She is okay right now...''the addict, the oldest, the one that could've prevented this, the one that is to blame, the one that knew better, the one that deserves it..." whatever title society wants to put on her. I declare her a child of God and a beautiful warrior princess loved beyond belief. Those are the only titles that should stick. The words, the judgements, the looking down of noses, the sneers... they don't only affect her, they affect her family. Those of you that say things, you are forgiven, you don't know any better right now. Grace is yours, just as it is my daughter's.
I believe in her. We have been seeing her every weekend for one very short hour. We get to hug her, touch her hands, feel her presence without boundaries, bars, partitions, silence.
I witness families, moms, children, wives, husbands.. cram into one hour each week all the things we want to say, all the hope and love and encouragement we want to give. Every single one of us visiting in that room had a choice to make; we could've bailed them out, offered another way, an easier route, a convenient band aid and an easy fix. We could've believed the truths they think they are saying and afforded them one more chance. I have the amazing chance to see the women who write to me, to our group asking for prayers. I get to see the families they are praying for show up and visit. Some of the women who write me have asked to go to church with me when they get out. They matter, I want them to know.
I am not a better mom, family member or Christian than you are. God doesn't love me or my daughter more just because she is okay right now. I didn't earn His grace and neither did anyone else in that room. We were all born with Grace and the direct line to plead and pray and worship a God, a savior, a redeemer. We could've continued our lives in fear, tears and anger and abandoned the very one whom we thought should've prevented our loved ones disease. We made a decision to keep praying despite the pain and in the middle of it, seldom left our knees. I am not a better mom or Christian than you but I used to think those that were free from pain must've prayed harder, gone to church more, read the Bible and understood it more than me. I felt I was punished when my daughter was missing.
Right now she's still facing a possible life of struggling with addiction and certain illnesses that come along with the past life she's had. I don't expect an easy road when she's released. I don't expect to quit praying. I don't expect just because I know how to pray that her life in darkness is over but I will believe that it can be. I do believe in mercy and redemption and grace and miracles. I do believe no matter how long this road is and no matter the next path chosen, I will continue to rely on, pray to and worship in thanksgiving to the One that has never left us.
"Mom, I realized I know how to sing and write and I'm really good at it and my friends tell me I must've gotten my writing skills from you. I shared my goodbye letter to drugs and alcohol and everyone cried... I am really good, mom."
You see, I knew all of this all along. She's been covered up by shame and darkness for so long that she never saw what she truly is.
It's not long now. Soon she'll move to another step, and direction. Am I scared? I would be lying if I said no. Does fear monopolize me? No.
I am going to stand in agreement with God that her next adventure awaits. That's it. Does that make me a better mom than you? Does it make me stronger than you. No way! You can do it to. You can believe in them even in the hardest, darkest moments. You can pray when you feel you aren't being heard. You can trust that He loves your child even more than you. You can rest assured knowing you've done the right thing by not bailing them out, by not giving in, by not believing them when you know it's not quite time. I am here for you.
It's hard to breathe at times. You have to. It's required to keep on living. My tank feels super low sometimes, what about yours?
Two weeks ago, I left the country on a big boat and I didn't have reception or phone service for the better part of eight days. I realized I had missed eleven phone calls from my daughter in jail once I regained service. She knew I was leaving just as much as she knew I felt a sense of guilt because of it. "This isn't your fault mom. I am incarcerated because of me, not you and you can't stop your life because of it." Although those words eased me a little, I still traveled with a heavy heart. For me, it was the best time to leave, to find some air, to take some deep breaths, because I knew unlike so many other moments, that she was as safe as she had been in years because she was in jail.
Let us fast forward a bit. Somewhere in the middle of my ocean sail, she had been transferred to her "jail treatment" program across the field and she will be there for months. Without my knowing it at the time, she was "free" to roam, no longer bound by tall fences with barbed wire and guards. Looking back, I am thankful I didn't know because for those eight days, I felt more oxygen enter my body than it had in years, and I inhaled more deep breaths than I have in months.
When she was on the streets, I prayed fervently and held on to hope looking forward to the day when I would get the call that she either wanted help or ended up in jail. I don't know how I survived. When she was in jail, I felt okay knowing she couldn't leave. Now that she has the ability to run away if she chooses before her time is up, I find myself almost subdued beyond the ability to breathe and I have to remind myself to inhale, find my oxygen and to keep on moving.
Two nights ago, she called me to tell me that two of her roommates were walking the outside track with her (a newfound freedom for all of them) she told me she noticed one of them go back inside only to return moments later with pictures of her children. My daughter realized soon after that the two girls ran away across the field. If and when these women get caught, they face prison time, not jail, if their addiction doesn't kill them first.
I spent nearly an hour trying to minister to my child. I spent the better part of that time reaching for my own oxygen through grabbing my small wooden cross and my bible and trying to speak truth and hope to her in her fears. You see, she knows what lies ahead of her should she choose to leave. She also knows she is an addict.
These are the harsh realities of the lives we lead as their mammas. I can't solve this for you or paint a glorious picture but WHAT I CAN DO is remind you to find your oxygen, to keep breathing, to find what sustains you in these moments. This isn't the time to isolate from God, to be angry at Him or to leave Him. For me, I take every single moment I speak to her as a gift, as an opportunity to share my faith with her, my belief in her, my HOPE in a God that sees her. I take my morning worship time seriously. I breathe in the friends who care about me, who send her cards, who pray for her. I hold on tight to my husband as we fall asleep. I praise the Holy Spirit for ministering to her, to me, and I thank God for the angels that surround her.
