Living Above Your Adult Child’s Addiction
(Transcript from Podcast: Living Above Your Adult Child’s Addiction)
Hello there my friend and fellow warrior. Welcome to another episode of Still Standing with Valerie Silveira. Today, I’m going to discuss with you living above your adult child’s addiction. I know that’s kind of a mouthful, but I really wanted to make sure in this discussion that I am talking about adult children because I just think there are a lot of different dynamics if you have a son or daughter who’s living in addiction and they are a minor. So this is really… I mean, a lot of these tips could apply if you had a minor child, but I’m really wanting to focus on adults.
And by the way, you can get this same information in a guidebook and a little short audio series, it’s free. You can get it on my website, but you can get it directly using this link, livingabovetheiraddiction.com. So feel free to do that but go ahead and listen to this because obviously what I say in a podcast like this might be enhanced in certain areas, different as I think of things, because I really do these podcasts on the fly, you can probably tell.
But also do go ahead and get the guide book and the audio series, because the opposite is true too, there might be something I don’t think about saying here that you will find in that short course. So I just first want to acknowledge that I know that you are in one of the most stressful and lonely places you can be. I mean, navigating the guilt and grief of your child’s addiction, it’s tough. And I say grief, yes, it is grief, it is ongoing and constant grief. And we often think of grief as after somebody dies but I mean, in a way, because I’ve experienced both, I have a daughter who was living in addiction for 15 of her 30 years and then of course she was murdered nearly five years ago and so I have experienced both. And in many ways, it’s more difficult to grieve when they’re still alive. So I just want to let you know that I know.
I mean, I sure wish we could have met in a different way. I say this all the time, right? I wish we could have met. We could discuss a recipe on page 87 or something, but our journeys have collided because we have the unfortunate title of mom of an addict. And by the way, I didn’t title this podcast or even that short series specifically for moms, but I know that the vast majority of people who are listening and probably going to go ahead and get a course like this are probably moms. So if you’re a dad, this is no disrespect to you at all, and of course, all of this can apply to you as well.
But back to what I was saying. As much as you wish it were not the case, this is your reality, you are the mom of an addict or the dad. And those who haven’t walked our road, they really just don’t have any idea how painful it is, how isolating and desperate, terrifying. I mean, that’s what our lives become. And it would be helpful, wouldn’t it be helpful if everybody just understood you’re going through. But we wouldn’t wish this on anybody, we wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemy or somebody we don’t know that we think is just an awful person, we really wouldn’t wish it on anybody.
So what do we do? We sit in our sadness and loneliness and we wind up jealous and resentful and angry, and we get filled with shame, confusion. And often then the other thing we do is that we connect ourselves with people who are victims and feel victimized and we just get into a big pity party. And we just start one downing each other and that doesn’t help to lift us up. While it does help for people to finally understand, it can also keep us stuck in that powerless place of victim hood. So I really want to caution you about that.
I know that you’ve experienced trauma to your very core and you feel beaten down by your own beast. While your son or daughter is living with their addiction beast, this beast of your own is holding you back from joy and freedom. I hear you. Man, I hear you, and I feel you, and I have been there. As I said, I lost my daughter to a senseless murder and it shattered my life. It did. But it also sent me on a new transformational path. And what’s interesting though is that, my transformation began while my daughter was still very lost in the belly of her beast, not after her death. It’s kind of taken me to a new level after her death, but I stood up in the middle of the storm. I mean, it was raging all around me.
She was so lost. I had to take her a couple of times and drop her off in the belly of her addiction beast, I mean with nothing but the clothes on her back because that’s all she would accept and drive away and look in the rear view mirror and watch my only daughter disappear into the belly of her beast. Excruciating. So I get it. And I guess the reason I told you that is not to make you sad or down or anything, it’s to hopefully give you some incentive to stand up wherever you are. Don’t wait. Because we don’t know what the future holds and we don’t know how long it will take for them to get clean, we just don’t know.
