It is the experiences you have in life that make you who you are, not the things that are given to you. This is true for me and for you too. Every single event in my life was something I needed to experience in order to be who I am now. But it was the difficult circumstances that changed me the most, things that are usually viewed as bad luck. During these difficult times I found the strength to carry on – to move forward and make something good come out of a bad situation. From this I have gained great satisfaction and even spiritual growth.
When my son was three and my youngest daughter four, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The operation to remove part of my breast and twelve lymph nodes left me frail and weak. In the beginning, I struggled to find the courage to believe in a positive outcome. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the small things that used to irritate or worry me all seemed rather trivial. To consider your own death changes you. Every day I was free from symptoms was a joy, a blessing. I came to view my struggle as a gift that made me stronger, more conscious and ultimately more alive.
Two years later, when I found out that my eldest daughter, Amber, then twenty-two, was a heroin addict, I had to dig deep inside for the strength to understand and cope. But the voice in my head that told me she would change was impossible to ignore. At times, when my battle to save my daughter from her addiction became desperate, I stopped and reminded myself how much worse it could be. I could be dying of cancer instead of being in remission.
The events of my past changed the way I viewed my situation, and Amber’s – they affected every decision I had to make. The growth of my spiritual awareness defined me in a way that would not have been possible before I had cancer.
When Amber first decided to quit heroin, I resolved to help her, and we set off on the road together. We took things one step at a time, and we didn’t step off the road until we reached our destination. Whatever that destination turned out to be, it was ours, and it was right for us – as I ultimately had to accept.
Along the road Amber lied to me – so I loved her; she stole from me – so I loved her; she tricked me – so I loved her; she let me down – so I loved her. She tried many times to stop using heroin and often she thought she had succeeded, only to be knocked back by a relapse. Other people saw this as a failure, but it wasn’t. It was just a result, the outcome of events.
We made a lot of mistakes, wasted time and money, but it was all part of the process, part of life’s journey. Sometimes events happen that take us on a path we never expected to travel, and we are not always equipped for the journey. I know I wasn’t. But I wouldn’t change a thing about my past: it brought me to this moment and led me to where I am today.
Our story is not your story. Each person struggling with drug addiction is different. We wrote a book together about our experience – Thin Wire: A mother’s journey through her daughter’s heroin addiction. We hope it can inspire one person on the road to recovery, or one parent struggling to understand their son or daughter’s addiction. Maybe there is something about our story that rings true with you, that resonates with what you are going through and that makes it a little easier. But the door to change opens only one way: from the inside. However much you want a deeply loved person to change their behaviour, only they can do it. You can’t do it for them, no matter how much you want to or how hard you try.
Throughout my life, the universe has sent me lots of help in the form of people willing to assist or inspire me, or maybe more importantly to just believe in me. The universe will do the same for you in your fight to quit your addiction if you believe it, believe in yourself and forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made in the past. For the past can never be changed, but the future – your future – is there for the taking.