The Effect of Addiction in My Family – By Anonymous
Twenty plus years ago, I married a woman who had two young adult children from a prior marriage. I also had two young daughters of my own. The transition was challenging at first. Her kids accepted me, but my girls did not accept her. I didn’t force the issue.
My step-daughter was a beautiful, creative woman with so much promise. Sadly, before I met her mother, when she was in high school, she became rebellious. It was the 80’s and the role of women was changing in our society. She chose to marry and start a family rather than go to school or develop her talent. In what seems like the blink of an eye, she and her husband had two small children and divorced. I blamed it on immaturity. She wasn’t ready for the role of an adult. She still wanted to party. Before long, she met and moved in with a man who introduced her to cocaine. Our lives were forever changed.
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My wife and I were constantly receiving calls from the local jail to come and bail either she or her boyfriend out of jail. My wife and I were at odds she said; leave her/them in jail until they grow up. I would head down there and bail her/them out. They’d promise it would never happen again. On Sunday nights, we’d get calls from her first husband. He had the kids and was trying to drop them off with their mother, but she wasn’t home. Was she with us? Often, my wife would go to my daughter’s home, meet her former son-in-law and stay with the kids until their mother got home. She’d tell the kids, mommy has to work today, feeling guilty about the lie. He eventually petitioned for custody of the kids and won.
During this time, I abandoned my own children. I told my first wife about the situation in my home and we agreed not to expose them to the chaos that was taking place in my home. In hindsight, we should have been more open and honest about what was happening. They felt abandoned and were angry. They were both bright girls and headed to college. It was as if I was punishing them for their good behavior and rewarding my step-daughter for her bad behavior. I didn’t even realize it at the time. I was focused on trying to make things right at home.
The relationship between my step-daughter and her boyfriend was very on and off. She’d often stay with us when they were fighting. When she did, things in my home would disappear. My wife had jewelry missing and I replaced a few TV sets. My step-daughter was stealing from us to buy drugs, getting arrested and then I was paying her legal fees. I had a good income, but I began to struggle to make ends meet. One day, I said to her, enough of this, you’re costing me too much money…if you need money for drugs, I’ll just give it to you. My wife was furious.
Today, I understand that I am an enabler. Instead of adopting my wife’s tough love approach, I supported the addict in her addiction rather than forcing a behavior change.
After about 10 years of this cycle, my step-daughter vanished. We had no idea if she was dead or alive. We assumed she’d run off with some new boy she’d met, but really had no information. While we were both worried sick, there was calm in our lives. We weren’t getting the calls in the middle of the night, none of our possessions were stolen and I wasn’t visiting my friends at the jail while bailing her out again. This was extremely hard on her children. They were supposed to visit her and she never went to get them. She never called. Their father had no answers and we had no answers. I saw pain and fear in their little faces.
My wife vowed, if she’s okay and comes back, we aren’t going to live like this anymore. We fought, but in the end, my wife prevailed. After several weeks, my step-daughter reappeared on our doorstep as if nothing had happened. She was high as a kite. My wife laid down the law. We are not living like this; we are not going to support you any longer. The calls in the middle of the night, the not knowing where and how you are…it’s just too much.
My story doesn’t have a happy ending. While my step-daughter did get help and stayed clean, the toll of the years of drug abuse were too much for her body. She passed away after being clean for about five years. My marriage also came to an end. The combination of financial issues and the stress of the situation was too much. I think my wife blamed me for her daughter’s death. Maybe had we employed her approach sooner and forced an intervention, the drugs would not have caused so much damage.
My advice to any parent or step-parent dealing with a child abusing drugs is to get them help right away. They aren’t going to “grow up” if they are addicted; they are going to get worse until one day it is too late.