Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son

So this is one of my least favorite stories in the Bible (yes, yes, I know all of God’s word is extra special and I’m supposed to love every single thing written to be a good Christian; but I’m a very very bad Christian who questions everything. If I were God I would have failed my ass and told me to go ‘seek’ elsewhere. Lucky me, God is a much better Christian than I am :D )Anyhow, Prodigal Son, yup, never liked it. Also didn’t like the story where Jesus rebukes Martha for asking Mary to work when Mary was sitting at Jesus’s feet soaking in his goodness.  I get why that’s an important story and I know the message I’m supposed to glean, BUT as I am a ‘martha’ I can only imagine her saying, ‘yeah wouldn’t it be nice if we could all soak up the Lord’s awesomeness, but someone has to fucking do the dishes and feed all these followers” (okay, poetic license, I’m pretty sure she didn’t drop the f-bomb – mostly because they didn’t actually have that word at that time). The reason both of these stories piss me off is because I am the hard working loyal do everything that’s right (okay except maybe I need a little help in the language department) only to be set aside when the damn rebel bypasses the work and comes home and is glorified. It’s like, “hey, assholes, I’ve been minding the sheep and looking after the fam or cooking and cleaning for a bunch men, one who is a traitor, a couple of others who may or may not be a tad misogynistic and somehow I get set aside or rebuked” hmmmm – so not fair.

And then look at that, I gave birth to a prodigal son.

God in his ultimate ever-lovin’ wisdom has a warped sense of humor.

And enough with the lessons. I want the lesson of what to do if you win the lotto.

My son is one day from being a year sober.

The last couple weeks I’ve been thinking about ways to mark that moment, what kind of gift to give him, how to celebrate this. He has worked so amazingly hard at this. I look at him and at times think ‘son, if you keep up on this path, you will be an amazing contributor to society’ I swell with pride at the hard work he has done to become and remain sober – for a whole year. In a society that glorifies drug and alcohol use. Where everywhere he looks he is being bombarded with temptation. He, with the help of his friends, AA groups, the steps and yes, God (his choice of a higher power) has made it a whole year.


So it came as a surprise to me when I am driving to my therapist’s office (so yeah, I’ve been doing that for over a year – and it doesn’t look very promising that I’m going to get to stop that soon) – oh sorry tangent – so on my way to the therapist’s office, and BEFORE my stop at Starbucks, I have a full blown panic attack. Complete with crying, not able to catch my breath, dizziness &---- feeling.out.of.fucking.control!

I do NOT get panic attacks. I am fabulous at repressing my emotions so that I don’t have to panic. It’s what makes me a good nurse.

So here I am trying to control my emotions so I can one make my Starbucks order in a coherent fashion and two, not die on the highway. So after one deep goddamn breath after another and some coffee I make it to the therapist’s office.

Tell him about it between shallow breathing and tears – and he’s happy as a clam and is telling me how great it is that I am having this break through.

WTF and FU – if this is what a breakthrough is NOTHANKYOUVERYMUCH

You know what’s even WORSE

He was right.


I thought it was all about being scared, scared of what could have happened – seriously Jake could have died, he could have gotten into serious legal trouble, he could have not stopped using and been lost to us for longer or forever. I also thought it was me being scared about the future, what if he uses again? What if he doesn’t get his life together and he lives his life on my coach surrounded by dirty laundry and bags of half eaten chips. And a little warped part of my brain thought (for just a couple of seconds before I discarded it as pure idiocy), what if he does get it together and doesn’t ‘need’ me any more (yeah, see the reason I may be in therapy for a bit longer…okay a lot longer).

We talked – and guess what, my reaction, more about grief than fear.

You’d think as a hospice nurse I could have figured that out – but again, that’s really how awesome I am at repression (I could teach classes). I have been on shut-down-get-shit-done mode (channeling my inner-Martha) and have not had a chance to grieve the loss of my son. My beautiful green-eyed, curly haired, handsome, talented sweet, funny, rebellious, darling boy (oh look at that, I’m crying again – damn breakthroughs, they fucking SUCK). I am thankful he is physically with us and I look forward to getting to know who he is now, but I need to let go and grieve who he once was. And I have to grieve who I got to be as his mom because she too no longer exists. I need to get to know the woman I am becoming because of all of this (I’m pretty sure I’m going to like her, she has a good sense of humor).

