A Step Up, A Step Down – The Wobbly Road to Recovery

Step-ladder_stile_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1208202 by Kate Jewell

Step-ladder stile by Kate Jewell WikiCommons

My son is five and a half months clean, still going strong in recovery, but still struggling to acquire the basics in life, what so many of us take for granted: stable housing, stable income, stable relationships.

He lives in a metal shed, what his friend calls “his guest house.” It has a bed, a chair, a table, a refrigerator, and even a TV that plays two channels. Pretty comfy for a metal shed. But there’s no plumbing. No kitchen. No insulation. No heat or air conditioning.

He showers at a local gym. He cooks on a hot plate and microwave oven. He has a portable heater and fan.

It’s a step up, or a step down, depending on how you look at it. Before he moved here he was living in a motel room for $1350 a month. His shed is free, so he’s able to start saving money again, and get caught up in child support payments. So that’s a step up.

It’s a step down because—well—it’s a shed. And his girlfriend and son are no longer living with him. They’ve moved back to the shelter.

But he’s still working, still going to AA meetings with his sponsor, still going to the counseling required by his Prop 36 program, still taking Methadone, and still dating his new girlfriend. He even has been able to see his daughter a couple of times since I last posted here. He’s talked to a lawyer about getting visiting rights.

Life is good, considering he was at death’s door only seven months ago when I started this blog: having been kicked out of rehab, living on the street, two overdoses within a week of each other, and another on my bathroom floor around this time last year.

So I’m happy and hopeful, and more importantly, so is he.

Life is good on the wobbly road to recovery.

Lighting Candles of Hope

Candles by Andrew Smithson Creative CommonsI created this blog earlier this year at a low point in my life. I’d given up believing my son would survive his addiction. I did not expect him to live much longer. I had lost hope.

When you lose hope, you lose everything.

But in reaching out to others, I found the support I needed to regain that lost hope. I found others struggling just as hard as I was–those who struggled with loved ones still deep in addiction, those whose loved ones had struggled and survived, and those whose loved ones had struggled and lost.

Many I found  here, readers of my blog who left comments and messages of support and understanding, who shared their stories, and their loved ones’ stories. They gave me the strength and encouragement I needed to keep fighting and keep hoping.

Many were recovering and recovered addicts, and they were especially dear to me because I heard my son’s voice in their stories, their struggles, and their triumphs.

Many I found in the movement called “The Addict’s Mom” (TAM), an organization whose members are the mothers of addicts who, like me, are struggling with the terror of addiction and how it tears families apart. I feel such a kinship with these women. They are my sisters-in-arms.

September is National Recovery Month, And TAM is launching a “Lights of Hope” Campaign.  They ask everyone on September 1 to light three candles:

  • One for an addict currently using
  • One for an addict in recovery
  • One for an addict who is gone but forever loved and remembered

I hope you will join me in lighting these candles of hope. For all the moms and their loved ones.

Thank you.

To learn more about TAM and other events planned in September, visit their website at http://addictsmom.com/

Celebrating 90 Days Strong Amid Trials & Tribulation

athlete 450px-JacobyhaieMy son celebrated ninety days clean this week.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of him, especially when the past several weeks have been so rough. Not only had he been picked up on an old warrant, survived ten days in jail, and suffered through methadone withdrawals, but when he was released, he found out he’d lost his housing, his job, and the friendship and trust of his sponsor.

He couldn’t understand it. He hadn’t relapsed. He hadn’t done anything wrong. But here he was jobless and homeless again, and without the support of the sponsor he’d so depended upon. Why was this happening?

The housing problem was especially difficult. The shelter where he’d been staying had promised to help him financially secure permanent housing, but now that was gone. His sponsor was angry that he had returned to the methadone clinic, instead of using his time in jail to get off it completely. And without a job, he didn’t have the means to live at all.

The one bright spot in all this was that a woman who had befriended him before going into jail was still there when he got out, still believing in him, and wanting to help. And during those first few difficult weeks they became closer, became a couple.

I was wary of this at first. Everything I had read and come to believe said that recovering addicts should not become involved in relationships until they had a year or more of sobriety behind them. I could not see this ending well, for her, or for him.

