Have you ever lost it with your kid? I sure have.
The fireplace crackled as a winter’s sun dipped low behind fences and fir trees. Dinner done, I was ready to pull on comfy pants and relax with a mug of hot tea. But before my first sip, a booming voice erupted. I froze, my mug hung in midair.
I couldn’t make out the words, but the volume and rapid-fire staccato were too familiar. Something-something eff you, you effing something. Slam. Repeat. Louder.
One of my grown sons with addiction issues was having another meltdown. Because his brother interrupted a program he was watching. These meltdowns almost always include a lot of shouts—yelling around, as a friend used to say.
Our meltdowns include a lot of yelling around.
Before long, my husband was shouting at the shouter. I said (OK, yelled) that husband was making things worse by bellowing at son. He maintained (barked) that I prevented him from “taking care” of the problem and added, “All you do is talk, talk, talk.”
To which I shrieked, “All you do is yell, yell, yell.”
By this time, the son was slinking away while his parents screamed at each other. I prefer ignoring those who start s*** over small stuff, while husband wants to push back and call a spade a spade. “I don’t even like being around you,” Father told son. I know he meant when you start yelling around, but I doubt our son heard it that way.
I think Son heard, “You’re a loser. I don’t like you.”
Aware that escalation might result in someone calling in the law (again), I bit my tongue and left the room.
I’m airing a little more dirty laundry here, yes. But I want to show how hard it is to control our natural impulses to reject, judge and write-off those with addiction.
I love my three sons as deeply as you do your children—and I’m certain my husband does too. Yet when we navigate this emotional mine field week after week, year after year, the thin ribbon of civility frays. Sometimes, I get so frustrated that yelling is the best I can do.
Sometimes I get so frustrated–yelling is the best I can do.
Can we support loved ones with addiction or mental health issues without being dishonest or enabling? What do we do when we’re at the limit?
For me, tough love isn’t the answer. I can no more turn my back on my kids than jump over the moon. But just because I’ve decided to keep them in my life doesn’t mean I don’t long for answers. Or struggle with my reactions.
Coping with those in addiction/mental illness is exhausting. Some days, I’m too tired to scream. I give up by ten in the morning. My knees are calloused from kneeling in prayer, begging for deliverance.
Yet just when I’m sure that I’m done, can’t take it, I’m outta here, reminders appear before me. My grown kids (and yours) are suffering. They’re hurting even as they try to dull the pain. They’re losers. How could anyone love them—they don’t even like themselves?
So now and then—say, when one of my sons cries foul over nothing—I get caught up in a yelling contest. But my heart breaks as if for the first time.
Maybe I need a meeting. Maybe I love drama and chaos too much. OK. I freely admit I tend toward enabling. But walking past anyone suffering on the side of the road is what too many do. Right or wrong, I can’t seem to stop helping the “least of these.”
As many advise, it’s all about values and boundaries. Yes, I suck at those darned boundaries. I may slip and get a few shouts in, but I’m also learning not to wig whenever someone goes yelling around over a TV show. I’m not ignoring serious stuff, but I’m getting better at seeing past hollow hollering.
If I see past silly outbursts and fast-forward through my grievances, the child I love stands before me.
That person, no matter what he shouts, is really asking only one thing. Can I love him?
It’s the same question we’re all asking. Am I loveable? Please love me.
Am I loveable? Please love me.
I’m not making excuses for my sons’ addictions or their behavior. Yet I truly believe they’re crying for help, even if they still say they aren’t ready for recovery. Most importantly, when I see a suffering person instead of a loser addict, I see hope.
If we all focused more on the hope of relieving suffering instead of hoping that they’ll quit doing this stuff and make life easier, we all might see one another more completely.
Each time I view my sons as imperfect suffering human beings instead of irritating people who constantly make my life miserable, my strength grows. I stand up straighter, knowing I see them a little more like God sees us all: Flawed but redeemable. Not quite there yet, but lovable.
That night, as I rejoined the family, I whispered, “Why do we start World War III over every little thing?” But by that time, the only sounds came from the crackling fire. Peace had its way, and hope was renewed.