These were the first words I spewed to my sister when I speed dialed her number after reading the results of Ms. Fisher’s toxicology report. I couldn’t help it- I was angry. How could she do this to herself? To her family? To us, her beloved fans? “I know, right?” was my sister’s reply. And she does know. Because we had a mom a lot like Carrie.
Beautiful. Talented. Selfish. Mental. There are a million other words I could use to describe our mother. Truthfully, I already have. I just wrote a memoir of what it was like to grow up with such a mom. A mother whom I loved so dearly and at times reviled with bitter intensity. A mom who had so much going for her and squandered it all away, leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces of her broken, drug-induced choices. Like the time she blew the money she got from the state to help pay her property taxes on her party friends, and then called my sister insisting she pay the late tax bill. Or the time she let the homeowner’s insurance lapse only to have the house burn down and us left with the rubble- our only inheritance.
I didn’t even know Ms. Fisher had a daughter until I read the breaking story of her heart attack. Billie Lourd. A beautiful, young girl who no doubt has been through it all. My heart broke for her when I read the report: cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. All in Carrie’s system. I’m speechless. How could someone with so much talent, wealth and privilege choose such a lifestyle? Surely her money could have afforded her the best therapists, rehabs and so on. Did she even go that route?
Billie mentioned in her statement that her mother suffered from addiction and mental illness. Certainly a terrible combination, but still no excuse in my book for such a lethal cocktail of drugs. Yes, it’s just my opinion, but not only did I lose my own mother to complications of drug use, I’m also a retired therapist. I’ve been on both sides of this fence and here is what I’ve learned:
*Drug addicts (often) blame others for their problems. They seem to have some major block or genetic defect that prevents them from taking responsibility for themselves and their own lives. They have often been through rough times but they can’t seem to evolve out of victim mode. It’s eerily comfortable for them there and keeps them from having to grow up and “adult.”
*Addicts often have personality disorders. It’s sometimes hard to tell which came first, the chicken or the egg but many with serious addictions are battling more than just anxiety or depression- they are often struggling with co-occurring disorders such as narcissism, Borderline Personality Disorder and others. It typically takes many years of therapy and a skilled therapist to work through these disorders which often start forming in childhood.
*Drug addicts are inherently selfish people. It’s almost like part of their brain never matured past adolescence. They will often argue with people frequently or have fallings out on a fairly regular basis. They can be argumentative, judgmental and insensitive- in short hard to get along with. They truly can’t put themselves in your shoes and to be honest they don’t want to. It’s way too uncomfortable.
*Addicts have low resiliency. They never learned how to cope with every day life struggles let alone the major ones that come along when we least expect it. They can’t sit with their own anxiety or sad feelings for more than an instant. They are too afraid to feel pain of any kind and have to numb it out. They can’t bear to look at their own shadow. They are terrified. They fear the pain will be so intense it will overwhelm their ego (false self) and it will cease to exist.
*Addicts see outside circumstances as more powerful than themselves. They don’t believe in themselves or feel connected to something greater. Not always but often addicts are atheist or agnostic. They don’t have the sense that a benevolent force is looking out for them and has their back.
*Addicts are seriously lacking in self-love. M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, equated self-discipline with self-love. He thought people who had little self-love were unable to hold themselves to any kind of standard. Instead they made excuses for themselves as to why they used or didn’t follow through on an intention or goal. Obviously someone who puts harmful drugs in their body has a serious self-love crisis and only they can fix it.
Children of addicts sometimes grow up to become addicts themselves. There are many times, however, when we go in the opposite direction. My two sisters and I are great examples. I have a Master’s in Counseling, my middle sister has hers in Addictions Counseling and my youngest sister is a personal trainer and nutrition consultant. We are all hyper-focused on health and wellness. We also all have struggled with something I call Superhero Codependency- helping others get fit, healthy and well because we couldn’t help Mom. Every day seeing our clients’ successes is bittersweet- it’s so rewarding to see them make good choices but there is a constant subconscious undercurrent of, “If only Mom would have done these things.”
We have learned how to let her go in pieces. As a matter of fact we are getting together next month to spread Mom’s ashes at her favorite beach. We have forgiven her and ourselves. But the longing never really goes away completely. When I close my eyes I can still see her painting her next masterpiece or humming along to her favorite Beatles song, smiling. As much of an effing tw*t she was I’d give anything to inhale the smell of turpentine and cigarette smoke (together, as it was at home) or eat one of her seriously overdone steaks with the lumpiest mashed potatoes on the planet.
I hope Billie Lourd lets herself feel the range of emotions one goes through when they lose a parent in such a way. She has a degree in psychology, which doesn’t surprise me in the least, so I’m sure she gets it. I pray she has all the support in the world. I invite her to celebrate her own resiliency. I also hope she knows that nothing she could have said or done would have saved her mom.