Find what fills your tank my friend. You have to keep breathing. We are not alone. They DO
recover and it's my belief that they will and they will be well equipped, amazing soldiers in God's army to end addiction. Until the miracle comes.
Two and a half months ago, I wrote about my visit to see my daughter in jail. My, oh my, how life can grab us quickly and change us.
Not only has the waiting area changed, my heart has. I look forward to my weekly visits with my girl and I am thankful for them, no matter the circumstance. The air surrounding the jail seems "thin." God is there. As I wait for my turn to visit booth 36, I see inmates walking with their heads down, trying to avoid looking at those who shame them. I see a bright light above each one of their heads and I know restoration for them is possible. I read somewhere that it's quite possible that God is even more present in these walls of the jail and the people in them, than he is in church.
I wonder if the inmates hear the obnoxious level of the bass in my car, bursting out of my sunroof as I sit in the lot and pray while listening to Tasha Cobb's BREAK EVERY CHAIN? You see, I used to be afraid of jail, of the visits, of the darkness. I used to walk with my head held too high thinking I didn't belong there and that I would catch some germ just by being there that would cause me, somehow, to need to be incarcerated as well. What a pretentious dumb head I was. These inmates need us. They need our hope, they need our beauty, they need our belief in them. We are their light. We are the hands and feet. We are the salt.
My daughter is taking creative writing classes, Bible studies, and learning tricks of the "inside" that she finds quite humorous to share with me. She's finding as much beauty as she can.
The inmates, my daughter, they are all there for a reason. They need to be there. They did wrong things that got them there. They still need beauty, love, redemption and restoration and God's got quite the mighty captive audience to do what he needs to do.
I am not wishing jail or jail visits upon anyone, but if you have a child in addiction, you will most likely be grateful if it happens. You will likely find joy in the calls, the visits, the stories and the mail.
I used to be afraid of the visits, the drive, the process. What God has done to my heart since she's been in jail in nothing short of cool beans. I now email to volunteer as a library helper or a literacy teacher. I now seek out ways to mentor to these hurting. I now pray for the stripes walking by instead of being afraid to make eye contact. I am nothing special, but they are; she is.
I would prefer to not be separated by glass. I would prefer to take my daughter for a coffee or laugh with her at a movie. Right now my job is to love her where she is. My job is to care about those around her. My job is to be here for you, to help you find some light, some laughter in the pain, some beauty in the bars.
I thought I was ready for today. I was mistaken.
I finally saw my daughter today. I sang worship music all the way to jail and I covered her and myself in prayer but when I entered the parking lot, the chains, the barbed fences, the institutional veneer and the reality stopped me in my tracks.
There's a certain sense of relief walking in to visit despite the fears that try to sneak in. A little pride even tried to sneak in as we sat in the waiting room in our nice clothes and my pretty makeup holding the keys to my less than average car in the parking lot. Addiction has no limit, no standard, no prejudices. I am not above sitting in dirty waiting rooms afraid to use the bathroom. I was there to visit someone I love just as much as everyone else was there to visit someone they loved. I am not exempt. She is not exempt. Addiction happens to every social rung on the ladder no matter where you think yours is and no one is exempt from taking care of their child no matter what the circumstances deliver.
Jail, visitations, funding commissary accounts and accepting collect calls was not something she grew up with. She seems so comfortable. She seems to feel at home. I struggle to understand how this is "normal" to her now.
Our name was called and it was time to finally see our child. Like the movies, we were faced with a cold, steel bench and one telephone handset staring at a see through divider separating us from our beautiful daughter. As she walked in, I couldn't reach her, I couldn't hug her, I couldn't brush the hair out of her eye and kiss her on the cheek. Similar to what a parent of a premature baby must endure visiting the incubator, we could see her but we couldn't touch her, hold her hand, rush in and pick her up to save her. We could only watch and wait.
We made small talk as long as we could. I told her how beautiful her long, blonde wavy hair was. We discussed her striped pants and plastic shoes. My stomach turned into knots as I let my mind wander to how she spends her days. The tears streamed out of her fathers eyes as well as my own. Something in her changed as she saw us cry. She's avoided us for so long as to not see the physical damage, the bags under the eyes, the darkness to our once cheerful dispositions. She couldn't deny that we were hurting. We didn't do it to pile shame on. We didn't cry to manipulate her into admitting she needs help. We cried because we are watching our child behind a pane of glass that separates her and we can't save her.
I will stand by and continue to hear every chain breaking. I will continue to visit. I will continue to hope. I will continue to tell her there's another life, freedom, never ending love from us, laughter, beauty and hope.
For those of you that have done what we did today... the driving away, the realizing the raw reality of their lives... you are stronger than you want to be, braver than you should have to be, but like you, I will continue to be grateful to do it as long as I need to.
As parents to the preemie who finally gets to hold their child and take her home, we will also wait for the day where our visits aren't bound and separated. You see, our child is growing again too. We believe certain life is being breathed into her again. To those of you sending her cards, books and prayers, you are more treasured than you know. We know your time is valuable and your lives are busy but you mean so much to us for doing what you do. She's realizing that her real family never left her.
For today, I believe in my heart that more chains are breaking and she is one step closer to freedom.