Monday, July 30, 2012

Facing our monsters

When my kids were little and would have nightmares, I used “Monster  Spray” to chase away their fears.  Monster Spray was really just an empty bottle of hairspray that I had decorated and labeled.  It usually worked like magic.  A couple of spritzes of Monster Spray under their bed and around their bedrooms chased away all of the scary monsters that stole their sleep.  Now they’ve grown up and their monsters, and mine, are so much bigger than the imaginary creatures that lived under the bed.

            Tomorrow my son starts inpatient rehab.  He will have many monsters to face and try to conquer as he fights a battle for his life against addiction.  I have my own monsters to deal with too.  My monster is fear.  The fear of what will happen as my son fights his battle.  This time I can’t come to his rescue with Monster Spray, nor will it free me from my fear.  Now is the time that I will have to practice “letting go, and letting God” with every ounce of faith I can muster.  I have to accept that I can’t fix him, or save him from his monsters, only he has that power.

            I know many of you  who are reading this have been where I am already, maybe more than once.  You’ve had good experiences and bad experiences.  You’ve survived them all, and that is what gives me hope and courage to face this new path on our journey.  Your stories, and the compassion and understanding you offer are my Monster Spray.  I learn from them all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. 
        My life is getting very busy again, as I get my classroom ready for a new group of students, so I may not post as often.  I will be reading your updates daily though, following your journey, and holding you in my thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

My lesson about judging others

I learned a lesson this past week about judging people.   My son’s Status Hearing was last Monday. His court appointed attorney had told me that I didn’t need to be there because he wouldn’t even enter a plea.   I didn’t sleep well the night before even though I knew, in the grand scheme of things, this hearing was relatively small, I decided to go anyway.  I’m so glad I went because I think it made a difference in the outcome of the hearing.  I prayed all the way to the courthouse, that God’s will would be done, and that He would be in the courtroom with us.
            Just before my son's hearing a woman came over and asked me why I was there.  I told her I was waiting for my son’s status hearing.  She was very kind and we talked for some time about addiction, and how it takes over good people’s lives. I told her about how I think addiction is pure evil, and how it targets good, young people who are not yet fully mature, and takes over their lives. She listened, and validated what I was saying, and I sensed a kindness about her.  She showed compassion.
             When it was almost time for the judge to appear, I introduced myself, and she did too.  Much to my surprise, she told me she works in the prosecuting attorney’s office. She was actually much kinder and spent more time with me than my son’s court appointed attorney, who was rather gruff and seemed irritated that I was even there.
            As it turned out, the lady I had been talking to recommended my son for inpatient rehab at a facility about 4 hours away from here.  Rehab won’t take the place of a prison sentence for my son, but it should at least give him some of the tools he’ll need to stay clean.  She even reduced his bond by 50%, which I don’t think she would have done had we not met before the hearing.  When the hearing was over she told my son how lucky he was to have a family who cares about him, and how important it was for him to take this opportunity at rehab seriously, and to use it to get clean and stay clean.  She sincerely seemed to care about what happened to him.  However, she also warned him that there would be no second chances, and that if he blows it, he will be back in jail with no possibility for bail.  He needed to hear that.
             I am humbled by the lesson I learned about judging people. I've been so concerned about other people judging my son, and yet I was the one doing the judging.  I had expected the prosecuting attorney to be merciless and unkind.  As it turned out, she was the opposite.  My son’s attorney explained to me that the woman I had met was not the “official” prosecuting attorney.  Apparently, she  is one of his assistant attorneys, and we probably won't deal with her at my son’s next hearing. But that’s ok. Just for that moment in time, she was kind, and she made me feel like she cared, and that my son and I mattered to her.  The person I had least expected to be kind turned out to be the most compassionate person I met that day.  Had I known who she was before we talked, I wouldn’t have been so open because I would have thought she was the “enemy.”  Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Choosing day at a time

Last week was a busy week, some of it happy, some of it sad. I read a book that contains daily thoughts and wisdom about loving an addict.  One of the readings last week stated that we can “choose” to be happy whether the addict in our life is actively using or not.  I have a long way to go with that, but I’m working on it.  I know I am not much use to my son or anyone else in my life if I can’t manage to make peace with the path we are on now.  He is an addict.  He is in jail.  It is what it is.
            I know that choosing happiness will be easier some days than others, and there will be days when I fail, but I’m going to try my best.  “Fun” really hasn’t been in my vocabulary since I learned of my son’s addiction and arrest.   I think it’s important to remember to have fun sometimes.  So, when I got the chance to see James Taylor in concert last Thursday, I went for it.  Seeing James Taylor has been a dream of mine since I was 16.  He was AMAZING!  He sang for 2 1/2 hours, and sounded just as good as he did 40 years ago.  I kept looking at him and thinking, “I can’t believe that I’m sitting here watching James Taylor.” For three blissful hours, I enjoyed myself, and “chose” happiness.  Just for awhile I was 16 again, without a care in the world.  I could close my eyes and imagine that I was, once again, that na├»ve teenager with my long hair hanging halfway down my back, wearing an ankle length skirt, sandals, a white gauze blouse, a headband,  a peace symbol  necklace dangling on a thin strap of leather around my neck, swaying to the music.  It felt good.  It reminded me of how much I miss having fun.

