Family

What It's Like To Be The Mother Of A Young Heroin Addict

Photo: Courtesy of the Author
mother and daughter

My daughter is an addict, at the time of this writing, in recovery. But there were many years of active addiction. During one of these times, when she was in an in-patient rehab facility, I found myself walking through its parking lot thinking I really don’t need this.

I was on my way into a parent meeting that was being held. It wasn’t mandatory and I had no intention of attending. But I felt kind of shamed into going. The endless flyers, emails, announcements in the facilities newsletter, and even one personal phone call pretty much bullied me into being there.

RELATED: Getting Sober: Why Overcoming Addiction On Your Own Is Totally Possible

I was already suffering enough guilt that I need to feel even more remorse or shame for missing a meeting that promised itself so informative. I would walk on broken glass up a mountain and back down again to help my daughter. 

During my daughter’s illness, I have stepped on syringes, paid off drug dealers, walked the floors endlessly, sat in courtrooms and emergency departments. So, what were forty minutes in a classroom?

While I was sure that it wasn’t the case, I on some level, wanted to attend just in case there was just one thing that I could learn to help my daughter. Just in case this was the tada, voila, there you have it moment that I had been waiting for where someone would finally tell me the secret that I needed to know to cure my precious baby girl. If they were passing out golden keys, well, I wanted to be first in line to get one.

I entered and walked down the hallway passing several classrooms until I reached room 100. I opened the door gently trying to avoid drawing attention to myself. But of course, it creaked and when I peered inside twenty-five sets of eyes were looking back.

None of the mouths attached to these faces were smiling except one, the one owned by the director of the facility. She seemed happy to see me. The others looked wary and possibly just as scared of me as I was of them. Parents of addicts are a breakable bunch.

RELATED: See One Mom's Stunning Transformation After Beating Meth And Heroin Addictions

Parents of addicts analyze one another. Not to judge the other parents, but instead to judge themselves.

It’s a horrible practice that after talking to other parents, they all seem to partake in. They are trying to see just where they compare or fall in line. We have all already declared ourselves the worst parent on earth, a flop at mothering or fathering. And no matter what the other parents say, no matter what their story, somehow; we all confirm that we are the winner of the Worst Parent of the Year Trophy.

I vowed to be an observer and not a participator. I don’t need this remember.

There were introductions where we took turns going around the circle of chairs, telling everyone our names and the names of our kids. Without exception, every single one of our voices faltered or weakened a bit when we spoke our child’s name.

It’s hard when saying your child’s name hurts. Sometimes, just saying the name of my precious girl can bring me to tears. This time is no different. When I tried to say I am Natalie’s mother, I nearly began to cry. I hadn’t expected that.  

But that was just the first of so many things that came that I hadn’t expected.

I never dreamed that I would rub the back of a crumbling stranger as they told us of burying their oldest son and was pretty sure that they were going to bury their second.

I never dreamed to hear that I wasn’t the only one who stood humiliated as my debit card was declined because my daughter had taken it from my purse while I was in the shower.

I never dreamed that I would listen to someone else talk of how they miss their child even though they are right there in front of them.

I never thought that I would see tears that looked just like mine roll down someone else’s faces as they wondered what they had done wrong and declare themselves unfit to be a parent.

I never thought that I would hug strangers that I met less than an hour before with the warmth usually reserved for family.

I would never have dreamed that I would feel just a little better and a little less alone.

While no one gave us a recipe for the magic potion to cure addiction, I definitely walked out with more than I believed that I would. I walked out a little calmer, a little less stressed, maybe with just a touch of peace and with a less bruised heart.

While I had heard the over-used and worn-out phrase, Addiction is a family disease, before, I never really understood it until then.

RELATED: 15 Best Books On Addiction For Partners Of Addicts

I also never understood or thought that I mattered too; that it was okay to care for me too. That I was suffering from addiction right alongside my child.

At the end of the night, as I walked out of the rehab facility and back through the parking lot to my car, all I could think was: I really needed that.

Christine Naman is the author of About Natalie: A Daughter’s Addiction. A Mother’s Love. Finding Their Way Back To Each Other. 

Sign up for YourTango's free newsletter!