sad teddy bear

How To Save A Life

I’ll be your keeper for life as your guardian
I’ll be your warrior of care your first warden
I’ll be your angel on call, I’ll be on demand
The greatest honor of all, as your guardian

~ Guardian, Alanis Morissette

I opened the door and there they stood. My drug addicted daughter, who had the good sense to leave her piece of shit husband in the car, and my 3 year old grandson. My first thought is always that he looked so pale and dirty. And unhappy.

They walked in with his tiny suitcase, which I will open later and find it holds only a few items of clothing, most of which don’t fit. There were no toys. No stuffed animals. No books. Nothing offering the comforts of ‘home’.

That is likely because he didn’t have any of those things. Including a home.

She walked in to the kitchen where my husband and a notary are waiting, papers lined up on the kitchen table.

Two days prior, my daughter called me and asked me if we would take her son. They had no home. She and her husband fought all the time. He was a thief and a drug addict. Come to think of it, so was she. They needed someone to take this boy…because he’d become inconvenient.

My husband and I scrambled to find a family lawyer that could get this done quickly before she had a chance to change her mind and take off because neither of us believed this little boy would survive what was coming.

I don’t believe she doesn’t love him. I know that she does and I know the pain she was in at that moment as she approached the table and eyed the words on paper that, instead of legal jargon, said in her eyes, “I’m a failure as a mother. I am giving up the right to call my son…my son. I will have no rights to him. He will no longer be mine. I am giving up this little person who loves me more than anything, despite my faults.”

She signed the papers and with a quick goodbye, she walked out the door. She walked out the door without her son. For all intents and purposes, he was now mine.

In the midst of lawyers and judges all in a span of two days, I had made him a room in this, his new home. There was a big bed with clean sheets. There were toys offered up by my then seven-year old son. There were stuffed animals lovingly placed on the bed from the stash of my then eight-year old daughter. Clothes that my son had outgrown that I had been saving for him were now clean and folded, stored in the drawers of his very own dresser.

The delight in his eyes was heartwarming yet sad because there is something he didn’t know.

He doesn’t know she isn’t coming back. The task of telling him has been left up to me. What is worse? He doesn’t know who I am. He thinks I am a random stranger because in their whirlwind life of addiction and chaos we didn’t see him much for two years. The only time he’s ever stayed at our house overnight was the night my daughter was being arrested for shoplifting at Macy’s and I had to go pick him up so they wouldn’t call social services.

He came to live with us on September 15th, 2011. My daughter asked us to keep him for six months.

He is still here.

I love him and I’m happy to have him. I think my daughter did the right thing and I never in a million years would have said no. Never.

Since the day she left, she stayed high. She’s called me suicidal and I’ve spoken to her on a cell phone, trying to find out where she is while having my mom on the land line calling 911 to send help to her. I’ve put her in rehab facilities, hospitals, and pulled strings to get her into a domestic violence shelter while her husband was sitting in jail, only to have her leave and go back to him as soon as he was freed.

For two years I raised a troubled kid, because all that he had witnessed and been subjected to had fucked him up. He was holed up in dark places with only God knows what going on, moved from place to place. The first time I put him in a bathtub to clean his dirty body and hair, he screamed like a wild animal the whole time. Why? He was three and couldn’t tell me so I had to let my imagination take flight which wasn’t a good thing. He wasn’t potty trained and wouldn’t be until well into his sixth year. He was prone to violent outbursts. He didn’t have any idea how to interact with other children. To this day he has a hard time making friends. He had no filter and no boundaries and they are minimal today, at best. As recently as this past December at a family dinner he asked me how I knew his mother. WHAT? He still has no idea how he fits in with all of us even though it’s been explained several times.

He didn’t hug. He had never been read a bedtime story. It took him two years to say I love you in response to the same. If I told him I loved him he’d say, ‘Okay’.

She filed for divorce from the asshat but didn’t leave the addict life. She did what she had to in order to feed her demon and I never saw her or heard from her. I think she was just quietly waiting to die while I quietly waited to find out she had.

Her addict lifestyle eventually caught up with her and she went to jail. Then she went to prison. The downward spiral was quick and, I’m sure, very painful.

Whether or not there is a happy ending to this story for them as mother and son remains to be seen. She was released in December 2014. She is living with her grandparents and, thanks to having a family owned business, is gainfully employed. She is working on one thing at a time, keeping her expectations low so as not to overwhelm herself with all that needs to be done to once more become a responsible member of society. She sees her son every week at our home. He deals with it the best he can, usually by becoming obnoxious, because he has no idea how to play the hand he’s been dealt.