But I seriously wonder now if he would be celebrating 90 days clean if she hadn’t been there to help him through those last few difficult weeks. While it seemed that everyone else had given up on him and pulled the rug out from beneath his feet, she stayed and gave him steady encouragement.

More than that, she helped him through what has been a huge relapse trigger—the kind of devouring  loneliness that eats you alive. Over and over again, he has told me, the loneliness is the worst thing. The thing that gets him every time. That is so unbearable only a needle in his arm gives him release.

So, as unwise as a new relationship may be this early in his recovery, I am grateful to her, and happy for him.

His housing situation is still marginal. He sleeps in cars, or motel rooms when he has money, or at campsites. But his sponsor has returned, and he’s working again. He’s going to meetings, and he’s testing clean. And he and his new friend are looking for a place together.

I still don’t know if this is a good idea. I don’t know if their relationship will last. I don’t know what it might do to him if it doesn’t.

But this is the way it is. This is what he has to work with on his road to recovery. We never know what challenges or gifts life will drop at our feet. We just have to make the most of what we are given.

So I’m hopeful. And so is my son. We’re both extremely grateful, and reassured, that after being severely tested, he’s still 90 days strong.

On Loving an Addicted Child

Mother and children Lange-MigrantMother02

Migrant Mother (1936) by Dorothea Lang

I found this poem on a Facebook site for mothers of addicted children. It spoke to me and I wanted to share it with you. Many thanks to Jacqui for allowing me to do so.

Untangling the Knots of Addiction – Two Steps Forward, One Back

Knots of addiction Naga182 public domainYou’d think once someone decided, “I’m done with addiction! I’m turning my life around,” it would be all uphill from there. Because that’s the biggie. All of us mothers and lovers of addicts are waiting for that golden moment, when the sun breaks through the darkness, scatters the clouds, and shines down upon us.

But it’s usually not like that. For every two steps forward on the road to recovery, there’s one (or more!) step backward, as our loved one begins to untangle himself from all the knots caused by a life of addiction. It’s not just a matter of giving up his substance of choice and staying clean and sober. It’s that, which is hard enough, and so much more.

It’s about trying to create a new life out of the rubble of the old. A life spent in and out of jails and rehab and living on the streets leaves a trail of destruction behind you, as well as a tangle of legal problems, a pile of debt, bad credit, failing health, and broken relationships. Often you lack a car or a home or a job. And you lack the decent clothes and resume and character references needed to smooth the way toward getting what you lack.

Often there’s outstanding warrants, court fines, and back child support payments to take care of. There’s a mouthful of decay, a diseased liver, and undiagnosed mental issues to deal with. And years of bad habits to undo.

Worst of all is the lack of self-confidence and self-esteem needed to move forward when so much is weighing you down, or dragging you backward.

It takes tremendous courage, willpower, faith, humility and plain old-fashioned guts and grit to even wrap one’s mind around all this, let alone force yourself to walk out on that dance-floor and begin all the contorted moves needed to unravel those tangles. Especially while everyone you know and love, and many who hate you, stand by and wait and watch.

Two days after I wrote my last post about my son’s 60 days clean, he was picked up on an outstanding warrant from a neighboring county and jailed. This time was especially hard because he was taking high daily doses of methadone from the clinic, and withdrawals from that are the worst.

On the other hand, this warrant had been an axe hanging over his head ready to drop. And now he could finally take care of it and put it behind him. And he did. He spent 10 days in jail and then was released back into his Prop 36 program, with the promise to transfer his case to this county. A huge relief.

He managed to hang on to his old job too while he was gone, but he lost his spot in the shelter where he was staying. He’s living in a friend’s van now and saving up to get his own place.

All’s well that ends well, so they say, and this ended better than we’d hoped.

But it’s a reminder that he’s still untangling himself from the mess he created while deep into addiction. And we must all be patient as he slow-dances his way free.

The Art of War – 30 Days Clean and Counting

Samurai 1024px-Kusunoki_masashige“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.” Sun Tzu

I found this quote on another blog about addiction (thank you, Blue) and shared it with my son.

He’s doing well–over 30 days clean and counting–but he’s nervous. And so am I.

