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For the past eight years, I've been a mom to Alexandra's children. But no matter how many noses I wipe and lunches I pack, Nathan and Leilah are keenly aware that their real mother isn't here.

Recently, they were reunited, and it was bittersweet.

Alexandra had last seen her oldest two kids 18 months ago, when she was in the throes of addiction. She saw Michael when he was a little over a year old.

I cried seeing my daughter with her children. There were lots of tender hugs, sweet kisses and precious tears from everyone and I could almost see the love, like a little cloud hovering above them. But the cloud didn't burst – because in the heartbreaking truth, my daughter and her children barely know each other.

The little family spent about an hour together. The visit was kept short for Alexandra's wellbeing – the counselors were keenly aware of how overwhelming this moment would be for her. I understand that approach. I agree with it. It makes sense. But it didn't change my feeling that again, the children were last on the priority list.

Nathan and Leilah had been so excited to see their mother. Nathan, I'm afraid, had visions of everything changing – that his mother would become his own now, and that she would be there to snuggle him good night and kiss him good morning. Of course I had explained Alexandra's situation to him – but he's eight. His hopes were high.

When the hour ended, Nathan was angry. He said he couldn't believe that an hour had passed. "It seemed like only a few minutes," he said, a few minutes that he had to share with his sister and toddler brother. Leilah just became quiet, then started meekly asking to "see Mommy again." There was no way I could explain, in a way that they could understand, why Alexandra couldn't see them again. She had looked well, and acted healthy – in their minds, she was making a choice not to be with them. Again.

But my daughter is not emotionally healthy yet. She's now thinking clearly, and beginning to realize how much of her children's lives she has missed. It's like she has awakened from a nightmare and discovered that life kept moving without her. Any day now, I'm afraid, the full extent of how she has damaged her son and daughters will hit her like a physical blow. It will be a devastating moment.

And it will make her determined to jump into motherhood. But she can't.

The best the best gift she can give her children and prepare for the demands of parenting is to continue working on her sobriety and learning how to take care of herself. Through that process, she can build the spiritual and mental strength she'll need to be a mother, a daughter, a sister – and a contributing member of society.

I'm nearly as impatient as Nathan, for a different set of reasons. I'm tired. I feel old. I'm ready to substitute the carefree joys of being a grandmother for the daily grind of parenting three young children. I love my kids – and believe me, I consider them my kids – but at this point, I'm also willing to share the parenting responsibilities with someone younger and more energetic than me.

Alexandra also had a reunion via satellite with her younger sister Katherine, herself a new mother now. Katherine looked beautiful and calm – and reserved. Now that she has young Paul, I think she more fully resents the choices her sister made. Learning to trust Alexandra will take time for her, and will fully depend on Alexandra being willing to prove herself worthy of that unconditional sisterly love. I hope both girls are patient enough to wait for that time to come.
 
One of my biggest fears for my daughter, Alexandra, is for her to relapse. One day last week, I was talking to Alexandra and she was telling me how she was cleaning up debris from the beach with some of the women in her sobriety group. Alexandra said she found some caps from needles. I asked her how that made her feel and she explained that although it brought back old memories of using, she had no desire to go back to that way of life. Good Answer!

A few days later I got a feeling I should call Alexandra again. When I reached her, she said she was by herself, was walking home from a meeting. I thought this was odd because my understanding was that no one is to walk by herself, especially during spring break on the Island. Come to find out, Alexandra walked home with a young man from the men's sober living group.

Alexandra was very defensive when I asked her about it, her stories didn't line up with what she told her counselors. Alexandra had been unaccountable for about an hour and that didn't sit well with anyone.

Apparently, Alexandra was held accountable for her actions. I felt my stomach drop. I couldn't believe my daughter, after all the work she has done, would do something to put herself at risk.

I was going to surprise Alexandra by coming to visit her the following week. That plan was canceled because Origin's felt Alexandra needed to process her choices. I feel like not allowing me to come see Alexandra was a punishment to Alexandra and me. Or maybe just me.

