Friday, September 30, 2005

A night of anguish

Oh jeezus fucking christ. I said I wouldn’t use that swear, but there’s nothing else that conveys the anguish of the night.

I can’t even describe it. It’s too much work. Sorry, what follows won’t be "well-written." It’s just too hard right now.

First the funeral today. He looked so good. We bought him his first suit last night. I use the term "we" loosely. His dad paid for it, but said he’d "rather" I pick it out with the boy. Can’t be bothered, eh? Whatever.

Back to the funeral. Tough, but got through it. Even went to the "after" party and hung with the ex in-laws. They’re nice; I enjoyed them. Avoided the actual ex, but only because his girlfriend and I have a mutual dislike going, and she couldn’t leave his elbow. Her own legs don’t work, I think. And any woman who says my son isn’t welcome in his own father’s home is, well, I can’t even say what I really feel about her.

So the kid hates being out there, of course. Duh. Which means he stays with me. Which means guess who gets to be the stay-clean-police?

I knew it would happen, and sure enough, supper’s no sooner over and we in our after-funeral clothes than he wants to go see a friend or two.

Uh, no.

Follow a freaking full hour of "discussion." At least it wasn’t arguing. At least it wasn’t swearing or stomping or punching walls. Hey, whaddya know: growth.

But it was torture. He begged and cajoled and argued and on and on. And I didn’t say "no," rather I discussed, reasoned, explained.


His older brother sat right there, didn’t say anything until I asked him what he thought.

"Well, I hear what you’re saying, Mom, and yes, he did say all these same things last time when he was here and he still relapsed. But he does have to do this on his own."

Triumph in the kiddo’s eyes: Exactly!

So the onus was on me: whatcha going to do?

I still said I didn’t want him to go.

Then, an hour later, he came up with the alternate plan of walking up to the small-town high school football game. It seemed like a safe alternative—anything was better than having him meet friends.

I worried and fretted and invited him to a movie, a game of cards, a drive in the country, ANYthing. Nope, he just thought he’d walk to the game.

Heart heavy, I gave him my cell phone and let him go. The game would only be an hour. Just an hour left, and I’d come pick him up.

I tried to watch TV. Laid on the couch and drifted to sleep. Jerked awake, heart pounding: What?! What just happened!?! Nothing, said my husband, it’s okay.

Somehow I got through the remaining minutes until the game was over. Drove up to pick up the younger son, and knew, knew, knew the middle one wouldn’t be there. He wasn’t.

Started calling him. Called and called and called. No answer.

Came home, spine limp as a wilted stalk of celery. Just no ability to stand up straight. None. Silence in the household as we all looked at each other: he’s somewhere getting high. We failed him. On our watch, we failed him. More specifically, on MY watch.

Follow a half an hour of pure anguish. I go outside and rub Saint Francis’s concrete head. "You can’t save a kid’s life who doesn’t want to be saved." I have a black, black moment of the soul wherein I know this child will not live: if he is this driven to get high on the first chance he has, with so much at stake and all we’ve done to help him, then it’s bigger than he is. It is simply too big to conquer. I sit on the front stoop in the dark and begin to get angry, furious. The ex brought him home. Yet I must watch him. I must be the bad guy. I do not want that job. I despise that job. I know what the director of the rehab place will say, and I pre-hate him for it. He will say, "The kid begged and begged and what did the mom do? She said, oh, I trust you, go ahead." He’ll say it while shaking his head at the stupidity and permissiveness of the mother. Yeah, well, Mr Program Director, I do not have 30 years of program training behind me. I am just a mother who wants to see her kid live, a mother who doesn’t want to go to another funeral any time soon. A mother who fears she will be.

My husband joined me on the porch and THANK GOD, THANK GOD, fates intervened just as I was opening my mouth to say, "I don’t mean this, honey, really, but WHERE THE FUCK WERE YOU WHEN I HAD TO TELL HIM NO?" At that second, from inside the house, the phone rang. We both ran to answer it, tripping over ourselves.

It was him.

And that was when I lost it. I think he’s actually okay. He sounded okay. I begged him to come home. I don’t care if it was the wrong thing to do. I begged and I bawled and I yelled at him and finally I was crying too hard and had to give the phone to my husband.