I pray that the Lord will help all of us open the gift He left us.  I know that it is only with His help that I will be able to choose happiness again.

"I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid."
~ John 14:27, NLT

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Life doesn't always go as planned

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.
- Joseph Campbell
            This quote really caused me to stop and think about life in general.  Things often don’t turn out as we’ve planned.  Sometimes it’s just small things, like a recipe that doesn’t turn out right, or a lunch date that falls through.  I’m usually pretty flexible and roll with the punches without a lot of fuss.  I teach first graders, so if you’re not willing to be flexible in a classroom of 6-7 year olds, you’re not going to last long.  Things can change in the blink of an eye, and often do.

            Being willing to let go of the life I’d dreamed about for my son has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do though.  I’m still working on acceptance on a daily basis.  As our kids grow up we have certain dreams for them, we see their potential and their talents and we imagine what type of career they will have, what type of person they’ll marry and what their kids will be like.  I had all of these dreams for my son.  I haven’t given up on the dreams, but they’re definitely on hold for a few years.

            I feel like God is using this trial to shape us and mold us into who we were meant to be.  I know I’m learning lessons I wouldn’t have learned without all of this.  Lessons about not judging others, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.  My son is too.
            Shedding the old skin hurts like h** , but I guess it has to be done before the new one can come.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another decision to make about rehab

My son’s court appointed attorney’s office called today and said the prosecutor had agreed to court ordered drug rehab.  For one brief moment, my heart soared. I knew my son would have to do prison time, and hoped that the court would order rehab to be included as part of his sentence.  Then, came the left-jab.  In order for him to go to the rehab facility we would have to post bail.  Bail is set at $10,000 so our 10% would be $1000.  They would transport him from the county jail to the rehab, but after he completes rehab, he would not be returned to jail, but would be free until his court date.  That’s what worries me.

            Here are the two arguments that are going on inside of my head right now:

  1.             Don’t post bail:  My fear- he will complete rehab, relapse, miss his court date and not only would we be out $10,000, he would be in worse shape than he is now.
  2.             Go ahead and post bail:  But then I think, if we paid for rehab out of our pocket we would pay at least $10,000 anyway.  I want to feel like I’ve given him every chance at breaking free from his addiction.

            I haven’t talked to my son about the offer for rehab yet.  He wrote in his last letter that he knows he needs rehab and is ready to get clean, but even he thought he would be escorted from the rehab right back to jail. He didn’t know we would have to post bail.  In my worst nightmare it didn’t occur to me that rehab would be offered with this heart-wrenching decision attached.  To post the bail and take the chance, or say “no thanks” and make him stay in jail where he will have no chance of getting any kind of treatment for his addiction.  I hate addiction.  I feel like every decision I make is life or death.  Please pray that God gives me wisdom in making this decision.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dedicated to all the beautiful people who are on the same journey.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” 
Elisabeth Kubler Ross

When I read this I thought about all of the parents of addicts, and the addicts too.  I wanted to dedicate this quote to all of you.  Some of you are further along in the journey than I am, and have gained much wisdom and compassion.  Thank you for sharing it with me and others.  Some of you, like me,  are still fairly new to the journey and are still trying to figure it all out. Thank you for helping me figure out how to live this new reality. Out of great suffering, comes great compassion.  You are all beautiful people to me.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Trying to Find "Me" Again

So, last night I was driving home from an Alanon meeting, feeling better from the loving support I received there.  All of a sudden a Third Day song  “Children of God,” came on the radio.   That song triggered one of the fondest recent memories I have of my son.  About a year ago he and I went to a Third Day concert, and I remembered them playing that song.  As we listened to them sing “Children of God” I looked at my son and reminded him that he, too, is a child of God.  He smiled, that smile I love so much.  The smile that pretty much disappeared from his face as the addiction took over. After hearing the song on the radio I cried the rest of the way home.  When I got home I sat in the car in the garage thinking that I have got to figure out a way to find “me” again.  Just “me,” not the mother-of-an-addict.

            Somehow this constant sadness has to stop. I used to be a pretty happy person who smiled and laughed a lot. It used to take a lot to make me cry.  I keep remembering my oldest daughter telling me that she didn’t want her brother’s addiction to “take the rest of the family down.”  I can’t let that happen.  My mom is my inspiration and has had much pain in her life, my dad’s suicide, my brother and sister’s deaths at a young age.  Through it all she kept a strong faith in God, and somehow managed to keep her sense of humor.  If she can manage to live through all of that and still enjoy life, surely I can too.

