FROM ONE MOTHER TO ANOTHER
“If a mother’s love could fix addiction, it would, long ago, have been eradicated—too many people don’t understand this. So, I will tell my story. My love story. With my words, I will open a door and let in some light.” ~Sandy Swenson
Sandy lives where love and addiction meet—a place where help enables and hope hurts. When addiction steals her son, Sandy fights for his survival, trying to stay on the right side of an invisible line beteen helping him to live and helping him to die. By age 20, Joey overdoses, attempts suicide, quits college, survives a near-fatal car accident, does time behind bars, and is kicked out of rehab more than once. Increasingly manipulative, delusional, and hateful, the sweet Joey from childhood is lost to the addict wearing his face. Working with an interventionist, a judge, and tracking Joey’s movements online, Sandy does what she can to save Joey from himself until it hurts more to hang on than it hurts to let go. Through Family Programs, Al-Anon, reading, and learning from her mistakes, Sandy discovers that sometimes love means doing nothing, and that Letting Go is not the same thing as giving up. She also learns that she needs to work on surviving her son’s addiction while coming to terms with the fact that he may not.
Years pass. Friends and family no longer ask about Joey; they no longer know what to say. Joey is not in recovery, but Sandy works on hers, trying to keep the poison that is consuming Joey from destroying the rest of her family and her life. There is a place in her life that is exactly his size. One she hopes he will someday want to fill.
When Joey was a toddler, I would sing to him the only song to which I knew all the words: I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart; I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart to stay. He called it the Joey Song. Well, Joey is down in my heart to stay — no matter what happens. And, I’ve learned the importance of keeping joy down in my heart — no matter what happens — too.
As mothers of children suffering with addiction, we do battle with a disease that oozes misunderstanding and shame. Alone and afraid, we try to do the right thing—even when we’re not sure what that right thing is.
We try to hold our families and ourselves together, even when it feels like we’re falling apart. We feel every pain our child feels, no matter the distance (in miles or years). We try to carry on, even when our heart is breaking in two. But, as tired and tattered as we may be, like the deceptively delicate dandelion, we moms are made to persevere.
Whenever I sit down to write, I write as a mom, as the mom of an addict, and, specifically, as the mom of a son—a son who has not yet found his own recovery. I write as a mom who has begun her own recovery, though her son has not. My writing comes from deep within this particular mix.
However, while the voice burbling up comes from the well of my own experience, it is intended to be a reflection of the heart and soul of every mother of an addict. It is intended to help put words to your own thoughts and feelings. To help you heal.
Recovery is a process we all share. It’s not only for the health and well-being of our beloved addicts, but for our families—and ourselves—too. On the road to recovery, we pass through several stages—sometimes again and again (and all cattywampus), and in our own good time. The ponderments in my book, collected as a set of meditations, reflect those stages.
Together, we’re traveling a most unwanted, unanticipated, and unclear journey—for a lifetime. Whatever happens next may or may not follow a neat or hopeful path. So, we all need to find our own inner-dandelion; we all need to take a close look at the things we don’t want to look at—the things lurking around in this place where love and addiction meet—so we’re as strong as we can be. My wish is that the “ponderments” contained within Tending Dandelions—the thoughts laid bare for you to think about—will help you achieve that.
A collection of reflections, dedicated to the parents living in the place where love and addiction meet—a place where help enables and hope hurts.