And the bottom line is, this is one of the many things in your life that you do not have control over and it’s probably the one you wish you did more than anything else. So this grief and this pain and the trauma of your child’s addiction, they’re real. I get it, I am not discounting it in any way. But listen to me, mom, they don’t have to rule you.
So in the short series that I offer you at livingabovetheiraddiction.com, I’m just going to share it with you. How I approached this one was, rather than more of a step back in a general kind of, here’s some things you can think about, I tell my story in bits and pieces, and just little bits of my story, in little bits and pieces that will hopefully give you some perspective, help you understand that I know what you’re going through. And then maybe you can use some of these tips and perspectives to help you learn to stand again. And maybe, maybe one of these little nuggets, even just one would be important wouldn’t it? If it was the catalyst for your recovery. Because that’s really what we’re talking about here is your recovery. `It’s interesting because when we think of addiction, we think of the person living in addictions need to recover, to recover from their addiction. But we have to recover too. We have to recover from their addiction, we have to recover from our addiction to them, while they’re addicted, and so much more.
So let me just share a little bit about… And again, get this little short free course because it’ll get more into it and I’m probably not going to want to have a long enough podcast to get into all this. But a lot of you know my story, but all hell really broke loose for me when Jamie was 15. But I really talk about all hell breaking loose when she was 18 and she was shot by her ex-boyfriend, and I guess it’s because that was so horrific. I mean, it was a near fatal gunshot wound, it was awful. I mean, I’m sitting there and trauma recovery and I’m going, I mean, not trauma recovery, I’m sitting there in the ICU going, “How can this be?”
I mean, I used to watch her playing select softball not that many years ago and now I’m sitting there watching air being pushed into her lungs and her chest rising and falling and that’s a far cry from being at the softball field. And I’m sitting there thinking, “My daughter was filleted open like a fish. She has nearly 50 staples holding her gut back together.” And she was shot by her ex-boyfriend who turned out to be a gang member. I mean, this was suddenly my life. However, like I like to tell you, I mean, really all hell broke loose three years prior when she was 15 and she quit school and all sorts of stuff was going on with her, she just became a different person.
But because this event was so big, I kind of refer to that as being when all hell broke loose and I really got on the roller coaster from hell. I think it’s because for those first three years, I kept thinking I could manage it, I could fix it, I could change it. And boy did I try. And that’s what I was thinking while I’m laying there next to her. The day I sat in the ICU wondering if she’d even wake up. How in the hell did we get here? And more importantly, why couldn’t we make it stop?
So one night I’m sitting there, well, I’m kind of laying there in this makeshift bed which was really a chair that just kind of laid out. And Jamie wanted my chair pressed right up against her hospital bed which was kind of cool because we were so separated in the months and even years so prior to this. She was very distant and rude, and I mean, I was really losing her. And so that made me feel good in a way, but this room was big, they actually gave us a room that was enough for two beds and then some. But she wanted this chair pressed right up against her bed. And it made me feel close to my daughter, but I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know how she couldn’t sleep because she was on opiates, which by the way, that’s what she ended up being addicted to, the opiates they gave her in the hospital.
But she couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t sleep and one of these nights we’re laying there in the dark. She said, “Mommy, will you pray with me?” I mean, out of the blue. And I’m not a real outdoor praying kind of a person I’m not really comfortable with that. It’s just not my thing, I mean, some people are so great at it, but it’s just not my thing. But I would have made a Baptist preacher proud that night. I prayed my brains out. And then she told me the story and she told me what happened. She told me what happened the night of the shooting. And I mean, I would rather have been having about 5,000 different conversations with my daughter than that one.
But it was so special and so unexpected. And I thought, I guess the control freak in me, I had a supermom cape and I’d never been afraid to use it, especially in those past three years. So I really thought that everything was going to be okay. I was going to get on that cape and I was going to make sure she’d be okay. Little did I know though how useless that darn cape was going to be, more useless than it ever had been. And it would take a few years into the ride to really confirm, for her to finally admit what I already knew, that she was addicted to drugs and eventually to heroin. And that one practically knocked me out of my chair.
