I met Martha after she had spoken at Gloria Dei Lutheran church in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She was relating her struggle to learn how to let go, how to let her son *be*. When someone you care for is struggling with addiction it is not easy, but it was especially difficult for Martha. She is a very caring mother. A mother's instinct to protect her family is strong. But that same instinct, she discovered, was what threatened to break her apart, like a glass container dropped on a hard kitchen floor. This piece moved me, not only because it's well written, but also through her realization that she could let go to learn how to heal herself. The blog she keeps is powerful. Click on the link at the bottom and check it out. -- Dan
There was a time, not too long ago, when I thought: This is it. I am falling apart. I am going to break apart into a million little pieces and blow away.
Months earlier, my husband and I had issued an ultimatum to our 18-year-old son, David: go to treatment, or leave. He left. I thought, “Well, we’ll just wait him out. And when he finally decides to enter treatment, life will be good.” My happiness rested on David getting the help he needed.
After a week of David living on the street, I was overjoyed that our patience had won out; he entered outpatient treatment for drug abuse. Finally, some peace and joy at our house. Only someone forgot to give David the script. Because after three days, he walked out.
I was pretty upset. Still, I thought: just get him into treatment, and everything will be OK. We waited him out for another 2 weeks; he got hungry and cold, and decided to enter inpatient treatment. Life could get back to good again.
Except that after 7 weeks, David walked away. He called me and calmly told me was leaving treatment. And he did.
So began the most excruciating period of my life as a mother. For 3 weeks, I had no idea where he was—if he was dead or alive. That’s when I felt as if I were made of glass. One more piece of bad news, and they would be sweeping me off the floor.
Since there was nothing I could do, I started a blog. I wrote letters to David describing my sadness, my anger, my bewilderment. I asked him, “Really, wouldn’t it just be easier to go into treatment than to live like a hobo?” Those letters helped me chronicle a life that I could not believe I was living. Arrest? Jail time? Near fatal car accidents? Not my kid. Not my life.
David never wrote back, largely because I kept the letters online, but even so, he surely would not have wanted to correspond.
But other parents wrote back. They told me their painfully similar stories. Some of their stories had happy endings. Others did not.
Reading their stories helped me to see that I was not alone. And, even more, they taught me that all of us as parents, no matter how fine our powers of persuasion, were completely powerless to change these kids.
These parents had survived, no matter the outcome with their children. They were hurting, but they were not broken.
Over time, David did decide to get better. He chose recovery. On his own. He has been sober for 90 days.
And here’s the strange thing: by the time he made this decision, I had figured out that my happiness did not depend on it. I mean, it’s awfully nice to have him here among the living, and I do mean that quite literally. But, (and don’t tell him I said this), if he starts using again, I will feel very sad. But I know I will not shatter. I may have to keep writing about it, but I will not break.
He found his own sobriety. He can find it again. And my happiness does not have to depend on it.
Martha Wegner lives and writes in St. Paul, Minnesota.
You can find her books at www.marthawegner.com.