Because it sucks.

Except for the fact that he has a very good life. It has had its challenges and not just for him. My other children have had to make adjustments over the past three and a half years and not all of them have been easy.

I had never, ever been called to the principal’s office at school. I have now. Twice.

I’d never been physically pushed into a bathtub by a four-year old. I have now.

I’d never carried a crazed screaming child across a parking lot in 100 degree weather with strangers staring at me like I was a kidnapper. I have now.

I have never felt like I’d saved someone’s life.

I do now.

He has lived with us now for what will be four years this September and there is no doubt he will be with us longer. His mom has a long way to go and being a recovering addict myself I know it’s a tough road she has ahead. I know life would be less stressful if he could just be our grandson, visiting on weekends so we could spoil him and send him home to his mother.

Sometimes that’s just not how things work.

I don’t write this so that others will stand me on a pedestal and tell me how wonderful I am. I’m no saint. I realize that my own active addiction had an impact on my daughter. I am not a victim of circumstance. I am not a victim by any stretch of the imagination.

These are consequences of a chain of addiction, silence, shame, and fear in our family history. I know I am not alone.

That is why I write this.

photo credit: Teddy via photopin (license)

62 thoughts on “How To Save A Life”

  1. The chain part at the end is what really kicked me in the heart, Sandy. We’ve spoken a touch about this, but it was amazing to read the whole story (well, the narrative, anyway) here. I struggle so much with trying to break the chain. I pray to whoever that it can be done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There isn’t enough room on the internet for all the details of the story. It is years in the making and honestly, I prefer not to relive much of it. I’m trying desperately to break that chain and some days my lack of patience makes it seem impossible, like giving up would be easier. Or running away. Since those things aren’t really an option I just get up every morning and try again. Thank you for always listening.


  2. Though my tears mean little, I shall let them trickle untouched down my cheeks and into my beard until soaked in honor of your love for blood, your strength of character and your holy heart. *drops to one knee with hand over heart*

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This touched my heart as I read it this morning. Thank you for being there, even though it means much hardship. It also means everything. I agree with Helena that the ongoing nature of problems such as this is one of the most difficult aspects. God grant you strength for the rest of the journey!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Sandy …I wish I had all the words…but I don’t. Both my parents struggled with addiction and it is why several years ago I became estranged from my mother. My parents were both recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.. My father died still on the wagon my.mother fell off shortly after he died…just sending so much love and light to you and that precious boy!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your writing always slays me. I hope your daughter finds her way back eventually. I hope your grandson finds a way to trust and heal. I have no doubt that you will do everything to make that happen for him. Glad I read this before putting on my mascara for the day…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Gretchen. I shed a few tears myself while writing it even though I’ve gotten to a point where I feel numb to it. I guess I was wrong. He is getting better but we have some hard days. Some are downright disastrous! It’s okay, though. We’re made of pretty strong stuff over here!


  6. I need to quit reading your words while I’m a work…I’m completely wrecked.
    I have nothing coherent to add other than I remain one of your biggest fans. At the risk of sounding cliché – you make me want to be a better mama. Hugs to you, my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Your story, POWERFUL. I cannot imagine the course of parenting you had to take and still endure with this precious ‘lost child’. You truly saved a life, and your afflictions and your daughter’s are incredibly heartbreaking. I love that you share this journey here, both for your own healing and others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s an odd feeling to have such contempt for something, like addiction, but still stand in awe of its power. But I am stronger. We all are. I fought for myself, hopefully gave my daughter some tools to fight for herself, and now I’ll fight for him.

      Every day.

      Thank you, Chris. XX


  8. “I have never felt like I’d saved someone’s life.

    I do now.”

    That’s where my tears started flowing. I already knew what your situation was with your grandson, but honestly have never considered the how or the why – the gravity of it. I know you are not alone, but sometimes it sure must feel that way for you and for him, and probably for your daughter too. I hope in time you can all have a healthy relationship, however “untraditional” it may be. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and for (as always) writing with such soul-baring honesty. Great big virtual hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know we’re not alone. There are so, so many stories like this one in the world and not all of them take this direction. There were no choices here. I couldn’t live with myself if I had said no.
      This seems cold to some but my daughter will be 29 years old this year. She is old enough and knows what she needs to do. She always has. She has to live with her choices. This little boy wasn’t given a choice.
      We just take it all one day at a time, and today seems like a good day. It builds strength for the days that aren’t so good.
      Thank you Jen, for reading and always supporting!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m sitting here in tears . . . such a powerful telling of something so difficult to tell. I can relate in some ways, it wasn’t my own child’s child, but my little sisters daughter . . . she came to live with us when she’d just turned five, we thought it would be for just a while, but last year, my husband proudly walked this daughter we never expected down the aisle.

