How can one break the cycle of addiction?

Annie Lane

Dear Annie: I’m a mother to five beautiful children. I do not have custody of any of them. I’m an addict, and I refuse to raise my kids the way my parents raised me. I want them to have and see a better life than I did. Growing up wasn’t great for me. We were homeless. Sleeping in backyards in tents wasn’t cool. My siblings and I had to transfer schools all the time.

I didn’t graduate from high school, although I did sure get a degree from the School of Hard Knocks. I had my first kid at 18 and gave him and my parental rights up to my brother. As an adult, I started smoking meth and marijuana and drinking. I was in jail by age 22. In my early 20s, I had my second kid and gave him up for adoption because I knew I wasn’t done with the cycle of drug use and jail. As for my third kid, I have joint legal custody of him because I don’t have stability. And my last two kids live with their father, my ex-husband. I’ve relapsed, and I hate who I am today. I want better for me so I can be better for my kids. Do you have any advice for me that I don’t already know? Changing for the better, and getting clean and sober, has been so hard for me. Though I have done it in the past and loved it. I had a great church family and lost them because of my addiction. Help me be better. I want to be better. — Bad Mom

Dear Mom: Few people have easy roads in life, but yours has been especially difficult. Growing up without housing likely left you with anxiety issues, and substance abuse became a coping mechanism. Try to show yourself some compassion. No one ever hated herself into self-improvement. Becoming the person you want to be starts with forgiving yourself for the person you’ve been.

You asked me to give you some advice that you haven’t heard before. I’m going to give you advice you probably have. But even if you’ve heard this a hundred times, it’s worth hearing a hundred more: I strongly urge you to attend Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous or another program such as LifeRing. I believe such a support group will offer the sense of community and family that your spirit craves.

Dear Annie: I’m responding to the writer who sent advice regarding adopting an older cat. Their advice was spot on except for their final advice to provide the name of an animal shelter to which the cat should be sent to upon an owner’s untimely death. As a longtime shelter volunteer, the cruelest thing that can happen to an animal whose guardian has passed is to be sent to an animal shelter. Older animals have little chance of adoption, and they will most likely end up euthanized. Is that what any loving pet owner wants for their beloved pet?

In most states, there are privately run long-term care facilities for aging animals where they can live out their lives peacefully. Every pet owner should visit those facilities to confirm that they are properly licensed and operated responsibility. Make it clear in your family trust what is to happen to your pets upon your death, and provide funds for their lifelong care. Far too many animals end up in shelters. Don’t add to that population. — Animal Lover in New Mexico

Dear Animal Lover: I was unaware of these until I got your letter and looked into it more, but there are indeed “pet retirement homes” or “sanctuaries.” I echo your statement that owners should be sure to visit the facilities personally and ensure they’re properly licensed and offer animals adequate, humane care. Thanks for writing.

Editor’s note: Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.