Wednesday, March 28, 2012

the break that can't be unbroken

Not to be overly-dramatic (because, you know, we keep it so light around here) but when your child is a drug addict who cannot be trusted, ever day is an opportunity for a little more heartache. You learn, eventually, not to trust the good times. But, even with heart-break being an ongoing part of our new-normal, some moments stand out.

Dad said across from me at the table. Small talk strained. I wanted to know about their recent vacation. He wanted to avoid looking me in the eye. Mom puttered in my kitchen, avoiding us altogether for the moment. Finally he just came out with it "we have to have a hard conversation." I knew.

I didn't ask what the conversation was about. I asked what The Oldest had stolen while they were away. Some booze. A Nintendo DS. Dad's 1976 Montreal Olympics coin collection.

Mom's engagement and wedding rings.

That can't be right. They must just be misplaced. Their 50th anniversary is this fall - surely the rings will be there.

Only I know it's true. In my heart. It's all true. And terrible. And undeniable.

They'd brought his stuff down with them, at least what they could easily find. There was another box in the attic of the garage they'd find and bring the next week.

And then my heart truly broke - until this moment it had all been just facts. But that tearing sigh from across the table was what did it. My dad said, through tears, that he couldn't be the one to report The Oldest to the police. My mom said, through tears, that they'd already had the locks changed on the doors and The Oldest wasn't welcome at their house until he gets real help.

They've tried. This is the second time he's gone to live with them to try to start fresh. This is the second time he's stolen from them, though we don't know for sure what he took the first time. Other jewelry, most likely. Maybe some tools. Anything portable and pawnable.

They love The Oldest almost as much as I do. That's the real heartbreak. Maybe it'd be easier if we didn't love so fiercely.
Scintilla Prompt

Talk about breaking someone else's heart, or having your own heart broken.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

only curse words come

I got a call today from someone whose name brought you to mind. I nearly vomited. Remembering. Sitting in that office, wanting a partner in taking care of my golden boy. Never having found one at home, I thought the professionals might be on my team. But the professionals who would work with a toad like you were covered in warts themselves. Having only ever had good teachers, I didn't even understand what was going on.

With that call I was pulled into an instant back more than a decade ... closing in on 2. The Oldest  my shining golden boy was in your care. Yet when I expressed concern you patronized. When I was incensed at your condescension, you flat out lied. When I proved you wrong, you tried to tell me I didn't understand simple math.

I called the school board. Supposedly there was nothing they could do. More likely, there was nothing they would do when a very young parent complains about a principal who had served so long. Circling the wagons.

The Oldest, my shining golden boy was in your care. You were responsible for his education, his safety, his development. And you sat with your fat gut leaking over your polyester slacks, you licked your lips watching my chest rise and fall as I tried to control my temper. Your snake eyes gleamed behind your bifocals.

You lied when you said the class he was in was better for him. Twenty-one six-year-old boys and four girls in the most colourless holding pen I've seen. One worn out, grey teacher. Better for him how?

If only I'd known, how much deeper things went. If only I'd known that what would start as neglect the first year would turn into things much more sinister. Much more soul breaking.

Other children saw him choked by the choir teacher. Told their mothers. The mothers told me. I called you. One of them called you. You lied. You said the kids made it up together. The teacher lied. The school board sat on their flatulent asses.

The Oldest said he probably deserved it. I hate you most for that.  And because he hasn't sung in front of anyone since. And for the other thing ... the one that he only admits when he's nearly passed out drunk. The one I didn't know until he climbed back down from the rafter last year.

Your stacks of lies. Your sneering superiority. The trail of slime with which you coated that school made working together impossible. Made learning impossible. Made The Oldest's safety impossible.

The worst mistake I ever made was leaving The Oldest in that school. Some part of me knew that it wasn't okay. That his light was fading. That some insidious evil slipped out under the door of your inner office and infected every room.

There's a special circle of hell waiting for you and your cronies. Only I hope there is also some special hell on earth here for you ... that you live with every day. Some crushing, burning, slow hell that makes you wish to die. I hope that school, that den of evil burns to the ground. I wouldn't even mind if you were in it.

