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
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.
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