I remember this day twenty-four years ago like it was yesterday. The day my son was born. He was a happy baby. Big blue eyes and wispy blonde hair, with a sweet disposition. He was a baby that never napped. If he slept more than ten minutes, it was because he was sick. But, unlike his sister, he slept through the night much quicker.
I left my children’s father when our son was thirteen months old. I didn’t want my children to grow up in a home that was not healthy. Trust me when I say, the marriage to my children’s father was not healthy. Our son has no recollection of us being a married couple.
I remember the first day that my ex-husband left with the kids for a weekend, it was one of the most painful moments of my life. I don’t know why it struck me so hard, but it did. I then spent entirely too much energy and too many years insisting their father be a parent and see them every other weekend and one afternoon a week. In hindsight, I wish I had not done that. I believe that changed the course of their lives and for that I will always be regretful.
My relationship with my son is complicated. I love him more than my life. I would give my life for him and not blink, if I thought it would save him. But he has not lived in our home since he was 15. Even though he has not lived with me for almost a decade, I was completely involved in every treatment program he entered, every counseling session he had, I did everything I knew to possibly do to ensure he lived to see his 18th birthday. I knew once he became an adult I would have no ability to keep him on a straight track.
Unbeknownst to me, however, my ex-husband wasn’t as worried about keeping our children on the right track. For my former mother-in-law’s sake, I won’t go into a lot of details, but to say their relationships were toxic is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, he loved his children, but it was unhealthy. It was more of a friend to a friend. He never drew boundary lines as a parent.
Today I miss my son. He is currently incarcerated. He is frequently incarcerated. He has addiction issues. He has mental health issues that should be addressed. He is grieving the loss of his father last year. He has shown no capacity to make different choices, therefore we don’t talk often. He knows I refuse to participate in his chaos, or that of an addict. He knows I will not fund his lifestyle in any way. He knows that I will move heaven and earth to help him get healthy if he takes the first steps alone.
I realize people say mothers and son’s have different relationships than mother’s and daughter’s. I know in my mother’s heart that my son has a tender heart. He loves fiercely. He is lost. He is hurting. He needs God. I’ve prayed everything for him – laid claimed to God’s promises for him – asked God to bring a man of God into his life to mentor him, someone who can show him what it means to live for God . . . and I’ve even prayed he be charged with a felony so maybe we can get him help.
Today I’m heavy. Today I am trying not to let my emotions control me. Today I am trying not to wallow in regret for the way things have happened. Today I am reminding myself that my children know I love them. My children hear me. My daughter told me in an email yesterday: “yes mom, we always heard you . . . your voice is always in our head.” That gives me some comfort. Some modicum of peace. Knowing that they hear me. But they also know I can’t participate in their self-induced madness.
As I’ve said before – an addict’s capacity to love their families has nothing to do with their addiction. It’s not because they don’t love. Sometimes they feel entirely too much and don’t know what to do with the thoughts or the pain.
I pray my son finds peace. I pray he seeks God’s path. I pray he takes that first step forward. I miss him. I don’t even know how to have an adult son in my world. But I really want to figure it out. Drug addiction and mental illness are vicious, especially when left untreated. Our most precious can be consumed by either.
So – I love you Bo. More than my life. I’ll be waiting when you’re ready to “come home.” As I reminded him – God forgives as far as the East is from the West – just move forward.