Lonely but Never Alone

I’m standing outside on a fall morning, watching giant maple leaves twirl and float to the ground. Each leaf, a private little death, pulls me to that empty, lonely place again. My grown middle son is on another meth binge.

These binges always feel like a tide rushing out. The sand sucks at my toes, eeriness engulfs me. I try not to see it coming, the way I try not to think about my last breath on earth. The cycle begins.

You see, yesterday, my son was very good. Just before a binge, while he’s as close to normal as he gets, he does lovely things for me—washes my car, works in the garden, paints a new piece of artwork. All for me, given in love. Yesterday.

Today, his personality abruptly changes. His now-husky voice sounds irritable. My insides register a great void, a down-the-rabbit-hole feeling. Suddenly, my beautiful boy is caught in a repeating rip tide.

I’m in my own private hell.

The first day he uses, I grieve as if I’ve lost a loved one. I once worked with a writer whose husband and small son had been washed out to sea. One moment, she stood next to them, the next they were gone. For a mom like me, with kids with addiction, death comes one day at a time. Does it matter if death comes fast or slow? Loneliness doesn’t know.

Sooner or later though, I snap out of it. Why didn’t I see the binge coming? Why do I hope for a miracle every damn time? All my talk of love and acceptance tastes bitter while I once again gag on reality. Everything in me longs to sob on someone’s shoulders.

But pouring out my despair to family or friends is too dangerous. Fear of cruel suggestions and judgment keeps me quiet. My head echoes with fill-in-the-blank advice. “Why don’t you just?”

I could vent with other moms. But I’ve been here so many times that I know the best answer to this pain.


Wait, a minute, an hour, a day or three. Stand still and wait. I silently scream my pain, but there’s no cure. God only walks beside me.

Sometimes, I rage, kicking at the dead leaves. I’m so done! All God wants to do is walk beside me! Where’s the miracle I deserve? A sudden breeze sweetens the air but says nothing.

So, I wait, begging for love and wisdom. Throughout the day, I remind myself that my son doesn’t do these things to hurt me. That so often those with SUD believe they have no choice. That when he’s washing my car, my son’s hoping to wash away the stain of his actions.

Sometimes all you can do is beg for love and wisdom.

If the binge is long or the drugs are especially potent, he may become paranoid, reading rejection even into my facial expressions. But now, wisdom and love swim alongside me, whispering that there will be no right answer to his questions. I tolerate the rants as long as I can, even if he yells that I just don’t understand. At least that much is true.

What I do understand is how deeply he is suffering. Behind his rants and curses and nonsense, there’s a scared child. Love makes me ache to comfort him. Wisdom cautions that even baby rattlesnakes carry venom.

Thankfully, the boundaries I’ve set for myself become wisdom’s guardrails. Instead of rules meant to control my son, boundaries are for me. They keep me from being a doormat or second-guessing real danger. If I say I won’t tolerate violence, for instance, I must stick to my decision.

Thankfully, he isn’t violent.

After a week goes by, he’s tired, he’s hungry, he’s dying of thirst. The best I can do is smile, pray blessings upon us both and transform everything I say or do into love. Finally, I begin to understand that life isn’t about deserving miracles or getting what I want for me or my son. It’s about learning to love in spite of all that goes wrong.

Outside, the air smells of change. The big leaf maples send their spent leaves, dressed in golds and oranges and reds, back to earth. They die as they dance, the branches as empty as my lonely times. Yet I’m not alone. Like the sturdy maple, I’ll grow new life and new hope.

Love drains away loneliness despite the pain. The answer always says yes, rest a while, you’re home. And you are loved.

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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.

7 comments on “Lonely but Never Alone

  1. Dear Linda,

    I am sorry for your troubles, as I am sure you know, this affects almost every family today. For me it was my brother-in-law, so I am empathetic and not only sympathetic.

    In one of my early novels, I had a grown daughter who struggled with poor men choices and alcohol addiction, as the horrors of drug addiction were too much for me to write about. Even in the end of the book, I kept the struggle real as the daughter relapsed and without the aid of her older sister would have missed her mother’s second wedding. But fiction writing is like that huh, and real life not so much.

    But the greatest travesty of the English language is calling us “Human beings”. We are not, nor were we ever in history. We should be called “Human Doers”, because we do, not just exist.

    I always have an epilogue to my novels, and never leave a reader without hope. I never let readers just be. In that novel I describe how a faith-based program called Teen Challenge is 87% successful with addiction recovery based on 6 years after completion of the program. Traditional programs have a 3% success rate. It not easy, but 15 months is short when a person may win for the rest of their lives. But like the term Human Beings, their name is an abomination because they treat far more adults than teens.

    A believer, I will pray diligently for your son. God knows who he is, and just what he needs. I will pray for that, and for comfort for you, my writing mentor.

    (If upon reading this, you find it too personal, I will not be offended if you delete it. I understand. But there is always hope Linda. I try to convey that in every novel write, and on blogs too) 🙂

  2. Hi Travis,
    It’s altogether fitting that you leave a “personal” comment on my very personal essay. Thank you for your support and prayers. My sons (I have 3, all with issues) are far past Teen anything, but I honor any program that has success in helping people toward recovery. As I’m sure you do, I write my heart. It’s sometimes unlovely, but it’s the truth. Thank you for following my story.
    And Keep Writing!

  3. Dear Carol,
    I am so very sorry about your loss. Losing our kids is the one thing all of us with this issue fear every day. I can’t imagine your pain, and I’m sorry if the essay was painful. My hope in writing is to help others feel not alone.
    Blessings upon you,

  4. I’m empathetic as well Caroll, like you I know what it is like to lose a son. Definitely a lot of grief to work through.

    My prayers are going out to you; in this, your time of need.

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