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How We Found Our Way From Addiction to Recovery

I clearly remember the day when I discovered that my daughter was using drugs.

I was devastated.

I was also filled with shame and confusion.


My daughter started out life as a typical little girl, growing up in a suburban neighborhood of northern California. She was a Brownie, a Girl Scout, played soccer, softball, and performed in theater productions. She had many wonderful friends, a quick wit, a fun sense of humor, and excelled in school.

It was during the middle school years that I noticed her grades started to slip. However, her first two years of high school were smooth, so I wasn’t concerned. She joined the water polo team, swim team, and made some close friends. I felt confident that I knew her friends’ parents, since most of the girls had grown up together.

During the last two years of high school, things started to get rocky. Not dramatically, but just enough to notice.

Her father and I encouraged her to do better, monitored her whereabouts, and tried to be on top of all that was going on. She managed to graduate from high school, all of us enduring a few stressful times.

Luckily, she was accepted to the University of Colorado. I flew back with her that August, sending her off with the same hopes and dreams of any other parent sending their child off to college.

Red Flags

Those hopes and dreams were dashed after her first semester. She was struggling to keep up with her classes.

After the second semester, she needed to attend our local junior college in order to return to Colorado in the fall.

Looking back, her grades were a huge red flag. I realize now that we continued to hope things would change.

Maybe we wanted her to go away to college more than she did.

However, her grades didn’t improve the following year. She decided to take a break from college and took a part time job washing dogs. Soon, that fell apart as well.

With things going steadily downhill, I flew back to Colorado to see what I could do. I wanted to better understand what was really going on.

Climbing the Mountain

We were on a Boulder mountain trail hiking when my daughter finally admitted she was using crystal meth.

I was devastated. I also realized I should have known that drug use was playing a role in her life. I wondered why I didn’t. My denial had played a part in my hoping that she would just get better.

We walked on for awhile in silence. I was numb, trying desperately to gather my thoughts. I was out of my comfort zone, speechless, and devastated. I had no understanding of how to find my way out of the deep hole that our family had just fallen into.

Both of us started crying. I told her I was not leaving her alone to continue using drugs. However, deep down I was terrified because I knew I had lost control over my daughter. I also knew she had lost control of herself because of her drug use.

I told her I was not leaving her alone to continue using drugs. However, deep down I was terrified because I knew I had lost control over my daughter.-Cathy TaughninbaughThankfully, she made the choice to come home with me to California. We did not have the devastating ups and downs that so many families suffer with. She was at a point in her life where she was ready to find a better way to live. Even so, this was just the starting point to making changes.

I  reached out for support with an addiction counselor and an educational consultant. I knew I needed help in making decisions going forward. I felt I was learning a new language. Words like denial, enabling, letting go, detaching (with love) and setting boundaries became commonplace. I tried not to blame myself, yet I couldn’t help but think about the past. I thought about things I could  have done differently.

She agreed to attend a wilderness treatment program in Utah for five weeks. While we had camped a few times together as a family, this was going to be a little rougher. She rose to the occasion and, in the end, had a positive, life changing experience.

The counselors strongly suggested an after care program. She headed to Southern California to a women’s program where she stayed for three months.

After the first month, she was required to get a job and/or go to college. She got a part-time job in a grocery store. She also started attending college, taking just one class at a time to get her confidence back. After her treatment was over, she moved into a sober living home.

I feel very fortunate that we were able to send her to treatment. To this day, I credit her length of stay in treatment and sober living with her long-term recovery.

Full Circle

After a few years at the local junior college, she attended a state university. While her college experience was not what she had anticipated, she stayed focused on her goal of getting a degree. Her joke was that the women’s treatment program was the college sorority she never joined.

Finally she graduated, ready to start a new life. Unfortunately, after college graduation, the job offers did not flow in as she had hoped. She had majored in communication and wanted a job in that field. Staying patient, she continued to work at the grocery store for nine months until she finally landed a job in her field.

She remained in southern California for a number of years, living in apartments with young women from her program. One relapsed during that time and she learned from that experience. Several of the young women remain close friends. After six years, she decided to move back to live closer to her family.

She had come full circle.

Being addicted to drugs is not what any mom dreams for her child. This is the last thing I expected would happen to our family. The emotional exhaustion sends you down a devastating path. It is a challenge to find your way back. The financial costs took my breath away.

As a parent, we had weekly calls from the wilderness camp and received weekly reports from her treatment center. I tried counseling, coaching, and parent groups in my efforts to find support. I thought about who I could confide in about this difficult journey. I felt the shame of addiction. I also felt guilty, frustrated, angry, and afraid.

I learned there are many things I could do to help support my daughter’s recovery. There were also many things I could do to make the situation worse.

Now as a young adult, my daughter continues, as of today, to live her life in a healthy way. In some ways, my daughter’s past is invisible to the outside world. However, she, along with the millions in recovery, will never forget the challenges she faced and overcame.

These experiences have given her strength and wisdom. She knows that life can be hard due to the disease of addiction. She also knows that there is hope for those who ready to change.

We’ve both learned that life can give you a second chance when you are ready to dig deep, overcome your fear, and take on the challenge to begin again.


Image Courtesy of iStock

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