I spent many, many years dancing the same dance with my son. We had a pattern, a rhythm to our words and interactions. I counted on him to make mistakes and he counted on me to fix them, to rescue him. And like clockwork . . . I came through, every time. I convinced myself that my help, disguised as love, was all he needed. Over time he would make a grand self discovery, see the light, and be the man we both knew he could be. As long as we engaged in this dynamic, we denied his addiction, and the deterioration of his self-worth.
A friend asked me tonight, What made you stop? When did you decide enough was enough? Funny, I remember when it happened, but in that moment I couldn’t recall why it happened. Reflecting now I believe I decided to make my happiness a priority. I was so unhappy, living a lie, fearful, and full of anxiety and regret. I realized too that I my behavior stood smack dab in the way of my son’s success. My actions robbed him of the opportunity to change his life. Why would I do that to someone I love?
For my son, the change was harsh and unexpected. He went down hard and fast, and I had to say I cannot help you, I will not help you. We lost touch for a few days, and then weeks. I was notified by friends when he was released from jail, along with stories of the emotional and physical pain he suffered. My heart ached as I tried to push away those images. More news . . . he was working a program . . . getting some help. I allowed myself to be hopeful and vowed to keep my boundaries intact. I did wonder how all of this would impact upcoming holidays.
Thanksgiving was at my sister’s home this year. I sent my son an email, giving him the details. He did not reply and I had zero expectations. On that morning, he called to let me know he needed a ride. I told him if he got himself there, I would give him a ride home. He followed through and he arrived on time. He looked good, healthy and strong. I found myself glancing at him throughout the day. He behaved in ways I had not seen in too many years to count. He sat with his aunts and uncles and cousins, attentive, speaking calmly and listening. He showed genuine interest in our family, visiting for hours. He was humble and even quiet at times.
We didn’t say many words to each other, but I touched him at every opportunity, each time we passed through crowded rooms and spaces, and kissing and hugging him goodbye at the end of the evening. I wished I could have engaged with him more, shown more interest, asked lots of questions, and been a little lighthearted. I simply couldn’t. A new dance would take some time, but it would be real and true.
Later in the evening and over the next few days, my family had so many wonderful things to say about my son. They saw effort, change, and for the first time in a long time we were all hopeful and even proud.
I’m working hard to change the way I respond to life. I’ve let go of trying to control my surroundings. I’m trusting the Universe to take care of the crap I truly cannot handle on my own. I am learning to mind my own business. These changes allow me to accept and enjoy the good moments when they present themselves. What is happening with my son right here, right now is good. I hope for him that it continues to be good and improves with each passing day. For now, no second guessing, no intervening, no predicting or analyzing. On that day, I enjoyed seeing my boy again, the boy with the creative soul who loved art and marveled at the stars, black holes and far away planets.
In a meeting the other night a woman explained how she couldn’t be proud of her son’s hard work because she had nothing to do with it. Instead she was proud for him. I love that distinction.
My boy, I am proud for you. And don’t forget . . . all the buddies love you.