Are Some Things Unforgivable?

Despair 1 painting by Lette Valeska, 1954.

Despair 1 by Lette Valeska, 1954.

My son is 8 months into his recovery. That’s the good news.

The bad news? We’ve had a terrible falling out, words said that seem unforgivable, and I don’t know how we will get past this. Or even if we should.

This was, hands down: Worst. Christmas. Ever.

With one small bright spot.

After writing my last post about if you can’t be with the ones you love (my own grandchildren), love the ones you’re with (the child of my son’s girlfriend), I did just that. A few days before Christmas, the little boy spent the night with me. It was a sweet, tender time.

He helped me decorate the Christmas tree, set up the Nativity scene, decorate sugar cookies. We played together, sang together, read books together. We cuddled in bed where I stayed with him until he fell asleep. When he woke up later calling “Grandma! Where are you!” I spent the rest of the night in bed with him. We’d had a lovely time together. I was looking forward to Christmas Eve when he would return with his mom and my son for dinner, then spend the night and open presents the next day.

But it never happened. And I’ll probably never see the little boy again.

After spending weeks preparing to make this the best Christmas ever for them all,the boy’s mother texted me an hour before dinner to say she couldn’t make it after all. She’d been spending the day migrating between the festivities held at the four churches she attends. None of the churches know about the other, and all were trying to help her. One promised her a laptop. Another new tires for her car. She decided she’d rather spend Christmas with them than with us. This infuriated my son, and he broke up with her. We spent a sad, lonely Christmas together–just my son and his dad and me–staring at a Christmas tree and all those lovely gifts we had so joyfully selected and wrapped, which would never be opened.

The next day we went to return the girlfriend’s presents (I held on to the presents for her son, hoping I may still be able to get those to him someday). That’s when things blew apart. When things were said that seem unforgivable.

I used to think it was the drugs, when he would go off on me like this, say these horrible things. I told myself, it’s the drugs, not him, not my son. In his right mind, when he wasn’t strung out, when he wasn’t having withdrawals, he would never talk to me like that, never scream and hurl horrible names at me. But he wasn’t on drugs now. He had no excuse. And the terrible realization that this is how he really feels toward me, how he sees me, that it wasn’t the drugs at all, was devastating.

I don’t know how to get pass this. Are some things unforgivable?

Here’s what happened:

When my son and I were in the store returning gifts, I said something that hurt his feelings. He lashed out at me and stomped off. When I returned to the car, he was still fuming. I tried to explain that what he thought I said wasn’t true, and wasn’t meant in the way he found so offensive. But he wouldn’t listen and wouldn’t believe me. He shouted me down when I tried to explain and called me a liar.

The whole time he was shouting at me and calling me a liar, I was picturing him treating his girlfriend like this. He had told me once how she was always lying to him, and even when he called her on it, she would never admit it. It’s the one thing big thing they fought about. I was thinking, if he treated her like this when he thought she was lying, no wonder she didn’t want to be with him, with us, at Christmas, and I said as much. I wanted him to know that if you treat people like this–her or me–you push them away.

Apparently that was the worst thing I could have said to him, rubbing salt in his wound, he said. He hit back screaming the worst things a son could ever say to a mother, calling me names that no mother should ever hear a son call her.

I was shocked and stunned. Nothing I had said should have brought out this kind of hatred and profanity.

I told him to get out of my car, but he refused. He just kept shouting at me and calling me names. So I grabbed the keys and left. We were in the middle of a busy parking lot and I had nowhere to go. I sat on a bench and tried to pull myself together, hoping that by the time I returned to the car he’d be gone. But he wasn’t. And he wouldn’t leave. He insisted I drive him back to my house where all his things were, including three bags of laundry he had washed, and then drive him back to his place.

I was furious, shamed, outraged. I felt violated, abused, sick. I drove him 30 miles home so he could get his stuff, then 30 miles back to his place, all in a furious silence.

