A Mother’s Love…and Loss

The last few days I have debated with myself whether or not to post about this.  Actually, I’ve been thinking about it since I started this blog.  Since I couldn’t make up my mind, I decided to think about the pros and cons of writing about this subject.  The pros are that it will probably be cathartic for me, that I often get clarity about things when I write, that I might get some support by writing about this, and that I love the feeling of liberation I get when I am honest about myself and my feelings.  The cons are that it will bring up a lot of emotions, that it will be difficult to write, and that I honestly don’t even know if I know enough words to really express how I feel about it (not an ideal feeling for someone who just started blogging).

I think the pros outweigh the cons.  So, here goes:

I have a smart, funny, creative, beautiful 16 year-old daughter.  Having her was the best thing I ever did.  She brought me so much joy from the moment I found out that I was pregnant, and I love being her mom.  I am proud to be her mom.  The thing is, she doesn’t want me in her life.

There.

I’ve said it.

I have a child that wants nothing to do with me.  And the truth is, when it came right down to it, I didn’t fight hard enough or long enough to try to keep her in my life.  I let her go.  It absolutely kills me to think, and to write, that.  But, sadly, it’s the truth.

I left my abusive ex-husband when my daughter was ten.  It was a scary time for both of us, but we faced it together.  We were a team.  She wrote me lovely notes that said how proud she was of me and how strong I was.  I still have them, but they’re tucked away because it just hurts too much to look at them now.  In those next couple of years, we spent a lot of time together.  We rarely had disagreements and we shared the same smart-ass sense of humor.  We went to the mall, we did crafts, we baked, we both read a lot and we traded books sometimes, we talked, really talked, about things.  I have such happy memories of her from that time.

Then the wheels came off for me.  I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, but didn’t know it yet.  I began to self-medicate with alcohol.  Soon after I got a DUI.  I started a very unhealthy relationship with a man that dragged on for a few years.  I thought that by keeping that part of my life (both the drinking and the guy) separate from my daughter she wouldn’t have yet another stress in her young life.  I was wrong.  She knew.  And now that I can look back at that period of time, I can see that what it did was drive her away.

As my drinking progressed, as it inevitably does, my daughter saw me drunk on a few occasions.  What she saw scared her, and I can’t blame her, it scared me.  I wasn’t a violent or angry drunk (at least not yet), I was a terribly depressed and down drunk.  I would cry those horrible drunken tears, sobbing uncontrollably as I filled up my wine glass again and again.   I didn’t even recognize it at the time, but that’s really when she started to pull away from me.  She spent more time at friends’ houses or at my mother’s.  That was okay with me, it gave me more time to drink and wallow in self-pity.  I would try to put on my game face when she was with me, but I realize now that she could see through it.

By the time that I got myself to rehab, she was pretty much staying with my mom all the time.  Her bedroom was still full of her things, but she was gone.  My expectation (bad idea right there, having expectations) was that after I completed my thirty days, when I was back at home, that she would come home and everything would be perfect.  I would be fixed and she and I would go on as though the last few years hadn’t happened.  Obviously, I was quite disappointed to find out that she didn’t want to live with me anymore.  She wanted to stay with my mom.  My heart was broken.  I thought that I would be embraced and maybe even respected for seeking help and getting sober.  But that didn’t happen.

That’s the point where I really messed up.  I was newly sober (that stretch of sobriety didn’t last.  I had to hit a whole new bottom, go back to treatment, and really get honest about my resentments and grief), I was full of guilt and shame, and I wasn’t in a place where I could make her come home.  I wanted to, so badly.  But I couldn’t do it.  I told myself that she was happy, she was doing well in school, and had a nice group of friends.  Who was I to make her go through more changes and have to deal with a recovering alcoholic for a mother?  That’s how I justified my inactivity.  The truth, as I see it now, is that I gave up.  I just gave up.

I have made so many mistakes, big and small, but not making my daughter come home is the single worst mistake I have ever made.  It’s the one thing that I still can’t forgive myself for.  It’s now been two years since I have seen her (aside from photos that I steal from Facebook and Pinterest), and my heart aches, all day, every day.  There are times that it’s much worse than others, but it is always there.  I am able to have happy moments, good days, and laughter now, but I sometimes wonder how much better those times would be if she were with me.

