The title says it all. Addiction has played such a massive part in my life, from my brother’s heroine addiction to my mother’s cocaine addiction words cannot convey what it is like to have this awful disease a part of your life.
After a while my mother completely fell apart due to my brother’s suicide and the loss of her husband. She started drinking way too much, and taking more and more cocaine to get through each day. What followed since 2006 were years of alcohol and drug abuse, paranoid delusions, verbal and physical aggression, talks of suicide, being beaten by her boyfriend, rehabs and overdoses. She was going through her inheritance from Ossi very quickly and I would have conversation after conversation with her, discussing budget cuts and how she needed to save. That was in the times that we were friends! The rest of the time we were shouting at each other, with her being verbally aggressive and saying the most hurtful things. Nick was also taking a turn for the worse. He was suddenly aware of the concept of suicide at the young age of 7 and would leave suicide notes saying that he hates his life and wants to die. He would sit on his bed with a knife from the kitchen and speak of how much he wanted to stab himself in the stomach.
From as early as I can remember, my dream has been to have a ‘normal’ family. I used to look at my friends and see how much love, acceptance, and fun was had, and felt wistful that my own family was so different. From the outside, it looked as though we had everything we needed. Yes, we did have everything we needed, in material form. There was inner turmoil though, problems and issues existed that no one else knew about. I felt responsible for keeping my family together. Responsible for lightening the mood when people were fighting and try to cheer people up. For most of my life I struggled to create a family environment that was relaxed, carefree, and with laughter. And most of the time failed miserably. But now that I’m older I realise that every family has their problems and fights. From the outside it’s easy to think that things are perfect for others.
Nicholas would call me from the main house sometimes in the morning to say he couldn’t wake Mom up to take him to school. My heart would always pound as I went with him to check on her, trying to reassure him along the way. It was so hard to tell sometimes if she had overdosed to the point that we should call an ambulance or not, but after a few times I realised that if I shook her and slapped her face lightly but with enough force (I may have enjoyed this part too much) and she woke up briefly, that she would be ok. She usually just overdosed on sleeping pills and needed to sleep it off.
She voluntarily admitted herself into Kenilworth Clinic for a month’s intensive therapy after I found her and Nicholas locked in her bedroom with Nick holding an air rifle to protect our mother, who’s delusions had led to absolute paranoia for her safety. There was always something else; our family was cursed, someone had hacked her phone and stolen her money, people were coming to break in. It all terrified Nick and I would always hastily bring some sense into her and do my best to comfort Nick.
Then. A miracle happened. Out of the blue I got a call from a friend who’s father owned some racehorses. He had a beautiful bay horse they were retiring and wanted to know if I wanted it. ARE YOU JOKING. of course I want him!!!!! He was an absolute dream come true and to this day giving him up remains one of my biggest saddest regrets. His name was Bow River and everything from his personality to his looks was what I had always dreamed of. Beautiful bay gelding with a star on his forehead and heart of gold. This was three months after I had watched The Secret and wished for a horse to manifest into my life.
Then…. in June 2007, my boyfriend of 4 years broke up with me…just months after we had been looking to buy a flat together. I then discovered he had been cheating on me with a student of his for months, but could not bring himself to break up with me due to what I had recently gone through. I was absolutely devastated and was like a mad person, begging him to reconsider and take me back. He was my best friend and knew me better than anyone… if he didn’t love me then who would? I also couldn’t bear the thought of being with someone who did not know Ossi and who I’d shared my soul with. I was so miserable with heart break and combined with the overwhelming feelings at the responsibility of my family I didn’t do anything aside from cry, and found a home for my beautiful horse as I wasn’t giving him the attention he deserved. I felt utterly inconsolable from all these losses but needed to focus on my work.
During this time I was in the process of founding a new company with three partners, and my previous boss from Buy Champagne – United Tribes of Africa. I was Operations Director for a company specialising in personalised wine labels, and I absolutely looooved my job and all the people I worked with. I also used some savings to trade in my car for a Toyota RunX with lower mileage as my Golf had become really unreliable with water tank issue and tyres constantly going flat.
My mom admitted herself into a clinic and swore she had changed and would be better from then on. Naively believing everything was going to finally be ok with my mom, and desperately needing to get a handle on my own deteriorating mental state, I moved out of our family home in 2008 and into a flat in Gardens with a good friend. Those 6 months away from home were very possibly among the happiest 6 months of my life. Life living in town was about living in the moment; having fun, and I partied and laughed more in those 6 months than my entire life before. In March 2009 I met the man of my dreams and felt the nightmare I had been living was over! He was my prince charming and I was besotted. Yay!
Something I will never forget is going to see my Doctor around this time for my IBS. He had been treating me for a few years now and knew my family well. I mentioned my new love and said he was my reward for all the shit things that had happened in my life, and Dr Hough turned around with a look I will never forget, and said “No Andi. YOU are the reward for all the shit things that have happened.” These words have stuck with me and I will always be grateful for them.
