On the 6th July 2015 I celebrated 20 years recovery from drugs, alcohol, gambling and codependency. I wrote a dedication to my mother Katie who I am proud to say witnessed and experienced over 19 years of my recovery!
I phoned my mother on mother’s day (South Africa) to be told that Katie had been taken to hospital and was unlikely to make it through the night. Katie died at 7.30am the following morning. Over the years my mother placed a lot of importance on my ‘recovery birthday’ and sent me a hand embroidered card each year, most of which I still have. The card I received for my 10th year of recovery was the most poignant for me, inside Katie wrote
So proud of you David
You really are ‘every day and in every way getting better and better’ and I admire tremendously what you have achieved over the last ten years and feel contended and confident about your future.
You have my love, my support and my admiration
It was 4 years after this that my mother apologised for not being able to send me cards anymore because her hands were now too arthritic to be able to sow a card! In active addiction I hurt my mother terribly, not physically but emotionally. I took full advantage of her mothering ‘rescuer role’ that she adopted when I was a child and I learned early on how to be manipulative, deceitful and promote negative attention.
I truly respect my mother for the boundaries she had to set with me over the years as I was extremely difficult to deal with and this certainly did not improve when my parents divorced when I was 14 years old. By 18 I was living on my own, drinking alcohol regularly, using amphetamines, gambling and I had been smoking cigarettes for 6 years already! I was refused entry into the British Army and was squatting in an empty house at 20 years of age. I eventually went into rehab aged 34. During these ‘dark’ years my relationship with my mother was distant and when the secretary at the rehab contacted my mother her response was “oh, how much this time”?
Over time, post rehab I learnt gradually how to communicate more effectively with Katie. Previously all I had ever been was demanding and deceitful, and so to be caring and listening was totally foreign to me and yet this was my goal. I was very ashamed of my old behavior towards this fabulous woman who had been in two difficult marriages made worse by a brat of a son. Not once did I consider what life must be like for her and not once did my mother ever stop loving me! I now have 2 small children of my own and unfortunately Katie never got to meet her youngest grand-daughter Alexa who is now 5 years old but they did speak over the phone.
When I moved to South Africa almost 15 years ago my mother was very encouraging and supportive and even though I did not see her as often anymore we kept in regular contact over the phone. Our relationship really blossomed and we became firm friends.
One of my fondest memories was going on holiday with my mother; I was 4 years in recovery at the time. This was a beautiful gesture on her part and even though I struggled to be ‘present’ at times (preoccupied with my girlfriend!) we did ‘connect’ and enjoy one another’s company. My mother ‘gave’ so much of herself to me, my brother and sister and it is incredibly sad to me that this lady died alone in hospital aged 84! Old age scared me and now it scares me even more! My sister, who also lives in the UK had been brilliant with supporting mum and I am, and have told Linda how grateful I am to her for her love for Katie. When Linda phoned me on that Monday morning at my office I experienced a feeling that was new to me and I am still not sure what it was; lots of feelings all rolled into ball that I am gradually working through.
Memorable quotes from my mother;
• “I will always love you but I don’t like you right now”!- Active addiction
• “It must come as quite a shock to discover just how fragile you actually are”! – Active Recovery
I love and miss you-RIP
You’re ever loving son-David
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process