He says he’s okay, but he is with friends. They’re smoking weed. He says he’s not tempted at all, and if he does get tempted he’s going to call his sponsor in Cali.

"Mom," he says. "Mom, stop crying. I love you and I’m not going to do anything to fuck up. I don’t want to go back to jail. Listen, if I don’t learn to be around this stuff and not use, I’m never going to get better."

Yes, I know. But not tonight. Not one day out of rehab, not the day you buried your grandma. Give yourself time, honey. Give yourself strength. You can’t do it all in one night.

He’s supposed to be home in 15 minutes. I’m only writing to keep from crying my eyes out. There’s not even a reason any more. I’m just wrung out, and crying just happens. It just happens.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Three days of loving family harmony (ahem)

Good god. Conflict, conflict, conflict. And he's only been home a couple hours. Yeah, this is why I've been so nervous the past few days: I knew this was coming.

And the ex is no help, he just lost his mother and is in some ethereal grief mode. I can't very well say, "Hey, YOU'RE the genius who brought him home from rehab, YOU figure out how to deal with his hostility." Cause the boy doesn't want to be "watched," see. Says it's bullshit. Yeah? Well, newsflash, kiddo: your case manager said we're supposed to have someone with you at all times while you're here. Said, and I quote, "It doesn't matter if he doesn't like it. Those are the conditions. Period."

Mmm-hmm. Well. The case manager can say it and get a reluctant nod in response. The mother tries saying it and gets "THIS IS FREAKING BULLSHIT!"

Deep breath: It's only for three days, Frankie. It's only for three days.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Valid reason to leave rehab: pallbearing.

I'm to pick my middle son up at the airport tomorrow night, then drive to JC Penney's to buy him funeral-appropriate clothes. There is something very odd about this. I'm not sure I'm prepared to watch Logan be a pallbearer at a funeral when I have this massive fear that the next funeral I attend will be his.

How am I supposed to get through this one? I get told all the time how "strong" I am. Not, folks. Not strong at all. Small consolation: I'll be at a funeral, where tears making their way down the faces of attendees and even ex daughter-in-laws are—no questions asked—completely and utterly acceptable.

Permission to cry: granted.

Permission to wonder if your kid is next to go: denied, denied, denied.


Monday, September 26, 2005


The little guy is playing an awesome game of soccer tonight. Listen to me: little guy. Hah. He's in high school, for chrissake.

The game is excellent, a shutout on a team who normally dominates us. The bleachers are rowdy -- parents clutching each other's arms and gasping and cheering and stomping up a huge ruckus. I'm sitting by some of my favorite parents and we're having a good old time...

...and yet.

I keep finding myself in gaps of silence, moments between cheers when all I can think of is son number two, headed home for the funeral. It's like he walks into a minefield whenever he comes home, and I really despise that sense of impending doom. But I'm at a soccer game, you know?

"Hustle, hustle, hustle, SHOOOOOT!"

Gap of silence: Don't mind me, pals, I'm just feeling doomsday hanging overhead.

"Go to, defense, GO TO!"

Nah, don't wanna discuss it.

"Nice cross, there's a header, OOOOHHH, RIGHT IN THE NET, BE-A-UUUU-TIFUL!"

I can't explain it, just let me be this way, please.

It's good to have friends who let you do this, friends who give you the space to have gaps.


Ex's mother

She died yesterday. That means another of that great and graceful generation slipped away from the world and into oblivion -- just another old lady dying, another obituary in the paper, another buck for the funeral home. Another wonderful soul, a life well-lived, lost.

It also means Logan will be coming home for his grandmother's funeral.

Focus on the living. This will be an interesting week.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Everything you can

Joe, my oldest, stiffens as I link arms with him. It's dark, and the cement stairs embedded into the hill are hard to see.

"I remember when your grandpa poured these stairs. Grandma was so happy."

"Yeah?" He's always cordial, this son.

"Yeah. Even then grandma complained about how hard they are to see at night."

"I suppose."

"When was the last time you saw her?"

"About two weeks ago. She could still talk then."

He opens the door for me. I haven't been in this house for maybe 10 years. The brown log walls, the mustard shag carpet leap out at me: remember when you lived here with them? Joe was a baby, Logan was born here. As if I could forget.

My ex meets us in the kitchen. "Thanks a lot for coming. She's barely with us. Come on in."

