The title of today's blog was inspired by how I see my son. Last night was an emotion-filled night that ended with my son bursting into tears and falling apart. Sitting in the living room was his father, me and my husband. I wanted to run to my son and put my arms around him. But, I remembered at the Al-Anon meetings that I've been to-- I need to let my son cry. We needed to let him release his tears. We needed to let him sob and say whatever it was that was tearing him up inside. The night ended with just my son and me-- both crying, both saying how much we love each other.
I feel as though my son is a beautiful bird who has been caged by his addiction. My son is falling apart, emotionally. He is less than a month from turning 20. He is so young, so naive and he is nowhere close to being able to making it on his own.
It has been 8 months since I learned that my son has been addicted to oxy-contin for quite some time. Over these last eight months, my life has changed in a way that I never imagined. I am trying to learn how to understand the mind of an addict. This is a task that is daunting-- considering that medical science is still trying to learn how a "normal" brain functions.
For most of my life, I viewed addicts as "lost souls". I felt both sorrow for addicts and disdain for them. My disdain was towards the addicts who look the "stereotype"... the ones who are in the bad sections of towns... the ones who look homeless...who scrounge for money and wheel their stolen grocery carts, loaded with their earthly possessions. "They" are the ones who are arrested for breaking into people's homes to steal anything that they can lay their eyes on.
Now, my stereo-type view of addicts has taken on an entirely different view of them. That's because my own son is an addict. When I attended the four week classes at his treatment center, my stereotype of what an addict looks like changed forever. The meeting room was filled with men and women of all ages. I could not distinguish who the addict was from who the non-addict family member was. It wasn't until each of were asked to give our first name and that the addicts were revealed to all of us. My jaw dropped when an "executive" woman stood and said "My name is ____ and I am an alcoholic". Or, when an elderly man, who looked meek and innocent said "My name is _____" and I am a heroin addict. That is when I realized that addicts look just like me...just like your school teacher...banker...doctor or child. They all have different stories. They can function in life, even though they are using. That's what my son did so well, for so long, that I did not see what a mess he was in. I have been angry at myself, my ex-husband, his drug dealer. I have felt indignant, hurt, among other things.
Addiction has found a place in my very heart and soul. My only son is a mess, because of his drug use that has been going on since he was in middle school. He has been using drugs for six years, starting with smoking weed. He has progressed to opioid addiction.
In the last eight months, I have been bombarded by so many "experts" that I feel so vulnerable and confused. I have read books, articles, blog sites...I have been to meetings, spoken with parents of addicts and even addicts, themselves.
Understanding addiction is as challenging as people discussing religion. Addiction is a topic that evokes so much passion and so much judgment. It is so overwhelming to me, at times. Yet, I cannot look away. I have been angry at myself, my ex-husband, his drug dealer. I have felt indignant, hurt, among other things.
My son has been with me for three days. Last night, was a turning point for me-- as his mom. This is hard for me to explain, but I'm going to write how I feel. I am taking a risk, because there are people who are reading my very personal thoughts right now. I need to stay focused on educating myself as much as possible. I have to accept that my son is living in hell, right now. I have to find a way to explain to my loved ones that my son is incapable of "tough love" isn't as easy as they so breezily tell me I need to do.
Tell me-- what would you do if it was your own son or daughter who is in such a dire emotional mess? Let me give you an example-- my son had his cellphone stolen. Yes, he was irresponsible by leaving it unattended for a few minutes at a busy train station. But, wait-- that's what you and I see. Can you put yourself into my son's position? He's a mess-- emotionally. He is not capable of thinking the way that we non-addicts do. he doesn't have the capacity to think rationally. Is he crazy? Is he bi-polar? Does he have ADD? Or, do you believe that there is no such thing? Believe me, I've heard so many facets of mental illness. I've heard that it's Satan...it's a chemical imbalance... pills can help...pills won't help.
But let's go back to his stolen cellphone and "tough love". Do I say "suffer the consequences" and he goes back to San Francisco in his messed up emotional state? Or, do I give him my spare cellphone, knowing that this is his only lifeline to his family and friends? As his mother, his cellphone is the only way that I can find peace of mind. Just a simple text message from 120 miles away gives me a small sense of comfort that my son is still alive. I cannot imagine what it would be if my son was to just "disappear". I think about the book by David Sheff, "My Beautiful Boy". Just reading this father's story of his son's addiction to meth (in the very area where my son is living) describes the pain of watching your precious child struggle with addiction.
I'm rambling, I know...but I am also trying to purse a lot of pent up emotion. I need to keep writing...
"Tough Love". It seems so simple and logical, doesn't it? Make your child suffer the consequence. But, you see, it's not so easy when it's your very own child. It's even tougher to "tough love" when your child is not a thief. Once in a while, my son spouts of the "F" word at me. He uses lines like, "What the F do you want me to do?" He's even said "Shut the F up" to me." I hate it, and I remind him that it is not acceptable to me. But, that's the worst that I can say about him. He is not a violent person, either. He's as tender-hearted as a kitten, truth be told.
