When Tita Caldas realized that her teenage son was involved with drugs, she found herself in a dilemma, not knowing who to turn to or how to wean him from this addiction. In the 1980s, information on the topic was limited, and a family in the interior of Santa Catarina faced even more challenges in figuring out how to help a young man with chemical dependency. Even so, the mother did everything in her power to help her son and, four decades later, she decided to share these experiences in the book “Drogas-O Diário de uma Mãe”.
The work, written by hand at the time, hits the shelves at a time when Tita feels more prepared to talk about the subject. The purpose is noble: to offer support to people in similar situations. To that end, she exposes intimate feelings to show that families are not alone in this battle and, like many, she has faced feelings of pain, guilt, anger and frustration.
The text reconstructs painful and real events, dialogues, thoughts and letters, without trying to alleviate the traumas. In this confessional format, the writer highlights common characteristics in people with addiction, present in her son Daniel’s habits. Lies, running away from home, cycles of improvement and relapse, difficult behavior and stealing to pay for drugs are some of the episodes reported.
Despite this, “Drugs – The Diary of a Mother” is not intended to be a manual on how to help family members with chemical dependency, but seeks to start a discussion and break the silence surrounding drugs. With this release, which focuses on a decade in the young man’s life, from adolescence to early adulthood, the author also immortalizes her son’s memories. Beyond the difficulties, she portrays the charisma, kindness and respect for the family that were intrinsic to the personality of Daniel, a victim of addiction.
Tita Caldas is open to criticism, allowing readers to learn from her successes and mistakes. In several parts of the narrative, she analyzes herself and reflects on what she could have done differently.
What motivated you to write “Drugs – The Diary of a Mother”?
It was truly an attitude to wash the soul, purge the suffering and, perhaps, in this time of so much pain, justify to myself that I had fought. I needed to believe that, by not giving up the fight, my faith and hope had not died. It was a work written 27 years ago, but only now published. It’s a cycle that closes! Here’s a mother’s diary!
What was the process of revisiting and sharing such intimate and painful feelings when publishing this book?
It was an internal struggle, a way of justifying myself and without any intention, at the time, of it becoming a book. I was washing my soul like a therapy, and the memories came spontaneously like a spool of thread that, when pulled, the ends came loose and came in spurts. I needed to deceive the pain, get it out of me and thus share my feelings.
By writing about your child’s addiction experience, what specific aspects do you hope to highlight to help other families facing similar situations?
The dreamy girl who gets married, has her first child and dreams of a perfect world for him faced a life of so much struggle to make everything work out! He was a beautiful, smart and intelligent boy. When my suspicions began, it was very cruel, because I was going against everything I was taught: love, respect, responsibilities… I trusted my son so much, in the reciprocal love that united us and in the responsibility that I always instilled in him. And now? I want people to judge my attitudes, question events and learn from my mistakes. Was I too good? Was I harsh? Did I have any wisdom? Did you know how to handle the situation? Question! And, to torment me even more, I have the cruel doubt: Did I plant the good seed? In the rush of everyday life, with work, home and a small baby, did I give my teenager enough attention? Did he feel as loved as I loved him?
What is the main message you want to convey to the readers of “Drugs – The Diary of a Mother”?
I don’t pretend to think it’s a manual, a recipe on how to educate children, how to act in such delicate times. But I want to raise the discussion and break the silence and prejudice that surrounds drugs when they reach the family. We, parents, are never prepared enough, but we must always be alert in the education of our children. I want readers to learn from my mistakes, put me on trial, question and fight for a better world!
How do you believe the lack of information in the 1980s impacted your journey and the treatment available for your son?
In a time of so little information, what we knew were about very expensive private clinics far from our reach. This made us desperate, things got worse, we saw no way out. That was when we discovered a therapeutic community in our region, a voluntary work, where he received his first treatment. Afterwards, we met a more structured therapeutic community with psychologists, longer pre-established treatment and stricter rules that was in the state capital. I had to fight a lot, and only my search with faith and hope showed me the way. We never give up.
The book addresses some difficult moments, such as lies and cycles of improvement and relapse. How did dealing with these challenges become part of your life and, consequently, the narrative?
I often say that relapse is a lie! Then everything comes. In treatments, the basis of guidance is always to be truthful. Each treatment gave us great hope and relief. When he returned to family life, we lived in a time of so much joy and a light soul, with lots of love. In relapses, we experienced disappointment, even more intense pain and the certainty that we had a lot to do once again. We always needed to have faith and hope amidst challenges.
What were the most significant learnings you gained from reflecting on your own journey as a mother of someone with addiction?
I will dare to say that the person does not choose the addiction, the addiction chooses the person. Luca, I want to invite you and your readers to think with me: a group of friends, boys and girls from various social classes, intellectuals and religious people, go out for a walk and arrange a party at a certain point. One of them says, half-heartedly: “Guys, there’s a joint here, shall we try it?” Some are scared, others deny it, others try it, and so the joint passes. What for some was nothing more than a joke, for others (I hope there are few) it was the beginning of a path of no return of pain, suffering, frustrations and family ordeal. I’m not an expert, I apologize for my audacity in saying: I believe that certain individuals have an emotional, psychological, physical propensity, in short, I never found an explanation. My son was a victim of this evil.
You mention the importance of fighting for a better world. How has your experience shaped your perspectives on how society deals with the drug issue today?
The idea of fighting for a better world seems so vague. But, if each of us does our best in our home, in our family, in the school and work environment, we can live in a world where it is not the drink that makes the party, it is not the drug that brings happiness and it is not the money that gives us power. Joy and happiness can be found in our small acts: in respect, sincerity, affection, laughter, affection, family food and in being with those we love! A warning: for almost everyone, alcohol is the gateway to drugs! Drinking has always been my son’s biggest problem. I often say that drinking is an arm’s length away from anyone who wants to drink. It’s not bad for some, but it’s fatal for so many! Let’s stay alert.
In addition to being a personal account, the book also immortalizes the memories of his son Daniel. How do you hope people remember him through this work?
May your life not be in vain! He was such a beautiful, happy, playful, polite and helpful being! I will go over what each of his three sisters say (I will not use their names, but in order of age): “Mom and dad, he will always be with us, his joy and his love are in our hearts”; “My mother and father, we will only remember the good times, because there were so many! Your jokes and your laughter!”; “My parents, my sisters, we will always remember how much he loved us and was proud of each one of us.” For my husband and I, we are sure that love is our greatest asset, his children and the memory of good times lived are the inheritance he left us. That was my Daniel.
What would you say to other mothers or family members who are currently experiencing similar challenges and perhaps feel lost or isolated in their struggles with addiction?
Mothers, fathers and family members, never stop seeking help and fighting with your weapons to have your child completely, without drugs. So many manage to break free, your child can too! He will do it! Let us teach our young people to say no to drugs. The more “no’s”, the more the drug will be defeated. This is our answer to evil, believe me! Unconditional love and family are the fuel for this challenge. Let us not lose the ability to love, fight for a better world and the joy of living. With courage and confidence, let’s raise our hands high and say: your will be done, amen!
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