Written by a former child in care.
This April will be the nine-year anniversary of when I came into care. It’s not exactly a month associated with the melting of snow and the approaching warmth of summer, but of separation.
I came into care because my single mother is an addict. Though I now understand that addiction was something that she struggled with the majority of her life, it wasn’t until this specific stint that it meant the removal of her children. A lot of people would look down on her for this — losing her children to drugs. Then again, a lot of people do not understand addiction.
At the age of 13 I know that I certainly did not. There were countless times when all I could ask myself was how the mother I loved and adored could ‘choose’ drugs over my sister and I. Since then, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect; I’ve even had time to struggle with my own addictions. I’ve also learned that my mother is a human being, and that she certainly isn’t perfect.
When she was in her teens, her father died and my grandmother started drinking. This led to abuse both physically and emotionally. On top of this, there were mental health issues, which were dismissed by a misguided family as “being all in her head”. I am not saying that this is an excuse for developing drug habits, but it’s the reality of her experience: flawed. This is the creation of a cycle; this is what my mother learned from her mother about parenting.
April is a painful month for me but it also makes me remember that even though it hasn’t always been easy, I love my mother deeply. I respect her, and I am so very proud of her. Because even though she struggled in life, in her own way, she never once hit me. I think that is astounding, that in her own way she broke the cycle. There is so much strength in her and I can look at her and the ways that she has pulled through and find inspiration for myself. I can believe that even if I struggle, I can break the cycle too. I try to find these strengths in her; it’s not easy to find them all the time. I try to find these strengths in everyone, regardless of how badly they are doing or feeling or acting.
The thing that amazes me most about my mom? When a young person comes into care, there is a time limit of when their parents can reacquire custody. Even though my mother ‘lost’ us already, she somehow managed to sober-up. I know that she loves us; she always did despite her mistakes. When she couldn’t get us back, what was there to fight for? What was there to stop her from receding into the lifestyle of an addict and never return? You can judge her all you want, but to me… my mother is strength.
Addiction is not a battle, it’s a war. You win some and you lose some.
Relapse has been a reality for the both of us. Likely it will be again. Yet no matter what, I know that I have someone in my life who understands that, someone who I can look to as an example of how to pick myself back up and recover, somewhere I can go for support without judgment. This is a woman who ‘lost’ her kids — and what a woman she is!