Op-Ed: A mother’s heartache

The first time I caught my daughter drinking she was only 12 years old. That seemed really young to me, but I didn’t panic. I had gone through my own drinking phase at a young age, and I refused to believe that my sweet little girl had a real problem. Then she turned 13, and it got so much worse.

I was called to the school almost every week to pick her up for underage drinking. She was ticketed and suspended each time. Visits to the Aurora Municipal Courthouse became routine. I received calls constantly while at work. “Your daughter walked out of school today, your daughter was caught shoplifting, your daughter is in the ER.”

None of my punishments or long talks got through to her. My child needed help that I couldn’t provide. Despite having raised three kids before her that had turned out fine, I was in over my head.

First, I reached out to the counselor at her middle school, who put me in touch with a program through Arapahoe County. They asked us to go in for an intake which was done at a corrections facility. The doors that led to the office were cold metal bars that were opened from a distance by stern uniforms that sat behind a thick sheet of glass. I shivered. This is where I would be
visiting my child if things didn’t get better soon.

After three hours of answering questions I was given a list of places to call that dealt with teen drinking, along with the conclusion of their analysis. Your daughter has a real problem. Really? I’m pretty sure I told you that when we got here. I left feeling as frustrated as when I had arrived.

The next few days were spent calling any place that Google suggested when I entered the words ‘teen’, ‘alcohol’ and ‘help’. I was told time after time that she was too young for their program or that they only took boys. Apparently alcoholism was agist and sexist.

The next three years are still difficult for me to think back on. I watched helplessly as the beautiful little girl that used to play with Barbie dolls and dress up like Disney princesses became mean and ugly. I could always tell when she was drinking. It was the only time she smiled.

I finally got her into a full-time rehab school that she attended her sophomore year. Our days were a blur of therapy sessions, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, random urinalysis tests and court dates. We had monthly meetings with her probation officer, guardian ad litem and case worker. They all sincerely wanted to help her. We held her down and applied layers of duct tape, but we
couldn’t fix her.

My sweet baby girl had become a monster I despised. I hated myself for hating her. I hated myself for failing her. I hated the tears that fell every time she went missing. I hated that feeling of defeat that made me want to give up on her. It took a better understanding of what an alcoholic is for me to finally forgive her for that fours years of hell she put us through. I only recently forgave myself for being angry with her for having a disease.

She told me one time that she never let the disease take 100 percent control. I asked her how she knew that. She looked at me with tear-filled eyes and answered, “Because if I had, I would be dead.”

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