Losing Elizabeth

by Mary Bingham

Today I had a call from the young woman who used to be my kind and loving daughter. The special ring tone that I reserve for her calls punches me hard in the middle of my chest. I take a deep breath and press ‘accept’. It’s what I am trying to do—accept her for who she is now.
“Hi Mum!”
“Hello Darling, how are you today?”
“Fine. Can I borrow your car? I need to pick up my stuff from a friend’s place.”
I take a deep breath before I can even bear to answer.
“How about I drive you there, and I can help you pick it up?” She hangs up.
       My car, covered in the scars inflicted the many times I gave in to her tearful or enraged demands, spends another day carrying groceries; not drugs, nor the dealers of these terrible substances that took my Lizzie away and replaced her with this paranoid, angry and permanently damaged girl.
       I gently put the phone down, go upstairs to my bedroom and scream into a pillow. I can’t bear to hear from her and I can’t bear not to.
I remember my first child Alice who died as a baby over thirty years ago. I still grieve for her, but it’s bearable now, and there are weeks and sometimes months when she doesn’t even enter my thoughts.
It’s not the same this time. I’m losing Elizabeth over and over again. Every single day, this strange and scary young woman reminds me that I lost my darling daughter over ten years ago to a terrible addiction. She looks almost the same (apart from the dreadful scars that cover her face from years of ice abuse), but every time I see her there is less and less of the bright, happy girl with the heart a mile wide that was the child Elizabeth.
I have almost stopped blaming myself, but it’s hard. We are supposed to protect our children from harm and I didn’t do a good enough job.
My daughter, who was going to have a rewarding and lucrative career, a solid and dependable husband and a pack of happy healthy kids, is gone. Countless times I have sat outside the secure unit of the psychiatric ward at the hospital and wept for our loss.
I don’t think that I can face another day of this unendurable pain, but I must—I’m her only prospect.
Tomorrow I will start again, trying to help this lost girl build a new life.