When I was eleven, my mother went into drug rehabilitation. And again, when I was thirteen, fourteen, and at sixteen, too. In the midst of all this, my father put me into a program for children of addicts, hoping to give me some perspective on addiction, what it meant for me and for my family. I had so many questions, and I heard so many different answers. I read, voraciously, trying to understand what happened, why it did, what we could have done to prevent it, what I would need to do to help her recover. What I learned, in a convoluted way, led me to believe in personal responsibility.
You see, doctors involved in addiction therapy will tell you that addiction is an illness, like cancer. You can force cancer into remission through treatment, but it will never go away. It is always lurking there, right around the corner, and can reappear at anytime. In the same way, an addict will never be truly safe from his addiction. It can cause cravings at any time, even after years of being clean.
The problem is that a large part of addiction recovery depends on the person. Cancer is not affected by the mindset of the patient, by the support of their family and friends, by their dedication to getting well, their willingness to change their life to support their new lifestyle. All of these things and more affect addiction recovery.
My mother was blessed with family to support her, to help her as much as they could, on the road to being clean and sober, and a productive, healthy adult. What she lacked was the willpower to stay there. The addiction made her crave her drugs of choice, to think about her next high nearly every waking moment. What they did not do was force her to lie, to steal, to sell herself for money, to pass fraudulent prescriptions, to serve time for her various misdeeds.
Somewhere in all this, my mother made a decision, to go with what was easy instead of what was right. Instead of fighting for her family, her friends, her life, for herself, she chose to give in.
To this day, she will not admit that she made mistakes. She has never apologized. She lays all blame at the foot of her addiction. She will tell anyone and everyone that she had no choice in what she has made of her life, and how much she wants to be clean. But her actions speak louder than her words. For the past fifteen years, she has never taken responsibility for anything she has done.
In the end, although I am no longer on speaking terms with my mother, I have to thank her. If it was not for learning from her example, as bad as it was, I might never have developed such strong beliefs and a willingness to stand behind them. I take credit for my own actions, for better or worse, and accept the consequences of them. I believe in personal responsibility.