So really what happened, and I know you can relate to this, is that my own beast grabbed a hold of me. And he shoved me kicking and screaming onto the roller coaster from hell. And I rode that thing painfully up one hill and screaming down the next. I was trapped in the cycle of a mother’s hope and suffocating disappointment with every twist and turn. I mean, fear gripped me and I was hanging on for dear life. That ride took me through health issues, a web of lies, financial stress and a broken family.
The woman who stood for truth, I’m a huge fan of the truth, was lying to her husband. I was keeping things from Rich, paying for things, bailing Jamie out of trouble, all in the name of, I was doing it for him to protect him. I was lying to my own husband. I rode through a world I never wanted to know. The legal system, failed rehabs for Jamie, a severe strain on my marriage and constant emotional pain. I was tortured by what was happening to my daughter and powerless to stop it. I was also unwilling to move on until it did stop.
So I was trapped. Can you relate to this? I mean, I would say, how can I be happy when Jamie’s not? She’s self-destructing, how in the world could I just move on and try to make my life happier? Make my life better? It didn’t seem to make sense. What kind of a mom would do this? That was my thinking at the time. It’s not my thinking now.
But let me first say though that while my story might be a lot different than yours, we probably have gone through some very different situations, but it’s kind of weird, it seems like every time I meet another mom of an addict, it’s as if all of our stories are different yet, somehow they’re all the same. And I think it’s because we have the same emotions, the same feelings, the same thoughts, the same despair. So remember I told you, I thought, how in the world could I do this? How could I stand up? You know what? Now I wish I would have come to this conclusion years before. It might have even helped Jamie. I’ll never know, but I just believe that… Well, I’ll tell me a little bit more about why in a minute, but it’s time for you to stand up and fight and to reclaim your life.
No matter how you feel today, there’s this piece of the world’s puzzle that’s missing because you’re living in despair. So these perspectives, I’m just hoping, will give you a little bit of hope that you can climb out of that pit of despair. If I did it, you can too. I’m living proof. If you don’t have anybody else to look to, look to me, because I was very, very down when I clawed my way back amongst the living.
So, I mean, the reality is that this addiction beast has invaded your life and you can close your eyes and wish it away. How many times did I do that? But when you open your eyes, there he is breathing down your neck, screaming in your ear, whispering in your ear, screaming in your face. And hopefully your son or daughter will one day choose to fight but it’s their battle. I know you wish you could battle it for them. But I’m going to share a couple of perspectives in here that might be real eye-opener for you. Time is flying by.
So let me get into this because again, I don’t want this podcast to be too long and you can go and get this in an audio series and a little guidebook in livingabovetheiraddiction.com. The first little tip I want to give you is to accept the painful reality, this truth. The moment that I realized this, it wasn’t a fun moment, let me tell you, it wasn’t something I wanted to be true. Kind of like what I found out when I was eight years old, there was no Santa Claus and the same day I found out there was no Easter bunny and no tooth fairy. I mean, I put all the pieces together, all in the same two minutes. It’s kind of devastating.
But this is much worse. This painful reality is that if you had the ability to save your son or daughter, you would have done it a long time ago. I just want you to stop and think about that. If all it took were tears and prayers and your efforts and your love you, it would have been done. I would have saved my daughter in year one, right? I wouldn’t have had the knock on the door in year 15. I would have saved her. The painful reality is that you are not that powerful. And I really wish that were not the case, but it is. And since it’s real, the sooner you begin to come to that realization and accept it, the better it is for you because then you can move on with your life. I’m not saying move on and forget all about your son or daughter. I’m saying that you’ve got to focus on the one and only person that you can control and that’s you.
The next concept I want you to think about is the supermom cape and I kind of mentioned it before. It seems kind of like you get one of these capes when your little baby is put into your arms, or maybe you adopted a child. And whenever you held that child for the first time, they came with a supermom cape. And you’re going to use that for the bumps and bruises and come to their rescue throughout their adolescents and certainly when they’re toddlers. But then you find yourself in this awful place where your son or daughter’s an addict and they’re adults and you’re still coming to the rescue like they have bruised and skin knees. Only this is a whole lot more serious.
