How To Deal With A Heroin-Addicted Parent

She wasn’t always a heroin addict.

When I was little, we had an unconditional bond. I spent time with her frequently. She was an employed stripper; she called it “dancing.” She had closets full of matching outfits decked in rhinestones and glitter, incredibly high heels and her own personal tanning bed in her basement. I would play in all of her clothes and put runway shows on. We would have summer pool parties and dance with the neighbors in the yard to 90’s hip-hop…”normal” mother/daughter activities.

Then, her phone calls became more infrequent. I would hear through the grapevine that she went to jail for a few days for shoplifting, or that her husband was getting into trouble. But every time I saw her, she was still my mom, and she had the truest love for me.

Then all of a sudden, I didn’t hear from her or see her for five years. I heard that her husband overdosed on heroin and died, and that she had abandoned her other children.

Around the time of my high school graduation, she contacted me, saying she wanted more than anything to be there. Of course, I saved her a ticket. She wore a long sleeve dress to cover up all of her tattoos and asked my dad’s sister to help her get ready so that she would look her best and “make me proud.” She told me how many pills she was taking, what kind and how much money she was spending on heroin weekly, and that she was “dancing” to afford it all.

I started making it a point to keep in touch with her often. I knew my love was powerful and that my mom needed me. I reminded her how much I loved her and how I would always be there for her. I said that she should never feel like she let me down, because all I needed in return was her unconditional love.

She calls me sometimes for money. Or help. Most recently she called me crying—scared because of a medical emergency and having to be hospitalized for months. The drugs are catching up to her, and I’m the one they call for invasive surgery authorization.

To anyone dealing with a drug addict or a parent with addiction:

  • Do NOT take responsibility.
  • Do NOT blame yourself.
  • Recognize that an addiction is a relationship between the addict and the substance, and you are not within that relationship.

You are going to be sad. VERY sad. If you are any kind of empathetic, you are going to FEEL all the time. Allow yourself to cry all the time. Allow yourself to GRIEVE.

It is your OPTION to stay involved in the addict’s life. It is your OPTION to offer unconditional love or help. It is NOT your responsibility. The only person that can cure an addiction is the addict, themselves.

On the positive side (how I stay happy and fulfilled):

  • Focus on the positives. I focus on the happiest memories of my mom. Music, fashion, dancing and hugs. Find gratefulness in the things that this person has always been able to offer you.
  • I value the unconditional love that she has always had for me and that has never changed. Even in her most fearful moments, she offers me a kind of love that I’ve never felt anywhere else.
  • Find peace with their situation. I have been mentally prepared for maybe almost 10 years now to receive THAT phone call, the last phone call. And I don’t believe this is a negative perspective, I truly find peace with the acceptance.
  • Most importantly, find power in the fact that you can be your OWN role model. And it’s actually really f*****g awesome.
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