I once heard someone say: “If you know someone who has gone through an addiction and they’re now clean, you should congratulate them. They overcame the hardest battle of their life. They deserve to be praised.”
THEY DESERVE TO BE PRAISED. I will never forget those words.
When I was a kid, my mom and I were in a car accident. The accident resulted in her developing TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction) for the rest of her life. If you’re not familiar with the disorder, it can cause chronic, debilitating headaches and migraines. After the accident, my mom experienced those painful headaches every single day that followed.
Due to the daily, constant pain, she began taking pain pills known as opioids. The opioids took away the pain, but the relief was only temporary; they worked until they didn’t anymore. A pain pill turned into a few pain pills, and then a few became a lot. This is how her addiction started. Eventually, her tolerance was so high that she was no longer taking the pills for the pain, but because she was now dependent on them. Her body would not function without the pills. Her brain told her she needed them, and if she didn’t get them, she might die.
The pills were all she ever thought about, while I had thoughts like: How could she do this to me? How could she pick these pills over her own kids? At the time, it was impossible for me to understand. I realize now that my mom wasn’t choosing the pills over me, over her children, the addiction was choosing for her.
Looking back on those 10+ years, we went through the cycle of addiction together. Pain, growing tolerance, dependence turned into addiction, horrific withdrawal symptoms, and then, relapses. We endured sleepless nights and spent days at the hospital together. There were car accidents, injuries, secrets, seizures, screaming arguments, and crying apologies. I was always anticipating what could follow: overdose. The fear that my mom might not wake up the next time she fell asleep weighed heavily on me.
I wanted to give up on her so many times. I questioned my own involvement. Am I enabling her? Do I let her figure this out on her own? When will she hit rock bottom? How can I take the addiction away? How can I take her pain away? The truth is, I couldn’t take the pain away but I could stick with her. What she undoubtedly needed was someone to love her through it all—the good and the bad. And my siblings and I did just that, we loved her unconditionally.
I wish I could tell you exactly how many days my mom has now been sober. She’s relapsed and recovered too many times for me to keep track of. But one day, she got sober and stayed sober. It’s been years since that day, and I still can’t convey how proud I am of her.
Addiction is a war, and I’m writing this because my mom fought like hell every day and beat it. She won. And she deserves to be praised.
If you know someone who has overcome the battle of addiction, praise them. They deserve to be praised. If you know someone who is trying to fight the battle of addiction, praise them for trying. Support them, encourage them, love them. And never give up on them.
If you are battling an addiction right now, don’t give up on yourself. You can get help. You can start over. You can win this.
To connect to help, we encourage you to visit our Find Help page to locate local, affordable resources. You are deserving of help. You don’t have to go through this alone.