            Here’s my plan.  I am going to try my best every day to remind myself to:

·      Pray and trust in God’s goodness
·      Laugh (I have some funny videos saved in my YouTube favorites to help me with this.  The courtroom scene with Jim Carey in the movie “Liar, Liar” does it every time.  The comedian Brian Regan makes me laugh too.)  I want to learn to laugh again.
·      Make someone smile
·      Give a hug
·      Find at least 5 things to be grateful for
·      Go outside and marvel at the beauty of nature
·      Get some exercise (well, ok, maybe not every day on this one, but at least 4-5 days a week)
·      During the school year I will remind my students every day that they are special and important, especially the ones who need to hear it most
·      Meditate (I’ve been doing this lately, and it helps relieve stress)

So, there’s my plan.  Now all I have to do is stick to it.  Remember the children’s story about the little engine who could?  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…………

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Two Kinds of Prisons

July 4, 2012
            As I watched some beautiful fireworks last night, I found my mind drifting to my son.  I wondered how long it will be before he will be able to enjoy another 4th of July and watch fireworks.  I remembered how much he enjoyed going to the park and watching the fireworks every year, and how excited he was when he got to light his first firecracker.  He used to love the fountains and the snakes.  He loved the cookouts we would have and the visits to the lake. We have a  "cutest baby contest" every 4th of July  at a local park.  My son was a beautiful baby with  blonde curls, dimples, long eyelashes and dark brown eyes.  When he was one year old he won the trophy, and I was so proud.  My beautiful boy.

            So as I watched the fireworks and thought about my son, it struck me once again, that admitting to myself that he is an addict set off a mourning process.  I still go back and forth between the stages.  I remember the first year of holiday celebrations following the death of my sister, my brother, and my father were so hard.  The empty chair at the table, the smiles that would no longer be seen, the laughter that would no longer be heard, the hugs forever gone.  Painful.

           As we celebrate a holiday that represents freedom, my son sits in jail.   Seeing him in jail for the next few years is going to be hard.  Really though, he has been a prisoner of a different kind for the past few years-a prisoner to addiction.  It took his smile, his laughter, and his joy for life.  Someday I know he will be free from his physical prison, the one with bars and guards, and fences.  I pray, today, that he will also manage to forever break free from the other prison, the prison of addiction.  A prison that has no bars or guards, but holds him captive just the same.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Acceptance-I'm working on it.

July 2, 2012
            I went to visit my son in jail for the second time yesterday.  It was good to see him again, but he seemed a little more distressed this time.  I have an acquaintance whose son has been in and out of jail more than once for different drug related offenses.  This acquaintance no longer goes to visit his son in jail.  He writes letters, but has decided for his own peace of mind to stop visiting.  At first I couldn’t understand how he could get to that point, but now I kind of get it.  I have compassion for him and the decision he made.  I have no intention of ever stopping my visits with my son, but I tend to torment myself for several days before the visit.  As I’ve said before the visits are bittersweet.  It’s good to see my son’s face again, that face I love so much.  But it’s stressful for several reasons.  It’s hard to see my son in pain and not be able to hug him.  Much of the staff at the jail tend to treat families as if they are somehow “less than” and are abrupt and borderline rude.  Also, seeing my son in that awful orange jumpsuit is a vision I wish I could erase from my mind forever. Since the situation isn’t going to change anytime soon, clearly my perspective is going to have to change if I want to keep my sanity.  I have to keep working on turning my son completely over to God.

            Here is an example of how preoccupied I am before and after the visits.  After we left the jail, my daughter and I went to do our weekly shopping and she was off looking for something in another part of the store.  I had a few items in my cart and apparently somebody else parked their cart close to mine.  Anyway, somehow I managed to walk off with the other person’s cart and left mine behind (that person is probably still wondering where their cart went).  A few aisles later I realized that my purse was not in my cart.  It still hadn’t struck me that I had the wrong cart.  Anyway, I thought somebody had grabbed my purse out of my cart when my back was turned.  I immediately went into panic mode.  Here’s the good news though, there are plenty of good, honest people out there.  I heard my name being announced over the intercom to report to the service desk.  Some good soul had turned my purse in, and nothing was missing!  The good Lord was giving me something to be thankful for in the midst of my despair.

            If you read my earlier post about my son wanting to marry his GF in jail and my questions about how to handle it, here is the follow-up.  He told me during our visit that they have already signed the papers for the common law marriage.  So, there was nothing left for me to do except let go and let God.  What’s done is done, so there was no point in telling him I thought he should have waited. I had taken along the letter I had carefully written  letter stating my reservations about his decision  and suggesting he might want to put some more thought into such a life-changing move. I had intended to have it given to him after I left.  I ended up bringing the letter home with me and throwing it away.   I try my best to keep my words positive and encouraging during our visits, so that is what I did.
            The whole day served as a reminder for me to trust God.  I have to remember that He loves my son even more than I do.  Acceptance is my word for the day.  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
            This Beatles song keeps playing in my head:

"Let It Be"

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Yeah there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be