The Right to Write

Is it right to write about your own family? Even if what you have to say isn’t very flattering? Even though I tell writing students how to handle this touchy subject, I’m facing this situation, and it’s pretty darned uncomfortable. I’ve written a lot about my kids, heck my first book was titled LOST BOYS. My family tree is crowded with alcohol, drug and mental illness issues. Yet this coming week, as national newspapers approached me about publishing an essay on my meth-addicted son, I’ve felt anxious and full of self-talk. What if he reads it? He never reads what you write. What if someone else tells him about it? You should have thought of that long ago. What if he reads it and hates your guts? To quote Ann Lamott, “If my family didn’t want me to write about them, they should’ve behaved better.” This sounded like a better answer when my behind wasn’t on the line. The essay I wrote came from a very deep and raw place, and I’ve prepared myself for the inevitable critics who’ll no doubt pass judgment: Why did you or didn’t you do something, how could you not have known, only bad parents have children with drug problems. I’m okay with that. But the thought of my son staring at me with that “How could you?”look in his eyes terrifies me.
Yes, in sober times he’s given me permission to write about him. If he were still working his twelve-step program I know he’d want to help with raising awareness about meth. I like to think he’d be willing to be part of the solution this November 30, National Meth Awareness Day. But right now he’s coming off a bad relapse. He’s not high today, but he’s probably edgy, tweaking they call it. Although I hope and pray he’ll stay clean, go back into rehab, somehow escape this cruel drug, I know nothing is certain. He’s been clean for as long as one year, and still relapsed. I love my son and wouldn’t hurt him on purpose for anything. Yet I’m afraid he’ll see all this as a betrayal. What would Jesus do? I wish I knew. Meanwhile, I wait and worry and pray for an extra helping of Thanksgiving grace.

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