By the time I got home, I was physically ill, vomiting, my head pounding. I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t see how I could ever get past this, how I could ever forgive him, now that I knew it wasn’t the drugs. Now I knew it was him all along. It’s how he feels about me, how he feels he can treat me when he’s angry and hurting. He has no respect for me, no gratitude, no love for the one person on earth who has always stood by him and believed in him no matter what.

He has no clue how despicable, how unforgivable, his words were. How utterly they ruined our relationship.

I don’t know how to forgive that. I don’t know that I want to. I can’t imagine anything he could ever say or do that would allow me to forgive him for treating me that way, for thinking I deserved it.

He’s texted me a few times. In his opinion, what I said to him was far worse than what he said to me. He says he talks that way and uses that filthy language all the time, so it doesn’t mean anything. I shouldn’t take it personally.

But I do. I do take it personally. Any self-respecting mother should.

And now, I don’t want to have anything to do with him. I don’t want someone who would treat me like that in my life.

I could rationalize it all in his favor. I could tell myself he was obviously hurting a lot more than I had known about the break-up. He could have been harboring resentment for me for the part I played. He broke up with her in a way because he thought she had hurt me and disrespected me by not coming to dinner and spending Christmas with us. Returning those presents he had picked out for her, dresses he thought she would love and wanted to see her wear, maybe that was more painful than we had realized. Maybe when I said something that he thought was insulting, it all came to a head. And then when I called him on his temper, said if he treated her this way, no wonder she didn’t want to be with him, taking her side as he saw it, maybe it did feel like a betrayal, like the mother he’d defended by breaking up with her was stabbing him in the back. Maybe obscenities are the only way he knows how to express his hurt and anger toward anyone, including me. Maybe. Maybe.

But I’m tired of making excuses for him. The excuses don’t matter. It’s the behavior that matters. I didn’t deserve that. He had no right. Something got broken between us, and I don’t know how it can be mended.

At first I felt I hated him, but now I know I don’t. I’m not even hurt any more. And I do love him still. I care about him. I want him to learn from this and be a better man because of it. Be the man I’ve always known he can be. But how can he be that man if he thinks it’s okay to treat me like that? If I forgive him this time too?

He needs to learn: Some things are unforgivable. Am I wrong?

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19 thoughts on “Are Some Things Unforgivable?

  1. In my opinion some things are unforgivable but because he is your son you will forgive, because that is what mothers do. As the mother of a violent drug addict i forgive far more often then i should. What ive learned is dont make it easy or quick. Every time i quickly forgive, the next fight is worst, but when i make him work for it he is more careful about screaming at me. I cant tell you its the right way but it helps me stay sane.

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    • Thank you, Lynn. I delayed posting this for almost 2 weeks, not sure I had the heart to share this. But I truly wanted to know what others thought, if they had dealt with this before, and how they learned to forgive or not. I’m so glad I did post this because the responses I’ve received have been so helpful. I imagine I will forgive eventually, but like you suggest, make him earn that forgiveness, make sure he truly understands why what he did was so unacceptable and so hurtful, and inexcusable. If he can do that, if he cares enough about me to do that, then I will be able to forgive. But I don’t think I will forget, and I don’t think our relationship can go back to where it was before. And maybe that’s a good thing. Thank you for sharing your story and your wisdom. It has helped a lot.

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  2. I’m so, so sorry that you had to go through that…

    My youngest sister went off the rails during her late teens and early 20’s. when the rest of the family washed our hands of her, my mother was the only one that supported her, and received disgusting verbal abuse in return. Some of the things that my sister said to her were cruel and vile, and there were a few occasions where I had to be held back as I would have hurt her for being such a pig to the one person that has always been there and supported us all. Years later, my sister has managed to turn her life around and is desperately attempting to rebuild the relationships that she destroyed, but she forgets that it is going to take a long time for me and my other sister to be able to completely move on and we are only doing so because we know that that is what my mother wants.