When I moved back home in April 2009… to say I was shocked is an understatement. My mother’s drug abuse had grown completely out of control. Her paranoid delusions were so bad I could not stand it and moved in with my (very) new boyfriend after just 8 weeks. The guilt of leaving Nick behind and the shock over how bad our mother had gotten was overwhelming. The company was being liquidated; I was losing my job and responsible for paying back thousands in surety for the office rental agreement that I had stupidly signed. Everything was falling apart around me again… it was like the last 6 idyllic months in town had vanished. Had they even existed? Had I dreamt it all?
I got a new job in Client Services for Rocketseed – a global email branding company, but even though the staff was awesome, I hated it there. There wasn’t enough work for me so I sat twiddling my thumbs most of the time! I hate being bored! I started feeling like I was having a quarter life crisis, questioning my career path and wondering how I ended up working in computers when my real passion was with animals. I started looking online for a position at SPCA or Cart Horse Protection Association, and saw an advert for assistant fundraiser at CHPA. I was SUPER excited and immediately sent my CV with a pleading cover letter about my dream of working with horses. The General Manager offered me a job immediately and I resigned at Rocketseed the next day. I started at Cart Horse in February 2010 and from the beginning, knew I’d found a purpose. There was no difference between work life or personal life to me – I felt so passionately about it that I loved working on it – to a point where pretty much all I did was work. After developing their online presence with a new website, Facebook, Twitter etc, I decided to go back to Rocketseed. It seems silly looking back, but at the time I thought this was the best thing to do. Rocketseed offered me my job back with a really great salary increase. I had been feeling guilty toward Rich due to my salary drop at Cart Horse (he had mentioned that his friends were going to Mozambique the next year, but we wouldn’t be able to go) and felt bad that my choices were now affecting his life. I figured that since I knew what needed to be done at Cart Horse… I could go back to Rocketseed and work on Cart Horse social media work when I would have been twiddling thumbs, and then they could bring someone else on board as fundraising assistant and we could work together (I HATED the event management side of fundraising!). It all worked out perfectly for a while and I continued to work on their social media for 2 years as a volunteer.
My mom overdosed in August 2010, using 20 grams in 6 days. My boyfriend and I started discussing the idea of putting my mother into rehab and taking in Nicholas for a month. I was struggling. Trying to keep a brave face in my new relationship, yet feeling completely overwhelmed at the responsibility of my family. When we met I had told him I had family issues.. but now he was really getting a good taste of it! With the increasing stress of my role at Rocketseed led to increasing regret at leaving Cart Horse. I hated corporate work. Being in client services and working with email campaigns meant we had to bend over backwards to help clients when they dropped a last minute bomb on us because THEY couldn’t time manage and plan their marketing schedule properly. and they all did it. Marketing motherfuckers I used to call them.
My mom was admitted into Crescent Clinic, and that is when I wrote her this letter:
Well I have written you so many letters over the last few weeks; I don’t even know what to say anymore. My life seems to revolve around either being incredibly angry or me being so distraught I can’t even function, with a few normal moods thrown into the mix. I write letters in anger and then by the time I see you my mood has changed and I am too scared to give you the letters out of fear that you will kill yourself. Well I am tired of being scared, I am tired of being angry and I am tired of being sad. I am tired of feeling guilty, confused and everything else I have felt over the last 4 years. You have chosen this path – not anyone else – YOU did. You chose to choose cocaine over Nicholas. You chose to choose cocaine over me. And you CHOSE to choose cocaine over life. I still cannot believe you even went down this road after everything we experienced with Ryan’s heroin addiction.
You will never know what it’s like to have your mother hurl abuse at you, day after day, to tell you that you’re a worthless little bitch and she would rather use drugs than have a daughter. You will never know what it’s like to feel like your mother doesn’t love you. You will never know what it’s like to watch your mother destroy herself in front of your eyes and there is absolutely nothing you can do. You will never know what it’s like to feel your heart break when you see the pain in your younger brother’s eyes. You will never know what it’s like to be scared of the future and what might happen. You will never know what it’s like to have to fight to hold on to your hope that your mother gets better and loves you again. You will never know what it’s like to cry yourself to sleep because your children might never know your mother. You will never know what it’s like to save even the nastiest of sms’s because it might be the last time you hear from your mother. You will never know the guilt that eats you alive, that even though you are so hurt and angry and emotionally broken and drained, you can’t shut out your mother because you are scared she will die and this might be the last few months you have left. You have no idea what it’s like to visit your mother in a rehab and love her so much you want to hug her and say everything will be fine, but hate her so much at the same time that you physically can’t. You will never know what it’s like to wake up crying wishing your mother was still here. Because you are gone mom, you disappeared when you started cocaine. I jokingly said to Richard a few weeks ago that I must be the only person on earth who feels like they have lost a father and a mother, and yet still have both.
