All Alone Together

The wall clock in my kitchen ticks way too loud. Maybe it knows I’m about to live the nightmare once again. One of my live-in grown sons (drug of choice meth), hasn’t slept in days. He’s growing testier by the minute, a volcano of unhappiness, ready to spew hot fury without warning.

The other boomerang son has been drinking all day, building up a bitterness that’s stealthier but no less potent. As if some dark forces conspired, both my sons explode with curses and threats at each other, me and the world in general. All at ear-splitting, neighbor-waking volume.

I do the usual: while praying as if apocalypse has begun, I ask the guys to tone it down and speak reasonably. I wedge myself between my precious sons, at times close enough that spittle mists my cheeks. I’m trying to talk them out of swinging at each other. And in the middle of this chaos,

I am so alone.

I urge their father not to join in with the shouting, the accusations, the raw emotions and the slammed doors. My sons and my husband don’t care that it’s past midnight or that our neighbors might not want to be awakened by shouts or the splintering sounds of holes kicked into doors. They ignore my pleas, even mocking my kind words. But blind anger can’t reason. It definitely can’t hold back on why everyone else on earth is a piece of raw sewage. My husband insists he must either disown them or beat them to a pulp.

Times like these, my world feels small.

All the support group memes say I’m not alone. Somewhere in a parallel universe, another mom is like me, locked in a room with sons or daughters whose brains are on fire from Substance Use Disorder. Moms like me struggle every moment, tamping down our what ifs and the ever-lurking terror of fentanyl contaminants.

When our kids erupt and say terrible things, we moms beat our spiteful comebacks into ploughshares of kind words. We must preserve our child’s dignity—even if our own dignity lies in pieces. We moms isolate to protect our families, but the cost is high. Many times we feel so alone.

I’ve worked at extending mercy and love to my suffering sons, but many times, their behavior still sucks. I don’t know where to turn. My extended family hugs me at the Christmas gathering but behind my back I hear tsk-tsk or advice I didn’t ask for. In the overwarm room where joy is frozen over, I am naked and afraid. And alone.

I worry that my friends must be sick and tired of hearing about these late-night meltdowns. Who wants to listen to war stories that seem so endless? No miracle on the horizon, no dramatic turnaround, nothing to hold onto for a happy ending. My friends are better than that, but still.

It’s so easy to feel like your tether just broke and you’re drifting away into deep space. Complete separation from everything.

The black hole of alone.

As my two sons compete to see who can be the most vulgar, I scramble to pray. Every smug answer for why prayers go unanswered races through my mind: My faith’s too small. I’m not praying right. My kids became tangled up in addiction and mental illness because I haven’t raised them right. I’m not right, period.

And right now, I grope for God with skin on. I care less about miracles than simply having someone to talk to—someone who won’t heap even more guilt on my head. Someone without an agenda. Someone who won’t suggest that my middle-aged sons attend Teen Challenge and be miraculously healed. Sorry—desperation brings out my sarcasm.

Then, I remember some coping skills. Just as one son slams yet another door and calls me even worse terrible names, I mentally put the shovel down. It takes everything I have not to pick up a certain rope and use it as a noose, but I don’t touch it. I think of my values, about my boundaries, about my children’s suffering, deeper than even my own.

I can put the shovel down.

In my mind, I picture the faces of the friendly strangers—moms, mostly—who walk this bumpy road with me. I remember their virtual hugs, the silly memes and the words we all take turns giving one another: Don’t give up, Love wins, Meet them where they are. All the encouragement helps me calm down, keep things in perspective, remember love and mercy.

In the kitchen, I wrap my arms around myself and listen for more yelling and cursing and door kicks. But all I hear is the clock ticking away on the wall. The best saying from other moms greets me with fresh hope: You are not alone. I smile. Because for once, I believe it.

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.

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