I don’t know what the future holds for me and my daughter, only God does.  I have surrendered my broken heart to Him.  Of course, day after day, I take it back, only to have to turn it over to Him again and again.  I truly feel, though, that my daughter and I will be reconciled at some point, but it’s not going to happen according to my plan.  I have to accept that it will be done on God’s timeline, not mine.  The waiting is so hard.

What I do know however, is that when the time comes for us to talk and to have a relationship again, I do not want to be drunk!  The single most important thing I can do for me and for her is to stay sober.  If she reaches out for me and I am actively drinking, I know that I will lose her forever.  So I stay the course,  I pray for her health and happiness, I work the program, I love her from a distance, and I live my life.

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23 thoughts on “A Mother’s Love…and Loss

  1. Thank you so much for this very brave post. I’m on the other side of it…I don’t have a relationship with my mother b/c she abandoned me at 8; but the difference between u & her is you OWN your actions and want to & have changed!! Bravo!! My mother has always & con’t to live in denial & has yet to own anything. She blames everyone else and now at 65 y/o will never change. That alone has kept me from ever wanting a relationship with her. My advice-not that you asked-so take it with a grain of salt-is keep praying-work your recovery-and keep reaching out -whatever that looks like for you. The fact you have owned it and are getting healthy and staying that way can only help!!! And you did the best you knew at the time! Try to stop shaming yourself. Praying for you; and for your dtrs heart to soften. So sorry :-(. *hugs*

    • Desta, thank you. I really appreciate the honesty in your reply. I do try to put myself in my daughter’s shoes and to understand what her feelings are. It’s really good for me to be reminded of what I put her through. I do feel like I have really owned my actions, and I am doing my absolute best to change my self for the better. The shame is so hard to let go of…but I’m working on it. All I know is that I can pray, and take the next right step.
      Thanks again, I love the support.

  2. I applaud you for telling your story. My mom was an active alcoholic when I chose to live with my dad when I was 11. She’s told me she felt powerless to stop me and she wasn’t ready to get sober until I was an adult. She’s been sober 17 years now and I can honestly say I didn’t trust her for the first 5 or 6. We both had to do some growing up before I really let her in again. Now, we’re very close and I’m so grateful for her. It is hard to wait for someone to open their heart again. I don’t know the specifics of your relationship now, but maybe as she sees you change and grow, her heart will soften. I don’t care how old we get, we all want our mothers. She may not know it yet, but she’s very lucky to have a mother who is willing to look at her life at make positive changes.

    • Thank you Karen. Your response gives me hope. Whenever I hear that families have been reconciled after the addict has gotten sober, it gives me reason to keep going. I pray every day that she will find forgiveness and that we will have a real, healthy relationship. Until then, I will continue to prepare myself to be a mother again.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I can only imagine how difficult this must be. I (clearly) don’t have the mother-daughter relationship experience that you (and Desta / Karen) have, but the idea of broken relationships is almost universal for alcoholics. Would your daughter ever even think about Alateen? I can imagine the answer being “no” as she isn’t interested in being involved right now, but perhaps it can show her that she isn’t alone in feeling the ways she is feeling. And it doesn’t have to be full blown program – even just perusing their website or pamphlets might help her see things in a different light. Anyway, I am sure you have thought of all these things. I am not here to solve anything (typical guy – try to fix things, rather than just listening. I am learning this…slowly…ha ha).

    You are correct in saying that it’s not your time on this, it’s His. You’re also correct in saying that staying sober, working on what you need to work on to recover, and doing what needs to be done is the way of opening up things for the future. And who knows how things may turn out. it certainly never pans out the way we think it will, does it?

    I too pray that your daughter gets to where she needs to get to…and you as well. It takes time and trust and openness and patience to reconcile broken relationships. She may see you in a different light later down the road. I don’t know, but it can’t be easy where you’re at.

    Thank you for this…wonderful.

    Paul

    • Paul, I really appreciate your reply. At this point, unfortunately, she won’t have anything to do with me, so suggesting alateen, etc. just won’t work. I think that as she gets older, and has a little more life experience, she will somehow make her way to understanding addiction. She’s the child of two alcoholics, so it’s a real possibility that she might end up one herself. If that happens, I sincerely hope that she will turn to me for help.

      It gives me great comfort to know that while I have no idea what the future holds, God does. I can look back at the past and understand why I had to go through the things I did to get to where I am now. That said, waiting is not my strong suit. I sometimes think that I might just be the single most impatient person in the world. Perhaps, that’s what all of this is meant to teach me, patience. 🙂

      Thank you again for your kind words. You are such an understanding, gentle soul.

