Smiling On The Outside, Crying On The Inside

So often those of true heartbreak survive simply by putting on a brave face and sending that message out to the world “I’m strong.  I’m okay. I am handling this. Things are fine.” And while we learn to do that simply as a survival technique and because sadly we may be the only one pulling on that end of the tug-of-war rope trying to rescue our loved one, inside we feel broken.

I call that “smiling on the outside, crying on the inside”.  I think as parents with loved ones addicted we can all relate to that.

This is something we have learned to do. Perhaps you grew up in a home where there was domestic violence. Perhaps you yourself grew up in a home where alcohol or drugs were an issue. You learned at a young age to put on “a brave face” for the outside world.

Maybe you were fortunate to be raised in a loving home with none of those issues and that happy face was just that, “happy”. It was real. There were no fears to deal with. But as a parent you have found yourself in the throws of your children’s struggle with drug or alcohol misuse.

You are trying everything you can to hold onto that lifeline, trying to pull your loved one back.

I think of people as a beautiful heavy yet fragile ceramic vase – if every time you walked by a beautiful vase and banged it with a parcel or your keys or your purse, eventually it starts to break down.  At first it is little scratches on the surface, eventually the vase starts to crack.  And then crumble.  We are like that.  Physically, emotionally, we need someone to “help us move that vase”, if that makes sense.

If it were a beautiful vase, we would ask a friend to come and help us move the vase to a place where it wouldn’t get so damaged.

We need to reach out as hurting people as well, to those we feel safe with.  To someone we trust. As a parent who is watching your teen or adult child struggling with addiction you have tried everything you possibly could. Yet often it feels like there is nothing you can do.  You have no power or control to change their behavior or circumstances.  And so we build these walls around us, those walls being the face others see, “I am just fine”, because we believe those walls can keep us safe where in reality those walls keep us trapped.

I don’t know if that makes sense to you but I think it probably does.  I hope it does.

We have to know who it is safe to “let down those walls” with.   One of the most important steps to take if someone you love is struggling with addiction is to find yourself a support system. A safe place to go where others understand your journey because they too have a loved one struggling. A place that validates your feelings.

Remember, what you are going through is not your fault. Often as Moms we feel “Mom guilt”. If you are a mother you know exactly what I mean. If our children are hurting or something has gone terribly wrong, like the rise of addiction, we blame ourselves. What did I do wrong? We have to remember we did not cause the addiction. We are not to blame. Addiction is a disease and unfortunately our loved ones took that initial step to try a substance never believing they would be held hostage to it. And that ultimately, that decision would hold you hostage. Your loved one hostage to the substance. You hostage to their behavior.  And sadly, our loved ones behaviors or decisions are not changed by our time frame!!

Your “vase” is full and it is heavy – but know you are not alone. Join a support network such as Parent’s Forever or find a NarAnon Support Group in your community. Or reach out to a friend who understands your journey because they to have walked it with a loved one.   Or feel free to get in touch with me anytime.  Even if it is just to vent about your day.  We all need someone to feel “safe” with.

Just remember you are not alone – even if you feel like you are, especially when you have no family around to help and support you.  When that load feel too heavy, that is when you reach out to those who truly care.  Put me on that list!!

Take care and be kind to yourself,


2 thoughts on “Smiling On The Outside, Crying On The Inside

  1. Zanzara

    Ah June it has been 1 year 6 months & 9 days since my son Kevan lost the battle. Two birthdays have passed & one Christmas. Friends & family have moved on with the business of living. I feel pushed along by time, living on the outside, but dying on the inside. Wanting to die on the outside. Hospice, psychologist, victim services, family, church, friends, anti depressants have not stopped the downward spiral. None of those bandaids will bring my son back. You said “Take care of yourself”. Others say the same. I have always thought what does that look like? As I sit here knowing I need to shower because it has been over a week, my house is a real mess & I find it hard to find the motivation to even feed myself. I am a zombie

    1. I can hear the pain in every single word you have written Zanzara. Your heart is broken. And there is not a single thing you can do or anyone can say that can change the devastating loss of your son. It is not fair. It is not right that a Mom should lose the son she loves so deeply. I am sure you have asked yourself “why” a thousand times. And there is no answer.

      As Moms we “fix” things. That is what you have probably done your entire adult life. We say “take care of yourself”. And you have asked, “what does that look like”?

      That is a very valid question.

      When you experience such profound loss, such profound sadness just brushing your teeth probably feels like a chore. There is no time frame on grieving. Each person will grieve the devastating loss of their child differently and however long it takes. Your feelings are ‘your feelings’. And as you well know, only you know your feelings. That is the love of a Mother. There is no love that can possibly compare to that love. It is in every fibre of you.

      You mentioned nothing you have tried has helped the downward spiral you feel. Keep seeing your doctor Zanzara – make sure to be completely honest with how you are feeling. You deserve to get every bit of support you need for as long as you need.

      I wish there was something, anything, that I could do or say to you that would help mend your broken heart – but I know that isn’t something another person can do. Only you getting through each day – one day at a time and hopefully one day when you are thinking of your very loved son, a memory of happier times will make you smile. It won’t change the devastating loss but nothing and no one, not time, can take away your memories.

      You are in my thoughts and will remain there – please keep in touch Zanzara.

      Sending a loving hug your way,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s