    Those first years were hard.

    I’m sure you’ve heard many times what a wonderful, selfless thing you did and continue to do, and sometimes it may even be hard to hear, at least it was for me because there was a part of me that wasn’t sure I could continue, in the beginning it was so hard, there was a part of me that wasn’t sure I wanted to.

    But then that little girl would smile . . . You really have done a beautiful and selfless thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that story with me. This really touches me because sometimes I feel like I’m sinking. It is very hard, from every angle, and I wish many times that things were different. I didn’t want to raise another child. And I feel guilty for saying that. But you know, it’s just the right thing to do. It does make all the difference in the world when I look at him in in his better moments and I know that it’s all worth it, hard or not.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I completely understand . . . It wasn’t easy, she came with her own set of issues that took years to work through. There were times I wished I hadn’t done it – it hurts my heart to say, but i would be lying if I said I never thought about it.

        She was only 6 months younger than my middle child, so they all grew up together, I think that made the transition a little smoother. The right thing isn’t always easy, but now I cannot imagine my life before she came into it.

        It’s not often I come across someone else someone else who has walked in the same shoes . . . if you ever need someone to listen, I’m pretty good at it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Sandy, I got chills at this part:

    “I think she was just quietly waiting to die while I quietly waited to find out she had.”

    And bit my lip to hold back the tears through the rest.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. And, no, you’re not on a pedestal, at least not for me. But I am awed by your heart. And all the love it holds.

    Under the same sky,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is it strange that when I wrote that I did so with very little emotion. Her imminent death just became something I prepared for. I planned what I would say at her funeral in the shower. Many times. I’m happy to say that today I don’t have to do that.

      I thank you for reading and such an honest and thoughtful comment. It gives me strength.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I want to say something profound and meaningful in response to this deeply moving story, but I have no adequate words. I just think it is wonderful that you were there for your daughter and her son.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I was absolutely riveted by this history, this filling in of the gaps of what I knew. I’m glad your daughter is stable. I’m overwhelmed by the progress you have made with your son. In many ways (thought certainly not all) you have been dealt a difficult hand in this life. What you make of it is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is the condensed version of a very long and sad story. It has been a rough road but it has had some beautiful moments along the way. I won’t tell you that there aren’t times when I wish it was different and I could have our old life back but it is what it is. This is our new life, has been for almost four years, and we do what we are supposed to….make the best of every day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is so true. You can’t waste time and energy thinking the what ifs. Take your life as it is, and make the best you can of it.


  13. What you are is an amazing and compassionate human being who escaped the life your daughter is trying to leave now. You’re hoping to prevent that precious little boy from falling right into the drain of sadness and strife. Whether your daughter can do this remains to be seen. This truly says a lot about your husband and children and what remarkable people they are to accept it. You’re awesome Sandy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Barb. I am truly grateful for these kind words. You are right, too. What my daughter does now is completely up to her. I feel like I’ve done all I can for her. My efforts need to be put to use trying to put this little guy on the right road. My husband is one of those men who just rolls with whatever comes. He never hesitated to jump in with both feet. The kids…well, they’re good kids. The whole situation has been a learning experience for us all.


    1. Thank you very much for the wonderful comment. I’m glad you don’t have experience with addictions and I pray that blessing continues for you! I really appreciate you coming by and reading.


  14. I so love you. Can I post this in Our Land?
    As you know, but because I was so shamed and spanked and could not handle it, I have your daughter as a step daughter and she is pregnant now. I have told her I will help or take the baby or whatever or whatever and all of the evers but she’s cut me off again, and I don’t know what to do. I love your heart and I am so so thankful that you posted this. It truly makes me feel so much less alone and also Im so sorry that we both are doing this. It fucking sucks, despite our own pasts. Your heart is amazing. So so so much love to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so love you too. And you get right to the point, don’t you? 🙂

      Yes. If you would like it for Our Land, it is yours. I think it’s important and Our Land is a good place.

