“Addiction and the Aftermath”
by Kerri Doherty
I am writing this memoir with an open mind. Granted, when these events were occurring, I perceived them with much more confusion, and much more emotion. To be able to put them on paper in the past tense makes me realize that I have gained strength from them and to share this experience is a triumph in this chapter of my life. My life for the most part was ordinary. My father worked as a police officer and my mother, the ultimate stay- at- home mom, raised me and my brother in an upper middle class Boston suburb. Together, with our first dog, Mugsy, we were the perfect family. We’re talking Sears Portrait perfect. We lived in a split-level home with my father’s parents living downstairs and my best friends living next door. I wouldn’t say I was spoiled, but I was fortunate.
My mother was everything a daughter could ask for. She was a petite woman who always had her hair and nails done, and who wore the trendiest clothes and shoes. Everyday, she would have breakfast on the table, our lunchboxes packed and our school uniforms ironed. While my brother and I were at school, she would clean the house from top to bottom, do the laundry and prepare dinner. Had she done it all in pearls, we would have called her June Cleaver. After school activities seemed to be her specialty. She seemed to know exactly how to manage her time, driving us from dance class, to karate, to piano, gymnastics and let’s not forget Girl Scouts; after all she was the troop leader. My friends thought she was coolest mom, because she was always around and was happy having all the kids at our house and would pick everyone up and drop everyone off. She could do no wrong in my eyes.
Then, something happened. This woman, this amazing, remarkable woman, was involved in a terrible car crash. She was stopped at a red light, minding her own business, when a car rammed into the back of her car at about 40 mph. From that day forward, my life would never be the same.
The next months were a whirlwind of physical rehabilitation and doctor’s appointments. The doctor prescribed painkillers to ease the pain the accident had caused. I understood she needed them, but as time went on, she seemed to be taking the pills more frequently, not less. I noticed she was taking the pills closer together, and questioned her about the frequency. She got angry and told me I didn’t know how it felt. Over the next few months, she went from one doctor’s office to the next. She had new prescriptions for pain medicines. My mother was addicted and no around me could see it. When I asked other people what they thought, including my father and brother, they denied the problem and assured me I was wrong. Over time, my mother’s personality started to fade; she was someone else, a stranger. The once loving mother who had brushed my hair every day before school now barely talked to me. She did not spend any time with her old friends anymore. All her time was being spent with a new friend named Shelly, a bad influence on my mother. Shelly would convince her to do things like stay out late, yell at my brother and me, and she spoke disrespectfully to my father. I was scared and knew things could only get worse.
On December 28, 2001, the unthinkable happened. I was a cheerleader at a school hockey game. My father and grandfather were coming to watch me. My brother was home sick with the flu. My mother and her friend Shelly dropped me off and told me they would be right back. While I was at the game, cheering and having a blast, she and Shelly were in our house taking as many of her belongings as they could. My brother heard the commotion and asked my mother where she was going. She told him she was going to the store and asked if he needed anything. He said he wanted ginger ale and she told him she would be back with it, later.
When we went home that night, my father found a note on his office door. It read:
Dear Donald, Kerri and Sean,
I can’t take it anymore. I don’t know where I’m going or when I’ll get there. All I do know is I can’t stand to live here any longer.
I felt like a knife had been plunged deep into my heart. Was she trying to kill me?
“What could we have done wrong,” I asked. My brother stared blankly ahead, emotionless. “What does that note mean? She can’t live like this anymore? Tears streamed down Sean’s face, his cheeks turning pale. “Are you alright?” A scream came out so loud, I had to cover my ears, and in a flash he was in his room sobbing and slamming the door shut. I wanted to comfort him, but I did not even know how to comfort myself. I wanted to vomit with emotion. I didn’t know whether to cry or scream. I wanted to know why my mother did what she did. It was like a bad dream and I just wanted to wake up.
The next six months were a blur. After tracking her car with OnStar and filing a missing persons report, we learned she was living in Key West, Florida. My father hired a private investigator and also found out that my mother was running with dangerous people. In addition to her pill habit, she had become addicted to cocaine as well. At the time, the information was all to overwhelming to me. I never thought my mother could be addicted to such a potent street drug as cocaine. She always taught us never to do drugs. All I could think was what a hypocrite she was, and was afraid she was going to do something to hurt herself.
She finally realized she could not survive down there. She couldn’t get a decent job, and had no money. On May of 2002, she came back to Massachusetts. My brother and I were leaving our job at Star Market and when we walked into the parking lot, we saw our mother for the first time since December. She was standing next to her parked car. She knew we worked there and wanted to come say “hello.” We did not see our mother that day, we saw a drug addict. She had gone from 140 lbs to 90 lbs. Her hair was different, her clothes were different. She was different. It was the worst feeling I have ever experienced. From that point on it was a fight to get our mother to help herself and get better, so that we could salvage whatever relationship we had left.
We tried therapy with our mother, had to get a restraining order against her, and finally had to have a court order her into rehab. She finally went into rehab November of 2002. She has been clean for 3 years now. It was so hard to accept what she had done to us in the beginning. I hated the person she had become. I did not know if I could ever trust her again, or have the mother-daughter relationship we had once had. Even today, writing this, tears well up in my eyes, and part of me still hurts. I have been in therapy for 5 years now, and will continue to go until I can fully gain trust and respect back for my mother. It has been a struggle for her to gain our trust and respect back, and I hope one day it is possible. Everyday that she is not living with us or participating in our daily lives, is a constant reminder to herself of the mistakes she has made. We do support her efforts, however and are always pushing her to do better. She just graduated from Blaine and is making something of herself. She has a job in a salon and is finally happy with who she is. Most importantly, my brother and I have a mother again, and are thankful for that.
I write this to remind myself that everyone has weaknesses and some are worse than others. I never understood addictions until this happened. It is a sickness, but people can get through it like my mother did.
With the right support group, and help, my emotions of hurt, confusion and anger, are becoming emotions of understanding and acceptance. It’s been a long road, and it’s not over yet, but I am ready to make the best of the worst situations. No one’s life is perfect and I know this now. I have found strength to take on the hardships that life has dealt and will deal to me. I have grown tremendously from this experience, and looking back, I can definitely say, “what does not kill you, WILL make you stronger.”