She wasn’t never coming back gone. She was just away. And what I felt was an excruciating pain, grief, loss, shame, despair, a kind of pain I had not yet experienced in my years on this planet or my years as a mom. Running errands around our town was no longer a thing I did without thought. Every stop was weighted with gloom and sorrow, remembrance and reminders. I went to AA meetings and shared about sending my daughter away and I cried. The women held me in their prayers and in their arms. Some had gone through it with their own children and recognized the pain and just held the empty space for grief. There were those who thought that with the problem removed from the house I should be restored to my normal resting state. But it doesn’t work like that because it was my daughter, and she was in the Utah desert, with a bunch of strangers, and whatever was ailing her I couldn’t fix and the fear that I may have something to do with her pain, suffering, addiction, if that’s what it was, fed a shame that couldn’t be satiated.
I play the same tape over and over in my head, “bad mother, disappointing, worthless,” ad infinitum, and frankly, the incessant chatter in my brain becomes boring, exhausting, and I’m sick to death of myself. I wake up exhausted, I go to bed exhausted. The nonstop self-flagellation makes doing the day to day stuff of life impossible, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pretty soon I can’t get anything done, I am disconnected from those whom I love, unable to follow through on the smallest chore or commitment. By the grace of God, I’m so cracked and broken, worn out and tired, that somehow, some way at exactly the right moment the light of God shines in and floods the deepest, darkest recess of my mind, and I get a glimmer of hope. At the same time, I’m like, “fuck this shit. Life is short. Just stop. Everything’s gonna be ok.” And somehow with those two things, my snapping myself out of it, and the boundless of love of God that gets in despite myself, I have a shift in perception that can only be spoken of as a miracle.
Recovery started. Recovery from conditions mysterious and acute. I went to Alanon, not often enough and I would regret later that I hadn’t gone more often, but I went. By the end of the second week she was gone, I’d had enough. Enough of blaming myself, enough of the shame that ate me up from the inside out. Enough. I had done my best. I had done my best as a mother. I hadn’t done it perfectly, but my imperfect mothering was enough because what I did have has was an abundance of love, acceptance, commitment and gratitude for both my children.