This week is for the daughters. We have a guest writer, author Shelley Taylor, on the blog talking about her experience growing up as the daughter of an addict.
I have to be honest, Shelley's story is sad! It's not a story where someone magically was healed and everything became wonderful. Her mother did not recover; her body succumbed to the effects of the drugs and alcohol and she passed away. As sad as it is, Shelley's story is real, raw and still ends in healing- hers.
And when it comes right down to it, isn't that the purpose of this ministry? To tell you that no matter what happens, God has your back?! We want healing for our loved ones. We want to proclaim the chains of addiction be broken. We want so many things but what we need is God to heal US.
We can live well. We can find healing. We can move on. We can live a peaceful life. And we can do this, in the midst of a tragic story like addiction.
Enjoy this week's post! I hope it encourages you to use your painful story for the benefit and blessing of others because it's in that pain that God's love, mercy and peace shine through.
We lived a life that wasn't what people thought it was.
When we walked through the doors of the rehab hospitals, our looks matched where we were- mimicking the responses and actions of those who sat around us. Each time we entered, we were hardened a little more. It looked like we had it all- nice clothes, nice cars, a nice house, but what we didn't have was a home or mother.
When did our mother change? How did she become who she was when she left this earth?
Change can happen right before our eyes without us even seeing it. Like a ringlet gradually turns to a tangle, nothing happened overnight. Each day, the ringlet of my mother became less of a curl and much more tangled. Each day, we saw less of the bouyant mother we once knew.
My Story- A.K.A. Real Humans of the United States of America
I was the youngest daughter of a forty-plus-year prescription drug addict and alcoholic. I say, "Was," because my mother died a few years back. So many times, we watched the same scenario play out, hospital after hospital, her hanging on by a breath and us by a prayer.
In December of 2014, the drugs and alcohol finally took her life and with it, my last chance of ever having a normal life with her. Of all the bad choices she made, this one proved to be the most calamitous. Being an addict’s daughter is basically the only life I ever knew with her and now, post brain injury, it’s the only life I can remember.
There’s no doubt, the life I lived was like so many other daughters. I longed for a “mommy”. When I think about other daughters of addicted parents, I feel connected to them. We are bound by the common denominator of an addict parent. At the same time, I’m deeply saddened- not angry but sad. If this is you, you have my prayers. Truly! Reach out to me and I’ll join you in prayer that your life, and the life of your mother, will end differently than mine. There is so much life worth living for, and my mom wasted so many breaths. As her children, my sisters and I were the beneficiaries of our mother's loss of joy and zeal for living.
Why was something so important to us, not important to her?
If you've experienced grief and loss, you know how the pain that lingers can be fierce one day and numb another. Grief can be paralyzing. In addiction, Satan steals the life of one but takes down many.
As children, our lives were destructive and devastating. Our mother stained our lives with manipulation, pain, distance, selfishness and sadness with broad brushstrokes. We were tiny gifts from God she had been given the privilege (and duty) of raising yet, she left us feeling unworthy of her love. Tainted, marked, scarred with the ugliness that we lived in; life looked far from beautiful.
My sisters and I taught ourselves to be who our mother was supposed to be.
There’s irony in learning how to be a mother from a Father, our Heavenly Father. It was He that was with us along the way, guiding us to be the moms we are today. Our lives are a true testimony of a Good Father's unending grace.
"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,"
-Philippians 1:29 (NIV)
We learned how not to be a mother from her. Our mother was supposed to stand in the gap for us like we do for our own girls. My adult daughter still refers to me as, “Mommy," a term of endearment, when she texts me. My heart skips a beat and my breath slows in awe of the magnitude of the five letters in “Mommy"- my childhood dream, lost.
And our mother? Wow! She was stunning back in the day! She would put on her red lipstick, perfectly blotted with a piece of tissue- which meant she was probably leaving the house, sober or not, behind the wheel of our family car. A tall, slim woman with dark, striking features made men’s heads turn everywhere she went.
As her addiction progressed, she spent her days in old tattered t-shirts with burnt cigarette holes. In fact, had I seen her on the street, I'd had thought she was homeless. She got sicker. Eventually, her legs could no longer hold her up; her body said, "Enough". Limping, her walk became as unsteady as her love and as she leaned on a walker for strength, my sisters and I continued to lean on Jesus.
I feel like our mother betrayed us. It’s hard to remember the person she was before "the thirst" consumed her; before the liquor became stronger than the shared blood that ran through our veins. Blood is thicker than water, but I’m guessing that’s not true for alcohol. I realize now she had a choice to make between her drug and her daughters, and she chose the one that directly benefited her the most.
What gave her the right to bail on motherhood?
God's sweet, beautiful grace filled in the cracks of my sisters and I's broken hearts. We have often said in conversation that God, “Poured His grace right over our heads,” filling in our cracks with the rain of mercy. The grace of God is glue for the broken. God loved us as little girls and He loves us now. He’s never left or forsaken His daughters.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
-Acts 20:24 (NIV)
The grief I've felt in my life has been a difficult journey. I wanted to go directly from victim to “healed”. Wanting to be the kind of woman who could make it through life with or without her mother by her side. It felt as if life should stop when things were complicated but life went on. The sun still rose and set, the moon and stars still sparkled in the night, while the weeds continued to peek between the cracks in my driveway.
Life continued on and so would I.
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”
-Psalm 55:22 (NIV)
I know I'm blessed when I turn around to see how far I’ve come. My sisters and I were bent and broke but we survived. We lived beautiful and broken moments in a beautifully broken life. By God’s grace we thrived; His love never failed us.
And you know, bravery doesn’t always mean standing and fighting something. Sometimes, the bravest thing we can do is sit, rest and take all God has for us. While the cloud of our mother's drug and alcohol addiction covered our family in darkness, God's mercy was a new dawn to the darkness we grew up in. All the sin, filth and shame were washed away and we began again, walking with our Father in His beautiful grace and light! It was raining grace and we danced in the beautiful rain without umbrellas.
The last chapter in my book is love letters I wrote to my family, friends and readers. This is the letter I wrote to my mother:
Standing beside your bed in hospice, watching you fade, I was numb. I carry a lot of numbness still, the same that I have felt most of my life and that which was magnified after you died. Numb to me always felt better than pain. Sometimes I needed you more than I needed my next heartbeat, my next breath. The peace of not having a mother still hasn’t come, but God’s grace continues. I will continue to abide in it.
I have wondered for years what I would say in this letter to you, and I’m writing it and still not sure. All I know to say is “All I ever wanted you to do was love me.” Simply that. “I feel as if you never really could and you didn’t, and I forgive you.” I will never understand how you could choose drugs and alcohol over your children and cause irreparable pain and heartache. It is not for me to understand. God so graciously sent me family and friends to fill in the gap and for that I am grateful. Life carried on in your absence and I have no regrets.
I am loved and With My Last Breath, I’d Say I Love You.”
– Shelley Taylor
Shelley Taylor is a loving wife and mother. Told at age thirty-six she was a twin, she is a survivor! The daughter of a prescription drug addict/alcoholic for over 40 years, poisoned by carbon monoxide and suffering a traumatic brain injury she recently published her second book, “With My Last Breath, I’d Say I Love You”. It’s a book of encouragement, written as a love letter back to the Lord for all He’s done for her.
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