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Discovering my mom’s opioid addiction made our relationship stronger

Neha Patel

I have always been a bad daughter. I never encouraged conversations from my mother as I was always hard pressed for time. Be it boyfriend issues or ambitions, I hardly expressed my love and affection for my mother while being tangled in a self-inflicted mess. But things changed since last week when I was meandering through her bookshelf while looking for a work-related document. I stumbled upon a diary which was old, charred and even torn at places. It easily looked like a 30 year-old piece — probably more.

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I was curious and I knew it belonged to my mom. As I didn’t have the time to start a conversation on my own, reading the diary was the only way to know her well. I knew it wasn’t right to read someone’s diary without his or her knowledge but again— she was my mom. What could I possibly not know about her? So I took the diary to the office and started flipping through the pages in leisure.

Most pages were blank except the one dated February 30,1972. It had my mom’s handwriting and after 100 pages of emptiness, I finally got something to read.

The page had the following words— every single one belonged to her:

“Yet another day passes by and I still have the demon following me. Three years back I tried heroin for the first time and have been addicted since. I am ashamed to face my family, John and the soul that lives inside me. My first child.”

I was only three lines into the diary and had tears in my eyes. I was angry, moved, sad and even curious enough to read on. I never knew my mom was an addict but I wouldn’t have made assumptions before finishing off with the page. So I continued reading.

“That little blot of powder was relieving to begin with but soon got the better of me. While I felt more connected to myself at first, things went ugly after three months. Now it has been 36 months and I am still trying to face the ones close to me. I haven’t confided to anyone but myself. I guess the time is right for my parents to know.”

I started visualizing her fight with heroin and how frustrated and helpless she would have felt. I am not ashamed to say that I was into smoking for two months after my first breakup and it took me two more years to say this to my dad. My mom tolerated the anguish for more than three years – I can’t imagine how much she must have felt!

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I kept reading.

“I don’t want my child to feel that I was an addict. I was never into drugs and it all started with my medication for the neck surgery. I took a drug but never abused the prescribed medication. However, I had to stop midway due to the lack of a medical insurance. I wasn’t well off so had to make a shift to the largely abused Percocet.

The moment I felt good taking it, I realized addiction has crept in. While I kept purchasing Percocet off-street, heroin came in as a way cheaper option with better availability. It went for three years and now I cry and feel worthless about myself. A week ago I went to the hospital and got myself checked. Doctors told me that I am pregnant and now it becomes all the more important to combat this addiction for the opioids. I now have a reason to live as I want my baby to live.”

By now I was in tears and could feel her pain. I never acknowledged her efforts but now I know what she did for me. She tried taking down a tormenter for a child whom she could have aborted. She didn’t kill me. She raised me into a responsible, young woman.

But did she get out of the rut? Now I was excited as I continued reading.

“I told my parents that I am addicted. They kind of disowned me. John took me in and we went to the doctor together. He reacted when I broke the news to him but didn’t leave my side. I took prescription drugs but didn’t detox as the physicians were weary of a relapse. While some predicted a miscarriage, most doctors believed that it will be impossible to save the child.”

It was 1972 and medical science wasn’t as evolved as it is in 2016. I understand what my mom must have gone through on hearing about the presumed miscarriage.

There was a deafening cry emanating out of the page which I was reading. I just finished with that page and flipped. I couldn’t find anything else. I was eager and wanted to know more. It came down to December 1st when I could find anything more written by my mom.

“I had a healthy delivery. John is ecstatic and my father finally paid me a visit. I am already home but slightly worried about the expected side effects which my baby might show up with. I keep my fingers crossed and continue praying to God. I love her and John the most. Hope she loves me back— for the rest of my life.”

I was broken. I failed her. In the last line she wanted me to love her throughout her life but I disappointed her. In the past 34 years, we hardly had a proper conversation.

I realized this and took the day off. Upon reaching home, I secretly placed the diary back on her shelf and prepared dinner for both of us. She came home tired and was ecstatic to see me this early. I didn’t waste any time and ran up to her, hugged her and cried on her shoulders. She was worried and asked whether I was OK or not. I just told her, “I will always love you mom, for the rest of my life.”

She didn’t say anything but understood. She had tears in her eyes— tears of joy, triumph and fulfillment.

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Originally published on BlogHer

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