30 Miles

Tonight I want to get vulnerable with myself. I want to examine reality and determine what parts of it aren’t real. 

And since it’s part of my story, I think it’s important to share it all with you. I consider myself a writer. It’s something that I feel proud of myself as. But I’m not just a writer. I am a sharer. I am a personal, stretch-the-limits kind of writer. I share the deepest, scariest, and most exposing feelings of my life and I think it’s why I always receive messages from people saying that my story helped them, or inspired them, or intrigued them. 

So I won’t stop. 

I can’t stop.

I have a story to tell and it’s important for me to share so that people like me know they aren’t alone. 

Growing up, I lived about 30 miles from my mom. Just a short 25 minute cruise away. It wasn’t necessarily hard for me to search for her if I wanted to, and I think that made our separation feel deceiving. We weren’t really that far away from one another, yet we were living in completely different worlds.

In high school and even a short time in college, success was hard for me to feel appreciation for. I’d hit one milestone, feel the warmth of victory, but then put my nose right back down and focus on what was coming next. What was the next life trophy I can knock off the list? 

The thing that made success the hardest for me was that every time I hit a moment of pride, I knew my name would be in the paper, or on the news, or on the radio. 

And my mom was only 30 miles away.

Surely, she saw what I did? 

Surely, she is proud of me?

With these wonderings, I quietly held onto the hope that only being 30 miles away gives you… 

She probably knows where I’m playing basketball this week because she watched the news last night.

She might be at the next game. 

Maybe.

OR

She probably read my name in the newspaper for my good grades last week.

I bet she was proud when she saw my name.

30 miles. I mean, how is that all that separates my mom and me?

30 measly miles?

It was enraging and sanity-deteriorating because I drove myself crazy looking for her every time I left my house. I’d walk into Wal-Mart and stare at the backs of any blonde-haired woman, daring it to be her when she turned around. I’d run across the river for gas and look at every pump. 

I scanned the bleachers of every game of every sport I ever played. 

Because she was only 30 miles away.

It was damaging in so many ways because I didn’t know how to release the pressure that built up in me and I didn’t know how to live a life where I felt like I always had to search for her. But then I got old enough to roam the world when and how I wanted to, and suddenly the clouds parted, and I was no longer searching. 

I was suddenly only 30 miles away if I wanted to be.

And that had nothing to do with where I lived.

I accepted what was and quit being infatuated with any short, blonde woman that had her back to me. I knew that if I ever did find myself in a room with her, I was finally in a place to remain in control of my emotions. And that was something I never felt throughout all my high school years.

30 miles apart and I had no idea if she was following my growth or completely oblivious to the person I had become. Earlier, I stated that success was hard to appreciate, but it was still something that I was dedicated to and worked very hard at. 

I wanted her to feel bad about missing out on supporting me while I followed my dreams.

I didn’t want to give her the easy way back in because I was doing just fine without her. 

I became educated.

I got stronger.

I chose to serve my country. 

I grew independent and caring and gentle.

I rose above every situation that was designed to set me back.

I made it to the other side.

All while missing my mom

From 30 miles away

The Apology That Never Came

I was a hot head for a long time growing up. I think it had a lot to do with the resentment and uncertainty I had in the relationship I had (or lacked) with my mom. I often got in trouble well into my junior high years for hitting my siblings. I was angry and I took it out on the people that surrounded me.

When I was in high school I secretly wrote letters to my mom in prison – against the wishes of my aunt and uncle who were raising me at the time. They, with their adult wisdom, knew that engaging with my mother during such a detrimental stage of my life would be very toxic. But I was young, foolish, and full of feelings that I wanted my mother to know about. I had a friend who let me use her address for my mother’s responses and she would bring me the letters at school, without my aunt or uncle knowing.

In those letters I would spew my deepest, darkest emotions of hatred and retaliation with such imagery it would have made a film maker gasp. It felt good to know that my mother would most likely weep when she read the awful things I wrote in my letters to her. Writing those letters was the only sense of control I felt I had at a time in my life when I felt like my life was controlled by other peoples’ decisions.

The letters came and went for months, but the more and more I expressed my disdain to my mother, the more pain was piled on top of me. I though I was somehow transferring the pain she she’d given me back to her, but instead I was secretly hoping I’d recieve the one thing that was never going to come.

For whatever reason, my broken heart had always hoped I would receive some sort of apology. Some sign from my mom that she had remorse for the irreparable damage she’d caused. But I was naïve because even if her response back to my heartfelt letters was an apology, her actions never backed it up to make the words mean anything. I thought that if I saw the words “I’m sorry” in her handwriting, it would make the pain of her actions go away. I now understand that an apology without changed behavior is just empty words. It doesn’t heal, it just aggravates your sense of hope.

