I have never shared this story.
I’ve rarely spoken this story out loud, much less written it down for everyone to read. Mostly because it was so painful, but also because some things need time to grow.
I can write about adoption and the pain of infertility. I can be vulnerable about my waiting on healing. All of those things are pieces of my story. Beautiful pieces. Pieces that have caused me to press into Father, to know Him more intimately. But there is so much more to my story. And one day, I really think all of it will be shared. But for now, someone out there somewhere, needs to read these words and see a story like this one laced in hope.
Five years ago today, the day after Christmas, my sister and I put my mom in my car. We drove through ice and snow six hours away in hopes she would have a shot at living. She was an addict. And alcohol was her drug.
My memories of that Christmas are so fuzzy. I remember a lot of crying and having a bad cold. I can’t tell you one thing I got that Christmas or one present I gave. I remember the whole world around me rejoicing. Everyone was happy and spreading cheer. Carrying on traditions and waiting on Santa. And I spent all of Christmas day calling rehabs all around the country, begging them to make a bed for my mom.
My mom was about to die.
I saw it in her eyes. She had lost all hope. She didn’t care to live.
I remember begging her to live, even if it was just for me and my sister. Although her love for us is something fierce, the pain of her every day was just too much. She was tired. The voice of addiction was just too loud. Dying seemed like the better option, the only option.
She slept in the backseat the whole drive. Mainly because she was so drunk. I think she drank every ounce of alcohol in the house before we left. Every time I thought she’d found the last bottle, she would pull out another one. We stopped once to eat, and she had to lean on us to walk into the restaurant. My stomach is in knots even now, thinking about those hours spent in the car. I’ve never seen life slipping away right in front of my eyes as I did that day.
We finally made it there.
They put a bracelet around her wrist. And asked me to tell them every pill and how much alcohol was in her system. I told them what I knew and signed a lot of papers. My sister sat in the chair beside me, hugging mom’s pillow, holding back hot tears. The Three Musketeers. That’s what we called each other.
We were all brave that day.
I’ll never forget hugging her, for what I thought was the last time. I tried to memorize her face. I soaked in her smell, and lingered for a while so I could remember her embrace. My mom. The one who kissed my boo-boos, made my birthday the most special day of the year, and the strongest woman I know. The one who introduced me to Jesus, that’s what I would remember.
They helped her into a van. We waved good-bye. Maybe forever. And my sister collapsed into my arms. We did it. We did everything we could do. Whatever happened, we got her to a safe place. She was their responsibility now. We drove back down that mountain and although part of our heart was left behind, we were relieved. We didn’t have to be the ones to keep her alive.
Much to all of our surprise, she stayed three months there.
Those days were hard when she was gone. I would work, take a shower, and sleep. I turned 25 during that time and Brandon threw me the greatest surprise party ever. She missed it, but mailed a gift. The kind of gift you make in rehab. I’ll treasure it forever, because I wasn’t sure I would still have a mom on my birthday. We drove back for several family counseling sessions. And every time I saw her, she looked stronger than the time before. Each visit, I saw more of a sparkle in her eyes.
It was life.
She made it.
She came home. We made banners and held balloons in the airport. We even blew those obnoxious horn things. We took her out to dinner. It was awkward and a bit sensitive. We were all open wounds, still bleeding out, but on the road to recovery. Healing was in the distance. She came home clean. She was a different woman than the lifeless one we dropped off that day after Christmas.
My mom was back. The mom before the alcohol. The one I remembered from my childhood. The mom that chased us around the house, let us stay up on special nights, and squirted us with the hosepipe in the summer. The mom all my friends loved, the one who would let us binge on Doritos and Lucky Charms, the one who danced with me in the car, she was back. We all still had lots of healing to do. Lots of forgiving. Lots of leaning in to listen. Lots of admitting our wrongs. But we could. Because she was still here. When we dropped her off, it was the dead of winter. When she came home, it was early spring.
And everything was new.
She called me today asking me if she could pick up “her babies” tomorrow for the day. She was sewing a tree skirt for my niece, and talking about taking down her Christmas decorations. We talk every day, my mom and me. I call her when I’m in a bind, or when I need to vent. And she always points me back to Father. Or comes to pick up my kids so I can go to Target alone. She might cuss when she stubs her toe, but I wake up to texts from her some mornings reminding me just how proud she is of me. I never dreamed this would be our relationship. I never dreamed we would talk on the phone everyday or be as close as we are now. I never imagined she would live to see my children, to be a YaYa. Or if she did, I never dreamed I would let her around my children, much less let her keep them as much as she does. She is everything to them. And they are pretty special to her. Sometimes I think they like her more than me!
I’m not naïve enough to think that it still isn’t hard for her. I know she still has hard days. I know, because she tells me. But she makes her meetings and takes one day at a time. If there has ever been a story of hope, it’s hers. If hers isn’t a story of redemption, then I don’t know what is. My mom walked with the Lord for a long time. But He rescued her up on that mountain those three months. She saw His glory up there. And when she came down, her face was radiant. She walked away changed forever. That’s what happens when we encounter the Father. He saved her life. He was the lifter of her head, and He still is.
The enemy left her to die, but the Father took back what the enemy had stolen. What was rightly His. His daughter.
If addiction has touched you or your family remotely, there are moments when there seems to be no hope. Sometimes it feels like it’s hold is just too tight. But it’s not. Nothing is impossible with Father. Look up in the distance, there’s a sliver of light shining through. That light is hope.
He is hope.
Five years. She’s been sober for five years today.
And in her story, I see the pursuit of a relentless Father, One who makes beauty from ashes, and raises us up from the grave.
“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.” Joel 2:25-26 ESV