That'd work for me.
Scintilla Prompt Day 6

Write the letter to the bully, to the cheater, to the aggressor that you always wanted to but couldn't quite. Now tell them why they can't affect you anymore.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

broken, at least for now

We're singing. Songs I generally love, or at least enjoy. Sometimes I get distracted - I'm rusty. Haven't been to choir in 11 months, and there's a lot in my head now that I'm back. I took a break right after The Little One attempted suicide 6 weeks after The Oldest  I didn't have music in my heart anymore. It was all I could do to keep my heart beating.

It's 11 months later, and My Man gently nudged me. Apparently it's time to start doing things that fill me up again. He never said so, but he must be getting worn out trying to fill me up on his own. I've started singing at home again. It's time.

Tonight we worked our way up to this song - one of our funnest. One with as much choreography as this choir, the whitest soul choir in the world, can manage. I normally LOVE this song. Normally it's one of my favourite and pulls me completely in.

But for some reason, tonight I wasn't there. It was foreign, and I couldn't sort out why. And then I heard it. The rattling emptiness where my faith used to be. The song has lost it's meaning. I couldn't even sing once I really looked at what the second verse says. It was so much what I have been through, but the chorus offered me no solace. No connection. This is all I'm left with -

Everything that could go wrong, all went wrong at one time
So much pressure fell on me, I thought I was gonna lose my mind
I know you want to see if I will hold on through these trials.
But I need you to lift this load, cuz I can't take it no more.

Flight or fight set in. I felt nauseous and trapped. I kept going. I'm getting enough sideways looks for being the girl who disappears. The only way out was through.

But once I'd seen it, I felt irreparably broken. Religion has not been much a part of my life the last 10 years, but faith is as much a part of who I am as my blue eyes and my lack of rhythm. It's my heritage. It's what pulls me back to my roots and forward to my future.

And tonight I finally acknowledged that my faith is gone. Faith that things will get better. Faith in myself and my sons. But more than anything, my prayers now bounce off the ceiling and land flat beside me. I know God is still out there, but He's sure not listening to me.

I realised I have a new habit - I ask others to pray for me. I have a praying family - I have faith in their faith. Their God is powerful and healing. My God is silent and distant.

I have praying friends. Theirs is a God of compassion. I have a praying boss and board of directors and team at work. They know what I'm dealing with, and they pray even when I don't ask. Theirs is a faithful God. Mine, at best, has mysterious ways.

Where one or two are gathered ... but not here, alone, in the quiet of my house. Where the fears and the anger and the never knowing and the strain and guilt reside in every corner and creep out at night.

We ended with I Still Have My Joy. Another lie, or at least only intermittent truth.

I still have my joy,
I still have my joy.
After all I've been through, I still have my joy.

This joy that I have, the world didn't give it.
This peace that I have, the world didn't give it.
The joy of the Lord is my strength, my strength.

Verse after repetitive verse. I still have my joy. I still have my peace. I still have my love.

Oh. Okay. That one is true. I still have my love. I may not have my faith, or my peace. I may only sometimes have my joy. But I still have my love - coming in and going out. I know that's ultimately what's going to make the difference for both of my sons. And maybe if I hold on to that for long enough I'll get those other things back as well.
Scintilla Prompt 6

Show a part of your nature that you feel you've lost. Can you get it back? Would it be worth it?

Monday, March 19, 2012

daring to dream

It's hard, now, to talk about dreaming for The Oldest  Hardest because it's so nearly impossible for him to dream. All I've ever wanted - all I want now - is for both of my sons to be happy, healthy, loved and proud of themselves.

I've shared in their dreams, as long as they would share them with me. The Oldest s early dreams to be a marine biologist, so he could help save all the water creatures he so loves and finds affinity with. The Little One's dreams - much to my dismay - of being an Army officer. Or of building the world's first ... oh wait, that's a secret, and a brilliant one I like to remind him of.

Later, I supported The Oldest s dreams of travelling the world as a snow boarder and cook - people need to eat wherever you go, he told me, and it's something he enjoys that comes easily to him. So he'd always be able to find work chasing the best snow packs, wherever he may be.

I saw that dream die the day he pawned his snowboard - for drug money, I assume now.

I tried to revive the earlier one by sending him - with my parents' help - to volunteer at a sea turtle preserve in Grenada for 6 weeks. That trip was supposed to revive him body and soul, remind him that could things can happen. Remind him that he does have something to contribute to the world.