    My mother, however, appears to have forgiven my sister, but as she is my best friend I know different. She goes with the flow because she realised that not seeing my sister would be more painful than seeing her, but she hasn’t truly forgiven, and she certainly hasn’t forgotten. I don’t think it’s possible to ever to be able to forget such awful things being said to you, but whether you choose to forgive is your decision and one that should be made that makes you happy, not for the benefit of everyone else. From all of your posts that I have read, you sound like a wonderful mother who deserves to be treated with respect and gratitude and if he doesn’t give you that then maybe you need some time away from him so he can reflect on his behaviour.

    I hope that 2015 proves to be a wonderful year for you – you deserve it!

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  3. I feel your heart and I feel your pain… these are real and hard questions you are struggling with. It is so very hard right now… but be with the pain, be with the struggle, be with the hurt, be with the question… be with you, as you are right now… But you don’t have to be alone in this. If you believe, Invite your Creator to be with you in this moment, to be with you in the dark places of your pain, in the places you struggle the most, in the deep places that hurt, and to dwell with you and your questions… may each day, gently, quietly, and gradually bring you to the answer you seek.

    Sending so much love, thoughts and prayer right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If I could wrap you in a warm blanket, hug you and offer you a tea and an ear…I would. You are not wrong. But I think a mother’s love transcends all – even the deepest of hurts. Some day, you will forgive him. But it doesn’t have to be today, tomorrow or even this year. In any way possible, let him know this was unacceptable to you.

    You can sleep at night knowing you’ve done your best, and it is up to him now to be the man you know he can be. He can do that on his own – whether you forgive him or not. For now, be gentle with yourself. I’m sending you love.

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  5. hiya, I live in an addiction treatment tertiary care facility in cape town called Cape Fiesta Wellness Centre, and this christmas we were all gloomy and sad.

    It is the first ever christmas season we have done sober. The holidays, the beach, the fireworks at new years, we had to sit at home and listen to the noise from the house, opting to do the smart thing and not go out. We were together as a little family and had a nice christmas lunch and dinner.

    I just recently had a really surprising fight with a friend, who took something that i had said in the wrong light, and was given the info by his sister which made things worse. He disowned me and didnt want to hear any explanation.

    I have been taught here how to control myself when its rage. First of all its wrong to immediately write an email in response to get my last say, because in the heat of the moment we always say the wrong thing.
    Then, i noticed I had this really wierd hard core stabbing feeling in my chest. The situation hurt me, and I lost a good friend.

    I told myself that i have to bite the bullet and remember that the emotions will pass. this is another technique i’ve learned in treatment.
    the next day i wasnt so bad anymore, still hurt.
    but he phoned and appologied a few days later said he had got it all wrong and he lost his temper.

    So,
    I now have my friend back
    I know that its important for me not to retaliate with an email, rather wait overnight and then see if it is still relevant.
    Bite the bullet and dont fight back, it wouldnt have helped.

    as a person in recovery we have a wave of emotions over the holidays. The wierdest evil things pop up in your heart, and its like the enemy has got his way, in making us forget that its the birthday of Christ.

    some things can be forgiven, its whether or not you can bite the bullet.

    I am just writing a new blog article about the emotional rollercoaster we go through in early days of recovery and how the addicted brain needs to heal. I will post it tomorrow I hope:
    http://www.capefiesta.co.za
    thegreatsecrets.wordpress.com

    thank you for sharing!

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    • My heart goes out to all the mom’s. I have a son who is in recovery for 9 years now. I know what you are going through and how you are feeling. The worst is…..there is no quick fix. This is the time where one really need to belief and trust God and have PATIENCE. With time everything heals. I think what helped me a lot was to realise that recovery is and life long process. …I am happy when is going well, but I am there to catch him when he falls. ……The biggest reality check for me, was that their clean time is about 10 % of the recovery process. The rest of their journey is only starting with their integration back into society. All of us know how many curve balls still coming our way that even us struggle to handle it. We cannot give up on our children, just love them and be there to catch them when they fall. We have a duty to educate ourselves and stay informed. We need to be a mother to our children, not a friend. Don’t beat yourself up about the incident. Your child love you just as much as you love him. Just tell him how you belief in him and that you know he is going to make a success of his life. And you will do whatever it takes. ….even if you have to make use tough love. ….

