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 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.
And for Henry.