Claire Fontaine loved her daughter so much that she sent her away for about two years, and went through long periods of not even contacting Mia.
That’s the price that Ms. Fontaine needed to pay to bring her daughter through a journey of recovery from substance abuse, but most of all to begin healing from the crime of incest.
Mia Fontaine is a survivor of incest from Ms. Fontaine’s first husband that occurred when she was a young child.
After years of running away from an encounter with anti-Semitic skinheads, interventions, and finally successful years of therapy and recovery at facilities located as far apart as the Czech Republic and Montana, Claire and Mia Fontaine came back together.
The result is an amazing, painful, hopeful read in a book titled “Comeback: A Mother And Daughter’s Journey Through Hell And Back” (Harper). It is written in a style where first Claire writes what she was doing, what she was thinking and how she was feeling, and then Mia writes during the same approximate time about what was going on in her life.
The Fontaines will be in Baltimore, courtesy of Jewish Addiction Services, an agency of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, to discuss their experiences on Sunday, Nov. 18, from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School in the Rosen Arts Center and Alvin and Elaine Mintzes Theater. There is a $5 admission. After the authors speak, questions will be taken, and then small group discussions will be formed.
In an interview with the Baltimore Jewish Times, Claire Fontaine said that she and Mia use these discussions to share what they experienced, answer the questions of other parents and children, validate concerns of the audience participants, and offer a feeling of hope.
“We know a lot of parents who have their kids,” said Ms. Fontaine. “Parents seem kind of lost with all of this. I know that I was pretty clueless. I wish I had known some of the stuff I had to live through. We have met people who have held in their incest experiences until they were in their 60s or 70s.
“Incest is difficult to explain and to understand, especially if you never had it happen to you, or if you’ve never really heard of it,” she said. “I hardly knew what the word incest meant. I grew up in a home that said nice Jewish kids don’t experience or do these things.”
At one extremely poignant part of the book, Claire and Mia recount the teenager’s experience and friendship with a group of skinheads. What makes the experience so important to the writing and meaning is that Claire’s mother, Mia’s grandmother, was a Holocaust survivor.
It was difficult enough that Mia was at the time a runaway, that she unknowingly chose to hang out with skinheads; that was a focal point of her mother’s anger and hurt.
“It was the first time I thought, ‘I can’t stand my daughter,’” said Claire. “I was so furious, I didn’t want to see her. I felt so awful, I couldn’t find the words. There’s a lot of anger when kids do the things that she did. You are angry that they’ve left such a wreckage behind them.”
The programs that Mia attended helped her transform, and what also helped was that Claire was also attending life coaching groups herself.
“She did what she did because she was struggling herself, but I put on a happy face and created a nice life for her. But I never helped her work through the incest. Instead, I gave her a blueprint for silence. My message to her was here is how you handle silence. I ran away before she did, in a sense. Good parenting is not a given; being a good mother is voluntary.”
Claire said that she is no longer worries about Mia’s abuse of drugs. Mia is now a college graduate working in the publishing business.