Mother Fights System, Saves At Risk Children

In my March 17, 2011 article, Synchronicity: Life’s Amazing Signs and Meanings I discuss the common expression, “There are no coincidences.” “Coincidental” experiences happen to us more frequently than we may realize, but they often go unnoticed for lack of our attention or our ability to understand the meanings. Whether you see these random, improbable occurrences in your life as signs or merely chance, you have to admit that sometimes they totally blow your mind! At times the message and/or the timing of it are so obvious that the meaning is clear and undeniable. Sometimes you intuit the importance, though you’re not sure exactly what it is.

Last week I had a hair salon appointment that had been scheduled late in the afternoon; a time that is untypical for me. The woman sitting in the chair next to me was friendly and commented on the unflattering effect of the fluorescent lighting over us. I agreed that the lighting was unbecoming to everyone’s skin tone. She introduced herself as Susan, I introduced myself, and a free flowing conversation was sparked.

One topic led to another and we found ourselves sharing the essences of our tragic, life altering stories about the drug addicts in our lives; the problems I had in the past with my ex-husband and the ongoing problems she has with her adult daughter. It was not a woe-is-me conversation, but testaments to the empowerment that adversity gave each of us and how we are using it to help others.

As a codependent specialist I often write and talk about the issues that keep people enmeshed in addictive, toxic, often dangerous relationships. When I’m asked what the turning point was that set me free, I always tell the following story:

I was in my late twenties, in my seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, desperately searching for ways to cope with my beyond hope, drug addicted husband, and make my marriage work. Each week I attended three twelve-step meetings along with other families experiencing problems with their drug addicted children or spouses. At one meeting, the group chairwoman pulled me aside and privately shared her wisdom with me. She said, “As the parent of an addict I am stuck with my problem for the rest of my life. I must find ways to cope with it. But you are young and you have your whole life ahead of you. You have a choice…you can leave.” Though her suggestion may sound obvious, the option of leaving had never even occurred to me. I was busy trying everything I could think of to make my marriage work. But when it came down to it, it was her message that eventually saved me and my daughter’s lives.

That message, combined with the immense love I had for my two month old baby girl and my fierce maternal instinct to protect her, empowered me to take her and leave my downward spiraling, drug addicted husband. I had no money to legally defend us and was terrified of her father getting private visitations or shared custody. It was a long scary road, but it ultimately worked out in my daughter’s best interest. I am forever grateful for the way her life and mine turned out.

Whenever I think about the message that ultimately freed me from my codependent patterns, I also think about the life sentence parents of addicts are burdened with. Though I’m strong, I’m also a devoted mother. I can’t imagine the strength it must take for parents, showing the toughest love of all, to turn their addicted child loose when all hope for recovery is lost. I don’t envy having to make such a devastating decision; one that only comes after countless sleepless nights, and after innumerable, gut-wrenching efforts at helping their child to get sober fail.

After years of desperately trying anything and everything she could to save her daughter, Susan had made some very tough choices. When it finally came down to it, Susan had more dire concerns than her own relationship with her hopelessly addicted daughter. There was a little girl, her beloved granddaughter, whose precious young life was at stake. Susan’s number one concern was to keep her grandchild stable, safe, and happy; to keep the child out of the perilous home environment she had while living with her mother.

Susan and her husband fought the system at every turn, desperately trying to prevent CPS from taking the child and putting her in the foster care system, or sending the child back to an unstable, drug addicted home. The paternal grandmother was often asked by her drug addicted son and his girlfriend (Susan’s daughter) to take care of the child, but that was a largely unsuitable environment for her as well – the grandfather, who also lived there, had previously served time in prison as a convicted pedophile.

Though they encountered one legal obstacle after another, Susan and her husband unyieldingly and inexhaustibly persisted, and won. They eventually succeeded in having her daughter’s parental rights terminated. At a time in their lives when under normal circumstances they would have the freedom to do as they please, they are now the legal, nurturing parents of their beautiful eight year old granddaughter. Susan is a working mother and her retired husband is a stay at home dad.

After having experienced so much adversity, running into one legal brick wall after another, Susan and her husband recognized a void in the system and decided to do something about it. They didn’t want other families to struggle and suffer as they had, trying to save at risk children and children caught up in the system. So they took action. They founded the nonprofit organization, Kids Have Rights. Now Susan and her husband tirelessly advocate for the safety and best interest of children who never before had a voice. This highly essential organization works to protect children, support caregivers, educate the public, and push for meaningful changes in the laws.

I don’t know why the universe brought Susan and me together at that particular time and place; perhaps for friendship, though I suspect there is a greater purpose. One should never doubt the strength of two empowered mothers! What I’m sure of and I say all the time, is that everything happens for a reason. We only have to open our eyes, ears, and minds to recognize the messages that keep us on our path to spiritual growth.