Yesterday, my daughter was in a homeless shelter in another state.
She wasn't volunteering there. She was there because she chose to leave the rehab center where she had started getting treatment for her drug addiction.
Two days prior, she showed up at her dad's house and admitted she needed help. Her boyfriend was in jail, she had no where else to go, and she couldn't fight her addiction alone. We thought it was finally a triumphant conclusion to the intervention story.
In reality, it was the beginning of yet another heartbreak.
The interventionist drove her the 6 hours to the treatment center we had selected for her. A beautiful place in the mountains, all girls. A place where we thought she could soul search and find out why there is an emptiness in her that can only be filled with a lethal substance. A place to heal and to get strong. A place where maybe, she could learn to love herself like we all love her.
Less than 24 hours of being there, she was calling saying she was walking out. I was at my cousin's house telling them the happy story of my daughter finally getting help, while my phone was ringing away in my purse, like a fire alarm.
I had missed a few calls, but when I called back, she said she wanted me or her dad to come get her. We said no. In the end, it was my cousin's son, a recovering addict himself, who was able to talk her into staying there that night. Well, him, and the fact that it was snowing outside and we hadn't packed a jacket for her. We heard later that she walked out with the intention of leaving, but got about 30 feet and turned around and went back in.
The next morning, the counselor called and said my daughter had tore up the discharge paper she had signed the night before and was going into group therapy. It looked like she had decided to stay after all. I felt like I could breathe again. I cried with relief and hope.
Then, yesterday happened. Another call. She was leaving. She didn't want to stop using. She didn't want to be away from her boyfriend. She didn't want to change. The counselor tried to talk her into staying, I tried, her dad tried, my sister tried. She didn't want it.
The counselor gave her a ride to a homeless shelter in a nearby city. After she dropped my daughter off, the counselor called me, and cried as she told me that she had been right where I was. Her own two children had struggled with addiction and she had ridden the sickening roller coaster I was on, with it's moments of elation followed by heartwrenching sadness.
She told me this was the time that I needed to be strong. This was the time for tough love. I think it's called tough love because it's tough on the parent. The one who has to let go, and stand back, and watch their child flail and suffer the consequences of their actions. My daughter had a beautiful place to get better and instead choose a homeless shelter because she couldn't give up her drug. Her addiction put her in the position she was in, not I, and not her dad, and not the counselor, or the interventionist.
My daughter had no phone, no money, no ID because she had forgotten her purse at home. Just her huge flowered suitcase on wheels. She must have been an odd sight at a homeless shelter, lugging around that thing. Or maybe not. Maybe she fit right in.
She borrowed someone's cell phone and called both me and her dad, from the bus station, and asked for money for a bus ticket home. Not asked. Demanded. I told her no. I told her she could go back to rehab. She said I didn't love her. I told her I loved her very much. She said no, I didn't, and hung up.
The few hours that passed after that phone call were the hardest few hours I've ever spent, and that included the time I had to wait for my father to come out of open heart surgery. I didn't know what she would do, or where she would go. I guess I hoped that she would go back to the shelter, rethink the whole thing, and agree to go back to rehab. But hope has not been kind to me these days.
My daughter is strong willed and independent, and couple that with a substance craving does not give room for clear thought. She called a few hours later from a different cell phone number and said she had gotten some money and was on a bus on her way home. I had to be strong. I didn't ask how she got the money. I just said, "Ok." She paused, then told me she loved me. I said I loved her too and goodbye.
That was yesterday. I haven't heard from her since.
I'm trying to do normal things and not let my daughter's problem consume me. I have 2 other kids, and a husband, and a job. I made breakfast for the rest of my family this morning. I cleaned, I grocery shopped, I did laundry. I'm trying to be normal.
But I can't smile. I can't sleep. My heart hurts.
I learned something though. Something I hope I remember in the future.
I shouldn't have packed her bag.
I had it packed and ready from the day of the intervention. It was ready so that the moment she said, "Ok I'll go," we could grab the bag and go. No time to change her mind. No time to think. No time to look back. It seemed like the right way to do it. Even the interventionist said to do it that way.
But now I disagree. Because isn't packing the bag how we prepare for the trip? We think about the things we'll be doing, the places we'll be going, what we may need and what we don't need. We're gathering the things we need physically, but we're mentally preparing too. We anticipate the fun, and maybe we're anxious about how the trip will go, but it's all part of the preparation for our journey.
My daughter wasn't ready for her journey. Had she physically started packing, she would have thought about the steps she was taking, and what she was doing, and what it meant, and she would have known-we all would have known-that she wasn't ready for her journey yet.
I still hold out hope that one day my daughter will be ready. I just have to remember that she needs to pack her own bag.