He’s had these good stretches before. We know they can dissolve in a minute. They usually don’t last much past 2 or 3 months at most. He’s had longer stretches of doing well, but those have been few and far between during his fifteen years of addiction.

So far he’s doing all the right things, everything he can at this stage to put his life back together.

The methadone he gets daily from a clinic has helped him a lot. Its helped keep him from having the intense, uncontrollable cravings that come not only from his addiction to heroin, but from the depression and despair he feels on his worse days. That make him want to give up.

But the methadone makes him itchy and seem high sometimes. So that’s been a problem when he was looking for work.

Fortunately, he has a great sponsor, a local business man, who’s taken him under his wing, and he’s working for him now. They attend a lot of meeting together, the “hardcore” AA meetings, he tells me, attended old-timers who are serious about their recovery. Not like the NA meetings he’s attended in the past, where so many junkies straight from jail, who aren’t committed end up. (Like himself once.)

He’s living at a small shelter now that doesn’t just house the homeless, but has a program and caseworkers and helps residents transition into traditional housing. If he stays there for three months and remains clean (they test residents), they will help him find an apartment even pay for his first and last months of rent. In the meantime, his case worker supplies him with bus passes and clothes vouchers at local thrift stores, and pays for his monthly phone bill.

He’s created a small community of support at the shelter too. It houses families with young kids he plays with, and older people who grandma him. I met one of the grandmas’ he hangs out with. They meet at a park each afternoon and he walks her back to the shelter to protect her from the young punks who like to give her a hard time.

He’s also signed up for a trial membership in a local gym where he goes daily, working out, lifting weights, swimming and taking yoga classes. Physical exercise has always helped him to stay focused and feel healthy and strong and motivated. And now with his new job he’ll be able to keep it going.

We try to meet once a week to do something fun and “normal,” nothing related to his recovery, but just to enjoy each other’s company. So far we’ve gone to farmers markets and art shows, and shopping for underwear and bathing suits. We top it off with yummy bowls of Cold Stone ice cream.

But he’s nervous. When things are going well he starts to worry. He’s warned his sponsor that he’s due for a relapse soon. It usually cycles in after two or three months of doing well.

That’s why I shared the Sun Tzu quote with him. The enemy is not only the heroin and the addiction it causes, but the fear and depression and despair as well. Its attack can come at any time. He needs to stay alert, to know it’s coming, and to prepare for it.

How does he do this?

By analyzing the why and how and where and when of its attacks. Knowing how it sneaks up, what disguises it wears, what weapons it uses. And being ready for it.

By making himself unassailable on all fronts, no matter how fast, and unexpected, and deadly its attack may be.

That’s what I tell him. And I tell myself that too.

Because we’re in this together. It’s his fight. I can’t do that for him. But if he falls, then it becomes my fight too. My fight against the disappointment, the depression and despair and fear.

I have to prepare myself too.

“I Paint What I See” – Bearing Witness, One Face at a Time

Marc Clamage - Maxine

“I SEE YOU BUT DO YOU SEE ME?” Maxine by Marc Clamage:

Since my last post on bearing witness, I discovered another blogger who refuses to turn away by painting panhandlers he sees in Boston Harvard Square near his workplace.

Meet artist Marc Clamage.

He writes: “I used to hurry by them, but then I began to stop. Each face tells a story, I realized, and I would try to capture as many as I could through a series of oil paintings.”

Marc Clamage - Rosie and David

“Rosie and David” and pet guinea pig, by Marc Clamage

He’d noticed that there were more than usual, “younger, and more troubled,” and sometimes, even whole families begging on the streets.

Many of the people he encounters were simple passing through, and using panhandling as a way to supplement a low-wage job, or help pay the rent.

Others were homeless, and panhandling was their only source of income. Some were obviously disturbed, showing signs of drug addiction or mental illness. Some were sick, and dying.

Marc Clamage - Justin and Lauren (The Lovebirds)

“Newly Engaged, need Motel to Celebrate” Justin and Lauren (The Lovebirds) by Marc Clamage

He adds: “I do not ask the panhandlers to ‘pose”’ for me, but to carry on with their business. I pay each person $10, though I wish I could afford more, because they earn that small fee in the hour or two it takes me to paint them.