I am doing my hardest to not enable my son. Yet, how can I not help my son to buy groceries? And what about paying for him to have a safe place to sleep at night? I've been told to let him become homeless, so he'll hit rock bottom. Think about it-- if it was your own son or daughter, could you really have the strength to do it? Could you? If your own son or daughter wasn't a criminal or every laid a hand on you? Could you?
So here I sit, on my couch with my laptop. I've driven my husband away, begging for the peace and quiet that I need to try and write this post. I know I ticked off my husband, and I feel bad about it. I haven't left my house in two days, because I am desperate for peace and quiet. I am apologizing to him, often, because my son's addiction is affecting our marriage. We have a great marriage, but we need to get into counseling-- we both agree that we don't want out relationship to suffer. The last few days have been stressful for everybody. It's noon, and my son is still sleeping, just down the hall. He looks peaceful in his sleep.
Ultimately, I have decided to give my son the spare cellphone, against my husband's advice. I reached that decision, because of what happened last night:
My husband graciously offered to take my son to hit golf balls. B adores playing golf, and he's pretty darn good at it. Afterward, my husband dropped B off at his father's house. The plan was that B would visit with his dad for a few minutes. He used my husband's cellphone to call his sponsor and B was overheard saying they'd go to the 5:00 meeting.
I received a call from B's father asking if I'd heard from him. ENTER CHAOS...
B's father, stepfather and I began to compare stories. Helter Skelter got worse, and the three of us surmised that B had lied to us. Emotions got charged, and in two hour's time, we all felt as though we were deceived by B. I was so angry that I was ready to pack him onto a Greyhound bus the following morning. Please understand that my emotion is not about being "controlling". My emotional reaction comes from fear-- it comes being torn between the logic that an addict will "use" no matter what I say or do. I cannot control it. Still, he is my son and I cannot bear the thought of another setback of him buying heroin to smoke.
B finally called me, and he put his sponsor on the phone. His sponsor verified that B had, indeed, gone to a meeting. They were at Starbucks, working on Step 1.
Thirty minutes later, that is when my son came home (driven by his dad) with red and swollen eyes.
That brings this post back to where I started. My son is in dire need of professional help. I will do everything, in my power, that I can to help him find it. My son admitted to all of us that he feels so messed up "inside his head" that he feels hopeless. He sobbed that he feels he has let so many people down. He feels like a failure. He admits that he has no desire to get out of bed and that he is clearly depressed. He says that he is physically incapable of doing the simplest tasks. He said that trying to hit one bucket of golf balls was almost impossible.
In the end, my husband made an honest mistake. My son did not lie. Ouch.
You see? As the loved ones of an addict, we cannot help but to feel affected. It's the lies that makes us overreact. My husband apologized to B, but I do not doubt that my son is hurt.
So, I ask you (faceless readers)... what can I do, as a mother? I was ready to put him in my car to check him into our local hospital. He rejected that idea, saying that he could not handle the defeat and humiliation of going into a psyche ward.
Again...what do I do? What can I do?
Tears in the rapids... I heard an analogy at a Celebrate Recovery meeting that I attended. A woman said that at times, she felt like a bird who was perched over a tiny branch above a rapid flowing river. She compared that branch as God, holding us over the rapids.
This morning, I thought of my son and of him being that beautiful creation from God's own hands. I also thought to myself... how my tears are lost in the rapids. My pain and my sorrows are not alone. Just reading my newspaper, I am appalled that a man was trampled to death when a stampede of early morning Christmas shoppers at Wal-Mart got out of control. I read about the situation at Mumbai, and how a local Rabbi lost his cousin and wife to terrorists. The world is not an easy place to survive. But, I hold to God's promise that he is with those of us who believe in Him.
Despite the stress of my son's situation, I am not without hope. Someone wrote a comment on my blog..."what is normal"? That's a question as deep as the ocean. To me, I find that my personal relationship with God is gives me a sense of peace..normalcy. I do not blame God for my son's situation. Instead, I thank God for his mercy. I lean on God's holy word, prayer, my church, my husband (my love, my best friend, and kind-hearted person) and a few treasured friends. They give me encouragement.
Ultimately, it is my love for Jesus...my Lord and Savior, that gives me joy. To me, my life feels normal when I feel God's peace and the joy that He brings. I feel "normal" when I can smile through my day-- to overlook the demands of my job...a difficult parent or a job deadline. I feel normal when I wake up next to my husband and I feel his loving touch. I feel at peace when I can come home, and find food to prepare a meal. I feel at peace because I no longer have bill collectors calling me... I feel peace when I am alone, with myself. I don't have voices in my head that tell me I am worthless. Despite my sorrows, I can still rejoice that God loves me, he has a purpose for me. He has given me compassion for others. He has forgiven me for the things I have done. God has given me the vision to see my blessings. He has shown me how my blessings far outweigh my trials and tribulations.
I pray for any and all of you, who feel that you have no hope or joy in your life. It is a dark and lonely place to be. Maybe God fill you with His glorious presence.
1 Peter 1:8 (New King James Version)
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.