I met Yasmin a number of years ago and have walked with her through part of her journey with her daughter’s addiction. She has kindly agreed to share her story with my readers to give them some insight into the pain and disruption this places the whole family under. Life forced her into the margins, where she has felt the harsh judgment and criticism of those who have never had to deal with this problem.
Thank you, Yasmin, for telling your story.
Can you give us a little family background to establish the setting your daughter grew up in? Did your parent’s marriage influence your expectations of marriage?
Yasmin: My parents were not Christian, but my mother dropped me off at a local church to attend Sunday school, fetching me later; this was the only Christian input I received.
Growing up and into my teenage years, I was lonely. There wasn’t much “family time.” On Sundays, would we have a family roast dinner together and spend the rest of the time in front of the TV screen. There was little discipline, and my parents would often argue with each other before my sibling and me. Often, I would come home from work to a dried-up dinner in the oven to eat on my own. I grew up feeling like my thoughts didn’t matter and that my sibling got more attention than myself, mainly from my mum, and I was always to blame for when my sibling and I were “playing up.” My mother would always favor and compliment my sibling before others and ignore me if she disapproved of something I did. I could not express how I felt, and she brushed most things under the carpet.
Photo by Izzy Parker- Unsplash
Before I was married, my parents made my life miserable at home. They still wanted to control my life; this went on into my marriage and beyond! My parents were against the man I married, ignoring me and never allowing him into the home. I became rebellious. I went looking for love, or what I thought was love, but it wasn’t. I honestly believe that I wasn’t ready for marriage, then a traumatic event occurred before getting married that changed the course of my life, which I will not go into here.
What other voices spoke into your marriage?
Y:I found marriage lonely when my husband worked seven days a week and had I a small child. I had very few close friends. After a few years, my husband did stop working on Sundays. But this didn’t make things much better or take away the loneliness. There was a lack of communication, and I felt like a one-parent family. I felt I wasn’t up to the standards of my in-laws/parents due to their uncomplimentary comments about my housekeeping. After spending much time preparing a meal, the criticism was soul-destroying. I never felt good enough. And they would watch TV straight afterward.
In my mid-twenties, I became a Christian. I had a new best friend, Jesus; this made a big difference in my life, as He healed me from my past. I had a “life-changing experience,” as one of the traumas that significantly impacted my life was healed. One of my favorite verses is “Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free.” And He certainly did that for me.
Overall, I enjoyed being a full-time stay-at-home mum, and I loved my four children so very much. Money was tight, as there was only one income, but I taught myself how to budget wisely, and with God’s help, we managed with what we had. We survived.
Tell us about your daughter and how her addiction impacted the family, your marriage, and your health.
Y: Things changed when one of my children became an addict; she started smoking “weed” at school. I was unaware of how this would impact the rest of the family. My child’s life, my marriage, the other children and sadly result in the breakup of the marriage as other issues in the marriage were never discussed or ignored.
The nights of not knowing where your child was all night, waking up in the mornings, not finding your child in their bedroom (climbed out of the window during the night) year after year. I suffered from sleep deprivation, anxiety (today, I have been diagnosed as having chronic anxiety), feeling suicidal, exhausted, unable to function with daily activities, helpless, unable to work, etc. Her behavior caused arguments within the marriage. I was worried sick my dearest child was being used and abused by who knows?
There was no help from the police or social services, whom I contacted on numerous occasions, and I even tried to get help from our local politician. I can only describe living with this child’s addiction as a “living hell.” The decades of destruction have affected my other children, causing untold damage.
That must have been hard for you. What was the Church’s response to you and your problems? What kind of support had you hoped for?
Y:I had a few friends who tried to support me, one even gave me a place to stay for the weekend to give me some respite and comfort, but none of their children were doing drugs. I felt like a “rubbish parent.” I had tried everything to help my addicted child. But she refused any help offered. She began to abuse me, shouting at me and arguing in the street. She had no respect, or the drugs had no respect!
I found little support from my church, except “we will pray for you.” I felt judged as a parent. Comments like “how can you let your child go out and come in at such and such a time?” weren’t helpful. The church added to the problem, refusing to let her go on a weekend camp with them. Before this, my child was helping at the Sunday school, etc. Once that stopped, my child hasn’t attended church since. Many years have passed, and all four children are adults now, and my daughter is still an addict.