It worked, for a couple of months at least.

He doesn't dream anymore. Doesn't see the point of it. Sometimes, if it's been a really good week or he's had some recent insight, or a really cute and understanding girl is interested in him, he talks a little about the future. Maybe he could help other people avoid the paths he's chosen. Maybe he can travel again - that travel bug runs generations deep.

But mostly he's too busy surviving to dream. And so my dreams come back to that old refrain.

Let him be happy. Let him get healthy. Let him know he is loved. Let him feel proud of who he is.
Scintilla Bonus Prompt:

What is one massively impossible dream you've always had?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

who's leaving who?

I don't know if he left, or if I did. Or whose leaving made the biggest impression.

It started before my choir concert. I'd bought their tickets - one for The Little One, one for The Oldest  and one for The Oldest's omnipresent friend. I'd given them bus instructions. Made sure they knew when to leave and where to get off. One bus, from straight in front of our home to the intersection beside the church.

I watched, my heart breaking with every completed song they missed. My mind racing - where did they go instead? Why don't I matter? This was important to me, why don't they get that.

It was my choir's Mother's Day concert, and my first solo - "Oh How Happy You Have Made Me." And I was miserable. Could barely keep the fake smile plastered on my face.

By the time I got home, The Oldest watching TV, while The Little One waited out the impending storm in his room, I exploded.

How dare you?

Where the hell were you?


Apologies and tears and excuses and finger pointing and the same old same old. They'd missed the stop. Decided it was too late and not worth going back.

My friend arrived, urged me out the door, said that never would he ever stand for me speaking to my sons like that again. And got me out of that space. My whole body was shaking with rage.

By the time I returned, several hours and a calming cocktail or two later, The Oldest was gone. The Little One played possum in his bed. I worried. Tried to work out where he might be. I called the one or two friends of his I had numbers for. Then sat on his bed and cried.

What I couldn't shake, through my tears and frustration and fatigue, was the continually growing smell of the weed. Surely, if he was gone, the weed smell should be getting milder, not stronger. I turned out the light and noticed something odd - a light in his closet.

Pulling back the bifold doors, years of indignation and outrage surged through me - 20 or so juvenile pot plants growing in moldy open suitcases under the hot lights of desk lamps that had been stapled to the walls.

How could he? How could he bring that level of criminality into this house? How could he threaten the life and safety of his own brother with that crazy dangerous tangle of wires? How could he think I would never find out?

I piled it all into garbage bags and a broken laundry basket, ripping chunks out of the gyproc with every tug of the electrical cords. In the dark of the night, I dumped it in our townhouse complex garbage bins. Given our neighbours, we would not be the first house searched if anyone saw it.

I dropped into bed, wondered if he was safe, and cried myself to sleep.

The next morning I called a coach, my voice hoarse from crying. "How can I possibly be happy when I don't even know where he is. It's Mother's Day - what kind of mother am I?" He answered, "wow, what kind of pressure must it be for a 17 year old boy to be responsible for his mother's happiness. Go enjoy your day with The Little One - he deserves it."

That evening I posted a notice for The Oldest on the front door: "We love you and miss you, but you are not welcome here unless - you stop smoking weed, you remove any and all drug paraphernalia from this house", etc etc. I don't really remember all the rules. There were 4. Honouring your mother was somewhere on it.

Just as I was trying to drift to sleep again, the doorbell rang. He had aged 10 years in 24 hours. Somehow he'd made it as far as Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. A street person had taken pity on him, so young and so obviously over his head. The man had shared his fire, and watched over The Oldest while he slept.

I don't know what he'd eaten, not much of anything since he didn't have money for the ferry, the buses and food. He was tired, hungry, and smelled of the streets, and yet I made him stand there and agree to those rules.

That was as bad as it got for a while. I'd taught him to be more surreptitious, but not much else. But at least he'd come back. I guess.
Scintilla Weekend Prompt:

Talk about a time when you left home.

Friday, March 16, 2012

the frenemy you can't escape

She's a bit of a bitch, and often a victim. She irritates the hell out of me most of the time. I mean, I like her well enough when she's herself, but then sometimes she's just so ... HER. She comes across as charming, until you cross her, or she's tired, or The Oldest does something that takes her somewhere between 2 days and a lifetime to get over.

