Even at a very young age, I can remember my mom (a single mom) coming home from work and cracking open a beer. She loved a cold beer. She worked very hard to make ends meet and I never thought twice about the drinking until it was too late.
I’ve always been very aware of the term addiction but in my mind, it was things like Heroin and other drugs. I had seen my biological D (would rather not refer to him as dad) shoot it up and watched that cycle play over and over as he lived most of his life in and out of prison.
It was a couple of years before my dad, Bobby (step-dad), died, that I experienced a different kind of addiction. I can only imagine what my mom was thinking as I gasped with shock when I walked in the door while paying them a visit. I hadn’t been down there in a while so I was overwhelmed by all the stuff that was everywhere when I walked into the house. I knew exactly what it was called, though, because just like you, I had watched all those hoarder episodes too. The only difference is that my mom was a very organized hoarder. Regardless, she had stuff stacked from floor to ceiling with pathways to bathroom, bedrooms, etc. As my stay continued, I quickly realized that the hoarding wasn’t the real problem. It was drinking. She started the day with beer and ended it with wine but I wasn’t aware of how much she was drinking until we moved her here after my dad died.
In August of 2013, my dad went under for heart surgery and never came out of it. While the surgery went well, his body didn’t like all the meds and fought against it until his organs finally failed him. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was tell my mom he was gone, but that’s another story for another time.
A few months later, we moved my mom from the Houston area to our neck of the woods. There were a lot of changes happening so fast but we felt it would the best thing for her. It came to be, that it was the best thing we did even if neither of us realized it during that time. Shortly after the move, I got to see addiction in a new way. Shopping & drinking were my mom’s favorite pastimes. Clearance items, sales, and coupons made her heart race with excitement while drinking relaxed her. She was a pro too. When we’d go shopping together, she made sure that if I wasn’t going to buy anything, she’d have coupons ready for me to use. Grabbing a separate basket was necessary too because she was too embarrassed to put all those cases of beer and boxes of wine into one. She’d hand me her card and ask me to pay for them in another checkout lane. At first, I wasn’t that worried about it. She’d say, “well, we live in the middle of nowhere and I don’t get to go to town every day so I have to stock up”. But then it became a weekly thing and before you know it, she’s down to 1 case because she had already gone through the others…..in a week.
So here I am dealing with her 3 addictions; shopping, hoarding, and drinking. These were some of the hardest years of my life and as hard as they were for me, I can only imagine what they were like for her. She was such a different person when she was drinking. I learned real quick to just stay away if I thought for a second that she had already had a few. I didn’t want to fight with her and so I just stayed away. But had I known then what I know now, I would have done things differently. It was hard to watch her spend money on things she didn’t need and drink all day long. I became physically, mentally, and emotional ill myself from dealing with the situation but none of it compares to what she dealt with, inside and out.
In 2016, my mom started feeling sick. I’m certain she had been feeling sick for awhile but didn’t tell me until much later. I immediately started journaling the symptoms and researching Dr. Google for answers. I know, I know. Never google symptoms but my mom absolutely refused to see a doctor. She was adamant about it and would flat out get furious if it was mentioned. All I could do was ask around, join forums, and google things I needed to know. It was in that year and a half, that I watched my mother slowly, painfully die.
Let me tell you something about my mom. She ran off to Mexico at the age of 14 and married my biological dad. She had my brother and then me a short time later. Aside from the drugs and whatever else he was doing, it was his cheating that ultimately ended their marriage. Not much longer after that, she was with a very abusive man, who not only hurt her but also hurt me. She did always say that the mental abuse was far worse than the physical, which is why I guess it took her so long to leave him. She was broken down mentally by his words more than his actions. When someone tells you that you are nothing over and over again for several years, you believe it. She fought hard to get out of those bad relationships but the impact that abuse can have had already broken her down. Even though my stepdad was her knight and shining armor, she never dealt with all that hurt from her past and lingered within her daily. She had endured all this and some other things that I’ll refrain from sharing and she didn’t know how to deal with it, especially being as private of a person that she was.