He leads us into the bedroom, dark save one small lamp on a low table. The old double bed is gone, replaced now with a hospital bed. Soft piano music wafts from a cassette player in the corner.

My ex-sister-in-law is standing, back to me, bent over the bed. She turns when she sees me. I open my arms, and she collapses in sobs. I hold her for a few minutes while she shakes in grief. He daughter is there, also in tears.

My ex rubs his eyes. "Talk to her, Frankie. She can't respond, but she can hear you. She'll know who you are. Tell her about the ring."

I step up to the bed and lean over the frail creature, a shadow of the woman who once held such dominance in this family. Her mouth is open, her eyes attached to mine. I lean close, whispering. I tell her I came to say goodbye, to thank her for always being so kind to me. Although I don't say it, I think of how she wanted me to forgive her son, to take him back despite what he'd done all those years. Think of how Jesus forgave people, she'd said, blushing, in her one and only plea to me to stay.

But I'm not Jesus. I'm just human.

"Logan isn't here," I whisper to her now, "but I know he'd want to be. He loves you." I leave out that he'll be coming back for her funeral. I just can't say it: you're dying.

I talk to her for a minute and then I don't know what else to say--it's strange, saying things without a response at all--so I pull back and look into her eyes for the space of a piano song or two, hoping she'll know that I care. It wasn't her fault her son was an ass.

Soon it's Joe's turn, and I watch as he leans close, also whispering and stroking her forehead. Her eyes stay locked on his. I wonder what this son will do when it's me lying there. Because he would be the one. It would be Joe who'd be there with me, day in, day out.

I look at my ex and acknowledge that he's here with his sister, tending to his mother on her deathbed. Another sibling lives two minutes away and isn't. I have to give my ex credit. He's here.

I stand in the room and feel both awkward and right in place. That's the thing about families. There are ups, downs, clashes, and tears. There are worries, hopes, joys, fears, and pleas for forgiveness. But a family is a family is a family. And I'm still part of this one in some weird and, at the moment, oddly sweet way.

Her eyes flutter shut. I find my ex's gaze. I don't want my words to be the last she hears. "I think you should tell her about the ring."

He nods and steps up to the bed, hunching over her. "Mom, remember the ring you gave me for Frankie when we got engaged? The one with all the garnets in it, I think your grandma gave it to you? Frankie wants you to know she still has it, and she'll give it to one of the boys some day. She wants you to know your ring will stay in the family."

The covers move slightly, as if she's trying to reach for him.

Is she angry? You take that ring back from that bitch right now. Or pleased? Tell her I'm touched. She can't let us know, and I feel bad. Why didn't I come out two weeks ago when she could still talk, and tell her this?

Oh yeah, I was in California, trying to help Logan save his own life.

Her eyes find mine, and somehow I know she understands what it's like to do everything you can for your son, even to the point of embarrassment.

Her arm feels like a skin-covered stick as I lay my hand on it one last time: goodbye. Goodbye, and thank you.


Friday, September 23, 2005

How many hits?

Not by hitmen. By blogsurfers. Daily.

C'mon, join the nano-survey. It's good for your health. Honest. Click comments under this post and jot down:

1) what you're averaging daily on your blog
2) the nature of your blog
3) how long you've had it up

Be anonymous if you like. Come back tomorrow and see what everyone else says.

I'm super-curious what's average -- are you?


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Open your mouth and say "ah"

Me at the doctor’s office yesterday for the annual physical:

“So, Frankie, you don’t smoke.”


“Or drink.”

“Well, occasionally.”

“And your cholesterol is okay. And blood pressure down, that’s good.” She looks up. “Do you have any other questions? Like say, er, questions about your, ahem, mental health?”

I blink. Aw, why not? “Yes, doc,” I say, inhaling, “I do.”

She smiles, almost imperceptibly: I knew it. Could tell by the way she’s sitting there on the exam table, all hunched over like that.

“I’ve been under a considerable amount of stress this year, mostly because my son is—well, he’s—okay, he’s a heroin addict.” Not many people in our town know. It’s a small town.

She blinks back. “Oh my.”

“Yeah, that and my small business is always struggling for money, so I’ve been feeling kindof panicky at times lately. Should I be worried?”

