Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Refresher Course

Yesterday was exhausting.

It didn't have to be.

I could have chosen not to go.

After all, he is 29 years old and responsible for his own decisions. Why should I go and sit through what I already know? It is a huge inconvenience to make the two hour drive, spend the entire day dealing with heavy emotional stuff, then drive two hours home.

Because it is "family education day" at the treatment facility, and I am his family. I am his mother. I went.

And I had to talk about tough stuff. About the decisions I was forced to make as a parent. About my past.

When I was around 10 or 11, until I was around 14 or so, I spent a lot of time in Alateen. I learned at a very young age that whatever choices were made by my loved one were not my fault. I was a child and had done nothing to make that person choose to abuse their chemical of choice. I learned it wasn't because I was a bad kid. I learned it wasn't because I didn't clean my room. I learned there are NO SECRETS, and that hiding the problem just added to the problem. I also learned I never wanted to use drugs or alcohol because I never wanted to put my family through all of that.

Then I became a teenager myself, and at age 17 I joined the army. In the army in 1985 I could drink as much as I wanted as long as I wore my uniform to the bar on base. I had a lot of fun, but I also found myself in a few scary situations. I was drunk nearly every night of the week, staggering back to my barracks with my best buddy. At some point I realized I was headed the wrong direction and stopped. I remembered things from my life I didn't want repeated. When I came home my friends were doing a lot of drinking and partying. Sometimes I joined in, and sometimes I opted not to. One night my boyfriend and I were at a party. There were lots of drugs being passed around and I had to make a choice. Be "cool" and give it a try... or walk away. I left the party, and my boyfriend, behind and never looked back. I was 18 years old.

My first son was born one week after my 20th birthday, and my second just 15 months later. I can't give all the details of the next several years, because although there should be no secrets about chemical abuse, some people from my past have a right to tell their own story. I, and my kids, are no longer involved with them so they have a right to keep their own secrets. Suffice it to say, my kids were exposed to situations that went against everything I wanted for them. I got them out as soon as I was able,  but not before the damage was done.

As my kids became teens, and I a single parent of kids struggling with budding mental health problems, I had to fall back on the learning I had done at 12 years old. That even though these were teenagers, and I was giving them the tools I knew to give them, they still made their own choices. I got them help whenever they would cooperate, and I remained as available as possible for them. Before I knew it they were adults, and my ability as a parent to help them was significantly limited.

And I cried. Oh how many nights I cried for my boys, but my mother tears couldn't fix the problems. I watched each of them sinking, then swimming back to the surface trying to grab my hand, only to sink below the surface again. Eventually one found his "rock bottom" and accepted help, but the heart broke into a million pieces whenever I saw him. I leaned heavily on God, begging keep my son safe. When we would go weeks, then months without hearing from him I would check the area jail rosters, and google his name looking for some hint of information. My best days were when I found him on a jail roster. I knew that he was in a bed, had food - even if it was just a balogne sandwich - and wasn't lying in a ditch somewhere. Anytime there were unidentified bodies on the news I read the descriptions carefully. When there were surveillance videos of robberies in the area I knew he wandered, I looked close at the person's build to see if it was him.

For 10 years, this has been my life. While some of you think I'm all 'wrapped up" in the kids in my house, I can assure you, there have been countless hours spent worrying and looking for that one kid. On his 26th birthday I wrote this to him and posted on my Facebook page, hoping he would login and see it:

26 years ago, at 4:18 a.m on July 3rd, 1987 I looked into your eyes for the very first time. I was just 20 years old. I will never forget the way you felt in my arms. Your baby smell. The way your hair felt. The sound of your cry.  You made me a mother. You are something to me that nobody else can ever replace. My first baby. My first son.
You were the easiest baby ever. So calm and quiet. Always content with the world, and yet so inquisitive.  
Our lives were never easy. I guess God had lessons for us we couldn't learn any other way. I tried so hard. I tried to always be there for you, to pick you up when you fell. To let you fall on your own when you were ready. To keep you out of harms way. Angry when I couldn't protect you from everything.   If only you knew how many nights I have laid awake crying for you. Praying for you. Asking God to please just keep you safe one more night. If only you knew how much I miss you.
I'll never forget you learning to pedal your first trike, your blonde hair blowing in the breeze, your big blue eyes looking back to make sure I was right behind you. "Coming Mommy? Coming?" you kept asking. I've always been right behind you Noah. I've never left. I've always been right here. I will always be right here.

And then one day a few months ago, on the day of Angela's life-saving surgery,  came this:

Note: I chose to share the headline, and mugshot, because it is public information and easy to find. And, there are no secrets about drug use. My son is a drug addict. *

Do you see that darling little boy on the tricycle? Do you see the strung out man below him? That is the stranger I drove to treatment on June 15th. I can't even fathom how that adorable, innocent little boy who always wanted to know I was with him had morphed into THAT person!

And so, yesterday I attended that refresher course.  I was reminded, once again, that its not my fault. That I did not do anything to cause his problems. I wasn't a bad or neglectful mother. Tomorrow we will sit down, face to face with his counselor, and have a very painful discussion. All things that need to be will be brought to light, both good and bad. As a 12 year old girl I wrote, then read the required letter to my loved one. Today I have written my letter that I will read to my son, and he will read  his letter to me. There will be things I don't want to hear. There will be things I need to hear. There will be emotional pain, and there will also be healing.

It is up to him from here. Whatever  happens from here is 100% up to him.

If you are a parent, and suspect your child is using drugs or alcohol, even if they are an adult, please, get yourself into an alanon meeting. Learn what it means to be "co-dependent". Learn what it means to be an enabler. Learn how to take care of yourself, and how to love your child through their addiction. Learn to find help so you can find healing.


1 comment:

Cindy said...

My daughter's ex-husband became a drug addict about 3 years into their marriage. She tried to get him into treatment, but he always left after a day or two. She worked full time, he laid on the couch all day. He became increasingly angry and threatened violence. That's when she kicked him out. Actually, her and I drove him to a shelter. He walked out a few days later and she told him not to come home. It's heartbreaking to watch people you love go through addiction. I will keep you and your son in my prayers.