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    • Thank you for sharing your story, Andrea, your challenge to forgive. I agree holidays can be so emotional and full of trauma, making us forget what it is really all about. I’ll look forward to reading your post on emotions during recovery. Maybe it will help me to understand my son better.

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  6. Are some things unforgivable. Yes, some things are unforgivable. Plain and simple. I didn’t know that when I was younger. I always thought I HAD to forgive, had to find excuses for other people around me, who hurt my feeling. Lowered my standards, held back hurt feeling or didn’t show them at all. One day I realized that I didn’t have to do this anymore. It’s OK for me to have standards. I don’t curse much. I believe language is a weapon…used by many and it leaves scares. Words can hurt more than a slap in the face. Is forgiving really the issue…or is it forgetting. Your son is trying to tell you that his language is normal for him and you shouldn’t take it too personal. I say take it personal…make him aware that you don’t have to lower yourself to his standards, it’s time for him to raise up and follow yours. Rage, Anger, addiction, problems…numerous excuses can be found for bad behavior if you want to. He is your son. It’s your call! Wish I could give you a hug. Sorry if I have been too honest or sounded rude in my reply.

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    • Dear Lady Bug, I appreciate your honesty. Your reply didn’t seem rude. I agree we do need to set high standards. I think in the past I tried to set them but did not enforce them, and excused bad behavior because it “was the drugs.” I imagine that I will eventually forgive him if he can show me that he understands how damaging that unacceptable behavior is to our relationship and assure me that it will not happen again. But I hope I won’t forget and he doesn’t either.

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  7. Are some things unforgivable? I’m not going to attempt an answer because each and every situation is truly different and I believe you’ll come to that decision in your own time. However, I will share with you what came immediately to my mind when you said you thought your son’s past treatment of you was caused by his drug use and you clearly thought that was behind you. My daughter was an addict for 10 years. Our family experienced all the ups and downs, the horrible fights, the lost hopes, the torn emotions, the destroyed relationships that come with loving an addict. But something I learned while she was in rehab that helped me deal with her behavior was this: When a person becomes addicted they stop maturing emotionally. When our daughter was a 27 year old woman we were still essentially dealing with a 17 year old girl, an emotional teenager! Your son may be 8 months sober but he has a long way to go to develop the emotional maturity that he missed out on all the years he was using drugs. He may be dealing with learning how to cope with the world from an emotional viewpoint that doesn’t coincide with his age. I hope this is of some help to you. Loving a child who is an addict is the worst hell I can imagine. Sadly we never got to find out what our girl would have been like after leaving drugs behind. She died of an overdose when she was 27.

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  8. I am glad you reminded me of that. I do marvel all the time that my son still seems like a teenager in so many ways. Clearly he still does not know how to deal with intense emotional upsets without screaming and cursing. I did think that was behind me, and it shocked and scared me. I thought maybe he isn’t the “good,” “loving” person I always believed he was beneath the drug-acting-out. Maybe he only pretended to love me to get me to do what he needs me to do to help support him. I thought, you can’t love someone and treat them like this. I still don’t know what is true. But you are right, if I am expecting an emotionally mature son at this stage in the recovery process, I will continue to be disappointed, because obviously, he’s not there yet, and maybe never will be. I should just be happy he’s not using heroin, happy he’s trying to rebuild a life. Happy he’s still alive, after I’d thought I’d lost him only last year. As you have lost yours. I can’t imaging anything more horrible than that. I have so much I should be thankful for. Things could be so much worse. Thank you for reminding me of that. It helps put my traumatic experience in perspective.

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  9. Im so sorry to read about this interaction, especially over the holidays during what had do much potential for a wondrtful family gathering. In time, this will heal but gor the yimebting you’re processing it – and that’s necrssary; i imagine your son is, too. While drugs do impact how they treated us, early sobriety is rooted in old behaviors, resentments and patterns. Theycste still so emotionally fragile as they learn to live drug free and to feel things without a drug yo numb it. Take heart, Mama. Your son will come around and will respect you. Hugs.

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