THE JOEY LETTER

Sandra Swanson

My Dear Child,

I miss you. I ache for you to fill your place in my life. Will I ever again feel your hug? Hear your laugh? See you proud?

I don’t want you to be an addict. I don’t want you to push me away. I don’t want you to die.

I want you to be sober and happy and to fulfill your dreams and fill your soul. I want you to be the child I know. But addiction is sucking the life out of you. Sucking the you out of you. I’m haunted by the difficult life you are living; I’m sad for the life you could have but are missing; and I grieve for the loss of my son who is still alive. I stopped trying to contact you, not because I stopped caring, but because I had to stop the self-inflicted pain.

I made a lot of mistakes trying to help you, sometimes treating you like an adult when you were acting like a child, and treating you like a child though you’re an adult. I tried warm fuzzy love and I tried tough love. I tried keeping you from hitting bottom, bringing the bottom up to you, and getting you into treatment when I thought you’d hit bottom. And I struggled to recognize the difference between helping and enabling — I tried so hard to stay on the right side of an invisible line between helping you to live and helping you to die.

Through trial and error and lack of results, I learned that I can’t fix this for you. And I learned that I love you enough to bear the toughest love of all.

Sometimes love means doing nothing rather than doing something. But Letting Go is not the same thing as giving up. There is a place in my life that is exactly your size. I’m keeping it warm.

Love,

Mom

Sandra Swenson is the mother of two sons—one of whom struggles with addiction. A voice for the loved ones of addicts ‑-particularly moms– she first documented her experiences with her son’s addiction in the critically-acclaimed book The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction. An advocate for acceptance, education, healing, and recovery, Sandy can frequently be found sharing her journey through the place where love and addiction meet. Her second book, Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers With Addicted Children was published by Hazelden Betty Ford in September 2017, to be followed by an
accompanying app in fall 2018 www.sandyswenson.com/blog