Tonight my parents came over for dinner, it’s not any special occasion, but rather just wanting to spend time with them. My parents are now in their 70’s, and my mom was recently confirmed to have moderate dementia. I hear stories from others who had the experience of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia that it’s a cruel disease as you watch the loved one slowly deteriorate in front of your eyes. This is probably one of the most difficult situations that I am facing since I got sober/clean 15 years ago. Even though I feel powerless and helpless at times, I’m grateful that I am free from my own addiction so that I can be here for my family.
My mom was the rock in the family, the one who always found solutions, cleaned up the mess from my bad decisions, and guided our family through the many storms. It saddens me to see her today confused, withdrawn, and unable to do things for herself that she once did with ease. As I take on new responsibilities within the family, I realize how much of a significant role she played in all of our lives, even though she did so quietly and subtly. I think about her leaving her home and family in Korea to find a new life here in the US. I think about the sacrifices she made to ensure that I am able to fly and achieve my dreams. I think about the nights she worked for over 30 years at the US Postal Service so that we would never go without and could live comfortably. I think about the countless prayers she prayed while I was lost in my addiction. I see her small, frail frame and realize how big and strong of a person she actually is. I learned from her how to be resilient, responsible, determined, courageous, and compassionate.
For a long time I was resentful that she had such high expectations of me, never told me she was proud, and constantly raised the bar. I believed I was never good enough in her eyes and that her love was conditional upon whether I met those expectations or not. This fueled my addiction and at some point, I gave up trying to live up to her standards. I felt free at the time even while chained to my addiction, or so I believed I was free. She’s never been the affectionate type, outwardly show praise, or very expressive with her emotions, so I always misunderstood that as indifference or dissatisfaction. Despite how hurt, disappointed, and devastated she was about how I was living my life, she kept it inside and continued to pray for me daily and never gave up. She would come to my court dates, visit me in rehabs, and hold onto hope that someday I’ll be able to stand up again. It took me years in my recovery to realize how my mom shows love and that she has always loved me more than words can ever express.
I truly believe that my recovery from addiction helped me find gratitude for the relationship that I have with my family. I understand the unconditional love that they have for me. And just as my mom was there for me in my disease, I can be here with unconditional love while she faces hers. I will cherish the time we have left and continue to make my living amends.
Is there a person in your life that you are grateful for? Someone who has been there through the storms? If so, take a moment to show them gratitude and love while you can.