I am confident the amazing counselors at Origins will help Alexandra figure out what is best, even if that means taking away her phone. The good thing about her phone is that we can see whom she calls and when – like the father of one of her children, more than a few times. Thankfully, none of the drug dealers or addicts she used to hang with.

Although I felt sad about Alexandra's choices, I have to think about the positive and believe she knows exactly what she is doing. I hope and pray in my heart that Alexandra got it and continues moving forward in the right direction. I want to visit Alexandra soon; I miss her very much.
 
I tend to overanalyze my life. I make mountains out of molehills. When my girls were young, a single bad grade and I felt like a terrible parent.

In other words, I often fail to distinguish between real failures and small setbacks.

My daughter and I are both in recovery right now. Alexandra is in recovery from her addiction to alcohol and opiates – and I am in recovery from my addiction to preventing people from being their true selves. In this way, my own behavior has contributed to Alexandra's drug abuse. I know this now, and it has been a bitter pill to swallow. But I understand how my obsession with perfection has contributed to the failures and weaknesses of everyone around me. If Marty is late coming home from work, for example, I worry he doesn't want to be home at all, and I accuse him of that, which leads him, of course, to not want to be home. If one of the children throws a tantrum wanting a toy, I tend to get the toy to preserve the peace, which teaches the child that misbehavior has its rewards.

So my "enabling" behavior often creates bigger problems. And while I'm trying to change, sometimes I slip.

Recently, Alexandra asked us to send her a cell phone for her birthday. She had successfully moved from treatment center at Hannah's House into the transitions house, and she wanted the convenience, she said, of being able to talk to her children whenever she wanted. It made sense to me.

More importantly, though, I knew it would make her happy. And making her happy is a big payoff for me.

Within days of receiving the phone, Alexandra's recovery hit a speed bump. She began calling some old contacts, and trying to hide that from me. I was so tempted to start tracking her calls and obsessing about who she was reaching out to – but I stopped. I remembered that Alexandra's journey is not mine – she will have to steer herself down this road by herself. Instead, I let go and let God. She will have to figure this out on her own.

I wish this recovery process was a straight road – a START HERE X followed by a long line and a FINISHED X. But it's more like a treacherous mountain path marked by fallen tree branches, narrow passageways and the occasional falling rock. It's literally step by step, though. Alexandra and I will make mistakes – I know this. Sometimes I have to make mistakes over and over before I finally get it. Why my mind works that way isn't important – I would love to understand it, but I don't. What's more important is trusting the process, and trusting that there's a Higher Power that relieves me of having to orchestrate everything and everyone in the world. In my case, that Higher Power is God.

It has taken me a very long time to reach this place of surrender, and in that time, my need for control has caused unnecessary struggles and suffering among those I most love. I denied my daughter the right and dignity to make her own mistakes and learn from her mistakes; I denied her the right to grow up. I am learning that life isn't a bowl of cherries after all. It's messy and disorganized, more like a bowl of tangled spaghetti noodles, and that's just fine. I hope to approach the future with a calm patience that I haven't always felt, and in this way, I will breathe light and assurance into Alexandra's life instead of darkness and control.

I am letting go.
 
I sleep better at night knowing Alexandra is safe, safe for the first time in many years. Do I miss Alexandra? No, I don't miss the Alexandra that entered treatment 120 days ago, the addicted, manipulative, dishonest, immature child I left in the hands of the amazing people at Origins.

Truth be told, since Alexandra became pregnant with Nathan, our relationship has been strained at best. Sadly, I have not missed the old Alexandra, although, I am anxious to spend some quality time with the sober Alexandra. I want learn more about the healthy, recovering, articulate, smart, funny woman Alexandra is becoming through her recovery at Origins.

Living in Transitions, a step-down living facility before sober living, is helping Alexandra ease back into the world. Transitions gives Alexandra the opportunity to test the waters of life while maintaining accountability to Origins.

Alexandra is creating a new and healthy life and I feel a sense of inner peace knowing my daughter is safe and is beginning to enter the world equipped with the proper coping skills.