When someone dies, you do everything you can to understand the “why”. You blame the person that passed, yourself, and maybe even God. You think about the coulda, shoulda, woulda moments and the “if only” times. My mom passed away February 23rd, 2018 and while it was a shock to everyone else, it wasn’t to me.
That year and a half went by so fast. One minute she was okay and the next minute she wasn’t. I watched her deal with pain every single day, all day. I watched her bleed constantly and gasp for air because of her COPD from earlier years of smoking. I watched pretend to be okay even though she couldn’t clean up after herself anymore. Then on February 15th, 2018, after not replying to my texts or answering my calls, I drove to her house, only to find her laying the ground. She couldn’t get up and couldn’t remember my phone number to call me from the house number. There was blood everywhere and I was in tears. She BEGGED me not to call anyone because she didn’t want anyone to see her like that. I put her in her bed, waited awhile, and went home.
Early morning of February 16th, authorities were called to do a welfare check. It was the only way we could get her in to see a doctor. I didn’t know what else to do. That was the beginning to the end.
Aside from the humor that we shared in the short time she was in the ER and ICU, two things stand out to me most. 1) When the doctor asked her how she felt, she said, “I guess I feel lonely”. . And 2) when asked who would be her caretaker in the event she needed one, she said, “I guess Lori, she’s all I have”. It wasn’t until I saw a Facebook thing going around about how losing a spouse changes everything, that I truly understood how lonely she was. My heart was broken. I thought I was doing everything I could so that she didn’t feel that way. I remembered finding a note on Bobby’s computer after he died. It was a letter he was writing to me and it said, “my biggest regret is taking your mom away from all her friends and family”. While my mom loved Bobby with all her heart, I think she was lonely long before he died and he may very well be right, she needed to be around friends & family. Not having them close allowed her to self-medicate the voids in her heart with shopping, hoarding, and alcohol.
February 17th, in ICU, I could tell my mom was tired. It was the evening of when she kept telling me to go home. I’d tell her that I’d go home when I was ready. We always “argued” like that. But she looked at me and said it again, “Lori, please go home. Take care of Truett and get some rest”. So I did. I tucked her in, gave her a hug, and said I love you 3 or 4 times before walking out. Had I known that would be the last time she would be responsive, I would have hugged her longer, said a few more things to her, and told her I love her a million times.
Hospice took over and she died February 23rd. The Lord waited to take her, giving my brother just enough time to see her, and then she was gone. Her death certificate states depression as a significant contribution to her death but it was liver failure from Cirrhosis of the Liver, that ended her life. Depression and alcoholism took my mom away.
She was always an ethical person. She was a hard worker her whole life. She was strong. I don’t know anyone who could endure some of the abuse she did or live with the symptoms she did for as long as she did without treatment. She lived with depression without ever mentioning her loneliness once. She was always selfless and funny. Alcoholism turned her into a different person, a person that I didn’t know or like and it made me bitter and hardened my heart. It made me less compassionate towards her and I hate myself for that. I knew the real mom, the real person she had always been and it hurt to see her this way.
There have been many regrets & sadness and lots of guilt & anger. My mom knew she had these addictions and just couldn’t see that anything else was more important. I’m sure there was a moment before she got really bad, that she wished she could change things, but it was too late.
I have learned many lessons these past few months and healing your heart & mind is where it all starts, no matter what you’re dealing with. When addiction wins, you question everything but I know why. My prayer for those suffering from addictions, learn to love themselves the way God loves them. If you’re dealing with someone that suffers from an addiction, know that you can’t fix them. They have to want help and fight for it. They have to make hard choices and all you can do is be there for them at their times of need.
Thanking God for helping me to see me through His eyes. I only wished I could have helped her to see her through His eyes too.