      Jami

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m going through some hard stuff with my dad right now and needed this. I agree with both Desta and Karen. Keep working on your recovery and reaching out. Wishing you the very best!

  5. I also have to echo what Karen said… As it’s so true- I don’t care how old we get-we all want our mothers!! All I’ve ever wanted was my mother-a mother who could BE a mother. My mother never has been able to and never will. I’ve come to accept that as much as possible. However, you are obviously able to and ready to be there for your daughter and that is the difference! Every girl needs and wants their mother-it may just take time. A little or a lot…but like Karen said-no matter how old we all want our mothers. At almost 35 I definitely still long for mine despite how much she’s hurt me.

    • You know, that’s how I feel about my mother too. She’s not an alcoholic, but she does have borderline personality disorder, and that has caused so much strain, and turmoil, and ultimately cost us our relationship. Yet, I would still do just about anything to have her love and approval. That’s really all I ever wanted from her, but she hasn’t really ever been capable of that. It is a wound that never goes away.

  6. I appreciate the rawness of this post. I don’t have any sage words, but I am sending my love. I remember always that my kids aren’t mine, per se,.. we are all GOd’s kids. I am blessed for reading this today. Thank you for having the courage to write about this. You’ve given me a lot to think about today. with love, lisa

    • Thank you Lisa. I really like what you said about remembering that our kids aren’t really ours. That gives me some peace knowing that she is in God’s hands, even though she can’t be in mine. Jami

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  9. Reblogged this on Sober Grace and commented:

    I wrote this post last year. Today, on Mother’s Day, I wanted to repost it as a cautionary tale to those mothers out there that are struggling with alcoholism or addiction. I know that addicts aren’t usually successful at remaining clean and sober when they are trying to do it for someone else (otherwise I would’ve gotten sober long before 17 months ago), but sometimes remembering the negative consequences that are looming, just waiting for that first drink, can help us not to pick up.
    I hope that all of you mothers out there have a blessed and joyous day and that you never take for granted that your children will always be in your life.

  10. wow,
    Jami, thank you. your honesty is amazing and i am sure this will help someone today..it helped me. I can see how my drinking hurt my son, changed us both. He didn’t leave me, but in many ways we left each other.
    He’s 21 and come around, and i am thankful for that.
    I will pray with you, that your daughter will come around and see your true grace and strength.
    xo

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  13. Jamie, I just learned your story this December 27th….I am so joyful for your recovery and your honesty…my one and only sister has been estranged from her only daughter and only grandson for over twenty years. I can’t judge my sister as an alcoholic but I know she has been a heavy drinker since her college days and she is 77. Months before my mother died, I promised her that I would remain in touch with my sister, which I have done. My story of alienation in the family is long and complex, but I know that my sobriety for these 27 years has brought me a second family, one which sustains me. My AA family brought me to acceptance of my one son, who is not in recovery, my sister, my late mother, and through the Program, I found my Higher Power. I spent the last four years of his life with my father, and I learned he loved me and he learned how I loved him. I found my partner in sobriety and life, Roy. I love your honesty and your courage to change. Blessing to you and yours in this season of hope and joy. Hugs through cyberspace. Rita RB

    • Thank you so much Rita. I love what you said about your second family. I feel that way too, most days. The heartbreak I feel about my family, especially my daughter, is always there, but I accept that it’s just the way it is right now. I know that if reconciliation is ever going to happen, it’s going to be God’s will. I’ll work my program and wait patiently.
      Thanks again for sharing with me.
      Jami

  14. Hi Jami – I just happened on your Christmas post and followed the link to this post because I share a similar story – although I sat on both sides of the fence being an Adult Child and then married an addict – it took me to get into recovery too, although my addiction was a little different. It took years before things looked up again – many hard rocky roads. I grieved her and our relationship for a long time and we are still on a recovery road – she will be turning 21 next year and all the wheels came off when she was 16… All I can say is never give up, make quiet contact by any means you can – and stay recovering (although you already get that). We are all human, full of mistakes, and that is OK. Stay strong xx

    • Thank you so much for your comment. It is hearing stories like yours, where reconciliation does happen, that continues to give me hope for me and my daughter. I know that our story isn’t finished and that the ending still remains to be seen.
      Thanks again, and Happy New Year!
      Jami

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