She's been told she's an enabler, though she doesn't even really know what that means. She wonders if she might be co-dependent ... she actually doesn't know what that means either. She often over-thinks.

She means well. Has all the best of intentions. Used to hope against hope that she'd someday win a Mother of the Year Award. She won't. It's too late. But she's learning. Reading. Talking to those more expert.

The biggest problem is, there's no escaping her - she's everywhere I go and in every relationship I'm in.

The most difficult challenge I have in life and in relationships is getting off my own back. I've done what I've done with what I knew at the time. I've never ever ever given up.

And no, I'm not perfect, but I'm growing. I don't know what the outcome will be, but I know this particular story is not nearly done.
Scintilla Prompt 3:

What's the story of the most difficult challenge you've faced in a relationship? Did you overcome it? What was the outcome?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

sometimes no means yes

For the longest time, being an adult meant buying Cap'n Crunch cereal. And then it was NOT buying Cap'n Crunch cereal. Taking my sons on vacations - just the three of us. And then taking myself on a vacation without them. Buying my first vehicle on my own with my own money (I still miss that Jeep).

But the moment that changed me, even after so many other emergencies and upsets and breakthroughs and aha moments, that definitive moment is one I hope I never have to revisit.

The previous 18 hours are a bit of a blur, but the moment itself is clear.

The night before, The Oldest had called me at midnight just as I was getting into bed. All I could make out between the sobs was

'I'm such a loser, Mom, I couldn't even do this right.'

He'd tried to hang himself, it seemed, from the rafter in my parents' garage. He'd been living with them to try to get himself straightened out, but while they were on holidays he was alone with his demons and couldn't fight any more.

While we were still on the phone I got back into my clothes, grabbed my keys, and headed to my car. I let him off the line when my niece had him chatting online. My sister kept me company via cell phone on the 90 minute drive, at least until I hit an ill-named 'dead' spot.

He was dressed in his best clothes. All of his belongings had been neatly packed in boxes, and he'd spent the day cleaning the condo so his grandparents wouldn't have to deal with that when they got home. And he was staggering drunk, by the time I got in the door. He'd found his solace, as always, in substance.

I could see the chain mark on his neck, and it took everything in me not to scream, or cry or break. I thought that was the strongest I'd need to be. It wasn't.

He told me what he'd been dealing with. Named some of his demons. Said he would be better if I could just take him home. I considered calling the police, the hospital, a help line. But he promised he'd be okay that night if I'd just take him home.

And so we slept. Fitfully. Fully clothed. For a couple hours. And in the morning we came home and showered. And then I said "we have to go to the hospital. This is not something I can do alone."

He agreed, sort of. We have a fast-track emergency psychiatric services ward at our nearest hospital, so we gave that a try. Whisked through triage and into the ward. And then the waiting. He had an interview with a nurse. And then more waiting. An interview with a social worker. And then more waiting.

People on and off various medications and in various planes of reality circled about, shuffling, muttering, smelly. We tried to stay as far away from them as possible. On the balcony. In the end chairs. One woman was sleeping in a reclining chair. She'd been there a while.

The Oldest had a meeting with a psychiatrist. I had a meeting with a social worker. The psychiatrist and social worker met together. And then the question to me alone in that lifeless room:

"He says he'll be okay going home. Do you agree."

The Oldest had been angry since the moment he saw the locks on the door, since we'd had to be buzzed in in the first place. He'd withrdrawn more and more as we talked to strangers, as he tried to avoid the 'crazy people,' as he realised this was not going to be 'just take me home.'

I sat at the table, looking at these two strangers. Looking at the bars on the windows and the institutional table.

At first I could only shake my head. And then I took a deep breath. And I did the grown up thing - I said no. They needed to keep him there. He needed more help than I could give him.

The Oldest wouldn't speak to me when we came out of the room. I knew that being in a locked facility was the worst kind of hell for him. When he finally did speak, it was a mixture of condemnation and pleading - how could I do this to him? He'd be fine. He just needed me and his friends. Why didn't I understand?

I said I loved him. Made sure he'd have a bed in a private room and not be expected to sleep in a chair. I got as far as my car before I couldn't breathe or see.