And then we talk, a long talk. It’s not the usual hurry-up-I-have-ten-other-patients-waiting kind of visit. She tells me about a doctor she knows, a high-profile guy in the city who makes over a million a year. His daughter died last winter from a heroin overdose. She asks if I remember that. I shake my head no: I was too absorbed in my own crisis to notice another’s.

She tells me I have a right to be worried sick, and that I shouldn’t worry about being worried sick. Ahhhh, that feels good to hear. You mean I’m not psychotic because I wake up at night, heart pounding? Because I sometimes cry for no reason? Like right here, right now, in her office, for chrissake?

She’s gentle with me. She has reason to understand. Her own son, at 14, died last year from a brain tumor. She looks me deep in the eyes and tells me I have to do everything I can to help my kid now, in case I can help. She says a 20-year-old addict is really more like a teenager in mentality, and still needs parental help. She says that if she could have done anything to help her son recover, she would have.

We sit there and look at each other, the physical exam forgotten for the moment, and feel each other’s pain.

And yet in the next instant her eyes are bright, hopeful. She smiles a lot. I ask how she’s doing, and she says, “Oh, we’re fine.”

I walk out of her office oddly calmed. We’re fine. We’re really fine.


Sunday, September 18, 2005


Jagged lightning stripes lie carved in the desert floor 25,000 feet below. My airplane seatmate leans over: is that the Grand Canyon? No, I assure her, the Grand Canyon is much, much bigger. Ohhh, she nods, but points out that it still looks way cool underneath us. Yep, I agree, way cool.

I sit for awhile with my nose glued to the window, watching tiddlywinks of irrigation pass slowly below. These plane rides are weird for me. I have to leave my beloved kid, the kid who needs so much. I’m headed home to my other kids: one almost completely independent, the other still young, still needy. And yet he needs so much less than this one does.

I was over at Anne’s blog this morning, and I was grateful to read the perspective of “the other kid.” The one who doesn’t need so much. Go read it, it’s well worth the trip. When all this first started for us almost a year ago, a counselor admonished me to remember that I have three kids, not just one. Months later, that same counselor told me to consider that this one kid may require triple the parenting of the other two.

Okay, so which is it?

I don’t know. I can only go by my gut, which delights in the oldest and youngest kids and aches, oh but it aches, for the middle one.

Last night after our goodbye dinner, he was antsy to get to an AA meeting.

“Stop right here, Mom,” he says as we’re driving down the beach strip. “I’ve gotta save a seat at the meeting.”

I slide eyes right at him: he cares where he sits? This is the same boy who refused to go to meetings just a month ago?

“On Saturday nights it’s packed in there, standing room only.” As I pause in the side street he leaps from the car, taking those huge twenty-year-old kind of bounds across the sidewalk. The car is empty for a moment, vacuum-like, then he’s back, energy in his wake.

We drive to the house to drop off his things: the alarm clock and towels we bought today, the only things he has here besides a few clothes. He takes the same kind of enthusiastic bounds into the house. I follow, slowly, to drop off a check. The night duty guy looks at me. “You taking him to an AA meeting? You bringing him back?” Before I can answer, he starts talking about Logan’s last relapse. “He’s young. He was walking back from AA and”—he throws his hands up—“these girls asked him to come inside and party.” He says girls like he would say pigs. “It’s hard on these guys when they’re so young, you know?”

Yeah, I know.

Logan reappears, freshly cologned. “Let’s go!”

I drive him to AA. How do you say goodbye on the side of the road in front of AA? How do you impart everything you want to impart? “Logan…” It’s hopeless; there’s too much to say. I make him wait while I climb out of the car to hug him. He holds me tight for a long moment. “Thanks, Mom.”

And then he’s gone. I watch long enough to see him disappear into the seated crowd, the way I used to watch the kids walk into school.

I choke back those damn tears and try not to wonder if I’ll see him alive again. Lucky, I tell myself sternly. You’re lucky you got to come out here this week. Lucky he got a second chance. Lucky he’s willing to try so hard. Lucky to have had the privilege to be his mom for twenty years.

The tiddlywinks below have given way to fine lines scratching across mountain ranges, and I think how lucky I am to have two more great kids to go home to. Just plain lucky.


Saturday, September 17, 2005


Bittersweet day, this final one with the kiddo. Frighteningly agenda-less, we stagger around artsy stores, awkward in each other's footsteps, unused to hanging out like this. "Do you want to go in here?" "I don't care." But I learn he likes art galleries -- oil paintings, to be exact. I didn't know.