So of course you are. Of course who wouldn’t try everything they knew. I obsessed over Jamie. I spent so much money, cried gazillions of tears and allowed my heart to be shattered into a million pieces. None of it helped. I mean, I begged and pleaded and yelled and screamed. I threatened to cut her off. I even changed my phone number a couple of times. I swore I wouldn’t spend another dime and then found myself opening my wallet one more time, like I said, without my husband’s knowledge. I was afraid to take off the cape so I kept going back for more, around and around I went. You’re probably doing the same thing.
So one day, what I shared with you a minute ago, it hit me like a ton of bricks. If I could have saved her, I would’ve done it already. And I really started to realize, I didn’t want to believe it, but I was helping my daughter to stay in her addiction. I’m not saying you are, but I was. I was giving her all sorts of money so that she could use it for drugs. And obviously, it was under the guise of paying for rent or down posits or groceries or bills or car payments or insurance and on and on and on, whatever other money she had was going to drugs or perhaps even some of the money I thought was going for living expenses going for drugs. You get the point.
I did all of this in the name of love and fear but it was doing a disservice to her. I wasn’t trying to do a disservice, but when I could finally get clear of all this, when I could finally go, “Oh my gosh, I have no control, I got to take off this cape.” It all started to make sense. It was painful, painful to take off that cape. But I had to because it was strangling me. It was hard because me and that cape, we’d been through a lot. You and your cape, you’ve been through a lot. I know it’s going to be painful to remove, but you probably need to do it. Only you know. But yours might be like mine, tied so tightly around your neck, that it’s strangling you. So it might be time to untie it and allow yourself to breathe again.
Okay, so those are the first two thoughts I have. The next is about shedding shame and guilt. You can’t keep living with all the shame and guilt. Talk about suffocating you, I mean, it’s like it’s painted on top of you, layers and layers. It’s just weighing you down. I understand it. I mean the guilt, my daughter Jamie was so incredible. Left-brain, right-brain, I mean, this girl was so up in the clouds artistic yet so logical at the same time. She was popular and artistic and witty and athletic and hilarious. I mean, she was really the girl who had it all. I used to say, she’d be the first woman president.
And so because I couldn’t make sense of that, how in the world can this make any sense? How can this incredible person be living in this world she doesn’t belong in? In this dangerous world where somebody shoots her. How can she beat sticking drugs in her body and not showing up when she has this loving, amazing family? How can this be? I didn’t understand it and I needed someone to blame and I chose me. I mean, it was embarrassing and it was clearly a black mark on my parenting scorecard. I was drowning in shame and guilt. So as if guilt and shame aren’t enough, society likes to put a stigma on us. As parents of addicts, we’re terrible parents. It’s like a cherry on top of your shame and guilt pie.
And I get that too because I used to do it. I used to say terrible things about parents that allowed their kids to go astray. I thought it was their fault because I wrongly thought that I had control. I did. I really kind of thought it was more about me than it turned out to be. So guilt is going to eat away at your sense of value and it doesn’t serve anybody. So you got to give that up. You got to use that f-word, and my nine weapons of hope can help you do that. One of the weapons is called your release and I have a whole section on using the F word.
And then when I finally dare to stop hiding my story and somebody would ask, “Do you have any kids?” And I wouldn’t just say, “Well, I have a son.” I mean, I would admit I had a daughter and she was living in addiction. When I finally stopped hiding my story and was brave enough to speak, incredible. I learned things about people I had no idea, would have never guessed, and they probably wouldn’t have said if I hadn’t said something. So you know what? Society can think what they want, but we don’t have to agree with them. Hiding your story just perpetuates their perception of us, right? You don’t have to run a billboard. But you also don’t have to live covered in shame and guilt and suffer in silence anymore.
The next tip I want to give you, the next thing I want to say real briefly is, it’s time to remove the burden. Oh by the way, I’m holding this pen in my hand and I’m really getting into it, and I just realized as I’m doing that, the top part of the pen, the retractable thing is kind of making noise and it’s right by the microphone. So if you’re hearing these little noises, I really sorry. I’m not going to stop and rerecord this because I’m on a roll here. But I’m sorry, I just realized that.
