I pick up my adult son’s sunglasses—cradle them, really. Yesterday he showed them off to me—his grin so wide you’d think he’d won the lottery. These flimsy shades were from the dollar store, he said, but I like them. And he did.
But today, he’d say those glasses are made out of plastic so cheap they came apart after he dropped them once. One time! He’d curl his lip to say that the lenses are so warped you can’t see anything through them. Today, he’d say they’re worthless. A dollar will buy another pair and anyway, these things belong in the trash.
But instead of pitching the sunglasses, I turn them this way and that, examine the damage. The crack that rendered them useless runs across the left lens. Suddenly I’m thinking left, left. My son is lefthanded and he has left.
He left without saying a word, later, goodbye, anything. He tends to leave this way when Monster Meth calls, but yesterday my son was triumphant, as if a new hat and shades fixed everything. He talked about jobs, he talked about plans. He didn’t mention how he’d get past the Monster. I’m his mother and I was too afraid to ask.
I slip his glasses on. The world seems darker now, like hope has left the building and I have lost everything in the storm. In its place, I enter a gymnasium smelling of sweat, hollow with echoes and memories. I huddle with other shelter-seekers. Other moms like me. We cling to our sleeping mats and stare off into nothing and warn ourselves not to cry.
His sunglasses are broken, but I can’t throw them away.
His glasses are broken but I can’t throw them away.
Why should I care about cracked Dollar Store glasses? After decades wrestling with this son and his deathly dance with meth, I’m tired. Good Lord, he says it all started when he was in middle school. He’s pushing forty now and he has never been able to kick it for more than a year.
Broken Glasses, Broken Me
I pass the patio slider and catch a glimpse of myself. I look awful with those cheap-o glasses sitting cock-eyed on my face. They’re definitely not my style, and anyway, didn’t I just say they’re worthless? And heavy. Worthless and heavy. Much too heavy.
I stare at my reflection and, like so many other loved ones of those with Substance Use Disorder, I mouth the words: I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. I pull off the shades, pitch them into the trash and walk away.
I stop in midstride. I’m done. What do other moms mean by that? What do I mean? Some days I have no idea. If I fantasize about a life without the Monster, do I keep my son in the picture? Or do I tell myself I have the right to a nice life and keep on walking?
My every step is broken. Heavy. Worthless.
The raw truth is, I could never have a nice life without my son. But that’s just me.
I hope every loved one struggling alongside someone with SUD does what works for them. But I also hope all of us discover that our sons and daughters with SUD are broken, but that we are broken too. And broken does not mean worthless.
Broken Does Not Mean Worthless
Of course, we get angry when we’re cursed at or stolen from. Of course, we grieve our plight and suffer right along with our loved ones. Of course, there will be times when we are done.
But for me, faith is believing in my son’s future when there is no evidence that he’ll ever change. Faith means refusing to believe that my son dances with the monster because he wants to make me unhappy. And every time I start to walk away, Love pulls me back.
Every time I start to walk away, Love pulls me back.
Opening the trash can, I have to dig down past last night’s lasagna to fish out those hideous sunglasses, and it is a messy business. The left lens has fallen out completely and there are slimy leftovers I’m not willing to touch. So I do the best I can. I wash off the rest of it and hold the glasses up to the light.
At first, it’s hard to see anything through such battered lenses. I have to shut my left eye to focus anything at all. But the longer I keep looking, the more I understand. Seeing goodness in the midst of all that’s broken resurrects hope when hope is on life support.
The Meth Monster wants me to believe that my son chooses to use. That I should turn my back on him and if I can’t bring myself to love tough, for godsakes don’t buy him another pair of sunglasses. That’s enabling and how can he hit bottom if I’m in the way?
I plant the dollar sunglasses on my nose and squint my left eye against the noon brightness. As I picture my beautiful boy’s wide smile, the monster backs away. Broken or not, my son is worth more than many cheap pairs of sunglasses. If anything can pull him back, it is love.