I’ve been reading, writing and advocating since I last blogged. February and March came and went without any posts, but not without beautiful, authentic, amazing responses from readers. In these responses were stories—stories of fear, sadness, loneliness, kinship, encouragement, hope and much more. These stories came from mothers, sisters, wives and family members—many of whom I do not know and have never met. Others came from family, friends and acquaintances. One of these beautiful stories came from a mother whose story mirrors my own. As I read this mother’s words, it literally took my breath away and I began to weep.
“Hi Jamie. I just wanted to tell you thank you for the article,
A Beautiful Unraveling, that you wrote. I too am the mother
of a heroin addict. I have read your article countless times over
the last two weeks as it helps me get through the times in my life
when I am feeling my lowest. I have felt for many years that no
one understands what I am going through.
You made me feel that I am not alone…”
I couldn’t move for several minutes after reading the rest of her story. Her story was so RAW, so HEARTBREAKING, so REAL. In reading her words, my heart ached for her, her family and her precious child—a grown child like my own, lost to the deadly disease of heroin addiction.
This mother, and all the other mothers and fathers, parents, siblings, spouses, grandparents, and family members like her, are why I started this venture and why I will continue. I hope you will join me again this month through my blog posts as I continue to share my story.
The stories I share here are the stories of becoming jamie: the mother of a heroin addict. They are the stories that have shaped who I am today. They are stories of my journey into addiction via my daughter’s substance abuse. They detail how I am learning to live with addiction in my family—how it has affected my life, marriage, friendships, world view, political views, faith and more. My hope is that my story will resonate with you, reassure you, encourage you and remind you that you are not alone. My story is not unique. It is the story of thousands of mothers, parents and loved ones of addicts.
In addition to following me (a heartfelt thank you!), I’d also like to ask that you continue to share your stories—your triumphs, your sorrows, your joys, your fears or whatever you wish with me. I ask this of you because I believe in the power of story. I believe that we are a people of stories. Stories shape us. They define us. They heal us. They elevate our understandings. And, they change us. As we are changed, so too are our stories. Please also share this site with others whom you think would benefit from the stories and information here.
Storytelling is therapeutic and healing because it is an authentic human experience. As a species, humans have relied on stories since our creation to help us make sense of our world and life experiences. Psychologists and neurologists say that humans process life through our brains, therefore “meaning” for us begins in our brain. One way in which we process “meaning” is through stories.
Stories come in many forms—written, oral, drawn, painted, acted out, sung, etc. Our brains are wired to respond to storytelling in powerful and unique ways. Storytelling, in all its various forms, has the ability to motivate, captivate, empower, influence, encourage, inspire, console, educate, inform, humor, entertain, sooth, comfort, mesmerize, bond and restore its audience.
The power of storytelling lies not so much in the medium, but in the content and transmission. Stories are considered successful if they create authentic connection. Stories that generate the thoughts of, “me, too” or “what, you, too?” resonate deep within the brain of the listener and serve as catalysts for active healing and restoration.
Bill W. and his fellow conspirators knew this to be true. Their faith in the power of stories is evident in their program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and its accompanying literature. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous reminds me of the power of storytelling—of passing on our lived experiences. "Our painful pasts may be of infinite value to other[s]…” as well as ourselves.
“The first impulse will be to bury [your] skeletons in a dark closet and padlock the door. The family may be possessed by the idea that future happiness can be based only upon forgetfulness of the past. We think that such a view is self-centered and in direct conflict with the new way of living. This painful past may be of infinite value to other families still struggling with their problem. We think each family which has been relieved owes something to those who have not, and when the occasion requires, each member of it should be only too willing to bring former mistakes, no matter how grievous, out of their hiding places. Showing others who suffer how we were given help … Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession [we] have—the key to life and happiness for others. With it [we] can avert death and misery for them”
(pgs. 123-4, Alcoholics Anonymous).
Bill was right. My first desire was to keep my painful secrets as secret. But, out of gratitude to those men and women who chose to “unlock the padlocks” on “their dark closets” and share their “painful pasts” with me—a mother struggling to comprehend what was happening to my beautiful, silky-haired daughter—I choose to now share my story, too. I trust that in God’s hands, the “darkness” within my story may be of “great possession” to others as they see that they are not alone.
I thank those who shared, continue to share and will share their stories with me. Your stories are “key” to my survival. They are why I trust, know and believe in the divine, healing and restorative power of stories for humans.
In my last blog, I wrote on the power of the words “me, too.” This time I am sharing with you a quote from one of my favorite storytellers, C. S. Lewis.
Whenever I hear, or speak the words, “me, too” or “What! You, too?,” I know I have found a fellow traveler—a brother or sister whom I am bound to in my core by shared experience— and one who can help me process meaning in my story.
“Me, too” and “What! You, too?” evoke feelings that make me feel heard and understood—less alone and isolated.
If you are reading this blog, it is probably because addiction or its effects are a part of your story, too. That commonality is what binds us together. The how, when, where, why and who may differ, but the fact that we have each seen addiction erase the stories we had penned with our addict—either as a parent, spouse, partner, sibling, child or friend—does not. We wrote our stories with themes of love, trust, hope, dreams and joy, but the poisonous pen of addiction transformed them.
Please come back to read part II on how addiction has changed the storyboard of my life.