview we speak briefly with the interviewer.  “Can you tell me what drugs she is taking”, I ask.  I am her mother.  She is 14.  “NO” is the answer.  Client confidentiality rules.  Even when that client is but a child.  I can barely get my head around the fact that we are aiding and abetting our daughter into a residential program that will effectively take her from our life for so many long months, and yet we don’t even know what drugs she has been using and how.  Around and around, I ask myself if she is really as sick as she says.  Is it just a bit of weed, or are we talking crack head extraordinaire?  It would help me cope with the grief and shock is someone would just tell me what the hell this monster looks like.  It all seems bigger, more amorphous and much, much darker when I can’t even visualise the monster called drug addiction… what are we dealing with?  What are we dealing with?

So it would seem that I am walking a path of TRUST, at a time when I feel least able to trust my daughter, and the words that she speaks.  I am trusting that a residential program is what she really needs.  I am trusting the “experts” to see through the smoke screen that swirls around her, and make their considered judgement before they suck her into the vortex that is a rehab program.  She will be gone from our lives, living in a distant place, and able to ring us only once a week, with supervision.  Of course we will visit weekly, and no doubt each time we lay eyes upon her, there will be some new thing to see.  I am holding tightly to the vision of what she will look like as she “recovers”.  A spark, a shine, a carefree laugh, an easy smile, a warmth, an ease, a love that have been missing for so long.  I am holding so very tightly to the vision of having my beautiful, funny, vivacious, witty, smart girl back.

It’s just over a week now since you told us about your drug addictions.  It’s hurting more today than it did then.  The numbness that envelops me like a grey shroud is starting to thin in places.  Those places where the protective blanket of shock is breaking, are pierced with shards of intense emotion.  One minute grief, then anger, then disbelief… and ever present, numbing fatigue that I cant seem to shake.   I havent been to my beautiful beach for almost two weeks now.  Usually my walks along the shore are a daily gift to myself.  They are my where I find my centre and my equilibrium.  It’s almost as if I dare not go near the ocean and its beauty.  Always my heart feels so open when I walk in the sun and soak in the smells and sounds of the ocean.  To be there right now would risk opening my heart to the avalanche of feeling that lays just beyond the road blocks I have hastily constructed to keep me whole.   So for now, I will stay away… anyway Im too tired to walk more than a few metres.

I’m telling people now what we are going through.  It seems everyone has a story to share.  Some are filled with hope.  Others are crushingly insensitive and hopeless.  It doesnt help me right now to know of others who have been to rehab and failed.  It’s not what I want to hear, so please dont share those tales of tragedy with me.   The leaders in our church know now, and they are praying for us.  While I appreciated there words of love and care,  my faith in prayer is threadbare and worn.  My faith?  I don’t even have the energy to question what I believe at the moment.  There will be time enough to contemplate where God fits in all this, in the weeks to come.  But wavering as I am, all prayer most gratefully received.. thank you.

You’re soaking in the bathtub right now, and I feel a sense of comfort knowing where you are, and that right now, for this instant in time you are safe and out of harms way.  I wish I could keep you locked in the bathroom for the rest of time, peaceful in the knowledge of your safety.   Just an idle wish, with the reality of a drug filled world laying just beyond the familiar warmth of our blue front door.  It’s all out there darling, begging and beckoning for you to try it.  A little hit, a little fix, a little escape from whatever pain fills the corners of your mind.   I know you dont want to do it… you tell us that.  For now though, we stand this side of your treatment, and feel so vulnerable and afraid, and so powerlessto help you.  I would take your pain as my own in an instant if it would free you for the life I wish for you.   Today is your sisters birthday… she is 22.   One day, I hope it will be your 22nd birthday too, and we can both look back on these painful years with a sense of wonder and awe at how far you have come.   

You are loved so much my beautiful daughter.  Don’t even forget it.

Today, as I write this, my first blog post, I am sitting in my familiar office.  Out the window I see the miles of rolling fields punctuated by pine forrest. It’s the same view I soak up daily, but now the eyes that rest upon it are changed.  I am no longer the woman I was a week ago.  Then I was a mother, a wife, a writer, a professional, a daughter… so many things, but not what I am today.  Today I am all that and more.  Now, for the first time I know that I am also the mother of a drug addicted child.  The truth is that I have been this for some time, but not holding the awareness that I have now.  Somehow “knowing” changes everything.  It changes where I fit in the world; who I am; what my purpose is… and certainly it changes the life of my child.   So now, finally, after months and years of seeming madness, so many vignettes of craziness coalesce into painful clarity.  It is all starting to make so much more sense, after just four days of knowing.   My days are peppered with sudden insights that flood through my otherwise numb brain.  The days when she was too ill to go to school with bizarre symptoms unlike any other “virus” I had ever known; the nights when we ended up in hospital for tests, rehydration and discharge in the cold dark hours of dawn; the mood changes when my beloved child seemed to disappear before my eyes; the anger; the angst; the tears…. all are taking on new meaning – true meaning. 

These last few days have been both crushing and liberating, both in a bitter sweet entanglement.  My physical body has reacted predictably violently.  I have been barely able to walk, as I feel encased in lead.  My feet literally drag when I walk.  I have had a crushing headache with waves of nausea, that is untouched by the pain killers that I rarely take at other times.  My heart, oh my aching heart.  It physically hurts, as if a cold black hand is squeezing away its warmth and life force.  Sometimes, for no apparent reason it decides to try to run away from the pain, and ups it tempo to a galloping, thudding, pace.  Then I feel breathless and light headed as I breath deeply and wait for it to take itself into hand again.

Everywhere I go the people around me continue with their usual lives, not yet aware that mine has changed beyond recognition.  “how are you”? they say.  You know, that throw away phrase of warmth and greeting that we use without expecting an answer.  Usually, I say, “Great thanks”… and I mean it.  These last few days I shoot back “how are you”?… deflecting from the silence that I offer as my answer.  Right now I cannot begin to tell them how I am really…. I dont yet know.  The rubble, dust and flotsam in my brain has not yet settled enough to see even a glimpse of the light.

Writing has been my life for so many years.  Usually, I am the detached observer.  I take a subject, I research and then I write my balanced offering.  This time the journey is so very different.  In the days, weeks and months ahead, I will return to this blog to share with you a journey that is new and unique to me, although others have had the misfortune to walk it before me.  This is a journey through the maze of drug addiction, or more specificially the journey of a mother who has nothing to offer her child more than unconditional love, and the promise that whatever lays ahead, that love will never wane. 

Please share your insights and your own stories with me.  I have much to learn, and your wisdom may be a saviour to me and my child.

With humbleness and hope


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