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Overcoming the Effects of My Mom’s Addiction: Self-Discovery Doesn’t Happen in Survival Mode

My mom is a wonderful mother. She’s kind, loves classic rock, has funny stories—and she loves me. I know that. I have always known that.

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be understanding of her problem. I saw her drinking and began to justify how normal it was. Resentment was there, but it took a back seat. Love and understanding took the front seat. But the final destination was still an addiction.

For so long, I wanted to save my mom. As a little girl, I would yell or cry on her drunken nights. As a teenager, I tried to be her friend. And as a young adult, I fled from her choices to build a solid foundation that could support her. The North Star in my life, my mom’s addiction, guided my life decisions and direction.

Life was fine–good at times, hard at times–a constant whirlwind of what I thought was normal. I focused on optimism, success, and service to others. I ran toward a different life from what my mom had, refusing to be swallowed up by pain. So I avoided it.

One day, the whirlwind was interrupted by a single phone call.

My mom was going to rehab. My North Star dimmed.

The first thing I said to my mom on the phone, a few days into treatment, was: “I am not mad at you, and I forgive you.” I led every interaction with love and understanding because, honestly, that’s what she needed. And that’s what she would have done for me.

Life continued post-rehab. My mom was now sober.

Ironically, the whirlwind began again. It felt different this time, though. Life happened at a pace so fast that it was impossible to keep up. My mind refused to stop racing. My thoughts became endless fits of starts and stops, sprints racing across my mind.

At one point, I resented myself for not being able to keep up with my mind. Why couldn’t I be happy? Life was better than it had ever been. I had a sober mother–something I had supposedly been waiting for my whole life.

I attributed my racing thoughts, endless naps, and dark thoughts to life events—a breakup, a job that took a negative turn, a pandemic that was dragging on.

Then, July 2021–one year sober for mom–I had three weeks off. I was turning the page to a new chapter in life–a new job. Those three weeks were so foggy. I hated spending time with myself.

The solution was therapy. Looking back, I laugh at how I thought it would go. I would come with a spreadsheet of issues and thoughts and go line by line with my therapist on how to move forward. I was so excited to be a project manager for my problems.

I brought my mental Excel spreadsheet to Tom, my therapist, with enthusiasm. I told him about my “whirlwind” and assured him that I had a plan to work through things—I just needed a little help sorting out my thoughts.

News flash: that’s not how it works.

Right away, he told me, “Logic doesn’t trump emotion.”

As human beings, we are naturally meant to feel pain, whether it makes logical sense or not. We can’t rationalize our pain away and expect to feel better.

Now what?

My whole life, I had been justifying my suffering using logic. If I had a successful career, was usually happy, and understood why people hurt other people, I simply couldn’t allow myself to feel bad about my life.

Week by week, we dug into my pain. It was uncomfortable, overwhelming, confusing, and annoying but also insightful and life-changing.

I slowly started to release the grip on the steering wheel of my life. I began to kick out passengers that no longer served me, changed the radio station of my thoughts, and didn’t tie my sense of direction to only one North Star. I took time to look out the window, stop at places I wanted to visit, and refill the gas way before my needle was on E. I found an entirely new path.

On this new journey, I began to learn who I was. Some of the findings surprised me–that I love to paint, hike, and read, and I uncovered one of my deepest identities, my sexuality. I could write a thousand more words about that journey, but that is for another time.

Life is so different for me now. The road is still bumpy, but I am not driving so fast anymore or deciding my destination based on my old North Star, my mom’s addiction.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Mikaela Powers is a newly published writer. Professionally, she has been involved in non-profit marketing and fundraising for the past 10+ years. Her inspiration to write about such vulnerable topics comes from her favorite poet and writer, Rupi Kaur. Connect with Mikaela on Linkedin @mikaela-powers or Instagram @mik_1331.

Written by: Mikaela Powers, she/her/hers

Edited by: Lydia-Renee Darling, she/her/hers

Reviewed by: Mary Schlegel, she/her/hers

Photo by Sid Balachandran on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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