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In the early days of my daughter’s addiction, Simon and Garfunkel’s’ Bridge Over Troubled Water was the soundtrack to my life. It was an anthem for me, the Warrior Mom, the one who would do anything to rescue my daughter. The song played in my head. It spoke to me. Inspired me. I would “lay me down,” sacrificing my physical, emotional and financial health to save her. The best lyric? “I’ll take your part… when darkness comes… and pain is all around.” Yes, I was ready to suffer for her benefit. It was brave. It was noble. It was fearless. It was my job as a loving mom.

The only problem was, I had it all wrong. My take on the song was a classic case of misconstrued lyrics.

The reality was that all of my efforts to rescue my daughter only kept her sick. Even worse, they dragged me down too, eventually draining me of the will, and the means, to keep fighting. I hit my bottom long before my daughter hit hers. In the end that was a blessing, because it led me to rooms where I learned what I could, and could not, control – and that the best way to help my daughter was to save myself.

I became a different kind of Warrior Mom. I fought my own battle to stop enabling. I developed the courage to let go. I summoned the bravery to allow my daughter to experience the consequences of her using. I fought my natural mothering instincts and gained strength from other parents – my tribe of fellow warriors.

My anthem began to speak to me in a different way. I could be the “bridge over troubled water,” by loving my daughter and being there to help her across when she was ready for recovery. I did that by making detox, rehab and aftercare supports available to her, and encouraging her to take advantage of them. Sometimes she did – and often she failed. As hard as it was, I learned to let her sail her own ship. Eventually, she caught the wind and got it right.

Today, Bridge Over Troubled Waters is still a favorite song, but it’s these lyrics I hear in my head:

“Sail on, silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind.”

I’ve accepted that my place is sailing behind, providing love, encouragement and hope – as my daughter navigates on her own to the calmer waters of recovery.

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