Over that time, we often get to talking, which has been a privilege and an education.

I’ve seen or heard many human dramas: the tragic love story of Gary and Whitney; squabbles over the best places to work; the mysterious figure everyone calls “The Rabbi,” stuffing $20 bills into cups and disappearing before anyone can see his face.

Marc Clamage - Gary

“Gary, Desert Storm Vet” by Marc Clamage

“I’ve witnessed a few instances of cruelty, but many more of thoughtfulness and generosity. And when I head home, I’m always struck by one thought: There but for the grace of God go the rest of us. Perhaps that’s why we find panhandlers so hard to look at.”

I was deeply touched by Marc’s paintings and by the stories of the people who posed for him. You can view more of his paintings and read the stories on his website “I Paint What I See“, or at his blog.

I also like what he says about how he paints:

“I paint what I see, only what I see, only with it right in front of me, only while I’m looking right at it. I do not work from photographs, or imagination, or memory, or even from sketches. I paint exclusively from life. The essence of representation is that every choice, every brushstroke must be made in direct response to the experience of visual reality.”

Marc Clamage - Whitney

“Whitney”, suffering from cancer, by Marc Clamage

To really “see” someone, the way an artist does, objectively, without judgement, and yet responding to what is seen, the pain, or loneliness, or confusion, or anger; to see and be seen like that, must be freeing, for both the painter, the one painted. And for the viewer as well.

To simply behold what we see–the good and bad and beautiful and ugly–without judgement, but with compassion and humility, is the essence of “bearing witness.” And it must have a healing effect.

Bernie Glassman in “Bearing Witness: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace” wrote:

“In my view, we can’t heal ourselves or other people unless we bear witness. In the Zen Peacemaker Order we stress bearing witness to the wholeness of life, to every aspect of the situation that arises. So bearing witness to someone’s kidnapping, assaulting, and killing a child means being every element of the situation: being the young girl, with her fear, terror, hunger, and pain; being the girl’s mother, with her endless nights of grief and guilt; being the mother of the man who killed, torn between love for her son and the horror of his actions; being the families of both the killed and the killer, each with its respective pain, rage, horror, and shame; being the dark, silent cell where the girl was imprisoned; being the police officers who finally, under enormous pressure, caught the man; and being the jail cell holding the convicted man. It means being each and every element of this situation.”

To bear witness in that way must be the hardest, the most healing, and the most humbling thing we could ever do. And the most needed.

Elsewhere, Glassman writes: “When we bear witness, when we become the situation — homelessness, poverty, illness, violence, death — the right action arises by itself. We don’t have to worry about what to do. We don’t have to figure out solutions ahead of time. . . . Once we listen with our entire body and mind, loving action arises.”

More of Marc’s paintings follow. See if you see what he saw.

Marc Clamage - Colleen

“Colleen” by Marc Clamage. She died of exposure and a drug overdose.

 

Marc Clamage - Gideon

“Gideon” by Marc Clamage

 

Marc Clamage - Anthony

“Too Ugly to Prostitute, too Kind to Pimp” – Anthony, by Marc Clamage

 

Marc Clamage - maria

“Maria” by Marc Clamage

 

Marc Clamage - Laurel

“Laurel” by Marc Clamage. Here sign says she’s a mother of 4 and a victim of domestic violence. The flip side says, “I’m not a whore, asshole.”

 

Marc Clamage - Carrie

“Carrie” by Marc Clamage. Now clean and sober and off the street.

Not With a Bang, But a Whimper

coffee lumbar11That’s how our son’s short stay with us ended. With a whimper, or something equally weak and mundane. A falling out over a laptop. And breakfast at Denny’s

He seemed to be going through the old predictable stages of his addiction while staying with us, as I wrote about in Am I Crazy? Or Is He? How Addiction Warps Us. First he was Hyper-Happy, then went to Mad Maniac, demanding I take him to buy Methadone on the street until his doctor’s appointment for a prescription to Suboxane came through.

But after that horrible experience, Dangerously Depressed seemed to be emerging, and I wanted to head it off.

I know how depression makes you want to hibernate, but if forced to move around, get outdoors, talk to people, sometimes it lifts. That’s what I was hoping.

