To the Mother Who Has Loved and Been Left

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“Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.” – Brennan Manning

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Dear Mother of an Addicted Person,

I don’t know what your holiday will look like this year and maybe you don’t either. I know that this is a time of feasting and of celebrating and I know that, if you are the parent of an addict, this will probably be a time of silent grieving. I am not a mother like you, but I am the daughter of one and I know how hard the holiday season can be.

I can remember some of our holidays. Some were really hard and involved late night trips with everyone piled into the car to go find my brother in a dark parking lot and bring him to a Christmas Eve service. Some years the number of people around our table swelled to accommodate his friends, who rocked up damp and smelly from too many nights sleeping on the street. Some years we faked it, like it was all normal, and we were a family happy to be gathered together. A few times we didn’t bother. The year my brother was in prison, I told my mum she didn’t have to do Christmas the traditional way.

“Get out of the house and go somewhere else,” I told her, because it hurts too much to be at home and try to do Christmas like a normal family.

I don’t know where you are in the battle. I don’t know if it has been years and years and years of disappointment. I don’t know if you are the one who gives money, because you just can’t help it or if you practise “tough love,” knowing it may leave them cold, wet, and hungry. Maybe it has been a really long time since you have heard from them and when everyone gathers together, you wonder what you are supposed to say. Or maybe you know exactly where they are—rehab or prison—and you are relieved because, for now, at least you know.

You may want to protect, you may want to fix, you may want to stay in bed until it’s all over.

You have definitely grasped every branch of hope, every possible solution, every psychiatrist or rehab or advice that you have been offered.

And it has cost you so much. Perhaps, as you look toward the holidays and meal planning and gatherings, you may not feel like you can muster it up. You may feel like you need to. Either is okay.

There is so much I don’t know about you and even if I did know, I couldn’t do anything to fix it.

Whatever your time of “togetherness” looks like, whatever secrets you are keeping to protect your child, however many years of hoping have passed you by—for you and for my mother and for all those whose holiday is marred by the grief of addiction: All I can do is hold space for you.

In the midst of our feasting, I want to acknowledge that empty place that cannot be filled by holiday cheer.

Well done, Mama, for carrying on in the midst of darkness. Well done, for loving in the face of lies and rejection. Well done, for offering up forgiveness for the stealing and the deception. You have faced the terror of watching the child you love shatter and, by default, your life and your family have been subject to the shrapnel of their destruction.

Shrapnel can do just as much damage—but you are still here.

May you have a chance to sit at a table free of shame and self blame. May you come to the feet of the One who offers rest to a world weary with the weight of broken bodies and broken minds. May you be given the gift of feasting alongside those who do not judge the empty spaces or extra grey hairs.

I pray that the holidays are not the time when every last drop of hope or energy feels like it is stolen from you. Instead, I pray that love would break in. If your boundaries are being tested, I pray for you to stay strong. If you are feeling alone, I want you to know you are not. If the memories of your child pre-addiction are haunting you, I pray that, even in the midst of this darkness, you will be able to make new ones.

You are a mother who has loved and been left. For that, I grieve with you. Take heart. No evil can resist grace forever, your love is never wasted and you are not alone.

(Author’s Note: It is almost 15 years since my brother first began the spiral into addiction, wreaking havoc on our family. He is clean now, yet another of my siblings currently is not. This post came after a text message that my parents could not find my brother after a couple of days. Then they did. This is the cycle. If someone you know is the parent or family of an addict, give them an extra hug this holiday, and ask how you can love them well in the midst of this heartache.)

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