A few years ago I started an anonymous blog with the above title to talk about addiction. About trying to help a grown son addicted to heroin. when I did not believe he, nor I, would survive his addiction. Here’s part of my first blog post:
Addiction, as horrible as it is for addicts, can be terrifying to those who love them as well. Like it or not, if we choose to be in their lives and support them while they fight this cruel affliction, we’re taking a walk on the wild side, going places emotionally and spiritually, and sometimes even physically, that are dark and scary.
And often we’re alone.
Too often when all hell breaks loose, and the dust settles, one lone family member is left standing to walk this scary path alone with their loved one. Most others get blown away, or turn away, or run away eventually. But a mom, a dad, a sister, a lover–hopefully for the addict’s sake, one of us remains behind. One of us stays by their side all the long, and wild, and weary, and heart-breaking way.
I’ve been there, and maybe you have too.
I started the blog not long after I wrote a post on this site about finding him OD’d on the bathroom floor, gray and apparently lifeless.
This post was followed shortly by another when we could not find a rehab that would take him in. It begins:
The last few posts I’ve tried to write, again and again, disintegrated into dark rants and rages.
Rants against a society that fully recognizes how an epidemic of addiction is destroying our children, our families, whole neighborhoods and cities, filling our jails and prisons, and littering our streets and alleys with the living dead. And yet, and yet, how this same society provides painfully few resources toward treatment and recovery. A son or daughter seeking a bed at a detox center is forced to wait months for something affordable or dole out thousands of dollars for a few short days, only to be turned out onto the street again when the stay is ended.
Rages against the fact that the few available programs designed to help recovering addicts will bankrupt most families, since the road to recovery, as all admit, includes multiple relapses. But instead of sticking with those who relapse, helping them when they most need support, these programs kick them out on the streets again. With no place to go, to start over again and again and again, with no end in sight.
Not long after that post he disappeared. He’d finally gotten into another rehab, but they kicked him out when he relapsed. He was lost on the street again, and I was giving up hope. That’s when I started the new anonymous blog, to vent, to rage. It was right after receiving this phone call, which I write about in my second post:
The last time I heard from him he told me he didn’t think he had long to live. He’d had two overdoses the week before. One where he woke up in the hospital. The other where he woke up in a motel room. His companions had left him for dead after stealing the little he had (a bike and a backpack stuffed with dirty clothes) and even the shoes off his feet. He was barefoot when he called, using someone else’s phone. He’d lost his own weeks ago (again).
I begged him to get help, to go an NA meeting, go to a church, go to a detox facility, go to a shelter. But he was too embarrassed. He was covered in staff infections, he said, and he looked like a zombie.
I’d seen him that way before. I knew what he meant.
I begged him to go to an ER and get medication for the staff infection. Then I gave him the address and phone number of a detox, and told him to get there. He said he would. But it didn’t sound like he meant it.
“Say it,” I told him. “Say it like you mean it.”
“Promise me,” I demanded. “If you don’t want to die, promise me.”
“I feel like I’m dead already,” he said. “Like I’m in Limbo, you know? Or purgatory. Everything seems so surreal, like I’m walking around in a nightmare.”
The good news is that the police picked him up shortly after that phone call and that saved his life, I’m sure. His road to recovery was difficult, which I detail on my blog. But he did arrive. And he’s three years clean and doing great. My son was saved, but so many have lost their lives to addiction, or are struggling still.
One of my posts was Freshly Pressed because it spoke to so many people about the manic ride the lovers of addicts take in trying to help their loved ones. It was called “Am I crazy? Or Is He? How Addiction Warps Us.”
In it I write about three stages of living with an addict which I named: Hyper-Happy, Dangerously Depressed, and Mad Maniac.
It’s the old pattern re-emerging, the way it’s played out too many times before. The crazy times, I think of them. That’s why this Hyper-Happy son makes me want to cry, because it reminds me of those times. Episodes of my life that are so bizarre and unbelievable, remembering them is like re-living a nightmare, or being in some alternate universe where crazed people do crazy things to survive and to save the ones they love.
I’ve never told anyone about those crazy times in my life. The things I’ve seen and done and endured, trying to help him.
During those days it was as if I lived in a secretive, shadowy world where I became someone no one would recognize. On the surface I was the same old person everyone knew–quiet, responsible, reasonable. But when I walked on the wild side of addiction with my son, I was anything but that.
I think that’s why I started this blog. Why I named it what I did. Not, as I had thought, had hoped, so I could sort things out and figure out a way to save my son. I want that too. I want that badly. But I think the real reason I created this blog was so I finally could let it all out. All the craziness I experienced. Bring it to the surface, look at it in the light of day.
To bring that craziness out into the light of day . . . . Some of the craziness I wrote about on that blog, like the one called Pimping My Son. But the worst of the craziness has never seen the light of day.
The novel From the Far Ends of the Earth that I hope to publish soon throws light on a lot that would like to remain in darkness. Especially on that twisted and dark, love-strangle that exists between an addict and the one who is determined to save him despite himself.
The novel is fiction but it draws upon a deep experiential understanding of the complexity of addiction. It exposes what I call in the novel “the ugly underbelly of mother love,” as seen mostly through the eyes of the son, as shown here:
She’d become the object of his self-loathing, the mirror against which he throws all his plates, watching them splinter against her face and slide to the floor, all his messes splattered over her. And still she’d stand there, watching him, sometimes dissolving into tears, or raging in fury, or stony with disgust, but never backing away from the ferociousness of his attacks. Standing her ground and taking it, bearing it, never retreating from his touch—unwavering, resolute.
The rage was okay. It was the tears that unmanned him. That killed him time and time again until he had to make it stop. Had to make her face the truth, that her tears were wasted on him, that he was a miserable fuckin’ asshole who didn’t deserve her love. And he’d prove it by ripping out her heart and holding it up for her to see, until her tears finally did dry up in a rage that blew him away with its ferocity. A rage he fed with little bits of her heart and his heart until she fuckin’ wanted to kill him and would too, if he didn’t dance out of her way, laughing at her rage, her inept, futile rage, which didn’t do either of them a bit of good. Except in stopping the tears. Neither she nor he could survive the tears.
It’s something he ponders but cannot fathom, the depth and folly of her mother-love. The obstinacy that thwarts his every attempt to shake it loose, even while he tests it mercilessly, uses it shamelessly, depends upon it endlessly—and wears it like ball and chain, like an indictment stamped on his forehead: his total unworthiness of her unwavering love.
There is light as well as darkness in the novel, more light than dark, I believe. People struggling with addiction or struggling to help loved ones will find something here that may be helpful, or at least hopeful, or if nothing else, a mirror that reflects back what too many of us have hidden away in our hearts for too long.
But the novel isn’t only about addiction. Art and art-making play starring roles too. And finding love, romantic and otherwise.
And coming home to ourselves. More than anything, it’s about that.