Why a routine phone call from a recovering addict is anything but routine

A few minutes ago my recovering addict daughter called. As my phone lit up and rang, my daughter’s name displayed across the screen. My stomach clenched involuntarily as my blood pressure spiked and scenarios zipped through my mind: OVI/ DUI arrest, possession charges, and fraudulent use of my credit card were the first few to pop up.

I steeled myself for the worst as I answered the phone. “So the funniest thing just happened,” she said. “I literally just walked into [insert big box store name here] and right as I walked in my phone rang and it was the lady from [big box store]. I have been walking around the store taking to her for ten minutes and she said I am unofficially hired; they just have to complete the background check…so, which dishwasher pods do you want, because I can’t find them…”

My blood pressure was returning  to normal. As I jokingly unofficially congratulated her on her unofficial job, she continued to chat on about her haircut “she cut a lot off, more than I expected, because so much of it was dead,” she told me; and had I heard our stylist’s good news? “She seems really happy…” she is saying, and that’s when I realize that as I am sitting in the living room on my brown love seat, talking on the phone to my 23 year old daughter on a Friday afternoon at 2:30, smiling like an idiot with tears in my eyes,  I am happy.

How long had it been since I had had such a simple, normal conversation with her like this? She sounded so much like her old self that I couldn’t help but tear up with the overwhelming gratitude that she was here, alive, clean, sober, and healthy; that she was happy to pick up dishwasher pods for me on her way home from the hair salon. Because this is what the families of addicts live with every day: the terrifying reality that relapse is always just a phone call away, as is the chaos of active addiction. Even worse is the fear that each mundane conversation about dishwasher pods could be your last with your addict. The next phone call could be from the police or hospital, informing you that your child or spouse or sibling or parent has just upped the tally in that week’s statistics report on overdose deaths.

This is the reality of living with a recovering addict, and I am profoundly grateful that I have the opportunity to talk to my daughter today–regardless of the stress that caller I.D. gives me–because so many other parents no longer have that chance, and never will again.

Please feel free to share this post with anyone you know who has an addict in their life, but especially with those who don’t, so that they can get a glimpse into the everyday struggles of families living with addiction. And if this post has helped you, please subscribe to my blog to continue the conversation about addiction so that together we can end the stigma of this disease and move forward into finding and funding treatment programs that save lives.


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