I have never claimed to be perfect and I have a lot of faults – which you are always so eager to mention and bring up. Well you know what, this is not about me, and this is about YOU. You are the one who has fucked up, you are the one who needs help, and you are the one who is throwing away a good life. You have everything you need in life, you still have your parents, you still have your brother and sister, you have a house – paid off, you have a car – paid off, and you even have extra money in the bank. You are smart, you are beautiful, and you are funny. And the world is still your oyster… I am sinking deep into a depression and I’m really struggling to cope right now. I can’t carry on without my mother.. I need you back. I can’t continuously be stressed out over you, whether you’re going to try, whether you’re going to give up, and how bad do things really need to get before you hit your own rock bottom?? I can’t be scared every day that it might be the last day I have the chance to see you. Things turn around in life – in 2 weeks your entire life could change. It’s just going to take some work… Everything is up to you, if I could do this for you I would – but I can’t. That kills me more than anything else…knowing that I have to sit back and do nothing, but there is nothing else I can do or say to help you unless you help yourself first.
Nicholas does not have a father, how can you do this to him? How can you look in his eyes and see the pain and then go and take more cocaine? I just don’t understand mom. I know you wish I was dead and Ryan was alive, that’s fine, I don’t care. I always knew anyway. But if you’re not going to do it for me then please, do it for Nicholas. And do it for Ryan. Please please please… I am begging you, Nicholas needs his mother.
You need to do this for him. You need to work and you need to feel pain and heartache and you need to do whatever you can to just say no mom, say no to the temptations, say no the bad ideas. I can’t be Nick’s mother no matter how much I need to be…. and as much as I hate you right now, I love you mom, you are my mother and I need you. I love you with all my heart and my heart couldn’t bear it if I could never spend Christmas with you again, if you weren’t there to help me organise my wedding and you weren’t there to help me raise my children. You might think I’m a know-it-all, too self-righteous and stubborn, grownup & bossy. But I’m not….. Everything I do and say is to help you. And inside I’m still a little girl who needs her mother…
Please don’t do this to us… Please try… Please PLEASE. Please Mom. We need you.
She was released and I tried once more not to hope, not to expect anything, and just pretend things were going to be fine.
Diary insert 16 November 2010 – The nightmare with my mom finally seems over! Transfer went through on her new house in Claremont and she’s keeping busy with renovations.
When she relapsed again the verbal and emotional abuse went to new heights, and I just couldn’t cope with the emotional roller coaster anymore. I felt like I was ready to crack for trying to be strong since 2003. She was being physically abused by her younger boyfriend. She would send me messages and pictures of her bruised face, arms or legs; begging for help. I would go see her and persuade her to go to the police station to file a report. She wouldn’t. I went to the police station a few times to beg for help but they maintained there was nothing they could do without my mother’s affidavit. She was still spending lots of money and I was horrified at the measly amount she had left. After one sad day where we went to put my beloved dog Shadow down, I warned her that if she didn’t sort things out, I would take her to court for a share in the money to pay for Nick’s education. I was broken… guilty at not spending more time with my dog before he died, utterly lost at what to do and how to help my mother and brother. I told my boyfriend he should walk away… walk away from this mess that is my life.
I was very insecure and terrified he would leave me like my ex-boyfriend once he seriously considered spending his life with me and all the baggage that came with me. He reassured me of our love and we talked about buying a house together. We were in a townhouse and wanted a bigger house so we would have space to get dogs and eventually start a family together. We bought a house in Pinelands and moved in at the end of May 2011. In between having my dream come true of my own home, I was still battling with mood swings and anger. I thought that I would be able to handle anything after all the shit I had already been through, but my stress levels were sky high. It was like any single little thing could set me off into fight or flight; and most of the time I wanted to fight. The anger and resentment I felt toward my mother was suffocating me. I had also recently been promoted and the new workload and stress I was under at work was not helping things; we decided I would resign from my job and work from home selling Olive Oil from his parent’s farm. We went on holiday to Mauritius with his family, an absolutely dreamy holiday from heaven! I was relaxed and relieved over some responsibilities off my shoulders, but my relief was short-lived. My mom and her boyfriend were constantly breaking up and making up, and every week she’d ask me to help her kick him out the house, and after a week he’d be back in the house – if he left at all. I felt like nothing I did was enough to protect her or Nicholas. I was finding it impossible to help her when she won’t even try to help herself! I can’t even begin to express what it did to my soul to know my mother was being hit by her boyfriend and being completely powerless to stop it. Many times I considered hiring men to beat him up, but was always worried things would go wrong and I’d be implicated in hiring a hitman! I asked Nicholas to come stay with me but he didn’t want to leave our mother alone. He felt like he needed to be there to protect her, and would also feel guilty if he left. He was scared she would commit suicide if he left her, and I was concerned he would blame me if his mother died. I had absolutely no idea what was the right thing to do, and for months fought internal battles. If I gave my mom cash she would spend it on cocaine, so I regularly had to go shopping so there was food in her house. Sometimes Nicholas wouldn’t have anything to eat in the afternoons!