The Flip Side of Addiction: The Family

By: Tina Cook

September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness month. In memory of my mother, Mildred Ann Davis-Grisham and in honor of all those who suffer alongside addicts, I humbly allow my sister, Angie Cook-Norwood to share THE FLIP SIDE…

We are all affected when we love an addict. Yes, those of us not choosing the lifestyle can go on with our lives, but there is always a nagging void, helplessness we can’t describe. The person we love is choosing to destroy themselves and we can only watch. Of course the watching comes after you realize the begging, the pleading, the negotiating, the money and the tears do not work. It really comes down to the addict’s choice. As with all things, there are two sides to every story; the flip side.

Our family struggled with Tina and her addiction on and off for over thirty years. The range of emotions we endured during those years could fill a novel. It is during times of strife we learn the true meaning of everyday words such as like and love; we all came to terms with the fact we loved Tina but we did not like her. The highs and lows were unbearable, but more unbearable was the realization there was never a ‘normal’ between the highs and lows; we could not find comfortable ground in our relationship with Tina, with addiction.

I truly believe as I look back on the events surrounding 2011, God had a plan for our family. We lost our dad June 2011; it was sudden and most unexpected. Tina was in jail for drug related charges. I was so angry she was not with us, with me. It took a few days but I finally got the news to her; she was devastated. I recall wanting the news to impact her to the point of recovery; it did not. We lost track of her until late in 2011. Tina was incarcerated yet again. I did not care; my heart could not take anymore. I hated drugs and at the time, Tina.

In February 2012, the world came crashing down on our family. Our mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, stage III-C. The mental and physical fatigue of facing such a devastating illness began to take a toll on our family. In February 2013, my mom and I knew we needed help. The travel to Michigan to be with my mother was increasingly more difficult; my children and a job needed me in Alabama. During a trip to M.D. Anderson in Houston, my mother, realizing her health was swiftly declining, initiated the conversation of bringing Tina from Florida to Michigan. Although our communication with Tina was brief and limited, we did know she’d been living in a group home and was working; she’d only been sober outside of jail 9 months. After much discussion, my mother and I realized Tina was the answer; she could easily leave her job and her home. The call to Tina was strange; rules were outlined and we all agreed Tina would come to Michigan. My mother was hopeful; I was thankful; we both were apprehensive. Our love for Tina did not erase the fear of trusting her.

We lost our mother April 2013. Although the months for Tina and my mom were brief in number, the healing between them filled years of unanswered questions and doubt. Tina’s devoted care of our mom touched my heart to the core; Tina was not only helping care for our mom but she was allowing me to care for my children. Those two months built a bridge between the years of the addiction that plagued our family. I finally had the sister my heart ached to have in my life, the sister I knew was out there in the harsh world of drugs longing to come home.

Tina and I are closer now than ever before in our lives. We often smile as we recall our mother, an only child, reminding us having a sister is a gift; a sister ties together our past, present and future. And, yes, as usual, mama was right; a sister is your best friend.

Out of the loss Tina and I shared, Mildred’s Angels was birthed; an Ovarian Cancer Awareness, Advocacy and Resource group. Together, we continue our mother’s journey and wish to empower women against this whispering disease.

They say a mother’s love can overcome all obstacles; I believe it and I now know it definitely can change one’s life. They also say when God closes a door, He opens another one. And sometimes we are open to the possibilities and we take a leap of faith; wisely, we run through the open door and discover God’s plan filled with Grace and we bask in all His Glory.
By: Tina Cook
Director, Athens-Limestone County Family Resource Center