I miss my naive self. I miss my innocent boy. I miss all the ways we were before all this shit became our reality. And if I have to, I know I will make the hard call again. And again. And every time I have to to keep him alive.
Scintilla Day 2:

When did you realise you were a grown up? What did this mean for you? Shock to the system? Mourning of halcyon younger days? Or the embracing of the knowledge that you can do all the cool stuff adults do: drink wine, go on parent-free vacations, eat chocolate without reprimand?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

cough cough puke

It was a day of several firsts, and a day that precipitated an ending.

I was 14 and more lost than I'd been in elementary school. Junior High, though it was almost entirely comprised of kids I'd known all my school life, was a sorting hat. And I was ... none of the above. My girlfriends had all seemed to advance so much faster than I was. My body had been too busy adding height and chubbiness  to add curves.

I'd sat through at least three 'health' lectures since grade 5, had once even faked having my period and borrowed a pad off someone just to feel somehow 'normal.' I was a girl in a round boys body. And the girls I'd known were all so much older than me suddenly. Cool. Aloof. Independent. Rebellious. Womanly. Everything I wasn't.

So when I got to be included - when they invited me to sneak out and hide in the ball diamond dugouts to smoke a joint with them - there was no possible way I'd say no. There was no peer pressure involved - I'd been aching to be included.

I don't know where they'd gotten the weed. It was never very hard to get in our highschool if you were cool enough to ask. It was dank though - harsh smelling and harsh burning.

I tried to inhale, and nearly blew it out coughing. They laughed, and I tried to be cool about it. I tried a couple more puffs, but we aren't born knowing how to inhale smoke - it's not a natural thing.

Within minutes I was sick to my stomach. Nauseous and cramping. I went home - one of the benefits of being a book-wormy good girl was the privelege of having people believe you when you wanted to go home sick. I swore I'd never smoke anything again.

That night I finally got my period for real - another first. I didn't talk to anyone about it - the youngest of three teenage daughters and the alumna of so many 'health' talks I was well aware where the supplies where and what to do with them.

It has stuck with me forever after though. One sure indicator of what time of the month is looming for me is a daring recklessness that immediately precedes Shark Week. I take risks and actions that I wouldn't otherwise. I also say things and wish almost immediately I could take them back, but that's a different story.

I didn't try weed again for many years. And I gave up, on that day, trying to hold on to those girlfriends. It was a beginning and an ending. They had gone so far ahead that I could never catch up. And when I looked down that road, it really wasn't where I wanted to be.

When I first discovered The Oldest smoked weed, this was my reference point. If only I'd known how much more serious things can be.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

i'll show you mine ...

“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” John Acuff

The email was friendly, welcoming, and such a surprise. Someone I'd grown up with, reconnecting after 15+ years. For some reason, although I'd known him all my life, my friendship with him and his wife died after I left my husband. Too awkward, perhaps?

Regardless. The new connection was a happy one. One of the upsides of social media. Catching up was tender progress - my boys are doing x & y, I work at z. His career has taken a self-determined turn. How's the family.

The emails slowly deepened. More was revealed. And then, hell weekend. Catastrophe and heart-ache here. And I get back to the office to a lengthy email about his happy children. Successful. Graduated. And then came the real conversation stopper for me:

"We haven't had any drug problems, they aren't criminals ..."

I remembered, in that moment. All the Christmas letters we used to receive. Their children being, reportedly, magnificent at everything they touched. How I'd breathed a sigh of relief when I stopped receiving them. 

My sons are magnificent creatures. But not absolutely everything came easily to them. Certainly not school, for The Oldest. And especially not in a school where he was put down, cast aside, and abused. 

I sighed. And ignored the email for a few days. Then I told my Dad about it. He, in his tender wisdom, said "what if you were just honest with your friend and let him in. Maybe take your relationships a little deeper." 

And so I was. Not dramatic, but honest. This has happened. This is what we are dealing with. The Oldest stole from his grandparents. He uses multiple drugs. He both wants and refuses help. 

The response I got back floored me. "Thank you for trusting me after all these years with your heartache. We are praying for you all ..." and, oh, by the way, things aren't as rosy there as they seem. They have their own struggles that weren't shared in round 1. 

Yes, we've had drug problems. We've had criminal behaviour. And we have love. We have hope. And we have friends and family praying for us. And we have friends and family with their own struggles and challenges who we can, in turn support. 

