My name is Rachel and I am the daughter of a drug addict.
Let me back up a little bit.
In my early Elementary years, my mother was severely addicted to prescription drugs. In the early 1980’s, being from a small town community, attending a Christian Reformed Church, and Christian School, I discovered that being addicted to drugs is not something that goes over very well. Back then, it wasn’t something that was common or maybe even known about as well as it is today.
I fully admit that my memories as a 3rd grader do not fulfill the whole story, and much of this post is from my little girl perspective. However, the things I do remember are as clear as if they happened yesterday.
I remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table with her leg moving up and down so fast that you wondered how long she could keep it up…but it never stopped. I remember that she was so skinny, that she had developed fine downy hair covering her whole body trying to keep her warm. I remember that she was very irritable, cried a lot, and there was a lot of stress in the home. I remember the comments the girls at school would come and tell me of things they over heard their parents talking about at their home. Things on how my mom was a bad person. I would then sit in class and wonder if that were true. I knew that at my age, I started to have more responsibilities in the home to pick up the slack that my friends didn’t have to deal with yet. I remember standing in the back of church and seeing little huddles of people standing, talking, and pointing at us with their eyes while doing so. The judgment was so palpable; that as a little girl, it is something I will never forget.
My mother lost almost all of her friends during that time. And to not place blame, but I am sure that as a drug addict, she did things that were not appropriate or well received. I know that she did not follow through with certain responsibilities that placed a lot of pressure and stress on others as well. But regardless, most of the church people in her life at that time didn’t know how to deal with it and walked away.
Making a wise and brave decision, despite all the pressure from extended family to keep this a secret, my father decided to take my mother away to a treatment facility several hours from home. This meant that our pretend “perfect” family life would be exposed, but he never cared much about that –besides at this point my mother’s life depended on getting the help.
My father had to continue working to provide for our family during the weeks my mother was gone in-patient, so us 4 children had to be split up since he was unable to stay at home to care for us. My sister and I were left with one set of grandparents, and I remember that they put us to bed by 7:00pm, before the sun yet went down. We would lay in our beds still wide-awake, but didn’t dare talk for fear of getting in trouble. So I would spend a long time lying there just thinking – knowing that life was not how it should be and wondering how it was all going to turn out.
It was during those weeks away that my mother fought to get rid of the stronghold that the drugs had on her life. From my understanding, the doctors had to wean her slowly and let her actually take the drugs while in-patient for fear that if they cut them off cold turkey they thought she would die. She was also anorexic, suicidal, and suffered from severe depression so she had to deal with those issues as well.
After a period of time, she was moved to a hospital closer to home, which was nice for my father to not have to drive so far to visit her. Sometimes, he would take my sister Sara and I along. During one of those visits, a specific memory hangs with me regarding when it was time to leave for back home. My younger sister and I were crying so hard, that my mother will tell you that even after the elevator door closed, she could hear us crying the several floors down, all the way to the lobby floor. As a parent now, I can’t even imagine how hard that was on both my mom and my dad. For my mom with having to stay behind, and my dad for having to deal with two heartbroken little girls, when he was dealing with his own feelings as well.
There is another memory however, a good one, that also sticks out in my mind on those trips to visit my mom. We would take the back roads into the city, and those roads were so up and down it made our stomachs flip. As we were riding a literal rollercoaster of life, we would pretend we would be on a real rollercoaster ride on that stretch of road, and dad would temporarily join in on the fun.
My mother did what she had to do and came out of treatment drug free with a little more meat on her bones and a better will to live. The days, months, years that followed still proved hard however. It is sad to say, and I almost dare not write it, but the truth is, going to church was the hardest thing for me. I still felt the judgment and I worried so much of what people were saying or thinking of our family.
I especially HATED the Sundays that we had Communion. You see, in our church at that time, they served red wine. My mother with an addictive personality and just going through treatment, knew that she had to avoid any type of alcohol for fear of it putting her right back into the place that she just came out of. I knew that my parents tried many times talking with the Pastor and church council and asked if they could please just serve a little grape juice along with the wine, so my mother could partake, but for reasons beyond my understanding, they refused. So for years, every time we had Communion, my mother would let the tray pass her by and she would sit and cry. I truly hated being there during communion. It made me embarrassed, frustrated, but also very confused. I just didn’t understand.
Everyone else sat there partaking of the very thing that allowed us to remember the sacrifice that Jesus did for OUR SINS, the death of his body on the cross, so that we no longer had to fear condemnation from our Heavenly Father. To a little girl at that time, it appeared to me that by the church not allowing one single swallow of grape juice to be placed in the tray for my mom, that they were saying her sin was not worth forgiving. I felt like it was their way of prolonging the shame and guilt, and I wondered if maybe some sins truly were unforgivable. Was this one of them? Do we really need to live perfect lives in order to be saved? Is it really all about the rules?
When they say children are like sponges soaking everything in, I can definitely say that it was true for me. I have always been very socially aware. I watched and took in everything going on around me and most of the time was left with more questions than answers, but one thing I gathered, I better be a good girl or I might not be forgiven or get into heaven. I believe that same pressure boiled up inside of my mother as well. Looking back, I think that in my mom’s heart, she wanted us to be as “perfect” as possible while in public, so she could show the church and the people around us that despite her addictions she was a good mom after all. As I grew, I had a hunch that this thinking was not the way it was supposed to be. This led to feelings of further anger, frustrations, and confusions inside of me. I can say that I did not see eye-to-eye with my mother for many years after that, which led to a very rocky relationship between the two of us.
