Sunday, May 21, 2017

I'm A Mom - Don't Judge

When your child has an addiction it rocks your world. I’m not talking about all of the things you might imagine, like how do I save my boy? Will he finish school? Can he still play baseball….the second two seem silly to me now. Really the most important thing when you have a child who has an addiction is -- will he live. But beyond that – what really rocked my world was how I defined myself as a mom.

I’ve wanted to be a mom since I was a little girl and the days of both my boys’ births were the happiest days of my life. If you could bottle up the joy I felt when I first held each one of them for the first time, you’d be a billionaire.

And then from that point on I questioned everything I did.

I didn’t trust my ability to be a mom.  And good lord are people opinionated (me included). I tried hard, I read books, followed advice…..I made my own baby food, fed the kids low sugar diet, made sure they did sports, took them to school, dinner on the table every night, making sure we all ate together, I showed up and worked hard. Either Jason or I read to them every night. We went to church. I sent them to Christian camps – nice ones in the mountains. We’ve travelled all over the world together. One thing this experience has taught me is that all of this was surfacy -stuff. I really thought this is what society says makes me a good mom – but what probably made me a good mom were some of those things I was too embarrassed to admit to ever doing because of all the opinions of others – like yeah I did let my kids sleep in bed with me. Sometimes I was just too tired, or they were crying too much, or I just wanted to love on them. When they did scary things like jump off the fence on to the trampoline, I looked the other way, with my heart in my throat because they were having a blast. I let them jump in mud puddles, more than once, sometimes they would lose a shoe or a sock because of that weird mud-suction thing. I would hose them down in the front yard before letting them in the house. I yelled at them. I spanked them too. Then I realized I wasn’t spanking out of discipline, but out of my own frustration so I stopped doing that. I let them talk back to me, let them roll their eyes at me and laughed when they attempted sarcasm. When they were done acting out, I would tell them I didn’t like being treated that way. I was inconsistent. I changed things around because sometimes shit didn’t work – no matter how well it worked for the experts or other moms. I used guilt – a lot (and was sort of proud of that one). Sometimes things worked for my kids that didn’t work for others – sometimes not.

PARENTING IS FUCKING HARD – even when your kids are well adjusted (oh yeah, I sometimes cursed in front of them – no fucking wonder I have a drug addict as a son –right).

I won’t give advice on parenting, because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Well – that’s not entirely true – the advice I would give is to let go of taking advice and have fun with your kids.  I wish I had done more of that and less worrying about ‘getting it right’
So for me, even though I wanted it more than anything, parenting was hard because I wanted to be perfect at it and I was constantly finding fault in my own ability to be a mother – the thing that should have been so easy.

And then one of my kids turned out to be an addict.

And I had proof that I didn’t just fail at being a mom but colossally failed. Like kicked out of the mom-club fail. Because what kind of a mom raises a drug addict (let me answer that – a bad mom).

I don’t think that debate between SAHM and Working moms is really the issue – if you look closely, it’s moms judging moms. SAHMs will judge another SAHMs just as much as they would a working mom, and don’t think working moms don’t judge other working moms – and then they all judge each other. Because each and everyone one of us are super freaked out we’re doing it wrong. And we are doing things wrong--- BUT and listen to me closely here – WE ARE ALSO DOING IT RIGHT.

In my Al Anon meetings, I’ve learned, “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, and I can’t control it” – as hard as this is to believe, it’s so freeing. I did NOT hand my kid his first joint. I never even had that laissez fare attitude about any kind of drug or alcohol with them either. My expectations on this matter were pretty clear given the amount of addiction in my family. He chose to smoke that first joint and then he was lost for a year. I made some mistakes during that year. I thought we could help him, I thought we could bribe him, or punish him into quitting. It took us awhile to figure out this could not be willed away, he needed help and we got it for him. He did the hard work though – we just provided the resources.

So really, deep in my heart, I know I am a good mom. Not everyone is going to believe this about me. And I’m really beginning to not care. I know that I did everything in my power to help my son with a debilitating disease – a disease that most people think is just a character issue. And once I did what was in my power, I gave the rest over to God (which is what I call my higher-power).

Here’s my take-away – letting go is really the part that is making me a good mom for this particular kid, rather than all the things I ever did for him. It is also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

What I want you to know – YOU’RE A GOOD MOM. Don’t let what others may think of you cloud your judgment on your mothering. You do not have to comply to the rules of society to prove your mom-worthiness. Let’s stop judging ourselves and those around us, and just enjoy the limited time we have with these miracles that have been entrusted to us.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

And so it begins....

I was told I need to blog again by a friend. What’s hard though is beside a few fun glimpses into my life on Facebook, I’ve had no desire to write. Frankly, my life has been really painful the last three years and I fell into a pretty harsh depression. I still had moments of laughter, I went to work every day, I enjoyed time with my family and friends. But there were days that getting out of bed was almost too much to bear. I did it. But without joy. I plodded along through the day and buried my sorrows in my work – easy to do as a hospice nurse, because frankly everyone one of the families I helped were having a worse day than I was.

I didn’t even know I was depressed because I was so depressed. There was no introspection, there was, work, life, husband, kid-crap – rinse and repeat. It was like being a robot. I was without life. I never wanted to kill myself – but if a semi ran me over, I would have welcomed it.

I’m finally crawling my way out of it.

My therapist has also suggested I write. He doesn’t care about what, nor did he recommend blogging per se. But it seems to be what I know.

What started it all? August 2014 my sister died. Then my son started using drugs and within almost a year he went from ‘experimenting’ to a full-blown addiction. People who love people with addiction know that really addiction starts with that first taste of whatever ---- but it took us a year of trying different things to ‘help’ him before we realized the extent and got him the right kind of help (we sent him to private school, drug tested him, took away his car, out-patient, and finally in-patient).

I was thinking today about the night he went to his in-patient program.  We found out he was continuing to use while in his out-patient program. I came home one day to find one of his ‘user’ friends standing in my kitchen.  I must have just broadcasted rage, because he sort of backed out of the kitchen and out the front door without saying anything to me. When Jake came downstairs, he tried, in the manipulative way that addicts try, to make me feel this was more my problem than his. He left the house and I called the out-patient program. I asked my options, we did a dance back and forth – I think it was hard for them to come out and say, ‘yeah he needs a stronger, more intense program’ so finally I said, “MAKE IT HAPPEN”.  I may, or may not have sounded possessed. They took Jake out of the ‘class’ and it was then he confessed to them he had continued to use. And then he confessed it to us. We got it all planned and he left to Arizona two days later.

He stayed with other people during those two days.

He came to dinner the night he left, he did not want us to drive him to the airport. He and his friends (friends from the program – kids who are good kids who had made the same mistakes that Jake made and were now on the mend, kids that knew what he was going through, kids that understood him. His family were no longer the ones that understood him, or the ones he would turn to. In fact we were the last people he wanted to be around.

He wasn’t angry about going to in-patient. He embraced it. It was the first time he really wanted to admit to a problem and wanted to start working on getting sober. So his anger at us wasn’t about sending him there. He just did not want us in his life at that moment for reasons we still aren’t privy to and may never understand.

We ate dinner with Jake and his friends, the friends he had been staying with, the friends that were taking him to the airport. Great boys who got it. But they also got us. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t eat. I just wanted to hold my boy and never let go. I wanted so badly to go back to when he was a toddler and I could take away his pain by hugging it away. But this man-child had to be told by his friends to hug me good-bye.

And he got into the car and I had to wait almost 8 weeks before I could see or talk to him again.

It was probably the hardest night of my life.
But it was also a beginning. Not just for his healing but for my own.