The greatest thing about that opening quote is that this IS just the beginning. That each day is a new beginning. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

feelin' good

Endorphins = endogenous morphine = morphine naturally created in the body

We've all experienced them - the high from a work out, from great sex, from a delicious meal. Our brains have been designed to reward us with feel good feelings when we move and fuel our bodies. But it wasn't until I read Dr. Gabor Mate's explanation of the naming of these fun chemicals (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, pg. 151) that I started to really understand the appeal of drugs.

Endorphins are a reward - one of the most acceptable instances in popular culture is the "runners' high." I'm too lazy for that and prefer the "cupcake with buttercream icing high." It's less talked about, but probably as common.

Also in In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts Dr. Maté provides the following comparisons list for endorphin and its related dopamine-enhancing activities (pg. 145):
  • Planning a great meal (or, in my case, buying a cupcake) - increases dopamine 50%
  • Sexual arousal - increases dopamine 100%
  • Cocaine - increases dopamine 300%
  • Crytal Meth - increases dopamine 1200%
I'm in no way meaning to excuse the addict for their behaviour. I just found this explanation poignant, powerful and relatable. I can barely resist a cupcake ... how much harder must it be to resist the pull of that 6 - 24x more powerful high? 

Friday, March 9, 2012

choking on words

You wouldn't really think it of someone who writes for her sanity, but I frequently choke on words. Choking back my hurt at ill-timed humour. Choking back my frustration at unbidden advice. Choking back the avalanche of not knowing - the pregnant questions aborted on my tongue.

And yesterday, choking on my dismay when I walked into my house and found The Oldest sitting on my couch, checking his email on my computer.

It's not that either of those things are bad in themselves - he was coming for dinner. He was expected. The surprise was that he was in the house when I got here. He doesn't have a key anymore. And instantly my mind leapt to 'what is there here for him to steal?'

I breathed. I measured my words to strip them of accusation. I said, simply, "hi hon - how did you get in here?"

The back door was unlocked. Which means it had been unlocked for 2 days. Yet another something that I had overlooked. Forgotten.

Dinner was good. The conversation was fine. And in the back of my mind the whole time was this nagging voice 'you can't do that - he can't be here alone - you have to be more careful.'

There's actually nothing here worth stealing. Or at least, nothing that I believe is worth stealing. He'd be the one to know more about that.

I don't know why I don't trust my voice. I have no problem writing it all out. So why is it so hard to say them. I have to force myself to say "your family met with an addictions counsellor because we're concerned and don't know how to help you." To say "all we want is for you to get better, but you have to be the one to make that happen."

I eventually did say it. But it came out all wrong. Jumbled. Powerless.

After he left I cried that it's come to this. And I succumbed to my own self-medications - white wine and chocolate. And I wondered how he can ever get better with someone as wordless as me as his team.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

the arrow and the bow

My friend Bear sent me this poem from Kahil Gabran today:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

This was my second message today that The Oldest s journey is not my journey. I have tried to be clear here that what I am telling is my story - I am self-aware enough to know that my perspective is not the only truth of a situation.

I also know that it's time to do a some letting go. This is my story, and I will continue to tell it. And with time and practice it will be less about what I want The Oldest to do and be, and more about my recovery from years of enabling him.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

turn that smile upside down

Sometimes the ups are only a reminder of how low the downs have been. On a morning like this past Saturday, when I get a visit from The Oldest and he's charming, smiling, and connecting with others in the room, the new normal becomes less tolerable for days after.

The Little One was visiting for a few days, and The Oldest had said he'd come for brunch so we could all be together. I took advantage of the lure of bacon to invite My Man and his children to join us. The Oldest hadn't met the kids yet, and it would be the first time all 6 of us were together. I was anxious - I want us all to form some new form of family. I want everyone to like each other. And I wanted to impress and delight with the menu. That's a lot of pressure for a Saturday morning.

The Oldest showed up on time and sober. He helped cook (have I mentioned he's an amazingly talented cook?). As he always does when he's in that mood, he made me laugh and put me at ease. Once the other guests had arrived, the conversation was stilted and awkward. The Oldest helped to smooth that out. Then he cleared the table & asked what else he could help with before he left. He was the ideal guest. The ideal son.

