Our family consisted of mom, dad and three children. I was married for 20 years to an abusive man who regularly beat and humiliated everyone in the family. When I finally left, my daughter Nancy had just turned 12. Her brother had already moved out and her older sister was 17. Nancy was a gifted and intelligent young woman who excelled in school without trying and who was exceptionally good at the computer. She was sensitive and beautiful.

She started drinking alcohol soon after we left her father. I was working and finding my own footing as a single mom while homeschooling my oldest daughter and trying to buy a house. I had started drinking myself after a particularly bad accident at work and I am sure she started drinking soon after that since alcohol was now available in the house.

Nancy eventually moved out to live with a boyfriend and over the years moved in and out several times. By now she was black-out drinking non-stop. She went into rehab several times, was deemed “5150” (a term known to pose a danger to self or others) numerous times and placed on an emergency 72-hour hold. She has been arrested three times, mostly to sober up and be released. She did receive one DUI. She has never held a job longer than a few months. Nancy struggles with childhood memories and traumatic issues from her brother taking his life while struggling with heavy drug use, and from abuse by her sister when living with her.

I have tried everything from tough love to enabling her, and from giving her a place to live to kicking her out. I have always loved her but struggled to find a consistent way to deal with her and the drinking. I had long stopped drinking myself by the time she moved in again.

I found PAL by chance at church and thought it must be the “God” message that I needed. I was looking for someone to talk to who would understand how I felt. Everything with addiction is about the addict, and not about the parent or loved one who is struggling too.

The first thing I did was read The Four Seasons of Recovery prior to that first meeting. It was helpful because I felt like someone finally got how I felt. And someone cared.

The most helpful thing I learned in PAL was how to tell the difference between helping and enabling.  I want to help but learned that I was an enabler and that I was hurting Nancy. I also learned how to treat my adult child like an adult.

It has been hard for both of us, and it has been up and down with many relapses. Her drinking led to a bad holiday season and her being served with an eviction notice. We have agreed that she can stay with me for a few months as long as she passes a breathalyzer test at least once per day.

Right now, Nancy is working and is successfully staying sober. She is looking for her own place to stay. I am hopeful and try to maintain that hope every day. I pray for my daughters and for the son who I lost. I take it one day at a time and know that I have some “PALs” that I can talk to when I need support – people who understand what it is like to have a loved one who is addicted.

I am optimistic that Nancy will make it. As for me, PAL has taught me that it is okay for me to be happy, have friends and practice self-care while my loved one heals.  

A PAL mom