Removing the burden. Now this is a big one. If you’re having trouble with all the rest of the stuff, you won’t have trouble with this. My happiness became increasingly dependent upon what Jamie did or did not do about her addiction, and I let her know it. I understood that she was living with this really tough beast, but it didn’t matter, I was in pain and her family was in pain. So I would tell her, I guilt tripped her, and I would remind her and tell her what she was missing out on and how awful my life was and what she was doing to me. And I don’t think a certain amount of that is wrong. I mean, we do need to let them know. It’s not like they don’t know, but they get so caught up in their selfishness that I think it’s okay for us to remind them. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But I crossed the line. I made my happiness dependent on Jamie. And you know what that was doing? I put the burden on her shoulders. Here’s this girl living in addiction, one of the toughest beasts you could possibly imagine taking down. And I put mine on top of hers. I put my happiness on her shoulders. Instead of focusing on my own life, taking care of my own business, I put the burden on her, and that’s not cool. It’s not right, and it’s not helpful.
This next little thing might be just what it takes for you to stand up and start fighting and it’s giving yourself permission to matter. And I understand how difficult that is when you have a son or daughter self destructing, but you self-destructing along with them isn’t helping anybody. It’s not helping them. If it was helping them, it would have already been fixed, right? It’s making everything worse. I understand how difficult this is, but living the way you are is already difficult so something’s got to give, right? My self destruction was suffocating me. It was like I had this dark cloud hanging over my heart every moment of every single day. The reality is that you’re on this planet to live your life and walk out your journey. And just as your son or your daughter is here to do the same for them.
And yes, our lives are intertwined but there’s a big difference between temporary self-sacrifice and self-destruction. And that’s what a lot of us are doing, we’re self-destructing all in the name of love. And nobody’s getting better, nobody’s getting helped. If they’re living their life and you’re living their life, who’s living yours? Putting yourself at the top of the list is not selfish. If you self-destruct, tell me who is going to benefit from that? Give yourself permission to matter.
I just have two more quick tips for you. This next one is to fight as if your life depends on it. Okay, well that just might make sense just all on its own and maybe I could just leave it at that. But I want to just really bring this home for you and give you a perspective that might help you understand beyond that statement. Your very life, the next breath you take probably will not depend upon you making this decision to fight for your life, to give yourself permission, to matter, to stand up, to start agreeing with some of these concepts that I’m presenting to you today. Your next breath is probably not going to be dependent upon that. So how can I say your life depends on it?
It’s because there’s a big difference between living and existing. Between living and really, really living. When I decided to start fighting in this way, all in, I’m talking this is my mission to get my life back. Jamie was still very lost in the belly of her beast. But over time, and it does take time, okay? I always tell you, be looking for a quick fix you came to the wrong person. Anything worth having, being, or doing in this lifetime will take work, effort and sacrifice. So while she was very lost, that’s when I stood up. Over time, I was no longer a prisoner of my beast. I mean, I missed her, my only daughter, my firstborn child. I missed her so very much, but I refuse to stay down on the mat any longer. So Jamie knew, I would tell Jamie, “Listen, anytime you choose life, I will stand right there with you, but you can’t expect me to watch you die or help you die anymore, it’s not fair.”
And she understood that. I would stand with her every time she chose life. This is why our lives do depend on us becoming strong and courageous, on fighting as if our life depends on it. My life did depend on it before, but in August of 2016, that’s when I really knew my life was dependent upon the strength that I’d gained. Because it was as if my beast would knock on the door, and he’s crafty, man, I mean these beasts, they come at you with all sorts of smoke and mirrors. And so he knocked on the door and I’d go, “Hey, that seems like a nice guy. Let me open the door. Whoa, I know him underneath all that, all those smiles.” That’s the beast. Slam the door on his little foot before he could even think about getting in or maybe it was a claw maybe as a clawfoot.
