Thursday, April 19, 2012

all about me

When The Oldest really wants to get to me, he tells me how much our lives are always all about me, how self-centred I am, etc. It's nasty, it's spiteful, and it digs in only because there's at least a tiny bit of truth in it.

Part of the pressure he's had to live under is a mother who refused to be happy as long as he wasn't well. Like all good post-pop-psych adults I try to use more 'I phrases' than you phrases. For example, I am afraid you're going to die when you go on a bender and disappear; I am shocked and hurt that you stole from your grandparents. I'm not perfect at this - accusations and blaming do creep in, but ... I suppose in the world of an emotionally stunted drug addict, those 'I phrase' could sound more like it's all about me than a responsible way to phrase my responses.

C'est la vie, really.

Cuz this time, The Oldest, it is all about me.

I found an article last week simply titled 'How to Stop Enabling.' I skimmed it, pondered it for a while, then returned and read it more fully. A lot of it is phrased for spouses, but the gist still translates.In a nutshell, the 5 tips they suggest are:
  1. Let your loved one face his or her own consequences.
  2. Every day, do at least one thing just for you.
  3. Avoid feeling sorry for yourself or taking on the victim role.
  4. Break free from isolation.
  5. Ask for help.
Of course, I'm least convinced of the first one. When The Oldest comes for dinner and I know he has no food at home, it works for me to give him some. It gives me peace of mind to know that a bag of my excess food will provide healthy meals for him for a few days. I'd do it if he was well. My mom still often does it for me. It's a way I express my love and I don't intend to stop. But, no more cash. And no more helping him out of jams. And no more helping him find a way out of town or trying to convince employers to give him another chance. 

Yes, I'm taking item the first with a grain of maternal salt. But the real reason it's taken me a week to post this post is because of point 2. For years - no, I'm not exaggerating - I've had friends tell me that I need to focus on and take care of myself. The problem is, I believe The Oldest's assertion that I'm selfish. He's not the first one to mention it. And so to do one thing ever day just for me seems to really truly indulge a part of myself that I'd rather not acknowledge. 

In my own little world
So that thing - the item that makes my skin crawl a little, is also the thing I'm here to shout from the blog-tops.

I will do one thing each day that is solely for my own pleasure. 

And I will tweet about it (see twitter stream on the side) with the hashtag #OneThing so you can hold me accountable. 

As for the rest of the article, I've been working on number 3 for quite some time. And this week I started working on number 4 and realised I have some good friends that have just been waiting for me to raise my head. 

As for number 5 ... well, I'm getting there. I'm not so awesome at admitting that I need help. And ironically, that is the first step in all of the recovery groups I've looked into. I'll know I'm ready for Alanon or Celebrate Recovery when I'm ready to ask for help. I do think that won't be too long. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012


The Oldest came for dinner tonight, a few minutes late, a little bit scruffy, but for dinner as we usually do at some point each week. I made Caribbean ribs and sweet potatoes. The apartment was full of fragrance when he arrived.

We hugged, made awkward small talk, and then he pulled two Ataulfo mangoes out of a bag. He didn't know how much I love mangoes, or that Ataulfo mangoes are my favourite of the few varieties we get in Canada (aside: my Brazilian friend once told me there are more than 30 varieties of mango in Brazil. I was jealous).  He only knew that he didn't want to show up empty-handed for once. He had looked for a gluten-free and sugar-free dessert to share with me (I guess he didn't know I've given up on the sugar-free once again), and this was what he found.

Moments like this are magical, and hard. In moments like this he's my son - loving, thoughtful, giving boy I raised. I showed him how I cut a mango, since he was unsure. We divided it between two bowls, stirred in the thickest creamiest Greek vanilla yogourt, and savoured the sweetness while the ribs finished cooking.

Sometimes dessert first is best.

He is not okay. I have to remember that in times like this. He quit yet another job because "they were assholes." He doesn't really know where he'll live at the end of the month. He's still estranged from almost all of his family except me and The Little One. I asked, as I always do, what professional help he's ready for. He still has no answer to that.

And yet, he brought mangoes. Sweet, juicy, healthy, dripping with sunshine mangoes. He thought of someone else, not just himself and drug-getting and survival. He stood in a store, and looked at options, and considered what would be best for someone besides himself.

He laughed at dinner - relating a story of something silly a friend did. His laugh was like sunshine filling the room. It must have been because we ate the mangoes first.

Monday, April 9, 2012

yelling into the wind

I think it's the loneliness of being the mother of a drug addict that most surprises me. The isolation. The feeling like few know, fewer care, and only the rare will actually ask - how are you? How is your son? What do you really want to talk about? I don't want advice - I want someone to listen and to give a damn.

I admit I am not naturally a person who shares my deepest hurts and fears and what's really going on for me. I takes practice and an effort of will to say what's really on my mind. Which is kind of ironic given that I work in Communications, am active here and there on social media, have 2 blogs, and write daily in one way or another. For most of my life I've kept a busy outgoing facade in order to protect the quiet, scared girl inside

I started this blog to try to get out some of what I was struggling the most to share with people. To try to connect with other parents of hungry ghosts. To get my thoughts out in black and white and see if I can make sense of them. To practice saying "My son is a drug addict and I don't know how to help him." To get related to the truth of what we're dealing with, and to let others in. And to give hope when there's hope to share, to share info and strength where I find them.

