What I Wish My Mother Knew

The following is a letter that was written by an addict named Charles, three years after getting clean.

Dear Mom,

I wish things had happened a different way. When I look back on the last few years, all I can feel is shame.

I wish you hadn’t had to find out the hard way what was really going on with your son, that I had changed first, before it came to that.

All the lies I told you – for years – while you tried so hard to believe that everything was ok. You wanted everything to be ok, you loved me too much to see the truth that was right in front of your eyes. It was easier to explain the missing money from your purse as a mistake, or something you misplaced, than to face the facts.


And the facts were, I was a lying, stealing, selfish drug addict.

It sounds harsh when I say it out loud, but it’s the truth.

See, I knew that my actions were killing you inside. I could see how you desperately wanted for me to get better, how you did everything in your power to fix me. I saw it all, but all I could think about was the next high. The only thing that mattered to me was getting what I needed from you to keep getting high.

All of the lessons you had shown me about what it meant to be honest, caring and kind, all of the things you modeled for me day after day with your love; none of that was more important to me than staying high.

I remember the first time you and dad left for the weekend. You guys trusted me enough to look after the house by myself. When you got home, I’d forgotten to clean up the beer cans and the joint roaches from the backyard. Your trust in me was shattered, and that was the first time you couldn’t deny that something was going on. Things got so much worse though.

School stopped being important. I dropped out of football. Pretty soon it was more than just smoking and drinking when I could get away with it. Pretty soon, I didn’t think I had a choice – I had to get high.

All of my explanations, rationalizations and reasons worked to calm you down in the beginning. I wasn’t calming you down to make you feel better though. I just needed you to get out of my way.

It got worse so quickly.

I wish I had never said those things to you when you told me it was treatment or the streets. I know now what that did to you, to hear your son speak to the person that loved him more than anyone in the world like that.

By that time it was too late though. I wish more than anything that I could take back all of the pain but I can’t. Looking back, I can see so clearly.

I wasn’t ok.

I needed to stay high more than I needed to be the person you taught me to be.

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I know this is hard to read, but I have to share the truth with you.

More than anything, I am so grateful that you finally made that hard decision. The choice to say, enough is enough. I am so grateful that you loved me enough to not give up on me, but to stop enabling my using.

You told me that treatment was my only choice.

I blamed you, and tried every trick in the book to make you feel terrible, hoping that I could get you to bend and fold one more time. This time was different though – this time you were serious.

I hope you realize that making that hard decision saved my life.

I will spend the rest of my life in gratitude that you made getting help my only option. Now with 3 years sober, things are so different. I can see so clearly that you pushing me to change was the most powerful kind of love you could have shown.

I would not have the life I have today if it wasn’t for your love, support and belief that I could get sober. You never gave up on me and our relationship is something I value more than anything today.

I love you mom,


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