And so that’s how strong I was standing because I practice what I preach. But when that officer from the coroner’s office knocked on my door that Tuesday morning, Monday morning, getting confused now, that morning, the morning, that I got that knock on the door, it dropped me right back to my knees and that beast was there so fast getting on top of me. But because I had become so strong, I was able to get back up incredibly quick, this time with a big, huge hole in my heart, a permanent hole, but I’ve been able to go and my mission is even stronger. I’m actually fighting even harder for myself and for you. Fight as if your life depends on it because it does.
This is my last little tidbit I have for you in this episode, I want you to lead the way. We spend a lot of time telling our sons and daughters who are living in addiction that they should stand up and fight. We wish, we hope, we ask them why they can’t. But there’s one thing that we rarely do while… We plead, we tug at their heartstrings, we guilt trip and we do all that. But there’s one thing we rarely do, and that is show them. So while you might not be living with an addiction beast, yours is just as vicious because it is ripping at your heart mom.
And I know that no matter how much chaos you’re living with, how much we want things to change, change is scary. I mean, I can remember standing at this crossroads, it was like, I was standing there going, “I got to get off this road. This is insanity. I’ve got to change.” But I’d looked down at this other road, I didn’t know where I was going. I had no idea how I would get there. I hadn’t created the nine weapons of hope that I used to call the nine actions. Hadn’t created them, didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I just knew something had to change. So it scared me, I was stepping into the unknown. And it seemed like this road I was stepping onto, had mountains and monsters and roadblocks, scared me. Well, guess what? The road I was already on. Guess what was on that road?
Mountains, monsters, roadblocks, and more of the same. So I was willing to take a chance. And here’s the thing. Jamie was actually, by the way, reading my book, Still Standing After All The Tears, when she was murdered. And who knows, if that guy hadn’t taken away her right to choose, her ability to get clean, maybe that would have made a difference, we will never know. But I want to ask you this. If you don’t demonstrate to others in your life what a woman of courage looks like, who’s going to do it? And I remember thinking about that with my son, Sean, and thinking, how is he going to watch his mom’s self destruct? No, that can’t be my legacy. That’s not fair to him and it’s not what I want to leave behind in this world. As painful as it was, I had to do something about it.
And recently I received this text from Sean out of the blue. He says, “I’m rewatching the Brandon Novak story about his drug addiction. He says, “My mother is the most important person to me. If I can be a centimeter of what she is, I’ve arrived.” And then Sean went on to say to me, “I feel the same way about you. I love you. Thank you for being my inspiration.” What kind of texts do you think Sean would be sending me if I had stayed rolled up in a ball down on the mat in agreement with my beast? Maybe no texts at all.
Maybe there’d be nothing left of our relationship. I don’t even want to think about it. it makes me sick to think about it. The very best thing you can do for yourself, your son or your daughter, living in addiction and everybody else is to stand up and fight for your own life. Remove the responsibility for your happiness from their shoulders. Demonstrate what courage looks like. You could be the one that shows them it’s possible to stand up in your darkest hours, if you can do it so can they. Be an example of strength and tenacity and allow them to witness your transformation.
You don’t have to do this alone. Wherever you are in this world, I am standing right there with you, mom. Your story matters so it’s time for you to stand up, start living above your son or daughter’s addiction. Your story matters so much. You need to start living it courageously. I got so excited about this message to you that I forgot to remind you once again, how you can get this little short guide book and audio series, Living Above Your Adult Child’s Addiction. You can get it at livingabovetheiraddiction.com. Together, we can stand through anything.
Your Story. Your Voice. Your Community
Valerie Silveira | Trauma Disruptor & Legacy Leader™ is an award-winning author of multiple books, workbooks, and journals to guide people worldwide through the path to freedom. She is known as a woman of unwavering strength who, through the trauma and lessons of her daughter’s addiction and her senseless murder, along with her decades of leadership, empowers others to stand up and live courageously. Valerie's books, workbooks, journals, and 9 Weapons of Hope™ provide hope and healing for life’s many challenges. For information on the courses, books, and speaking programs, visit ValerieSilveira.com.