Dear Annie… Traumas of Addiction
Dear Annie: After more than 40 years addicted to meth, and being an alcoholic, I have been clean and sober for two years now and I am nothing like the old me. My now grown children are speaking to me after four long heartbreaking silent years.
Unfortunately, my goal to reconcile my mother/child relationships just don’t seem to be in sight. My kids are drinkers, but nothing like I was, so I try to convince myself that they are worried I’ll relapse if I’m around them and that is why they never include me in family get-togethers.
I am asking myself whether I did the right thing by putting down the bottle and pipe, since I rarely hear from them anymore. Personally, I made a huge change in my life but if my kids aren’t a part of it, am I not better off going back to bad habits so they at least call to check on me?
Am I just too late?
— Feeling Left Out
Dear Feeling Left Out: You might be sober, but you are far from healed. Addiction, the cleverest of all diseases, is bending your perception to suit its goal, which is to get you to pick up that pipe again. It is, of course, beyond twisted to consider relapse as a tool to get your children’s attention. But a part of you knows this, or you wouldn’t have written to me. And I want to speak to that part of you now.
You quit alcohol and meth — one of the most addictive substances — after 40 years of using. You are tougher than nails, my dear, with a gigantic spirit. You are going to get through this, but you aren’t going to do it alone. You are going to reach out to others for support: Whether that be an organization such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery, a counselor, a good (clean) friend or all of the above. Make the focus your own recovery.
Be patient, and understand that your children are not guarded out of spite, but out of caution. Their hearts, like yours, have been through the wringer of addiction. I truly believe that, in time, they will come around to including you more in their lives. I have no doubt that they miss you.
Please do get help today, and write me again sometime to let me know how you’re doing.
Dear Annie: I clipped this excerpt from the “Horoscopes by Holiday Mathis” column in the Gettysburg Times a while ago: “If there’s no one in need, no one gets a chance to be helpful. Generosity brightens moods. It’s good for both the helpers and the helped. If you ask for assistance, you’ll actually be doing someone a favor.”
I’m 81 with limited mobility and I’d like to maintain my independence as long as possible. If someone offers to help with something I can handle, I just tell them, “No, thanks, I can do it.” But as often as not, I accept the offer and appreciate the fact that there are so many kind, helpful people out there. As I told my children as they were growing up: “You find what you look for. If you look to be insulted, then that is what you will find. If you look for the good in people, then that is what you will find.”
— Still Kickin’
Dear Still Kickin’: I adore your letter and am glad to print it. (I’m a fan of Ms. Holiday Mathis, too, by the way — a very wise woman.)
— “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.