Alexandra talks with her children once a week via Skype, which is helpful to Alexandra and her children; giving everyone a chance to get know each other again. Leilah and Nathan vie for their mommy's attention by shoving each other out of camera range. Michael throws things – like his diaper – at the computer screen.

For her 24th Birthday, Marty and I gave Alexandra a phone. Now we speak several times a day. Usually, I am very busy corralling the children, cleaning, doing laundry, etc, so Alexandra gets to hear my busy day! My day is not particularly exciting or adventurous and sometimes I feel so tired, I feel like I could sleep for a week. Then Michael gives me a big smile and throws something hard at my head and I wake up!

Although we can't see into the future, and we must "Take One Day at a Time," I am also looking forward to Alexandra helping out with the children!
 
120 days! Alexandra writes the day of sobriety at the top of each letter she sends. It is amazing how much a handwritten letter can mean so much more than a text or email. Waiting for Alexandra's letters to arrive, I am filled with anticipation and hope.

I am not counting the days or minutes of Alexandra's sobriety, but rather the moments of clarity and the amazing epiphany's Alexandra and I both encounter. Like realizing a root cause of an addiction and being able to see the pattern and stop before it becomes a problem, that  "Ah Ha!" moment.

Alexandra knows each new day is precious and full of possibilities. Unlike several months ago, when I counted each day of her addiction, wondering if the next phone call was filled with terrible news. I would pour through her Facebook friends to see if anyone was arrested, hurt, or worse, dead.

These were all signs of my illness. Addiction doesn't just affect the addict. Addiction affects people close to the addict as well. I am sure I carried my diseased way of thinking and distorted coping skills into my marriage and how I raised my children. My parents were alcoholics and I learned survival skills very early. Skills that worked for me when I was 5, 11, 15...But those skills became warped and non-functional as I grew older. 

In my effort to "help" Alexandra, I denied her the right to make her own decisions and live by those choices. It was always my way, because I knew better than anyone in the world!

The success of Alexandra's recovery and sobriety depends on Alexandra. Her family can also either contribute to her success or make it harder for her. Alexandra has changed and every day she is taking careful and very purposeful steps to maintain her sobriety,

How can I make her sobriety harder? If I remain the same and do not make changes as well, her sobriety will be challenged when she is around me.

Learning to "Let Go and Let God" feels risky to me. But, I am learning to trust God and Alexandra. Even if Alexandra makes choices I don't like or disagree with, I will not deny her the dignity to choose and succeed or fail for herself.

I am looking forward to a healthy future with my daughter. A future where we can disagree and have a discussion about the disagreement and it is OK! I realize how important it is to be clear about my feelings and listen carefully to Alexandra without judgment.
 
Sometimes I imagine what life would be like if I had parented differently. Would our lives be very different? I would have still worked. However, I would NOT put my career ahead of my family.

I worked fulltime in a great career in banking. I regularly received awards, accolades and recognition for my successful management, exceeding sales & service goals, etc. Because I was good at my job, I focused a lot of my energy on continuing this success.

When life at home got difficult, I retreated further into my job, where I thought I had some "control."

A few changes:
I would be sure my daughters felt loved, their thoughts and opinions valued, and they respected themselves and others.

I would pay more attention to the details of their lives: What are their favorite movies, music and classes in school? What do they daydream about? What is going on in their hearts?

I would know their friends, friends' parents, teachers and coaches.

I would know where they are going, who they will be with, when they will return and check up on them, unannounced.

I would be consistent.

I would give my daughters regular chores, without pay, as a requirement for being a contributing member of our family. Extra work would earn them money for desired things.

I would NOT give my daughters everything they asked for – like horses, cars, phones, clothes, etc. I would have made them work for what they want and perhaps pay half.

I would NOT admonish, ridicule or degrade my child in front of others to give myself a sense of superiority for a few minutes and completely disgrace my child for life.

I would NOT argue with Marty in front of my children -- no matter how much I disagree. Marty and I would be a united force to our children.

I would NOT tolerate disrespectful language or behavior. I could "what if" myself to eternity and it would not change anything about the current state of our family. We will use what we learned and make changes in how we parent Nathan, Leilah and Michael.
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