Our aimlessness leads us eventually to the beach, where we find our land legs again. The beach: yes, we spent many many hours at the beach together during his childhood, so this we know how to do. He shows me the tide pools, the crabs, the anenomes. We watch the little mini-pools of ocean water caught in the rocks, populated with hermit crabs of every size and shape. Small ones, smaller ones, and ones so tiny you can hardly see them except for these miniscule hair-like legs scrambling from under tiny and sometimes spotted shells. "Pick one up," I tell him. He does. "Now promise it you won't put it into a bathtub." He grins: when he was around five or so he collected about 20 hermit crabs on one of his first forays to the beach, fascinated with the little things. That evening I ran his bath water and stepped out while he climbed into the tub. When I poked my head back in a minute later, there he sat in the bathtub, 20 dead hermit crabs floating around him. He didn't know the hot water would kill them, thought he was doing them a favor by putting them back in water.

He puts the crab down and scrambles over rocks -- not grinning and carefree like he used to, more heavy and wooden now. But still. It's nice to see him silhouetted against the ocean, nice to talk to him with the sound of waves pounding in stereo. We don't talk much, actually, and I feel bad about it at first. But what can I say? "Stay clean" gets old after a while, and we already discussed Hurricane Katrina ad nauseum. So I struggle to accept the silence as we walk. It's okay, I finally decide: part of supporting him is just being with him, just being "there."

We finally leave the beach and have supper out with one of his counselors. It's nice, he grins a lot, comes out of his shell. "Don't stay in your head, man," the counselor tells him, thumping his forehead, "it's dangerous in there." Logan nods and grins a sweet, crooked grin of acknowledgement. I sit across the table, look at the two of them, and wish I could stay.

I hate leaving him. Sure, we have a great post-rehab structure in place: a solid sober-living home, a couple counselors, and scheduled outpatient work with the rehab place. His bases are covered, and I feel really good about what we accomplished in such a short time this week. But still.

Going home is hard to do. It's like leaving your preemie in the hospital. Tough, tough. But hey, it has to be done, so I best get my rear in gear and start packing.

You know? Can I just say it one more time? Going home is hard to do.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Sober living by the sea

And at the end of a long, exhausting search, we think we found one tonight. His eyes found mine as the man was talking, and I saw in them quiet assurance: this is the place. I agreed.

It's almost on the beach. It's bright, light, airy, clean. Good mix of ages. Structure as needed, flexibility for those who earn it. Drug testing as needed. Records kept for the court: see, he's tested clean this many times. Visitors and friends allowed (sober only). Barbeques on Sundays. Zero tolerance for insobriety: you're on the street within ten minutes if you test dirty. You test clean, man, you're "in." You are so in.

The house manager is big, bald, rugged-faced--and gentle. Firm, kind, no bs. I kept my mouth shut, because it's not my decision, but five minutes into the visit and I wanted to blurt "you're hired."

We have one more place to see tomorrow, a place Logan heard about. But it'll have a tough time competing.

A house by the sea: jeez, I'm jealous. Not really. What I am is grateful. Truly, deeply grateful for good people who dedicate themselves to helping addicts. Logan told me today he's gotten a sponsor finally: a 30-some-year-old guy who's helped about 15 kids so far. This guy doesn't get paid or get any recognition from anyone. He just wants to help.

Makes a person grateful. Like when you buy sushi at the local grocer and when you walk out, this guy is standing outside dressed in a white uniform and collecting money for the homeless, and there's no way you could say no. Seeing the undersides of society up close as you have opens up a whole new perspective. You just have this tremendous compassion inside. It's kind of weird: you cry easily and often. And you hate the idea of going home and back to your regular life. You want to stay, walk the salty beaches, be near your kid, hear about his day, his session with Jim, his plans for college, his thoughts on staying sober. You want to be part of it, his recovery, his life. You just love him, and you don't want to leave him.

But you know you must, and so you cherish every second with him, there by the sea in the salty air.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Red tide

The surf is particularly rough today, the crests of the waves muddy brown from all the kicked-up sand churning underneath.

“Oh, that was a huge one!” A lady stares at the waves, dumbfounded by their strength, as I pass her on the pier. Tourists linger, pointing, smiling. Look: seagulls! Look: waves!

