Blows to the Head

On Monday night, the
bedside digital clock reads eleven-thirty-nine PM. My thirty-eight-year-old middle
son flings open the door and crashes into our bedroom. Not that I’m asleep or
anything—I’ve already awoken to suspicious thumps coming from the kitchen. My
stomach clenches, my insides twist themselves into an infinity knot.

And I start thinking
about love.

Middle son—a beautiful
boy if ever there was one—barges in to announce that he’s beating his younger
brother to a pulp. Middle speaks rapidly, breathlessly, spitefully. “He started
giving me (grief) so I had to beat some sense into the a****,” he says. That
last bit, the meanness, tells me he’s higher than high on meth. My husband pulls
on his pants and heads out to see what’s going on. I can practically hear his thoughts:
see what your silly love and kindness ideas are doing to this house?

I shuffle out to the
kitchen, a hand firmly on my cell phone. My heart feels like it could leap straight
out of my chest, even as my eyes ache for sleep. I resist the urge to check the
mirror and brush my hair should we need to summon the police. Tina Turner’s
“What’s Love Got to Do with It” runs through my mind.

My youngest son stands holding
the back of his head. His eyes lack the angry sparks of his brother’s gaze, but
they’re bloodshot. Youngest has been drinking tonight. Like last night, and the
night before that. Yet I stay in relationship anyway.

I pray silently that this
time the sheriff won’t be involved. I double-pray that I can make sense of my
own vows to stay connected to these sons, to keep loving. At midnight it looks
so impossible. My husband glares at me in between lecturing the boys.

I’ve admitted before that my three grown sons, all with Substance Use Disorder and mental health issues, keep me enabling. When I’m forced to make a decision, I can never do tough love—when tough love means severing relationship. Middle’s long-time meth use often contrasts with his brothers, both of whom abuse alcohol. They view meth as a less worthy choice. Everyone from your grandpa to sports celebrities drink beer. Nobody, save criminals or lowlifes, goes near the crystal. It causes users to lie, steal and leave disassembled washing machines in the front yard.

Youngest’s position is always that meth is far worse than alcohol, and therefore we ought to kick out Middle but tolerate Youngest. Oldest, who lives and drinks on his own, is disgusted that neither of his brothers work. My non-user daughter thinks all three brothers should straighten up and get a life.

She also thinks I
tolerate far more than I should. She hates that her brothers hurt, manipulate
and cause trouble for us, her parents. The love and compassion I show to my
sons feels naïve to her. When incidents flare up at midnight, I don’t tell her
about them anymore. Like the rest of my extended family, if I shared those
kinds of details, I’d get an earful.

Yet none of my sons has ever raised a finger to hurt me. Sure, there’ll be lots of shouting and swearing, and every now and then they punch each other. But I’ve observed that when they act out, they’re each careful not to break my stuff. No one has ever laid a finger on me.  And soon after they scuffle, they always make up.

Improbably, by
twelve-fifteen AM, Middle puts on his coat and leaves before things get any
wilder. I crawl back into bed. The house is quiet again, and I breathe in to
slow my heart’s pounding and swirling insides. Husband will sleep on the sofa
just in case, but his annoyed expression telegraphs disdain for my Just Love
position. He’d much rather yank their chains than acknowledge addiction as

I shoot angry darts at
the ceiling. I should do some yanking of my own. Toss out some choice words. Make
love tough again.

Instead, I pray, and the suffering eyes of my children rise in my mind. I sink to my knees, give thanks that nobody got hurt tonight, nobody called 911, no neighbor made a noise complaint. Truth is, they haven’t chosen substances to abuse, Substance Use Disorder has chosen them.

Tomorrow, we will review
and reset some boundaries. Tomorrow, there will be fresh hope.  A fragile peace settles over the soft dark.
For me, kindness, compassion and love really are worth losing sleep

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

16 comments on “Blows to the Head

  1. Linda,
    I will ask Chanie to read what you have written.
    We will pray. Why are the most powerfully written words the most painful.