      This is in response to both of your comments. I thought of you the entire time I was writing this post. I know what you are going through and then to be vilified over that post like you were, it was infuriating. Unless someone is standing in your place, living your personal hell, they have no right to open their piehole and criticize. I support you 1000% because I KNOW. I know what it’s like. My kids have paid a price for this and yes, they are good kids and yes, it is a learning experience for them but had I thought for one moment this would have been detrimental to their well being in any way, I would have figured out another way.

      This won’t go up on one of the big sites. It is here for the people that read here and care and maybe, just maybe, someone will read it and know that we are human. We make decisions that aren’t always easy and not everyone in the world will agree with. We do what we need to do…the things that are best for our family. That there is a point when you exhaust every avenue with an adult child and you hit a wall that marks the moment when you have to preserve yourself and others you love. That sometimes making choices just fucking sucks.

      Someone like you.

      You let me know when you want this post, my friend. You put it up and always, always remember…YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

      I promise you that.


  15. Also can I just say how much you are awesome for writing about this? I so want to write about this but get crucified for it. Maybe it’s time for me to start an a new blog too…


  16. This is so powerful. Addiction wreaks havoc in the lives of the littlest victims—children. You’re doing your best and your open heart is saving his life. This brought tears to my eyes.
    It’s great to connect with you Sandy and discover your amazingly honest writing here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lisa. It’s very nice to meet you. My first blog was a little less open than this one. I started An Honest Sinner with the intention of writing free…being honest and fearless. So far I’ve remained true.
      I so appreciate such a genuine comment. You couldn’t be more correct. Addiction has no mercy on anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow, I have tears pouring down my face. Sandy, I have missed you terribly. For real. What a painfully amazing story. I have seen so much of what you share through my job the past 27 years. If you ever wish more on that or a candid ear, send me a note and we can chat. You can also send me a note ANYTIME about anything to chat, my friend. That little boy can not fathom how blessed he is to have you and your husband. I understand on the no pedestal part but this is one of most powerful stories I’ve read in quite some time. And it becomes even more so because, despite not hearing from you for a while, I still “know” you. I hope that makes sense in every positive intent possible.

    The intro to this post hit me with a 6 month boomerang that had been in flight until just now with this post. Guardian. That is, was and shall forever be my dedication song to Phoenix. I wrote to it, to him, in my Facebook goodbye post two days after he passed away – August 27th, 2014. That said, it all completely magnified the intensity of your post. I so get it, Sandy. And I by no means mean to detract from your content by sharing this second paragraph. I share it…because I GET it.

    Sending you lots of love! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Mike! It is so, so wonderful to hear from you! I have been wondering how you are doing and I should have gotten in touch but with my life everyday is a roller coaster ride and I guess I figured you just needed some time. I hope you are doing well.
    I don’t mind you taking a little side trip over ‘Guardian’. I’m always here if you need to share something, especially about your sweet Phoenix.
    I’m so glad you stopped by and I hope this means we’ll be seeing a bit more of you. You have been sorely missed, my friend.
    Thank you so much for your kind words, Mike.


  19. thank you, your words and voice comes from a place of truth, bravery , and vulnerability – you are a wonderful and beautiful person just trying your best as we all are.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you for sharing your journey. My tears flow freely tonight because your story reminds me of my “brother”. We lost him to a car accident, but my folks adopted him and he was family.
    He too was a child of an addict. His mother was brave enough and loved him enough to give him to us to raise and love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so very sorry to hear about your brother. It’s good to know that while he was here he had such a wonderful family to care for him. I know it brought bittersweet memories but I thank you so much for reading and sharing your story with me. I do truly appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. All the love to you and your grandson. When I was eight my mother gave me to my brother, she was a drug addict and an alcoholic. It was a very tough time for me. I can only hope with your love and comfort he can work through a lot of those emotions that I know all too well. You are a beautiful and wonderful person.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. How is it every time I read something that you write, you grow even larger to me? You’re such an amazing person, and this child’s having you come in and “save his life” is so fortunate. So many children are not given this kind of opportunity. I follow you on Instagram. I see the beautiful life you have, and the fact that he gets to experience that kind of “norm” will only pave the road for a better future. He may have damages from his past, but Sandy, his future….it’s all because of you, and I admire you so much for being the big person that you are. Lots of people in your situation would have closed that door and not thought about it again.

    I’m sorry it’s hard. I can’t even imagine, but I have to hope I would do the same.


  23. I swear on all of the chips and salsa that this small boy will be OK. You and your husband are giving him all the opportunities and I just know that with all the love and inspiration you will give to him that he will be OK. He will be OK, and you will be OK, too because of love.

    Liked by 1 person

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