Part of me is glad that my mother never responded back acknowledging her mistakes or vowing to change, because it meant that never acquired the impression that she that she had any intention of changing. Her letters were instead filled with excuses and placing the blame of her actions onto anyone and everyone except for herself. Every letter I received from her threw me back into a pit of rage until one day I made the decision to not reply.

I like to think that was the true turning point when I accepted what was and made the decision to stop allowing her choices define who I wanted to become and what I wanted to accomplish. It empowered me to move on and release some of the anger I had been holding onto for so very long. It allowed me to enjoy the presence of those around me – the people that cared if I failed or succeeded; because at the end of the day, they were the people pushing me, loving me, and rooting for me.

I am forever grateful to the people that picked me up, held me accountable for my mistakes, and showed me the value of love outside of the norm; but most importantly, taught me just how great life can be when you are no longer waiting on an apology that will never come.

Love is Hard

I don’t know how to love my mom. Or if I’m ever even going to be able to.

Some people can easily let the words “I love you” spew from their mouth, but I have never been that kind of person. Of course I have no issue pulling my daughter or fiancee in for a hug and telling them that I love them, but the words to people outside of that circle do not come as easily.

This makes me think back to growing up. My sister Victoria and I were five months different in age and we did nearly everything together. Strangers would even ask us if we were twins. Anyway, we both went through our own different stories of trauma in our childhood, which was probably part of the reason we grew to be so incredibly close. We both had sassy, smart mouths and often got in trouble together for running them when we shouldn’t have. We were close – and she is still one of my absolute favorite people on this planet – but we did not put that love on display. We even mocked displaying love to others. We rarely hugged, because we both never felt totally comfortable with it. When we said “I love you” to one another, we would say it and then immediately *gag*. We did this even into our twenties and now that we live in different states and both have a kid, we’ve kind of outgrown it.

My mom came to my house last week to visit. She has been clean for almost a year and I am super happy about that, but we still don’t talk all that much and being around her is just super uncomfortable for me. I can say, though, that having her around last week was actually very enjoyable. My daughter even let her hold her and they played on the floor together.

My insides were smiling, but then I noticed the gaping hole in my heart, realizing what could have been if drugs hadn’t taken her from us for so long.

She stayed and visited for a few hours and when she got up to leave I stayed sitting down. My younger sister got up saying, “Wait! I want to give you a hug!” When she said that I immediately got nervous because I knew that my mom would in turn expect the same thing from me. So I got up and gave her the hug, but when she said she loved me I fell silent.

I don’t know how to love her. I don’t feel comfortable just sitting across from her on the couch. There is so much water under the bridge, and I don’t know how to let go of what was and accept what is.

I’m not actively angry (I’ve said this before). I’m just simply unsure of how to heal from the past. I don’t know how to let her in.

I’m happy for her progress and I’m happy that she gets to see her grandbaby, but I don’t feel like that means that I owe her anything. I just don’t know how to love her.

Did you know? Or did you just not care?

Mom,

You’ve read my words on this blog and I’ve tried to explain the anger from my side, but I still have received no real apology or any comfort from the idea that you may be remorseful.

Did you know that in three instances the way I found out you were going back to prison was from teachers’ and classmates’ snide remarks at school?

Did you know that I got a blanket from the DCFS worker the day that we were taken from you and I clenched that blanket and cried nearly every night for months? And the only reason the monthly streak of crying out for you ended was because I gave up the hope that I would ever even see you again?

Did you know that sometimes I’d wonder if your death would comfort me so I’d have closure that you were okay instead of wondering if you were out on the streets?

Did you know that the first time I ever saw your mugshot was when I Googled my name in my freshman computers class?

Did you know that every basketball game I played in I scanned the gymnasium hoping that you’d be there? You never were.

Did you know that it’s because of you that my first tendency when experiencing trauma is to get so angry I want to punch a wall? I held so much anger for the greater part of my life that I still have a hard time finding the healthy way to release it?

Did you know I held a handful of pills in eighth grade because I didn’t want to feel the pain anymore?

Did you know I cut my wrist with a broken razor blade just so I could feel pain that was physical instead of emotional?

Did you know? Or did you just not care?

Letting Go of Anger

I have a hard time talking about my mom.

Sometimes when I’m with friends I just want to sit and talk and talk about all of the good, the bad, and in-between.

Tonight I found myself spewing random memories and feelings at some of the friends in my unit and I noticed when I said something that I hadn’t ever before found the right words to describe how I feel.

You know, sometimes you just word vomit and as you’re explaining something, the words just fall into the right pattern. I was explaining how the relationship with my mom is really hard and I found myself saying

“It’s not that I’m actively angry at her. I don’t put any energy into my feelings toward her. It’s more that I’m passive aggressively angry at her.”