After two days of hiding out in his room, in bed, blinds drawn, his eyes glued to the laptop monitor, I decided this was not healthy for him. I urged him to come out and spend time with his dad and me.

When he refused, I said OK, but I’m taking my laptop back. And I did.

He flipped out. Harsh words were exchanged. And he stormed off.

I didn’t think he’d go far. I didn’t think he’d act on the threat he’d made earlier that week, to hitch-hike into town to score heroin. Not over a laptop!

But I was wrong. He didn’t come back. Not that day, or the next day when he had his long-awaited doctor’s appointment and the promise of a Suboxane prescription. Not the day after that, or the next.

He’s not coming back.

I might have gone after him that first day, or given him back the damn laptop if it hadn’t been for that last “hug” and parting remark.

He grabbed me in the hall in a big bear hug, my arms pinned to my side. It felt more like a stranglehold than a hug, like what boxers do when they’re exhausted, before going to the next round. Alarm bells were ding-ding-dinging in my head.

“I love you,” he said sweetly, as he held me tight.

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to leave,” he crooned.

“Now give me back the damn laptop!” he growled and hugged me tighter.

Then he laughed.

I almost laughed with him. It was so absurd, what we were doing to each other. Me trying to control him with the laptop, him trying to control me with his hug.

He was laughing at himself, at me, at the fake hug that was holding us up and clenching us together. Laughing bitterly at the knowledge that I wasn’t going to give the laptop back, that this wasn’t going to end well, for either of us.

“Let me go,” I said finally, and he did.

But just before he let go, he whispered in my ear. “You know those Methadone pills I gave you to hold onto for me? You can flush them down the toilet. They’re just aspirin. It was heroin I was buying, heroin all along.”

Then he let me go and walked out of the house.

His parting words felt like a knife twisting in my stomach. But I know now it was the very thing he needed to say to let go of me, and to force me to let go of him. To enable him to walk away, and to keep me from going after him.

He was burning a bridge between us with that confession, and he knew it. There was no turning back.

He’s living at a homeless shelter now.

He missed his doctor’s appointment and never got the suboxane he wanted. Instead he signed up for a Methadone Detox at a clinic. They needed a co-pay to get him started, so I met him there that first day.

Before we parted again, for who knows how long, we had lunch together at a nearby Denny’s. The noisy restaurant was filled with normal people going about their normal lives. It felt surreal.

Normal is such a quaint thing. You grab it when you can. Even when it isn’t real.

We ordered huge breakfasts, and traded items off each others’ plates. I had a slice of his sticky-bun french toast, and he had some of my sausage skillet. We packed what was left of our meals into one box for him to take.

When the waitress put the bill down on the table between us, I grabbed it.

“I’ll get that, Son,” I told him, loudly, as the waitress was walking away.

“Are you sure, Mom?” he asked. “Thank you. I’ll get it next time.”

Then we laughed. Together this time.

It reminded me of that last laugh, when we were caught in that death-grip hug. Another surreal moment. Another recognition of the absurdity of life, our lives at least.

But this time, all the tension and remorse and guilt melted away in that shared laughter, and all that was left was love.

When we were done eating, I dropped him off in time for his appointment with his Drug and Alcohol counselor.

Then I drove away.

I don’t know when I’ll hear from him again. Not for a long while, I hope.

Pimping My Son

750px-Flag_of_Edward_England_svgFor those of you new to this blog, it’s not what you think. You’ll have to read my last post, and maybe a couple more before that, to truly understand.

For those of you who have been following this sad saga, I’ve totally screwed up. And if after reading this you’ve lost faith in me, I understand. I’ve lost faith in myself as well.

I held strong for three days.

Three days of him begging me to drive him to town so he could buy some Methadone on the street to hold him over until he could get a prescription for Suboxane. We’d been trying to get a referral to a specialist to help him with his heroin addiction. But he didn’t think he could hold out that long. He needed something. Now.

Three days I held out, each day listening to him plead: “Please, please, please, Mom! You don’t know how I’m hurting here. If you don’t help me I’m going to call one of my buddies to pick me up and drive me into town. If I do that, who knows if I’ll ever make it back here, where it’s safe.”