There’s something almost ethereal about piers, these little connections between earth and sea—tiny juxtapositions of upright and vertical creatures, of dry and wet. Old fishermen and fisherwomen lean over the wooden railings, watching their lines below, waiting for some unseen creature to take the bait. One woman wears long yellow sleeves, pink rubber gloves, and a hat that’s so enormous she appears to have no face at all. How conveniently she can hide under there—from the sun and from humanity—a human in a turtle shell. Her heads turns almost imperceptibly as I pass, her eyes following my path.

The air smells of fish—not unpleasantly, it’s just there. It’s radiant throughout the area, no matter how many corners I turn. I stride past stores with names like Boardwalk Burgers, or Back to the Beach Cafe, or even Shore Brakes. I’m walking, trying to fit in some exercise while I wait.

Because that’s what I’m doing. Waiting. Waiting for the probation officer to call back. Waiting for the Hope House to call back. Waiting for an appointment with the Recovery Coach. Waiting for Logan to get out of afternoon group. Waiting for sentencing. Waiting for recovery.

Just waiting, the waves muddy brown with kicked-up sand.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Rope, please

I’m sitting here cross-legged on the floor of the airport, snuggled up against the back wall of the President’s Club. That’s the outside wall of the Prez Club, of course. I’m trying to encroach on their wireless internet by smooshing myself as close as possible to the connection blinking away on the other side, and so far it’s working. Hah. Score one for the beauty of improv.

I’m waiting for my flight, see—the flight that will take me cross country to see my boy for a couple days. On the agenda: Find a(n affordable) sober-living house for him where he can…well, where he can stay sober. Where they’ll check up on him. Support him. Guide him. Help him. Watch him.

Pssh. Might as well say, “On the agenda: Lasso the moon.”

Sure. We’ll hop right on that one. And when would you like delivery, Ma’am?

Hooo boy. In just three days, I’m supposed to locate, check out, and secure a place for Mr. Promise-not-to-relapse-oops-sorry-mom. And not just any place, either. A place that will play a huge role in his recovery.

Okay, so then there’s the whole theory that it’s not my job to find him a place, it’s his job. This is his problem, his recovery. So let him go through the agony and trouble of getting his own program lined up. That way, he’s more invested in it, so he’ll take it more seriously.

You know, that’s a nice little theory. Really, it is. I love it! That way I could stay home with my younger kiddo, go to his soccer game on Friday, ride our horse, grill out with hubby, have coffee on Saturday with my friends.

And ache inside.

So maybe the only reason I’m flying 2000 some miles is to mollify myself. To feel like I’m doing something, anything to help. Cause I gotta take care of myself, too, you know. I have to know where he is, that he’s safe, that he has a place I feel good about. I have to know I’ve done all I can to help set up his chances for success. And then it’s up to him.

The client I write for wanted me to take articles with me this week, work on them while I’m gone. Nope. Sorry, no can do. Got a more important job to do this week. Got to go throw a rope around that big ol' moon up there.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

Hazardous either way

The back of my neck is killing me, folks. I've been hunched over the damn computer all day, see. Yeah, yeah, I know, cry me a river, right?

No, see, it's Saturday. And everyone else I know is out rah-rahing the last shorts-wearing days of summer, while I am sitting in my office editing safety-training articles for the transportation industry. Grr.

But. And here's the big but (hate saying that). I'm doing it because on Tuesday I'm winging my way west (what's with me and alliteration tonight?) to go see the boy. Yessirree, Bob.

And you know, it's weird. I'm equal parts elation—my kid!—and dread—my kid. Ah, forget it. It's hard to explain.

Anyway, the point is to find a sober-living house for him, since his 30 days in rehab are almost over. I know, I know: he just got there. Just yesterday you were listening to me agonize about where to send him, and now he's approaching graduation day. Jeezus Christ. Shouldn't this be like a 30-month program, instead of 30 measley little goodmornings-and-goodnights? I'm not sure I ever realized before just how short a month is.

You know, hope springs eternal when your kid is in rehab. It's when they get out you start that agony thing.

I think I should go back to editing safety articles now. I'd rather think about how truckers should react in hazardous materials-related accidents than how my kid will survive the hazards of driving away from rehab.

