~by Jennifer B.
Thanks to Jennifer–who has discovered that “journaling” life’s struggles helps her come to terms with difficult and emotional decisions. Here, Jennifer shares a heartbreaking decision–hoping that her story may help others gain the strength and courage to stay strong and do the right thing.
We have changed her daughter’s name to protect her privacy.
I recently had to put my 13-year-old daughter, Ashley in a residential Home. I’ve been a single mom from day one–with no help from her father or any friends or family members. I’ve worked, moved many times, earned a BA degree in Humanities, stayed in Recovery, and ultimately was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome–plus I’ve struggled with PTSD since childhood. It’s been difficult doing it by myself all these years, but after becoming ill and discovering her new behaviors of cutting, sexual acting out, lying, wanting to commit suicide and wanting to run away, it became impossible (especially with her leaving me for her once innocent friends-turned-teenagers).
My daughter hasn’t done drugs, but I believe this was literally right around the corner. She didn’t abuse me when she was living at home, but she was starting to show disrespect, not take me seriously, and lie. On some level this is abuse and only gets worse over time. Things would have become worse, because my ill health and constant guilt would not have allowed me to set and maintain limits and boundaries with her. This would have been bad for both of us–for if I allowed her to disrespect me, then she would learn it was okay.
I placed her in The Home just in time (I believe) where she will learn limits and boundaries from others–sparing our relationship. The people there are strong, compassionate, healthy and trained to work with her in this way. In the two-and-a-half months since she’s been there she is respectful, nicer to me and likes herself more.
I have protected Ashley from abuse, gangs, drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, molestation, R-rated movies and most of the evils of the world her whole life. When she becomes an adult, she has this foundation to fall back on if she chooses. And I won’t be able to blame or take credit for any of it. No one taught me how to be a parent. In fact I was taught bad parenting. There are no “rewards” for me and I have made decisions based on my intuition, self-gathered resources, and what may have felt right at the time.
I have given her everything I could based on nothing to start with. It wasn’t enough, but it was way more than I was given, and maybe even enough for her. Maybe this is for her to decide. I owe nothing to her now–other than being here for her when she reaches out, allowing her the freedom to discover who she is as her own person and not as daughter to me. I need to discover, remember who I am outside my role as Mother.
Now the letting go part: Our children don’t belong to us. We are just a vessel for them to come here to live out their own lives. I am now facing this truth in the biggest way with my daughter. She’s got her own script already written out for her. And I didn’t write it. Incredible. This frees me from guilt for some choices I’ve made in her life. I’ve given her over to God, to the Home where He put her and now I need to come to terms with “letting go” and leave her with Him.
I miss her terribly–just wanna go get her and bring her back. But I can see how selfish this would be as she needs to discover her own path in a place where her needs are being met. And I need to go about my business of re-creating my own life–separate from her, as this helps to free her as well. This letting go thing is so hard.
In the process of letting go, I am bombarded with negative thoughts telling me what a “bad mom, terrible person, fat and ugly woman that I am.” It’s as though I’m punishing myself for letting her go. Forget about Ashley disrespecting me, I am disrespecting me. This is a form of self abuse. I must somehow tell myself that I did the very best I could! I need to “get out of my own way, realize that I can’t “fix” anything and allow it to happen”. I may not understand why things transpire, but they happen because they are meant to. I won’t be able to become the magnificent woman I am meant to be until I overcome the challenges that are presented every day.
My friend says:
“You probably saved her life by doing what you did, Jenn.” Letting go doesn’t mean “forgetting”–that could NEVER happen. We have to “let go” of trying to “fix” them (trying to make them into these perfect little beings). When our children make bad choices or cross boundaries, some of the first things we ask is, “what did I do wrong? Where did I go wrong? Why is this happening to me?” Do you see a pattern here? “I” is always to blame. What about “you” (the person who is doing the acting out?). Instead of trying to figure it out, two things have to happen:
1. STOP claiming responsibility for other folks’ issues (children included).
2. Hold people accountable! No matter how much they protest.
We are not just parents. We are teachers also. Teachers of life. They MUST take responsibility for their actions. If we as parents don’t teach them, the world will! Which one would you prefer?
I’m really breaking through my “fix it” role right now. Just talked to Ashley on the phone on her second day of her new school. She was so sad–missing her old school really bad. And I just wanted to go get her and bring her back (my immediate impulse–at once forgetting all the progress she’s made there and all those that love her). Yeah right– this really would have made my grief process much better…like this would have ended it.
Yes, if I “rescued her” I would not have missed her anymore, but we soon would have had new issues to deal with–such as cutting, running away, sexual acting out, drugs. Taking her back knowing this would have made her behaviors partially my fault. Right now she is protected from all this and I just need to continue letting go.
I have tried with all my being–to protect Ashley from all the evils of the world. I swore she would make good choices, because I created a good foundation for her. But once she hit 13, she took a different road and I saw where she was headed and I really could not have dealt with her negative consequences. God knew this and this is why He presented a much better opportunity for both of us.
Letting go of my daughter is so hard–allowing her to discover who she is separate from me; allowing her to live her own life without me always picking up the pieces and preventing her from her own consequences. Because my parents were NEVER there for me, I see myself try to make up for this by overdoing it with Ashley. This isn’t fair to her–as she’s not responsible for me.
It’s up to me to use proper resources today and not up to her to fix my past. I laid out a solid base for her. That was my job; now it’s up to her build upon my “red carpet foundation” (or not). I must allow her make her own choices. She has others–loving, caring people to guide her. She’s not alone and she still has me—just in a whole new way.
-Detachment. How Can I?
-How Alcoholism Affects the Entire Family
-Detachment is Hard–Radio Interview with Joe Herzanek
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Best book ever about addiction. Written by one whose done it and is recovering. Easy to read, not preachy, just honest. I recommend this book to anyone with an addict in their life! ~Lynda A
Got an addiction problem in your family? Read this book. Joe knows his stuff. This book helps you to better understand those who are dealing with friends and family that are addicted to drugs and alcohol. I have read several of these books but this one is the best. ~RJ
I, like many people, have some knowledge of what drugs and addiction are, but are clueless on what the process of recovery entails. This book does a great job in what it would take to help a loved one, who is an addict and is willing to get clean and stay clean. It also gives one hope that your loved one will survive the nightmare they are living through with their family. ~CG
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