I am no longer in denial that I am a codependent prison daughter.

It’s amazing how some days can bring on such memories. Not having my mother here in my life makes even the good memories sad sometimes. Most days, I stay busy, so I stay strong. But, some days, it takes all I have to fight the tears and pain in my heart.

I spent so many years being my mom’s parent because that’s what she needed at the time. Now, when I see her in those prison blues, I realize she was always stronger than I gave her credit for. I was her enabler. And being an addict, she was all for it. As long as I was there to pick up the slack, she never really had a reason to get herself together and handle her own business.

I am a codependent prison daughter…

According to wiseGEEK.com, “Most often the term enabler is associated with people who allow loved ones to behave in ways that are destructive… The term enabler is also part of the larger definition of codependency.

Codependency at first arose as a definition of adaptive behaviors a person might make if he or she lives with someone with substance abuse or severe emotional problems. A codependent tends to remain so, because he or she adapts to or ignores the behaviors of the ill person. In fact, the codependent often becomes an enabler because it allows one to be involved in fewer conflicts.

That is the most accurate description of the relationship my mother and I had before she got clean in prison. After a tragedy like this, every loved one involved starts to question themselves, their role in the person’s demise, and what they should or should not have done differently. Then, the self-guilt begins.

I am a codependent prison daughter…

As I began to travel deeper into my spiritual journey, it became clear that I needed forgiveness to move on with my life. I needed to forgive my mother for her bad decisions. I needed my mother to forgive me for not being able to “save her” in time. I needed to forgive myself for being her enabler, her codependent.

I prayed on this for probably four or five years before I came to the conclusion that I would not be able to forgive myself until I figured out why… why was I so weak in this situation, when I am so strong any other time? In time, I figured it out. It was just as stated above, the codependent often becomes an enabler because it allows one to be involved in fewer conflicts

That’s the bottom, selfish line. It was always easier to just “whatever.” It was easier to keep the peace than to fight for my mother’s life. That’s where I needed to forgive myself. Although codependents are enablers because they love the addict, it is still the easy way out. It makes the enabler’s life easier. But, it does nothing to truly help and save the life of the addict they love so much. 

Now that I understand my decision to enable, and my reasons why, I can forgive myself and move on. I have grown spiritually over these years. God has given me the strength to not only learn how to put my love for myself first, but to endure all with strength, love and understanding. 

I understand now, Mommy. You were never mad or disappointed in me. You were a practicing addict. And, your addiction didn’t love me. But, you did, you do, and you always will. I will love and support (but, not enable) you for the rest of our lives. I love you, Mommy!

Renee Patterson writes prison stories, prison news and famous prisoners’ bios. She’s a prison daughter, prison sister and prison cousin. Renee has published eBooks about prison wives, prison fiances, prison husbands, prison kids, prison parents and other prison loved ones. She currently writes news for the Prison Rideshare Network related to the injustices within the CDCR prison system.