Isn't there a training article somewhere for this?


Friday, September 09, 2005

Who is this, anyway?

Jeez. he sounded so good when he called that I wasn't sure it was even him.


(pause) "Logan?"

"Yeah, hi, Mom! I haven't called in a few days, so I thought I'd check in. How's everyone?"

(stunned silence...he's asking how someone else is?) "Fine, fine. Hey, listen, I was REALLY mad at you the other day when you relapsed."

(sheepishly) "Yeah, I know."

"What happened? I mean, you were so gung ho to make rehab work this time."

"Yeah, well, (deep intake of breath) I talked to my counselor and I think I thrive on chaos. Kind of like, I tried to sabotage my own recovery. That's pretty common addict behavior, actually. Mom? Mom, are you still there?"

"Um, yeah, Logan. Yeah. Gee." When did he learn to speak in whole sentences? What kind of chipper-mood medication do they have him on? It's been months since I've heard him speak so clearly, so confidently. It's been since...well, since last winter when he was in rehab the first time. That's how long it's been since I heard that positive timbre to his voice. Since the last time he was in rehab.

And suddenly, suddenly, I'm a believer again.


Monday, September 05, 2005

And how come there's not?

Till Friday, folks.

I'm out of town until then on a speaking engagement. "How to market your small business in three easy steps," blah blah blah.

Too bad I'm not listening, instead of speaking, and too bad it's not "How to free your kid from heroin in three easy steps."

Now that would be a speech worth hearing.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Weakness, or disease?

Yesterday's comments contained an interesting debate, excerpted below:

Gotta keep telling yourself that it's a disease, hon. Not that it's not his responsibility, not that he doesn't own what he does, only that it's not a matter of rational thought. It's not as if he can make rational choices right now... You can't be cured of this disease, you can only control it.

To which another commenter replied:

It's a disease my backside. It's a weakness. It's an inability to take responsibility for your own desires and actions.

This is nobody fault but your son's and the defeat of his drinking problem is going to lie solely on his shoulders...AA brainwashes its members to believe it's a disease. To believe that it's not their fault. Yes, yes it is their fault. AA will erode your son's thought process to the point that any and every vital life decision will have to be run past his "sponsor" to be sure that it won't "jeopardize his sobriety."

Nobody can help him but him. Period.

Which was countered with:

Anger at the abuser won't help, even though it may feel good at the time. It IS in fact, a disease, a insidious, horrible, mean lil disease. Anger is a useless emotion. Anger at your loved ones is, in my opinion, even more useless. Do I have anger? Yes indeedy. Yet my anger is at the disease, at the bottle, at the drug and at the system that makes it OK.

Those comments swarmed around inside my thick little head last night. Disease? Weakness? What? What? I don't know the answer: heck, even medical science doesn't agree on causes and treatment methods. But I did wake up this morning with some sort of clarity that arose from a weird dream I had. Okay, hear me out. It's interesting, promise.

Before I tell you the dream, though, let me tell you this. Once upon a time I taught preschool, and we used some Montessori priciples. Montessori allows the kid to discover things on his/her own. The teacher's job is to set up the environment so the kid learns from it, and then just be there to guide the kid through the process. It's cool stuff.

So in this dream, I was teaching a little girl who was deaf to recognize the numeral 6 through a game similar to bowling. She had six silver balls in a basket. If she selected all six at once and rolled them down a lane, pins would fall, revealing a prize she was eager to have. If she rolled any other number, the pins wouldn't fall.

The girl was deaf, so there was no "explaining" anything. I showed her how to do it one time, and then, big smile, she tried. Except she rolled the wrong quantity. When the pins didn't fall, she cried. I picked her up, hugged her, and stroked the back of her head. Smiling, I set her back down at the starting line, pointed at the numeral 6, and placed all six balls in front of her again. And again. And again, until she got it.

Okay, so here's the tie.
I never got mad at the little girl.
I understood that she would fail.
I allowed her to learn on her own.
My role was to support her as she went through the process.
My patience through her failure was a given.

Well, I dunno, maybe there's no tie. After all, he's not 3, he's 20. And he's not deaf, he's a junkie.

Then again, maybe there is.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Midnight in the vacuum of good and evil

Hey. You out there following my story. Yeah, all five of you (I love you all). It's midnight and I just now put the vacuum away. Oh, but you don't know this about me: I only clean when I'm really, really, REALLY upset.