Eventually over time, new friends joined my mom’s life and the church started to serve grape juice so I no longer needed to dread the Sundays when we remembered what Jesus did for us.
I don’t feel that life necessarily got easier after all that as the dysfunctional thinking and lack of grace remained in our household. The struggles were real and relationships were strained. It wasn’t until many years later that my parents got the counseling they needed to deal with what I believe was the underlying issue to begin with. And it wasn’t until my early 20’s and moving down to another state and a new church, where I started to learn about grace and what it truly means.
Why do I share this with you? For a few reasons that expose hope and forgiveness:
1 Corinthians 10:11-13: These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment to the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
One of the biggest misinterpretations of the Bible that people use is this phrase: “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I say that because almost always, when people refer to this phrase, they are talking about the circumstances and hardships in life. People – I fully believe that we ARE faced with situations and hardships beyond what we can bear! What Paul is referring to in this passage is talking specifically about the TEMPTATIONS that life brings. And guess what? Sinful desires and temptations affect every one of us, but God promises that when faced with those things, HE WILL GIVE YOU A WAY OUT. If we turn to Him during those times, pray for His help where we are weak, choose to do what is right, run away from the temptation, find friends to help and encourage us, we will be able to overcome the thing that has or wants to become a stronghold.
One thing that I am so incredibly proud of with my mom, is that through it all, she turned to the Lord, did what was right, and never allowed that temptation of drugs or alcohol to have a stronghold of her life again. The Lord truly provided a way out for her and that was through Him alone. Today, she has been sober for almost 30 years.
Ephesians 2:4-5: But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.
Guess what? It truly is because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, taking the penalty of our sins and the power of those sins over us, that we are saved. By faith, we can come before our God, knowing and believing that even though we are dead in our sins, we are alive in Christ. It doesn’t matter what your past holds or what kind of mistakes you have made. It is by His LOVE, MERCY, and GRACE that we can have hope of eternal life.
You do not have to let the past dictate who are you now. You do not have to try to live a perfect life! Or for what I think is even more damaging, pretend that you are! Like I mentioned earlier, for many years, I think we fell into that trap of believing we had to prove that our family had it all together, when the truth is, we didn’t.
Over the years since going through treatment, my mother has been very open, and has given talks regarding her addictions and depression providing hope to those who will listen. Most recently, she has found herself mentoring a couple women who are dealing with the same issues she once found herself in.
In just the past few years alone, I feel like I have seen a transformation in my parents’ lives that I am incredibly proud of. They are now living a grace-filled life. Last Easter, I saw my dad stand in front of his current church, letting the people know that he used to live knowing about Christ, but now he lives KNOWING CHRIST. That same Sunday, I saw my mom stand in front of the church, letting the people know that at one point she used to be addicted to drugs, but now she is ADDICTED TO CHRIST.
And as for me? Well, turns out that God had his hand on my life (and my siblings!) this whole time as well. I was unable to live up to the perfect child persona, an expectation that I ultimately put upon myself, and made mistakes along the way. I guess that just proves that I am like every one else! I admit that I still struggle with placing unnecessary expectations upon myself; I am a people pleaser, and still very much worry about what people think about me. But I am thankful, that as an adult, God placed people and situations into my life to gradually show and teach me what grace truly is. He was preparing me for circumstances that were to come, and is still teaching me now with the areas that I struggle in.
Despite the anger and resentment that I secretly held onto for along time regarding the church in general, the Lord has now taken those feelings away. For where I felt the church had brought additional pain and disappointment in this situation, the church is also the place I ultimately discovered healing. I now look forward to the Sundays that serve Communion, for I truly know that without the death of Jesus, I would have nothing. I have come to choose and believe that at the time, they, along with my parents, did the best that they knew and thought what was right. Despite the rocky relationships that my mother and I had over those several years, I know that we never fully stopped loving each other. Today, our relationship has greatly improved and she has turned out to be an amazing grandma to all of her grandchildren, loving and treating them (and us) in a very Christ like way.
I don’t want you to think that we no longer have our struggles in life, but we now know Who and where we can turn to for that help and hope. We admit we are still a work in progress, but that is OK. We no longer have to pretend – we let that go a long time ago. Which I think is why I dare to write about these stories today.
If you find yourself with temptations that have a hold on you, I want you to know there is hope and there is a way out. Look to Jesus. He is the only way and can provide for you just what you need. Nothing you have done can turn his love away from you; after all he died for YOU. Turn to Him, not only for yourself, but also for your spouse, children, and those in your life that love you.
As in the song “Unredeemed” by Selah, which I want to share with you below, remember this: “When anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord, just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed.”
I love you mom and dad! I am incredibly proud of you for what you have overcome through the power of Jesus Christ, and that you are now choosing to live lives of grace!
My name is Rachel and I am the daughter of a grace redeemed drug addict.
And as your daughter, thank you mom for not allowing the stronghold of drugs and alcohol to overtake you again.
Thank you Jesus for providing a way out.
(Please take a moment to listen to this beautiful song, which I feel sums up the entire post.)
Linked at #FaithFilledFriday