Saturday 29th of April 2017

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Looking back on my life, I do not think there was ever a time that I did not live through some sort of substance abuse.

My father was an using alcoholic / addict from before I was born until my mother in desperation threw him out of the house and he left when I was 4 years old. I only saw him once again - shortly before he died. I did not recognize or know him at all.

My mother remarried when I was 8 years old, and guess what ...

to another alcoholic. The only thing that I remember clearly was the never ending cycle of fights, accusations, verbal abuse and chilled withdrawal. It affected my sister, brother and I so badly that I do not think we were ever able to truly cement any kind of bond or strong relationship. We all seemed to withdraw into our own various forms of escape, and in my case I truly isolated myself into a world of books. I never had many friends and I really struggled to relate to people and never learnt the life-skills required to sustain any kind of relationship whatsoever until I was in my late thirties.

I, unfortunately did not learn from my mother's history and I also married an alcoholic. For some reason my blinkers seemed to truly shut out his drinking and the situation came to a dramatic head when I had my third child when my second one was only 15 months old.

The stresses of having two children so close together - both born premature and very ill - resulted in his drinking escalating to a level where he could not sustain his job very well and he was fired from two jobs consecutively.

The financial stresses, added to everything else, resulted in continual rounds of accusations, fights, verbal abuse, then silent withdrawal on a much greater level than I had ever experienced with my mother and step-father. (Does this sound familiar?)

I think I turned into a raving banshee. None of my family (including my extended family) could understand what I was going through and they strongly felt that my behaviour was probably the cause of him drinking so much - and after hearing it enough I started believing it too.

My self-esteem plummeted to an all time low and I became so depressed that I could hardly hold together any vestiges of my daily life. I have no idea how I coped with 3 children, because everything seemed to pass through such a fog of fatigue and lethargy. I certainly echoed my emotions and let myself go, hardly ever putting any effort into what I looked like, or what my surroundings looked like. Both our house and I were in a complete mess.

This all came to a head one day after a fight of all fights when my husband got physical. This unfortunately started happening more regularly when we fought and one day I was knocked unconscious. After being admitted to hospital with a fractured skull, my G P sat down and had a
heart to heart with me.

I first joined Al-anon then, but the message I got, I really was not ready to hear and I thought that everyone was completely dippy. How on earth could I condone anyone drinking ? Were these people all mad or what ? I must say - looking back I have to have a giggle. I was a serious case of selective hearing, denial and certainly not ready to have any sort of honest look at myself.

I finally divorced my husband and after a few years moved away from Johannesburg to Cape Town. I truly believed that if I changed my environment and removed my children and myself - we would be safe (especially my children). Ha ha - did I delude myself or what !!

I started having problems with my elder daughter from when she was 16 years old. She did not manage to finish her schooling and to this day only has a Std 8. I lived in denial for a long time - in fact about 10 years or so - is that breaking a record or what !!

It finally came to a head after she had : crashed my bakkie (not to seriously fortunately for me), cleaned out my bank account on two separate occasions, (a very great deal of money unfortunately for me), constantly stolen any cash she could lay her hands on- including what I used to make from my small flea market business. She pawned most of my appliances - including my vacuum cleaner! She eventually stole two of my salary cheques (we have the same initials) which left me virtually destitute. This was the final straw and I threw her out the house.

She finally broke down and was honest and confessed that she was a heroin and crack addict.

I immediately jumped into full action, thinking that of course I was going to sort this out - of course I was going to get help and get her cured. I was strong, very intelligent, capable, and of course I could move mountains, after all I loved her, she is my child. So me, super mom made a whole pile of enquiries and found a treatment center that I would put her in.

The only problem of course, is that I actually could not afford it at the time, I had no money to speak of - certainly not what the cost of what the treatment was. I then started moving the proverbial mountains so to speak, and begged and borrowed what I could not beg. I even convinced the bank to increase my bond. How's that for zeal and fervour !!

Never mind that I really could not afford it and that I had no idea of how I was going to pay it back - I am her mom, it was my duty to provide for and sort out my children's problems - was it not ? Boy, was I in for a long and interesting journey.

She duly went in and did her treatment, came out and was doing very well. The treatment center recommended that I go to Nar-Anon meetings and go to the family program that they had for family members. I just ignored it of course. I did not have a problem - my daughter did. I was after all this loving and devoted mom.

I did a whole lot of research and found out all sorts of statistics and information on addiction. I really felt that if I knew everything there was to know I would be better equipped in helping her get cured. There was no way I was even going to entertain any sort of negative thoughts, and for me, being positive was truly believing that she would get cured, and that relapse was definitely not an option. I am sure this is and will not be the first time you will hear or read this !!!

Lo and behold - 6 months later my fall came - and boy was it a huge drop. I then could no longer ignore the signs, could not keep sticking my head in the sand and I had to face my denial head on - she had relapsed.

My world fell apart. All the years of everything I had had to deal with, with regard to addiction just exploded out of me in one foul swoop. I was a gibbering wreck for about 10 days. In desperation I finally sought help - I found Nar Anon.

I cannot stress this enough - IT WAS MY SALVATION !!!

So began my long, hard, interesting and worthwhile journey. I found love, support, comfort, understanding and a program that finally taught me the skills I had been lacking my whole life. Slowly, I learnt to take life one day at a time, to let go, realize I am not responsible for the actions of those I love, to face myself honestly and understand that I need to nurture and love myself. In finding my own self, recovering my self esteem and adopting the 12 steps of the program I have put my life together and been in a better position to offer the love and support to my children so that they could put their lives back together. I have learnt that I am not responsible for my children's addiction(s), I did not cause it, I cannot cure it and I definitely cannot control it.

When 6 months later I discovered that my youngest daughter was also a heroin addict, through the program, the support in Nar Anon and what I had learnt I have been able to deal with the situation in a much more positive manner and I am proud to say (Thank You God) they are both clean and serene and doing well today.

I have a better perspective now and I am more able to detach, let go and accept that nothing I do will ever change the choices those I love will ever make. I have also learnt to separate the things they do from what they are, and through this even though I do not always approve of what they do, I am still able to love them for what they are.



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