My assitant beeps me today. "Frankie, can you take a phone call? Someone named Elizabeth. Sounds personal."

Personal? Okay. I'll take it.

"Hello, Mrs. Bryson?"

That's the old married name, but whatever. "What can I do for you?"

"This is Elizabeth from Mercy Hospital in California."

Christ. "Yes?"

"We have your son Logan here, he fell and hurt his shoulder last night, nothing serious, but could I get your insurance information?"

I give it to her, speaking in staccato and smiling through my teeth because a new trainee is sitting across the desk waiting for me to finish critiquing her article about fucking safety training. Blink. Blink. I hang up, explaining to the trainee that my son is apparently in the ER. Smile reassuringly when her eyes grow huge. "No, no, it's okay. They said it's nothing serious."

Mmm hmm.

Nothing is "nothing serious" in this game. But you tell yourself that. You smile and say, "No, no, nothing serious, ho hum and tweedle dee. Time for dinner, everyone!" You want so badly to believe it.

Home, four hours later, and I get the first call from the rehab house. He's relapsed, they tell me.

After my string of obscenities, they rush to say it's only booze, only booze. He got drunk, fell off a bike. He's in detox now. Spent the day in the ER, yeah, separated shoulder they guess, so sorry about it.

And HOW, I demand in hot fury, how does it happen that he had OPPORTUNITY to get drunk? How is it that I begged and fought and pleaded to get him into rehab, the GOOD kind of rehab, the EXPENSIVE kind, and yet while in rehab HE IS UNSUPERVISED long enough to get drunk? Huh? Can they answer me that?

Because suddenly I'm furious, see. Suddenly I'm so PO'd that I could wring someone's fucking neck. Maybe the rehab director's. Maybe my son's.

Jeezus. Like four freaking days in rehab, and years of prison hanging over his head if he screws up this chance, and HE GETS DRUNK? Drunk is one step away from heroin, my love. One tiny step.

And get this, pals: it happened when he was walking three blocks back to rehab from an AfuckingA meeting.

So there you go.

And do I think my kid will survive this? My heart is tripping up flights of endless stairs as I admit...I I do not.

Hear the agony when I say I need to go clean some more.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Excerpt: Intervention, part 2

Alex is still sitting there. I turn to him. "Hey, Alex, do you mind giving us some time alone?"

How rude of me, asking him to leave his own house, but he just stands up obligingly. "Sure, Mrs. Bryson, no problem. I was just leaving anyway. Merry Christmas to you!"

Logan looks confused, his eyes wandering from Joe to Caitlyn to me. He puts his bowl of cereal down and looks at me, biting his lip.

I have been imagining this moment all night. What he’ll do, how he’ll react. He’ll jump up in a rage: what? What? How could you accuse me of this? What are you talking about? He’ll fly from the room, maybe he’ll break something. Maybe we’ll call the cops.

Joe and Caitlyn look expectantly at me. I’m the mom, of course I’ll handle this.

I suck in a roomful of air and squeak, "Logan, I, I…I know about the heroin." That voice speaking is not mine. It’s jagged and bumpy and helium-thin. It continues: "Joe came and told me last night, and I’ve talked to Caitlyn and to Dad and we all want you to stop, we all love you very much and we want to take you to detox to help you get well." My heart will burst out of my chest any second now, it’s banging and bumping so loudly.

Breathe, Frankie, that’s right, breathe while you wait for his reaction.

Caitlyn and Joe sit, Caitlyn crying quietly and Joe taut as a wire.


I blink. Did he just agree to go to detox?

He stands up, his skinniness reaching forever up to the ceiling as I look up at him. "I’ve been wanting to get help for a long time now. But I didn’t want you and Dad to find out, and I didn’t know how to go to detox without you finding out. I’m glad you know now."

I’m speechless. No fight? No argument? No denial?

"Well, then." There’s that weird, bumpy voice again, belonging to someone else, "Get your things together and we’ll go to the hospital right now. Joe can drive you and Caitlyn and I will follow."

"Okay." He stands and leaves the room with Caitlyn, and I implode with unused adrenaline. I begin to shake uncontrollably as Joe comes over to put his arms around me. Dear god, dear god, dear god. He’s willing to get help.