I don’t even know if that really makes sense to people that haven’t ever experienced what I have when it comes to having an estranged relationship with their mom.

But what I mainly mean is that… I’m really, truly not actively angry anymore. I’m no longer looking for reasons to be upset and I don’t spend much time thinking about what I could have done differently. I understand that addiction has underlying explanations and I understand that none of those reasons are a result of something that a child does. I was seven years old when DCFS took my sister and I from our mother, and though it felt like it was my fault at that time, I now understand that there are multitudes of reasons why it happened.

And none of those reasons were because of something I did.

I know that I was innocent in the matter and I’ve accepted that it’s part of my past that I can’t change, even though I so desperately wish things were different. Of course part of me wishes I could have done anything to make matters different, but that is just simply not the case.

So I guess the best way to describe my feelings is that I’m not actively putting any energy into being angry. Of course I still feel sad and upset, but I’m more passive aggressive towards the situation than I ever have been in my entire life. There were days in my junior high years when I punched walls with anger and cried myself to sleep – and I’m not saying I still don’t have hard days accepting what my life is – I’m just no longer wasting any energy on hating my mom for everything that she wasn’t. I’m no longer wishing I could have been better for her. I’m no longer feeling like the reality of our relationship was at the mercy of my own hands.

I was a child and she was wrapped up in addiction.

And that’s all there is to it. No more. No less.

quote-anger-aristotle

Forgiveness After Pain

I’ve been struggling to come up with new content lately, I won’t lie. I was sitting at work one day and the urge to write about this suddenly came to me. I immediately flipped to the very back of my work notebook to jot down some thoughts on what forgiveness after pain means to me.

Forgiveness is hard. Whether you are the one in the wrong or you were the one that the wrong was done upon, deciding that you are going to move on is hard. It’s not easy saying that the pain you were feeling is simply… in the past.

I have thought a lot about the ideal of forgiveness. It can be freeing and bring a lot of relief. I like to think that, for the most part, I’m pretty good at doing it. After digging deeper into the situations of genuine forgiveness that I have personally experienced, I came up with a few points to remember when it comes to forgiveness after someone has caused you pain. Keep in mind, these are just my opinions.

To “forgive and forget” is foolish. I heard that phrase a lot as a kid. I believed in it for a long time. But let’s be honest. It is foolish to forgive someone and then tell yourself there is no chance that it’ll happen again. I’m not saying hold grudges. You can let go of the pain, but still be conscious of what they have done to you in the past. There is nothing wrong with be cautious with your heart. Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me. Forgiveness does not necessitate that you set yourself up for more pain in the future.

Sometimes forgiveness requires distance. You can forgive someone and completely move past a heartbreak without allowing them back into your life. Some people are just plain negative, and some people will always have toxic tendencies – no matter how many chances you hand out. Sometimes the best way to heal is to conclude the relationship altogether.

Just because you forgive, doesn’t mean you dismiss their actions as acceptable. It just means you’ve let go of the resentment. There is a reason we all feel pain. Your feelings are always valid. Sometimes they may be exaggerated, but they are always valid.

Even through addiction, there is still so much to be thankful for

I would like to consider myself an expert when it comes to experience as a victim of addiction. Not that I am the addict, but I am the victim of guilt, anger, embarrassment, and shame. All of these feelings I have experienced solely because of the addiction of someone else. I don’t always think that’s fair, but it is the way it is.

I have had amazing, soul-freeing days. Days where I flourished in love and joy. But I’ve also had dark, sinister days where I didn’t care if the sun ever rose again. And I am proud to say that the good days have always outweighed the bad.

Even though my life isn’t the way I want it to be sometimes.

Even though there is a gaping hole where the presence of my mother should be.

Even though I have so much anger and sorrow.

There is still so much to be thankful for.

My mom missed out on every prom I ever went to. Every basketball game I ever played. Every boy I ever cried over. And every tribulation I faced through pregnancy. Those are things that she will never get back, and that is a pain that she and I will have to bear for the rest of our lives.

But I’ll tell you what… I did have people there.

Even though my mom wasn’t in the bleachers at every basketball game, I had family and friends that were. Even though my mom didn’t help me unpack the car when I moved into my dorm room when I first went off to college, the man that raised me did. Even though my mom wasn’t there for nearly every single significant moment in my life, I had people there. 

I was never alone, and I always felt supported and loved. So even through addiction, there is still so much to be thankful for.

 

 

I’m Angry

I’m angry.

I’m not sure a part of me will ever be un-angry.

I think about how many years I have missed out with my mom and it makes me angry.

I think about how many times she has blamed me for her drug use, addiction, and relapse and it makes me angry. There are no words to give a heartbroken daughter that will provide her with comfort or normalcy. I will always be the girl that carries the baggage and burden of my mother on my shoulders. I will never escape this pain. It will not go away.

