My kid has nearly 11 months clean and sober. For over a year he has been living in a long-term residential treatment center for homeless addicts. For 4 years he has struggled with substance abuse disorder and has sometimes made my life feel like a rollercoaster.
Right now, he is doing well, so I should just be filled with gratitude.
I am grateful for his progress
I am grateful for the tools I have developed to cope with his addiction. I am grateful for meeting other parents whose kids also struggle with addiction, mental illness and homelessness. It is wonderful to know other mothers who are not in denial and can talk honestly about how their kids are doing.
Most of the time I can count my blessings for the simple things, just for today. I am very grateful not to be wondering where my kid is every night or waking up in the middle of the night to look to see if my son has overdosed upstairs in his room.
I am extremely grateful that my kid is alive.
He certainly could not be based on the things I saw him do and the things I learned he did after the fact. I am grateful for Narcan and a bystander who called 911. I am grateful for the totaled car he managed to walk away from. I am grateful that he was arrested for several felonies and by some grace of God they did not stick on his record…even though he committed all of the crimes he was accused of and more.
I am actually glad he spent some time in jail when I thought he was at college. He learned some things there I could never have taught him, yet I wish he had not needed to learn them.
So, why do I still find it hard? Why now?
For so long I moved from crisis to crisis with my son. I tried to focus on self-care and not obsess about his sobriety. I am an eternal optimist, so I really tried to believe each time he got clean that this was the one that would stick.
This is certainly the longest stretch of our new normal as mother and son. However, as I kept moving forward, I don’t think I allowed myself to glance at the wreckage left behind. Now, things are more stable, and I am occasionally brave enough to peak at the debris that is scattered around.
Some things are triggers for me. I learn of someone else’s child relapsing. I see an obituary for another young man who didn’t win the fight against substance abuse disorder. I go into my son’s old room and see things he left behind and miss him terribly. I see someone who graduated from high school with my child and is making plans to go to graduate school or into a great career.
There are a million little and big things I grieve
Regular contact with my son is one of them. Cell phones are still not allowed by his treatment enter. I get why, but I sometimes just want to hear his voice. So, instead, I say extra prayers for him and get busy with something productive for me. Sometimes I just want to lay hands on him to know his heart is beating and that he is breathing.
On an exceptionally lucky day, my son will call me up and ask me to take him to the doctor, to a meeting, to get cigarettes or just to come over to do laundry. On those days, I do get to hear his voice. On those days I might even get to hold him in my arms, multiple times. Often, it is still hard on those days, too.