    • Michael,
      I think the most powerful words are painful because that is where we are stripped of our excuses and our philosophies and pronouncements and only our desperate cries to our Maker remain. God meets me there.
      Bless you,

  2. Linda,
    This is so amazing. You are so brave to put it out there this way. I am sending love and all my support. I miss you, friend. If your new book is anything like this blog post–WOW. It’s going to be amazing. Love ya, H

    • Heather,
      I’m not feeling quite so brave now that all the pushback has begun, LOL. The addiction-is-a-choice folks and those concerned for my safety are pretty vocal. I’ll be respectful but disagree. Never have been afraid of my kids who live here. The only one who scared me lives on his own. Thanks for the kind words.
      Love you,

  3. With love, Linda. Other people’s choices are theirs, and your are YOURS. You Own yours like a boss, and these things (sometimes, I suppose, including your choices) has got to take a toll on ALL of you. Bright blessings, kid.

    If you get a chance, see what you can do about increasing your self-compassion. THIS IS NOT A CHOICE TO DO ANYTHING EXCEPT WHAT YOU ARE DOING. It’s something you might add. Mine was done through classes from the guy who runs, Dr. Steven Stosny. You are, and will remain, in my prayers.

    Self-compassion is something you do for YOU. Your husband might either: also, or instead choose to do something for himself with self-compassion, as this is, as you already know, hard on him, too.

    Love to both of you. ALL of you are in my prayers. My family did very poorly with its choices about substances, from my mother, who didn’t do them but had to cope with those who did, to my deceased father, who essentially drank himself to death, to Mom’s dad, gone before I was born, who was the town bootlegger, providing cash from corn (through corn liquor) as unsold corn doesn’t contribute to paying your income taxes, but corn liquor, for which there was a market, does. He did that until the liquor from his new still struck him blind. He recovered, but stopped drinking after that. Mom kept hoping something would stop dad from drinking, eventually, but instead he essentially drunk himself to death (although a massive heart attack was the technical cause of his death). Dad’s mom kept a jug of thunderbird wine under her bed for that get-up lift every morning until she passed in her mid-nineties. she shook a lot during the years I knew her.

    My brother, also dead now, drank until he was hospitalized for a dangerous leg infection, and they dried him out (and amputated the leg), anfter which he apparently stayed dry for the short time until he passed. We think.

    My sister, the only one I’ve mentioned thus far still alive, reportedly had had her issues with alcohol during her younger years, but dried out and stayed sober for, now, several decades. Luckily, I didn’t have any trouble with alcohol, which just shows it jumps over some people while nailing others. I no longer drink at all, I take little pills that require that I not drink. That doesn’t make me better than the rest of my family, but it’s a blessing that I’ve been “spared the curse.”

    Love and prayers,


  4. I’m sure it isn’t a blind spot-but if you succeed in increasing yours, it sure helps to survive all this stuff! Anyway, it did for me, and those of us surrounded by substance abuse need all the compassion we can get, self AND from others.



  5. I am praying for you, Linda, and for Brad and your boys. And Jesus is praying too. Scripture says, “He ever lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) Never lose hope. Love in Christ, Kathy Ruckman.

    • Kathy,
      We all appreciate your prayers. Please know that we have told our sons that fighting will not be tolerated and they have consequences for that incident.

  6. Wow, Linda, I thought that post was to illustrate fantastic writing from one of your books! I also will pray for you and your family. And please pray for mine. Scot-Irish/Native ancestry brings trouble wherever it lands. All 4 of my children are heavy drinkers and now some use marijuana, as well. Hugh’s brothers also plunged into that trap. He hasn’t, thank God, and has trouble seeing it in our kids although it has become more obvious in our infrequent times together.
    ACH! It’s so heartbreaking.
    Love, Jackie McFadden

    • Oh Jackie,
      I’m so sorry you have the same trouble. Yes, my children are Irish/English/Scot and Native as we’ve discussed. Prayers for your family. I am learning a lot from the reaction to my post.
      Love and hugs,

  7. I just love your openness and honesty through this tough journey! I’m glad I came across your writing! You definitely have a gift!

    • Gayle,
      And I’m glad we crossed paths too. Wish it was for a different journey, but at least we are not alone.
      Thanking God for you,

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