Thursday, May 22, 2014

Just How Much Do you Say?

My cousin and I took a knitting class.  In three short classes we were supposed to knit a hat.  We did not accomplish our goal.  But, we are both okay with our lack of drive to be at the head of our class.  We had great fun.  And, we will keep trying. 

On the day of the last class, we both dreaded going because we had neither one progressed very far.  "I thought about skipping today."  She whispered.

"Me too....let's skip."  I said, relieved.  Ever the dutiful one, she said  "No, we need to finish." 

So, we went.  With great trepidation, I pulled my sad little piece out of my bag.  Eyes rising from the ground carefully surveying the little group to see who was looking.  Cousin, my noble defender, said "She's writing a book and she doesn't have time to practice.  She's only here for me."

I know what is coming next.  She hasn't thought that far ahead.  She is proud of me and it really is a gift when you have someone in your corner. 

All eyes, in unison, focus on me.  How much to say? I've been with them for a few weeks now.  They all seem very nice.  I'll probably never see them again.  It doesn't bother me.  But, my goal has always been to do no harm.  "My son's drinking and drug use are a problem for me and I write about what I've learned while living in the midst of it."  I blurt out in one breath as if the faster I say it, the less it will hurt.

The older lady at the end of the table says, "My husband has thirty-two years sobriety.  He volunteers at the Rehab center in our area helping young men with fifth step work.  Do you go to Al Anon?"

"Yes ma'am."  I say, grateful.

The instructor says, "I don't have anyone in my family, but a good friend does.  I understand."

The quiet little lady next to me says, "I have three brothers who are alcoholics.  Two are living sober and the other one is living with a dual diagnosis.  I know what you are going through."

Oh my goodness.  I was so surprised. 
Something changed.  We shared something.  We now understood one another.  The class changed.

I don't ever know how much to say.  One lady in my Al Anon group says that anonymity doesn't mean secret.  It was also pointed out that "we" as used in the steps means that it doesn't mean for us to remain alone.  But, I do respect the stories of others as their private stories. 

In writing my book, I have prayed for the wisdom to know if I am doing this because I feel called or if I am doing it for me and my pride.  I have walked away many times.  But, I really want to share as a mother so that other mothers might not feel alone. 

I watched the documentary "The Anonymous People" on Netflix.  It was very interesting.  If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to do so.  Now, I'd like to know your experience, strength and hope with regards to anonymity.  There is always more to be considered and learned.

Praying for you and your loved ones.


Thursday, May 15, 2014


I turned fifty on Tuesday.  I've been thinking about this new decade with hope.  Ever since I turned forty-nine my focus has been on fifty.  You could argue that I'm not really living in the present....and be right.  But, for me I need to look back and examine so that I can look forward with clarity and possibly understand what it is that I really want out of what's left of this life.

In the early days of dealing with my son's addiction, I held on to the past (i.e. what I did and didn't do) with a death grip.  I'm not sure why.  I guess I wanted to know why he was an addict.  I figured if I knew why then I could fix it. 

I've been on a long search trying to understand.  "I've been to at least one hundred thousand Al Anon meetings", as Father Tom Weston SJ would say.  I've been to many Saturday night open AA speaker meetings.  I've taken some weekend Ignatian retreats to better understand the Spiritual Exercises.  I volunteer at the jail in the Homeward Bound program.  And, I've bought many books.  If I laid down all of the books that I've bought in the last few years and put them end to end they would extend from my home in Tennessee to........Never mind......that is probably not information that the Dad or I want to look at too closely.

I've been looking for truth.  Like the apostle Thomas, I am looking for direction.  "I am the way and the truth and the life." Jesus said in John 14 :6.  When my Son went to his second stint in rehab the counselor met with us on family weekend.  "He's really honest.  But, he's not very truthful."  He said.

What a strange thing to say. The Dad and I looked at one another puzzled.  This counselor, this recovering addict would teach us a lot about life.  I was asked to teach a class in the jail called Moral Reconation Therapy.    I didn't really want to teach the class.  I didn't even know what the word reconation meant.  The class taught me and the students to stop making decisions based on pleasure or pain and to start making decisions on moral reasoning or right and wrong. 

Truth is what is real.  Period.  Honesty, simply put, is our perception of truth.  Growing up, if you hear that you are lazy enough, it becomes what you believe about yourself.  But, is it truth? 

I write in an effort to mine for truth.  I look back at my family looking for what is real...not what I've always heard.  There is a lot of alcoholism and addiction in my family.  What does that mean?  What does that say about me?  Does that mean that my son is doomed to live his life out in active addiction?

I've learned so much.  I am really no different than the alcoholic or addict.  At the root of it all, we all feel uncomfortable with who we are or what we think that we are.  We've been listening to those voices whether from within or without telling us that we are not enough. 

Those voices that say, "You should be ashamed of yourself."

Those voices saying, "It's your fault."

Those voices that tell you to be afraid.....every waking moment of every day.

The difference between them and me......I can have a drink and think, "no I'd rather save those calories for chocolate."  They can't.  I have diabetes and when my blood sugar drops, my hands shake and I start sweating and my body aches for sugar.  I told my endocrinologist, " I think my drug of choice is sugar."  He said, "Yes, diabetes acts very much like addiction.  You get low and crave sugar.  You eat the sugar and you feel sick again and it starts over and over again.  You can't live with it and you can't live without it.

I get that analogy.  My son has a disease just as my ancestors have.  Disease is hard to live with, no matter what the disease.  Disease, regardless of the kind  affects the whole family.  But, with addiction, nobody wants to talk about it. 

I do.

I want to respect the privacy of my son.  But, I will not let fear or shame keep me sick.  I'm not ashamed of the addict or alcoholic.  I hope one day they will find their way past fear and shame. 

But, until then, I will pray. 

For them. 
For you. 
And for Henry.