I hate that I can't just be grateful for that morning. That on Sunday when he blew me off again it was like the morning before had never happened. That I allow myself, in those beautiful moments, to think that everything is okay and there's no need to worry.

Maybe some day that will be true. I cling to that maybe.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

go go go go stop

I want my son back. Now. I want his smiling eyes, his hugs that actually connect. I want him to look me in the eye when he speaks to me. And I want it now.

Time in the world of addiction is just one more thing that doesn't make sense. That moves in and out of focus.

Some times I think of him and he's the laughing, dancing, winking 4 year old who couldn't get enough of hugging his brother, playing with his dad, and helping his mom.

Some days he speaks to me and he's a worn-out old man. World-weary. Exhausted. Cynical.

It's been longer than a year since he attempted suicide, but it is constantly present for me. A rope. Driving by the hospital. References in tv and movies. They keep the horror of that night immediate.

It's only been a month since his grandparents discovered he stole from them, yet it seems to be far distant - have we waited too long to respond? The facts are a fog for me.

I make appointments to learn, to heal, to support. And they arrive upon me with startling speed.

I can't make sense of this world. Maybe it's not fair to think that The Oldest  who is so much further engaged in the world of addiction, should be able to keep track of time.

Or maybe it's just one more excuse I'm willing to make for him.

Monday, March 5, 2012

instant-access rage

The outrage I feel at these actually insignificant slights is completely out of proportion, until I remember that it is balanced by the lack of outrage I've felt for years at the hand of The Oldest's bullying, lying, stealing.

Take today, for example. I was working at a fundraiser for the charity I work for. It involved cheap access for community members to a service that The Oldest could use right now. I said I'd pay for it. He said he'd be there. Reiterated yesterday that he'd be there. Messaged me this morning that he'd be there. So I paid for him to have a spot in the queue, and took slight advantage of my staff position to do so. 

An hour passed. Then two. Then I checked my messages - 'I don't think it's going to happen today. Sorry.' 

I could have screamed. Or yelled. Or punched something. Only I was at work, with people who were enjoying the event. With colleagues who couldn't really understand that this is just one more stab in the death by a thousand cuts. With My Man who did show up, as he always does. 

So I sloughed it off, or, more accurately, stuffed it down. 

Until I started driving home, thinking about it, stirring up what had festered all afternoon - why do I believe? Why did I actually think he'd be there this time? Why don't I matter enough for him to show up? WHO THE HELL DOES HE THINK HE IS? WHY THE HELL DOES HE REPEATEDLY GET TO WALK ALL OVER ME? 

Only, I know that every judgmental, harsh thing I think about The Oldest in those moments, he already believes. If I actually allowed myself to yell out all the years of hurt and disappointment and frustration it wouldn't even come close to what he already believes to be true about himself. 

And knowing that cools the rage every time. My job is to love him. To remind him what's right, yes, but to love him. Until one day I hope he can love himself. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

the bitter fruit of hope

My therapist, the one I only went to twice before she totally pissed me off, said that what The Oldest says is not necessarily a lie. That when he says 'he's sorry' or 'he wishes he could do better' or 'he wants a different life' that he truly means it in that moment. And then in another moment the drugs are more important.

And, I understand that. We had a family conference with an addictions counselor, and he explained the battle between the limbic system and the cerebral cortex, and how survival will always trump reason in that battle, and that The Oldest's brain is now wired to equate survival with the drugs.

tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies
So I listen, and I remind myself not to believe anything he says, or - more to the point - not to cling so tightly to the expectation that what he says will result immediately in changed actions.

I remind myself that The Oldest is a drug addict and not to be trusted, but that he's still The Oldest and deserving of unlimited love. That his words are not a lie, but a truth that may not stand up to time.