And that makes me angry.

I’m angry that I’ve always been expected to just accept things the way that they are. I’ve gone out of my way to keep the hope that one day she will take responsibility for the wreckage she has caused. But she never will, and that makes me angry.

Someday I will have to explain all of this to my daughter in a way that doesn’t make her hate my mom as much as I do. It has never been my goal to influence hate from others. I’m only telling my truth the way I have perceived it. Perhaps the way I see it is harsh, but that’s what anger will do to you.

I make no apology for trying to repair what she broke.

I make no apology for being blunt about how I feel.

I make no apology for finding an outlet for all of these feelings. Putting this pain into my writing is what helps me heal. It helps me make sense of my story. It helps me comfort others that feel the same way. And let me tell you, I am far from alone.

And the fact that my situation is far from rare makes me angry.

So today and tomorrow and the day after that, I will be angry.

What Addiction Means to Me

I know I have written a lot about how much my mother’s addiction has hurt me, but I haven’t written a lot about it as a societal issue. I can be pretty emotional about this because it weighs heavy on my heart; and even though I’m not one myself, I have a pretty good relationship with addiction.

When I think of the word addiction, first thing that comes to my mind is drugs. But there are so many other things that people are addicted to. Sex, food, motorcycles, porn, fitness, alcohol… The list could be anything. I think people see the word addiction and automatically think of it as something negative that other people have. Nobody wants to admit that they are the one with a problem. The truth is, I think everyone is slightly addicted to something. Everyone has their own substance or behavior that they rely on. We are a species that loves familiarity and being in a routine. We love knowing that if nothing is working out, there will always be something to fall back on.

And that’s why I don’t always turn my nose up at addiction.

Everyone has something they are going through, and everyone relies on something or someone to help them mask the pain. Who are we to judge the sins of someone else? Life is hard! All anyone wants is to escape a world of pain.

What gets me, though, is when someone allows their addiction to become priority over things like children, family, health, etc. I know that drugs are hard to escape. They are literally chemically compounded to keep you hooked. But there is help out there for anyone that wants to change. 

I don’t see addiction as an ugly word. 

Broken families. 

Death. 

Estranged parents. 

Violence. 

Prison. 

Hatred. 

Pain.

Anger.

That is what comes from addiction. Those are the ugly words.

 

Drug Courts & A Failed F*cking System

I wrote a few weeks back that my mom was getting out of jail and going to rehab. I was excited, but I tried hiding it. Part of me knew something was going to fall out. The thing about hope is that even though you can prepare yourself to be let down, you can’t prepare yourself enough to not feel the hurt of failed expectations.

She went to rehab for five days.

Five days.

Five. 

Days.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t heartbroken, but how I feel is much more than just a heartbreak.

I am furious.

 

I am furious at the system. I am furious at our courts. I am furious at the people that turn a blind eye when they know that someone needs their help.

SHE COULD BE A MOTHER. She could have been our mother for YEARS now if someone would have taken even a SECOND to pay attention to what the hell was going on in our situation.

It all started in the early 2000’s. The first time she was arrested for possession and fighting. I would have been around five years old. So you arrest a young mother for fighting on the streets while high on who-knows-what, and you’re not going to do anything to make sure it doesn’t happen again? What about the second time? Third time? Fourth time?

Oh, right. THAT’S when we finally take the kids.

But she should have been provided the rehabilitation and help she so desperately needed WAAAAYYYY before it ever got that bad. It has been eighteen years since this all started and nothing has been done to help her. I am furious because in this country drug addicts can relapse and relapse and relapse and get locked up several times without getting any help! By now, we should all be aware that it is cheaper to rehabilitate addicts so they don’t relapse than it is to lock them up over and over and over again…

When did we stop caring about people? Or rather, why don’t we care more about people? It is unfortunate that many addicts’ stories are just like my mother’s. An endless cycle of drug addiction, arrest, lengthy prison sentence, release, and then it starts all over again. And again. And again.

I lost my mother because our court system is designed to allow addicts to fail. 

She was arrested this last time for possession of meth. She was sent to a rehabilitation facility for FIVE DAYS after a twenty year-long span of drug addiction. Do you want to know why? Because they release those that aren’t seen as a risk of relapsing. 

ARE YOU F*CKING SERIOUS???!

She has been an addict for twenty f*cking years and you’re gonna tell me that after FIVE DAYS in your facility, you think she isn’t going to go right back to the drugs?! WHAT. A. JOKE.

This is what I mean when I say that the system is designed to let people like her fail.

I am heartbroken. Outraged. Furious. Disgusted. Appalled.

If she would have gotten help the first time she was seen as having a problem, I could have a mom in my life right now. But instead I’m sitting here pissed off, writing a blog about how the government helped in making my life a living hell.