Circling back to the prodigal son – I don’t think Jake has quite come home yet – he’s still out there exploring, learning, getting hurt and figuring out how to survive and more importantly he will eventually realize the importance of home where he is loved – his physical one with his earthly parents and brother as well as his heavenly home and spiritual father.  But I do believe that he’s on his way back. We will celebrate. This year of sobriety will also be celebrated, because it should be recognized.

And me, I need to do some more being in the Word. Spirituality is very important to me, and I have been a bit resentful of it in the last couple years or so – face it, for those of us less perfect Christians, with less than perfect Christian homes, churchy people can be a little insufferable. So while my inner Martha has served me well, I do need to get a little more Mary in my life.

And to my other son, the one who is more like me in his attempt to do what is right I want to say, ‘you will not be cast aside when your brother finally makes it home, and son, you do not have to be perfect, you are loved regardless of how good or how bad you are”

I might add to son number two though, ‘but if you do go off the rails, wait a bit until I have built up a little strength’

So, yes God, you are right. And I am learning this lesson. But for the love of all that is holy – how about learning that lesson where I wake up skinny and my hair stays in place for more than an hour. That’s a lesson, I’d so appreciate.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

....and then he disappeared

I just read a great book called, The Girl in The Red Coat, by Kate Hamer - it was about a girl who was abducted. The author talked about both the mother's journey and the child's journey (if you're looking for a good read, I recommend it, it was an interesting twist an abduction theme). What struck me is I really understood what the mom was feeling. I think as moms we all feel this at times, those times in our kids' lives when they move toward independence. I think that is one of the reasons why these stories are so frightening, not only are we all terrified of losing our children, we see the reality that we will indeed lose our children. That's where I am. I lost my child for a year to drugs. One of the things I was so scared about, happened (not the drugs - didn't see that coming, but about my kiddo disappearing).

It was when I read this book that it hit me. The year he was doing drugs, selling drugs, stealing -- doing all the stuff that drug addicts do to keep themselves in drugs, he was not my son. He looked like my son, he was still living in my house, but he wasn't that sweet boy we raised. That boy that loved baseball, who would sit and put his head on my shoulder just to be near me, the kid who would talk to me (granted about baseball, and I learned how to talk that language for him). That boy was gone for a year. And my heart was broken. He was essentially abducted from our lives by drugs.

We couldn't find him.
Drugs wouldn't, couldn't stop their hold on him.
He had no power to leave this stronger, meaner, horrible captor.
He was lost to us.
He was lost to himself.

We did all the things we thought to do to find him again. Private school, drug tests, give him a car, take the car away, ground him, stop giving him money, keep him from his friends.

But the drugs always won.

We didn't give up. At times, I admit I wanted to. It was too painful to care when he did not.

Thankfully, we found an enthusiastic sobriety program. Thankfully Jake has embraced it. Thankfully he's been sober for almost 8 months now.

Even though it's been 8 months, it's only been in the last month or so I've seen glimpses of the 'real' Jake, not that drug ladened impostor. Every time I see the 'real' Jake, my Jake, my heart soars. For my birthday, he asked with that charming half crooked smile if I could take him to lunch so we could spend time together, he had the grace to say that if he had some money, he'd take me. But, while this might seem like a sucky present, he knew that really time with him was all I needed to make my birthday special (yes time with my other son too -- but these posts lately have been about our journey with addiction). We went out, we talked, we actually talked about some of his experiences with drugs, I talked about my sadness - it wasn't upsetting to either of us, just honest discussion. We also talked about silly things. It was lovely.

I know I will lose him again to adulthood. and that's coming sooner than later. That feels less gut wrenching. It feels right, because he will come to visit, he will grow, he will be the strong independent charming leader that was his original destiny, because he is no longer doing drugs.

That is, if the menacing black monster of drugs doesn't get hold on him again. This terrifies me more than Jake flying into adulthood (mistakes and all). For now I will take the gift of our precious Jake's return to our lives. Each day I'm given this gift, I am thankful.

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.