The ripples of addiction
I'm at my most peaceful when I'm near water; be that the sea, a river or even in the bath! There is something about the flow and the movement of the tides as well as the stillness of water that brings me a feeling of calm. It's where I go to do my thinking. When I'm feeling angry, I throw stones into the water and watch them splash down and leave a ripple where they once were. And this has brought me to my thinking at the moment. Something heavy hits the calm of the water and leaves behind – not the object – but a ripple effect that moves outwards from that point of contact. One thing can cause quite a reaction that can spread for some distance before it settles once again into a semblance of calm.
This is my life at the moment! Something heavy has hit the calm of my inner ocean and the ripples feel like they are mounting and I wonder when I will find my calmness again. The heaviness is my daughters' addiction. A few months into this year I found out that she has been using drugs as a way of “numbing what was happening around her” and this disclosure is what led to my husband and I looking after her young children. So, my daughter sits at the centre of the ripple and the waves that come from it are affecting, not only her own life, but many aspects of other peoples lives too. For many years my daughter has struggled with mental health concerns; she was recently diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I have worked hard to try to help her cope with her stresses and anxieties. That in itself sent ripples throughout our family as a lot of my focus and attention was put onto her. However, this new stone that has been thrown into the calming waters feels as if it was thrown from a mighty height; it crashed into my life and although it has sunk out of sight, its ripples continue to knock the ebb and flow of my thoughts and actions.
I feel extremely resentful towards my daughter and have looked for help so I can work through these feelings. I recently talked through my story with a professional and was asked if I “enabled” my daughter. I remember that I immediately went into a form of denial: what did she mean, do I enable my daughter – with what? Why on earth would I enable my daughter to use drugs? I was then asked if I had ever given my daughter money, to which I replied “yes”; she then asked me if I knew where that money had gone, to which I replied “it was for food for the children” - she then asked if I was certain of that, or could it have gone to pay for drugs. And then it hit me...
Oh my God! Had I been giving my daughter money for drugs? Had I enabled her to keep her habit going? How naïve am I? How many times had I trusted my daughter in the past, only to find out she was lying? How much have I been in denial that there could be anything “wrong”? How did I not see the signs? So I started to beat myself up (mentally) and now I'm not only cross at my daughter but I'm absolutely fuming with myself!
I'm a professional woman, for God's sake, who has worked with people who have addictions, who have come through addiction and been sober for months/years, who have mental health concerns and here – right under my nose – was my daughter using drugs and displaying “unusual” behaviours and I didn't even see it. Or, perhaps I just didn't want to see it. When I look back, over the past year especially, I can now see “signs” that things weren't right. I would go round to her house and she would be very agitated and “flighty”. She would tell me that her medication for her mental health diagnosis wasn't right and, because I have worked with people with these mental health conditions and know that getting the medication “right” can sometimes be a nightmare, I believed her. There were times when she was “gurning” while she was speaking to me and again, she put this down to her medication. She wouldn't sleep for days and would be constantly on the go – again because of her medication (or so she continued to tell me). Sometimes, when I spoke to her on the phone, she sounded slurred and again it was down to her medication. This medication had a lot to answer for! And stupidly, I believed her. She would tell me she was going to speak to her GP about it; and stupidly I believed her. Any time I questioned her, she had an answer and I drank them all in because if I let myself really think about how she was acting I might find out that my daughter is someone that I honestly didn't know any more or worse still, someone I didn't want to know at all.
They say, “love is blind” - well that rings true with me! My 'unconditional' love for my daughter blinded me to the person she is. I always believed that someday she would turn things around and be the person I wanted her to be. I found excuse after excuse for her behaviours, a lot of the time putting it down to her mental health. I have been told in the past that I disempower my daughter; I have often 'told her what to do' and 'how to do it'. I thought this was what parenting was all about. And whilst I still believe that her mental health concerns have a huge effect on her actions, I now know that I have to allow her to be a woman who can make choices and that she has to chose her own path and pay the consequences of those choices. It might sound like I have given up on her but believe me that will never be the case – she is my daughter, I raised her and I will always love her; I just don't particularly like her at the moment.
So I'm now at the stage where I am questioning my parenting and wondering where I went wrong. In doing that, I am looking back at how I was parented – what did I learn from my parents that I emulate in my life. I have to say that my childhood wasn't always the best and that I spent much of my younger life “rescuing” myself from situations that weren't safe at home. I guess I learnt how to rescue and wonder if that's what I have done with my daughter. Telling her what to do and speaking up for her are all a form of rescue. Believing her lies; now I question is that rescuing or denial! When she says she is going to stop working, “suggesting” she do some volunteer work to keep her active – rescuing. Buying her food because she has no money – rescuing. If I don't give her some money/buy her food she'll just ask someone else or she'll steal it and I don't want her getting into any more trouble – rescuing. Giving her lifts to her appointments because she has no bus fare – rescuing. And so on...
So I'll keep watching the ripples... the object has been thrown into the calm and I can't get that back again – it's happened and it's sunk deep into the murky depths! But, as always happens, the ripples will become less and less and eventually the waters will calm.
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About Alison Walker
Hello...I've been writing some blogs and thought I'd publish them here in the hope that they will encourage others to self-reflect and seek professional help if needed.