“If you don’t help me, if you make me hitch-hike into town, I’ll be shooting heroin again. You know I will. But I don’t want that. I don’t want to OD again! Just help me get some Methadone. Please, please. Help me!”

When I still refuse, he looks at me like I’m crazy:

“I don’t understand! You want me to take Suboxane, right? You say I need it to get off heroin. But you won’t take me to get some Methadone to hold me over until I can get it? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not my fault the referral is taking so long. It’s not my fault that the system is screwed up. That I can’t get the meds I need legally. Please, please! I’m begging you! I don’t want to die.”

Three days I hold out. Each day worried sick that he would leave. That he would shoot up. That he would die. He’d already OD’ed three times in the past six months. Once on my bathroom floor. It could easily happen again.

And if it did, if he died, and I remembered how he’d begged me, how could I live with that? How could I?

All the arguments he made replayed in my mind. He had a point. If he needs medication to keep from shooting heroin, and if he can’t get it legally because the system truly is screwed up, then what’s the harm with doing what he asks? Was I being too morally pure by refusing to help him get what he needs just because it doesn’t come from a doctor, just because he doesn’t have a prescription for it?

So it came down to this: Do I stick to my principles and stay morally pure? Or do I cave to his pleas and possibly save his life?

I caved. Twice. When his referral to the doctor got delayed, and we found out we’d have to wait another week for his appointment, I caved again.

Hating myself both times for doing it, hating him for talking me into it, hating our broken healthcare system for putting us in this position

I drove my son all over the county, taking him into seedy neighborhoods while he tried to find someone to sell him Methadone so he could keep from shooting heroin.

Or so I told myself.

The crazy fact is, I had no idea if what he was actually buying was Methadone. Or even if it was, if shooting that or snorting it, or whatever it was he was doing with Methadone, was any safer or saner than heroin.

Each time I watched him disappear into someone’s house, or down an alley, I felt like a pimp. Like I was pimping my son. Driving him around town, looking for drugs, selling him out.

I was letting his addiction, the thing that is ruining his life, that is killing him, talk me into buying him drugs. And all the arguments about how I was just helping him, saving his life, seemed incredibly naive and twisted.

“We’re just buying Methadone until he gets a prescription for Suboxane!”

“We’re just plugging the holes in our broken healthcare system.”

“We’re just trying to keep him from using heroin and dying.”

But I don’t even know if it’s Methadone he’s buying! It could have been heroin all along.

I see its skull-and-cross-bone face now, grinning. “Thank you, Mama!” it tells me. “Thank you for selling me your son.”

 

Am I Crazy? Or Is He? – How Addiction Warps Us

Silver-Linings-Playbook-Image-03

From the film “Silver Lining Playbook” about mental illness

He was already high when I picked him up from the bus station to bring him home.

I’d hoped after a month in jail he’d be clean and sober and ready to make a fresh start on the road to recovery. That’s why we were letting him stay with us. He had nowhere else to go, and we wanted him to be safe until we could get him into rehab.

But it was already too late for safe, for clean, for a fresh start.

I could have refused to bring him home, of course. I could have left him at the bus stop. But I didn’t. I had my suspicions, but I wasn’t absolutely certain he was high.

I was sure a couple of days later though when, after I refused to give him a ride into town, he disappeared in the middle of the night for a couple of hours. Then the next morning he came bouncing out of his room full of sunshine, slathering me with kisses, enveloping me in big bear hugs, feeling good, feeling motivated, feeling like he could move mountains.

And seeing him that way, I wanted to drop to my knees in tears.

When I shared my disappointment, when I explained how his hyper-happiness was like a punch in the gut, he asked, incredulous: “Would you rather see me depressed?”

Would I? I had to think about that. Would I rather see him depressed?

I can’t explain to him why seeing him high is so traumatic for me. It would be too hurtful. It’s already hurtful to him, that I’m crying while he’s feeling so good, so hopeful, so motivated. He’s working out, getting in shape. He’s sorting through all his old bags of clothes stored in the closet, organizing them, doing laundry. He’s reading his spiritual books, The Four Agreements and The Tao of Sobriety, listening to Ram Dass and other gurus on YouTube. He’s calling the Medi-Cal office trying to get a doctor’s appointment so he can get a prescription for Suboxane.