The things he says are so much of what I want to hear. I want to believe them ... in the moment he says them they are not just an idea, but a future that makes all this okay. And yet, those are not the lies that get me into trouble. The lies that really mess with my head are the ones I tell myself.
  • Maybe there's some other explanation for where the booze/money/my mom's wedding rings went
  • Maybe he can just get better on his own
  • Maybe mom just misplaced her rings - she is getting forgetful
  • I'm sure the drugs he's doing aren't that bad
  • Maybe he really does like having a nowhere job and couch surfing with his friends
  • Surely this is more because of his dad's 'abandonment' anything I did or failed to do
The exhausting mental gymnastics give me a hope that is not born out of reality. I am learning, slowly, that my best hope lies in a deep connection to the truth of the matter. That The Oldest is a drug addict, and he sincerely wants a better life. That his issues are more complex than I understand. That I can only support his recovery, not make choices for him. That I can - and in fact must - be responsible for deepening my own relatedness to the truth.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

in the shadow of the hanging tree

Our first date was two nights after The Oldest tried to hang himself; one night after he was released from involuntary confinement at the hospital. People said I should cancel - that it was nuts for me to think I could be with My Man and be present for him and genuinely see what there was to see. But I was determined - our phone calls had already done so much for me, and I didn't want to wait. Not to mention I was still in shock and denial. I rationalised - I only needed to hold it together for an hour or so.

Thirteen months later, our entire relationship has been conducted in the shadow of that night before we met. For 8 months The Oldest slept on my living room floor. He cringed around strangers, so having My Man here was a slow process and carefully timed.

But my hunch was right. My Man was all I'd dreamed of and more than I'd thought I deserved. He has been my strong tower through all of this - any other man would have turned and run away when he learned what was going on. My Man stood. Strong. With his arms extended.

He stepped into the light of a street corner lantern on that first night and I took my first full breath in 48 hours. I felt my whole body relax. I smiled, and laughed, and felt what it was to have strong arms around me. He kissed me, and I understood for the first time that 'weak in the knees' is an actual physical phenomenon, not an expression.

It has not been easy. My Man also has his struggles, and I have to remember to support him. It's easy for me to be consumed by The Oldest's drug use. Some nights I make a vow to myself - tonight we will not talk about The Oldest. I will not say his name. I will let go of my nagging thoughts and be in My Man's world.

So far it's working. Sometimes beautiful things grow in the shadows.

Friday, March 2, 2012

feeding on the fear

I can't stop eating. In the 13 months since he tried to hang himself, since that moment in his despair when he shared some of his darkest secrets with me - secrets that in the light of day & sobriety he would deny - I have gained 30 pounds.

Image from   
I eat in secret and in silence. I eat to soothe myself. And to punish myself. The sugar rush masks my fear and pain and guilt, and distracts me. It's so much simpler to hate my bulging stomach and my returning double-chin than to confront what's going on out there - with my son. The choking helplessness goes down with just a spoonful of sugar.

I didn't do this to him. I know that to some extent. I didn't give him his first joint, his first tab of acid, his first cap of ecstasy or his first line of cocaine. I didn't let him drink under-age (though I also didn't do much to stop him stealing any alcohol in the house). I wouldn't even know most drugs if I saw them sitting on the counter.

And yet. I can't stop hating myself. Feeling I failed him. Remembering the times I hit him in anger, or battered him with words. Thinking of all the times I could have done more to try and stop this descent. Thinking of all the things I didn't know but probably should have. All the things I couldn't protect him from. All the dark corners I didn't look into.

It's easier, to hate my body. To prove with every bite of chocolate and every scoop of ice cream, that I am weak. It's easier to choke down more food than even feels good than to sit with all of my bubbling emotions.

But it's not helping either of us.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

in the end is our beginning

He'd lied, and been sorry. He'd cried, and promised and walked away. For almost 10 years he's bounced before every bottom.

And I've been through every high and low, up and down, cushioning his fall. It's what I do. I am his mom.

Only this time he went too far. And I had to catch his grandparents and cushion their heart ache. Three generations is too many.

It's a line in the sand, this fracture in my heart.

For years I have honoured, as much as possible, The Oldest's profound need for privacy. Only this is also my story. He is my son, my hungry ghost, the most perfect and troubled and satisfying and heart-rending man I know. And I. I am his mother. And I also get to meet my needs to share, to be heard, to try to make sense of what our lives are the only way I know how - in words.

So this is our story, from my very particular perspective. Too close for a clear view. Too hopeful for realism. And sometimes also too scared and hurt and angry and sad. I share it here for you. I will share the memories, and the triumphs, and the challenges. And as I learn how to disrupt what I do that lets him do what he does, I hope you'll learn too.