Dear Izzy

A letter from a desperate mom to a loved but astray daughter.

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1. Dear Izzy

Dear Izzy,

            I love you. More than anything else I can say in this letter, those three words are the most important. I’ve always loved you, and despite what you may do, I always will. I need you to know and believe that. With that said, let me continue.

            Do you remember when you were a little girl how we would go to the beach just outside of our house? You used to run around and collect shells, fascinated by what may have been living in them before they were left there. You loved the stories we came up with together, ones of valiant knight hermit crabs, dropping off their cracked shells in exchange for new ones, or perhaps a young girl hermit crab growing out of her shell, excited to get a new one, just like you. And every day we would go, you would always run up onto the formation of the rocks to peer out at the ocean. It scared your father and I half to death, but I refused to stop you from doing it. Up there on the edge, the sun shining on you and the ocean spray splashing against your ecstatic face, you were on top of the world. In that moment, you could face any fear, do anything, and overcome every obstacle. You were infinite.

            I know this part of you is still there, you are still that amazing and inspiring girl. The only thing is that I can’t see it anymore. You have become someone else, Izzy. And although you may not believe me, taking drugs is what changes you. I don’t want you to put down this letter because you don’t think it will mean something to you. I beg you to read this the whole way through. I’m not writing this to lecture you. If you feel like that at any point in this letter, read the top words again.

            I don’t know exactly what it was that made you turn to drugs. Maybe it was a combination of things. After your father got sick, it was a hard for you. Harder than either you or I could express to each other. I remember you had just turned 14 the day before when we told you about his cancer diagnosis. If I had been of sounder mind, I would have waited to tell you. I’m sorry. That’s only one of the things I am sorry for. I know I wasn’t the best of mothers when you needed me. I know. And I live with that guilt every day. I missed not only many of your events while taking care of your father, but also the little moments, like helping you with your homework. And honestly, I can’t even imagine the sort of agony you must have felt to look out in the crowd and see us missing while everyone else’s parents were there. I lay awake at night and think about that feeling. 

            I know you felt you needed to be strong, strong for me and your father. Perhaps that’s why you never told us how you were feeling. If I ever gave you that idea, that too is a reason I’m sorry. No teenage girl should have to feel that way. Teenagers are supposed to be able to talk to their parents. All those years of secret pain, pain I didn’t even know about. If I could have anything in the world, it would be to go back in time and erase all the bad things, to take away all your hurt. But I can’t.

            When we had to move because we didn’t have enough money to pay rent and medical bills, I guess that was the final straw. You lost your friends, your teachers, and you couldn’t afford the same things as before. On your 15th birthday, when you asked for Miss Me jeans, I couldn’t buy them for you due to a lack of money. And if being 15 wasn’t hard enough, you had to deal with all this.

            After so many obstacles, you needed an escape. The people you started to hang out with at the new school had something that we didn’t. A means of relief.  I understand, but drugs aren’t the way, Izzy. They help you feel better temporarily, but they wear off. And every time they do, the pain will return. And after each use, you need more to help you achieve that feeling. Soon, if not already, you won’t be able to stop using them and they’ll control you. You won’t care about anything else. I know you feel invincible, like that won’t be able to happen to you. But I can promise you that it can, and it will. It already has.

            We never see you anymore. You’re either gone or shut in your room. When your father finished his last chemotherapy treatment, you weren’t there. It broke his heart. You weren’t there for your brother’s birthday, to see him finally become a teenager too. Maybe you felt like it was payback. But an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

            When you are home, it’s only if you need something. When you ran out of money for drugs, you started asking us for some. When we started to question why you were seeing so many movies or buying so many lunches, you found new ways to get it. You stole money from us, and you took your brother’s birthday money. You’ve even stolen things from stores. We can’t even recognize you anymore, Izzy. You’ll come home from a party, under the influence, hair askew with wild and frightened eyes. You’ll shout at us. If you don’t care about this, think about who else is affected. You’ve hit your brother more times than I can count, so much so that he locks his door at night when he knows you’ll be coming home. He’s afraid of you, Izzy. Not only are you hurting yourself, but you’re hurting him too.

            I can still remember when you were 16, you came home late. Your father and I went to check on you, only to see you collapsed on the floor. You were spasming and choking and all I could do was watch. Your father called 911 while I tried to wake you up. You were dying right in my arms, and all I could think was, “Don’t take her away. She’s my baby girl, please.” The ambulance came to pick you up, and your father drove us to the hospital. You’re brother was barefoot, dressed in his pajamas. We waited for what seemed like forever. When we were finally allowed to see you, it was a shock. You were so pale, and you had a bunch of machines hooked up to you. They said they pumped your stomach. You were okay, but I couldn’t stop imagining you on the kitchen floor. I have nightmares still, and often times your father and I cry ourselves to sleep. Late at night, I can hear your brother crying too. Every time there’s a knock on the door or the phone rings, my heart leaps into my throat. I expect someone to tell me they found you dead by the side of a trash can.

            When we don’t know where you are, we are all anxious. And even though we are scared to see you, we still love you enough to want to as well. You refused to get help after the overdose, and now you are gone even more than before. I know you think your friends understand you better, but let me ask you this. Do you think that they know how you really are? I don’t mean the angry and snarky person you are on drugs, but the kind, loving, and amazingly smart girl you are when you’re clean. Do you think your drug dealers know about the little girl on the rocks, beaming into the sun? They don’t. They see you as another sucker, as someone they can hook onto drugs and get money. They don’t care about you, they only care they have someone to party with. Would they try to help you if you got hurt? Would you help them?

            I want you to come home, Izzy. I know we’ve had hard times, but I want to fix those, to help make the scars a little less noticeable. If you come home, we can start over. You can go back to what we before any of this even started, if just changed. You can be a sister again, you can have genuine fun not caused by drugs. You can just do little things like play scrabble. I know it sounds dorky, and I know it sounds weird. But we all miss those moments, and I hope that you miss us too. Even with all our hardships, we will always wish you were here. We want you back, we need you back. There’s a void in the house, one only you can fill with your smile and your presence. We will wait for you as long as it takes. And this is because we love you.

            I know it’s not as simple as it sounds. I know you can’t just stop. Cherie Currie once said, “Even when I took the drugs I realized that this just wasn't fun anymore. The drugs had become a part of my routine. Something to wake me up. Something to help me sleep. Something to calm my nerves. There was a time when I was able to wake up, go to sleep, and have fun without a pill or a line to help me function. These days it felt like I might have a nervous breakdown if I didn't have them.”But there are people that can help you. We will support you. And it can be done. I’ve heard presentations about the worst kinds of situations, and how people make it out. So many people have done it before. We need to work together, and I will do whatever it takes to make you feel better long term. I will go to therapy with you, I will listen to you. You don’t need to bottle anything up inside anymore. If you want to tell me how upset you are, then do. I will finally give you my full attention and focus, just like I should have done years ago. I will be there for you. But this is only if you want to come back. You have to want your life back. And if you don’t come back, it won’t be because you were unable. Because I know you, Izzy. I know you love to learn. I know you adore your charm bracelet from the sixth grade still buried among your things. I know you hate broccoli and love carrots. I know you are terribly scared of moths. I know just how strong you are. I know you are still there, trapped inside and prying to get out. I know it’s been hard. And it’s because I know these things that I am one hundred percent sure you can overcome this. Nothing can stand in your way if you don’t let it. Nothing. Because you are still that same girl from the beach inside of you, if not even stronger than you were. You are infinite.

With much love,

Mom, Dad, and  Jason

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