What was the tipping point that made you decide to leave the matrimonial home? What happened then? Eventually, you decided to file for divorce.
Y: The tipping point of leaving the family home was when my body and mind said, “enough was enough.” I had wanted to leave many years before I went. No one had listened to me, and my feelings were ignored. I was mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted.
I cried out to the Lord for HIM to help me so many times. I felt led to a job working away from home for several days/nights at a time; this job then led to an opportunity to rent a place to live. The job did me good, as I was away from the ongoing “hell.” This place to live was an answer to prayer – a way to get out! I believed this was now the time, after a long marriage. I believe the LORD knew I had no option but to leave, as there were too many issues that had been unresolved. By this time, I was caring for at least nine family members.
What support did you need to help you move through this painful process?
Y: My own Dr supported me to leave for my well-being. A few friends encouraged me to leave, but not everyone! I was shocked as I thought everyone would agree it was the best thing! But then, not everyone has been in my shoes 24/7! Before I left, I worked for a lady who supported me so much, and she was the first person to talk about the “roundabouts” and how I needed to get off them. So I did in the end. I thank God for this lady very much as HE seems to put people in our paths at the right time.
After a lot of heart-searching, sadly, I got divorced (something I thought I would never need to do as I didn’t believe in it). It was hard to leave I moved to another county to begin my new life. The trauma and things had weighed me down and affected my health so badly that I had no option but to leave in the end.
What have you done to get closure on the past and move forward with the future?
Y: Leaving the family saved my life. I have made a new home, life, and friends, attend a new church and enjoy my hobbies. I found support through Domestic Abuse courses (which made me realize how much abuse I had put up with and the effects of the abuse on my life)—a helpline for those who have addicted loved ones, support from close friends, and counseling.
I have been blessed with so much where I live now, and the LORD has provided everything I need. Much more than I need. I may have lost a lot and my home, but I have improved my sanity, well-being, and mental health. I feel I have come a long way and left my past behind.
You accept how things are until you leave home and then realize how your years living in perpetual drama have affected your life when you get older! I cannot change what has passed. There have been so many traumas, but this is behind me. ONLY the LORD knows all that I have gone through. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well and knew all about her life. The Lord knows all about mine too.
Have you reached the point of peace yet, or are you still on the journey?
Since I have left, I have found peace, it didn’t happen overnight, but the more time goes on, the more I feel distant from my past. I can sum up my life in one sentence. I used to feel like I was in a box, and every time I spoke up or wanted to say NO, the lid was pushed down. I climbed out of that box, closed the lid, and threw the box away when I left. I also have the pleasure of enjoying my three grandchildren now. My daughter is still addicted, but she is still alive, and I have had to accept that until she wants to be clean, nothing will change for her. I continue to pray for her.
What would you like to tell my readers about living with a child with addiction? What was your biggest takeaway from this whole process and transition in your life?
Y: For those parents who have addictive children, I would tell them to remove their children from the situation/area and get help as soon as they know they are taking substances. Although once they become teenagers, it is difficult to control who they choose as their friends. Often by the time you find out your child is using drugs, they are heavily addicted.
If you are parents, discuss things, listen to each other, and pray together. Don’t distance yourselves from each other but be a shoulder to cry on and comfort one another. Please do your best to be united with discipline, set boundaries, and keep to them. It isn’t always easy. Do your best not to argue but present a united front (especially in front of the child). Do not give money. Knowing when an addict is telling the truth is challenging, and this list is not exhaustive. Unfortunately, it is often too late when the parents find out their child is taking substances, the child has probably already become addicted, and then the battle begins.
Thank you for sharing your heart-breaking story with us, Yasmin; I know you have only shared the tip of the iceberg, as what is underneath are even more painful stories with the traumas that accompanied them. I wanted my readers to know how they can support people who are going through similar life-changing circumstances.
Yasmin could not share some of her stories as they are confidential with others involved. We need to have the compassionate heart of Jesus when dealing with people whose lives are shattered by addictions. Practical care, prayer, and a listening ear, without judgment or criticism, will go a long way to support parents, even when nothing seems to be happening with the addict.