But in the dark nights, I'm still alone with my fears even when I'm in My Man's arms. More than one friend with whom I've shared this blog has told me they can't read it - they don't want to know the truth of what we're dealing with. I suppose it's nice that they're honest. But what am I supposed to do with that? Why can't they show up with a bottle of wine and just talk about something else instead of leaving me alone with the nightmares?

There's an irony, I suppose. In my master's thesis I wrote about trauma theory and how when people go through an extreme trauma there's a part of themselves that they can not integrate into their sense of self until someone else both hears AND believes it. Most of the research comes out of the Jewish Holocaust. I still find it fascinating and illuminating 10 years later.

I am loved, and The Oldest is loved as well - people don't really want to know the truth. I guess that's why for Holocaust survivors, the listener was generally a grand child - their children were too close to want to hear. And yet that is what I truly need. A listener, preferably someone who can listen without judging, advising, or getting upset themselves. I guess maybe that's too much to expect of friends.

23 Things I'd Say if The Oldest Would Listen

  1. I love you. Yes, I say it every time we see each other. And I will say it until you hear it. 
  2. You are a blessing, and still one of the greatest things that ever happened in my life
  3. None of the horror that happened in your childhood was your fault. NONE of it. 
  4. Stop hating yourself for how you responded to what happened in your childhood. You were a child - you didn't know what else to do
  5. You are responsible for the choices you continue to make now - addicted or not, you are the one choosing not to get help, to use drugs instead of dealing with what's behind them, to steal  from your family to get those drugs, etc. Yes, you are an addict and you've been through hell. You are still responsible for what you're doing now
  6. Your brother misses you - the you who was his friend, hero and protector before he became one of your victims
  7. Your father loves you, in his never-quite-sure-what-to-do way
  8. Your aunts, uncles and cousins love you 
  9. You are brilliant - far brighter and wiser than most people could hope to be. Act like it 
  10. You have one of the biggest hearts I know - stop squelching it
  11. You really need a hair cut. Just sayin' 
  12. People pay good money to try to develop the talent you naturally have - stop squelching that too!
  13. You have all the opportunity in the world - for love, support, help, education - you just have to accept it
  14. Nothing will change until you deal with the demons that haunt you
  15. I will let you fall - I'm strong enough for that now. I will let you fall hard if that's what it takes for you to get help
  16. Dream. Dream big. Those dreams will keep you moving forward
  17. I know you think your friends are great guys. Maybe they are, but they aren't helping you. Surround yourself with people who pull you upwards and forwards. 
  18. Your grandparents love you & miss you so much it hurts them to talk about you. But they do - because you are their grandson and they love you 
  19. Love and hope trump fear every day
  20. We are not giving up on you. Ever
Scintilla Prompt

Write a list of 23

long road

I don't want to turn the TV off and go to bed - I don't want to be alone with my thoughts in the dark. I don't want to have nothing and no one between myself and the realisation that The Oldest spent the weekend drunk or stoned or high and skipping work and killing himself as surely as if his neck were back in the noose, in part because I gave him the money to be drunk or stoned or high.

I know it does no good to continue to wish I'd done otherwise. I know the only difference I can make is to do otherwise in the future. But when things are good for a while. Or when things are not good and I want them to be. Well, it's easy to say yes. 

But then, in the aftermath, I get texts from his father asking if The Oldest is okay because he's cut him off again. I get texts from The Oldest's co-workers hoping he's okay because he hasn't shown up for work. I have conversations with The Little One that he's relieved, to some degree, that The Oldest decided not to go visit him - it's hard having someone visit who you love but don't trust or feel safe with. 

It's time for me to start going to al-anon or similar meetings. It's time for me to get real with myself. I can't keep living with my heart in my mouth every time I hear from him. Or worse, when I don't. I like believing things are getting better. Only that wishful thinking keeps me from seeing the truth. Maybe he'll still end up dead even if I do the work I have to do. But at worst I'll be better able to handle whatever happens. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012


I've been busy - out of town 3 days for family stuff, 4 days for work stuff. I'm tired. Depleted. Run down. And beyond all else exhausted. I know better, and yet ... I have no excuses.

While I was away The Oldest was texting me. Hey mom - you home yet? When will you be home. My heart sinks ... I love him. Love that he wants to talk to me. And my heart sinks every time. It's never good news. Never 'just' catching up.

When we finally met today, he was clearly having a bad day. Withdrawn, quiet, pale and shakey. We took care of some business, but I know better than to ask what's up in public. And then we got in the car, and he got quieter, paler, shakier. He opened up a bit. Just a bit.

I don't know what's really going on. I only know he's hurting. And that he asked for my help, and I caved. I had promised myself, my parents, the addictions counselor, My Man that I wouldn't give him money again.

I know the story he told me is probably only minimally true. And that the money went to calm his nerves. I know I won't hear from him again until something else goes wrong ... until the money is gone and the drugs along with it.

But still. After dinner we went to the bank. And I gave him money I can ill-afford. One of these days I really will say no and mean it. Today my excuse is that I was already so very very tired. Today I was weak. I don't blame him. I blame me.