He’s doing all the things I want him to do and should be praising him for doing. But I look at him and just want to bawl. Or scream.

He doesn’t get it. How could he?

In a way, it’s like I have my old son back, my real son. That tender, sweet, intelligent, humorous, fun-loving, energetic guy. I see the son I love so much, but it’s like I’m viewing him through a veil of flickering flames, and he’s a twisted, distorted, fun-house version of himself.

For the drugs make him twitchy. All of his movements are jerky, disjointed. He’s bouncing off the wall, knocking over furniture, breaking things he touches. His facial expressions and body movements are exaggerated, wild, out-of-control. He looks, seems, weird, bizarre, even while he’s hugging, helping, talking about important things we need to talk about.

In fact, he can’t stop talking. He talks to me from behind the bathroom door, from down the hall, from across the house. And when he isn’t talking he’s making weird noises, moans, laughs, grunts, excited exclamations, and incoherent muttering. He’s giving me or himself a running commentary about everything he’s doing, every thought that pops into his head.

I want to hide in the closet with a pillow over my ears and a fist in my mouth to keep from screaming.

But I don’t. He’s happy. My son is happy.

He’s feeling good about himself, hopeful about the future, trying to do what he thinks will please me. He’s practically begging for approval, for affirmation. He’s constantly looking for me to agree with him, to nod my approval, to say “that’s good, that’s right, what a great idea, aren’t you wonderful.” And if I don’t make the right noises at the right time, he’s hurt, wounded.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you love me? Aren’t you happy I’m happy?” I can almost hear him saying.

“Do you want me to be depressed?”

It’s not a matter of “wanting” though. It’s coming. Whether I want it or not. Dangerously Depressed lives right around the corner from Hyper-Happy, and it’s coming.

Within the next few days, rather than bouncing out of his room full of sunshine in the morning, he’ll be curled like a fetus in his bed with the covers pulled over his head. One bare foot will be sticking out jerking like a jack-hammer. He’ll pull the covers down far enough so I see his hot, hard, furious eyes peering out like an angry rooster, as he shouts at me to get out! out! out!

But even this is better than what comes next–Mad Maniac. This is when he roars up and storms around the house, and slams doors and curses, and gets into my face and tries to get me to take him into town so he can get another fix.

Or not. Maybe all that won’t happen this time. Maybe it won’t be that bad. Maybe.

But I’m worried. It’s the old pattern re-emerging, the way it’s played out too many times before. The crazy times, I think of them. That’s why this Hyper-Happy son makes me want to cry, because it reminds me of those times. Episodes of my life that are so bizarre and unbelievable, remembering them is like re-living a nightmare, or being in some alternate universe where crazed people do crazy things to survive and to save the ones they love.

I’ve never told anyone about those crazy times in my life. The things I’ve seen and done and endured, trying to help him.

During those days it was as if I lived in a secretive, shadowy world where I became someone no one would recognize. On the surface I was the same old person everyone knew–quiet, responsible, reasonable. But when I walked on the wild side of addiction with my son, I was anything but that.

I think that’s why I started this blog. Why I named it what I did. Not, as I had thought, had hoped, so I could sort things out and figure out a way to save my son. I want that too. I want that badly. But I think the real reason I created this blog was so I finally could let it all out. All the craziness I experienced. Bring it to the surface, look at it in the light of day.

Maybe then I could come to understand it, this addiction, what it does to us, how it warps everyone around it.  Not just him.  Me too. Me as much as him.

Maybe then I could find the healing I’m looking for. Heal this terrible guilt and grief and dread. Heal the craziness. And make myself immune to it.

I don’t want to be crazy anymore. I don’t want to be drawn into that world. But I don’t want my son to have to walk through that nightmare landscape by himself either. Alone and crazed.

I want all that craziness to be behind us. But I fear it isn’t. I see its face, lurking in the shadows. Waiting for me around the next corner. Curled beneath the covers in the next room. Peering out at me, tomorrow morning, when I open the door.

[For the rest of the story, read the posts below]

Thank God My Son’s in Jail

He’s Home. Now What?