It’s not my two front teeth. Or a shiny new wagon. Or even a new car.
I know everyone wants to know about my romance with Rage. It is a pretty interesting story. Rage is a fascinating emotion. If Despair is exhausting and debilitating, Rage is exhilarating and accomplished. It gives you energy and a rush, ironically, it is addictive. Once I had Rage, I did not want to let it go. With Rage by my side, I could concur the world. But that is a story for another day. Today I want to talk about the holidays. The holidays are remarkable. They bring about this feeling of peace and family and togetherness. The holidays are both exciting and agonizing. For anyone who has suffered a loss, or in my case, has an addicted child, the holidays are bitter sweet. Sweet because I enjoy spending time with my other kids, decorating the tree, wrapping presents, cooking a big meal and bitter because I have ZERO desire to do any of those things.
Thus becomes the conundrum. Should I decide to crawl in bed and ignore Christmas altogether, I will have several bed mates to keep me company. The least one I will enjoy is Guilt. How can I not celebrate and encourage my family to celebrate the holidays? Is our family solely made up of JoDee? If JoDee suffers must we all be miserable? The answer is no. There is not one of us more important, more loved or more valuable to the family than another. That doesn’t mean that if one of my kids is suffering that I can simply focus on the other two. Or if AC were suffering, ignore his pain to concentrate on the kiddos. But it’s a hard separation. How do you plaster a smile, sing Christmas songs with gusto and cook/bake with love when you feel tortured? Not easily, but you must. The truth is, as a parent, or as someone who loves anyone that is going through anything painful, it is difficult to put those things aside. There is a difference between addiction and so many other things people can be suffering through, even though many don’t see it that way and those differences are what set addiction apart. JoDee may be clean for Christmas. She may not. She may be healthy for Christmas, she may not. Those are all things I won’t know. I may never know. On any given day I text JoDee and ask how she is and if she is still clean, when I wake up in the morning. Every day she answers yes and I’m fine but she could be lying. Lord knows she knows how to lie. What is not a lie is that the rest of our family has a right, deserves, is entitled too, good memories, and happy holidays. As a parent in this household, I am required to do everything in my power to provide that. Just like I feel it is my duty to do everything in my power to help JoDee be healthy, even if she fights me, occasionally. It is our job as a parent to advocate for our children, all of our children, even if the needs of the children are contradictory.
What JoDee might need, or what I might want to do for her, is not always going to be what is good for Jay J or Jared or SC or OC. As the holidays approach, my gut instinct is to down play them. All I hear about is how difficult the holidays are for addicts because it is a reminder of the things they have done wrong, the people they have hurt, or the friends/loved ones/fellow addicts that they have lost. It’s a reminder for me, too, of addicts that have lost their battle with addiction. I pray for them and think of their families every day, not just a special day. So it makes celebrating or finding the energy to celebrate particularly gruesome. But, for those that are not addicts, and not parents/loved ones of addicts, the holidays may represent something different. While I see the holiday as a possible disaster if JoDee chooses to pick up, my/his kids see it as a time for presents, and good food, and spending time with us. While I wonder if this is the last holiday we would have with JoDee, if she had a year like the one we are almost through, all the kids are getting excited for a school break and possible fun things we might do. And I do all those things. I will bake with them, and decorate the tree and play Christmas music, and fill their stockings. I will also watch the clock and wonder when the last time I talked to JoDee was, and did she sound ok, and wonder if she will stay with us on Christmas Eve. We have a tradition that we spend the holidays with my very wonderful and longtime friends, The Smolinsky’s. Their son has grown up with JoDee and they have a special friendship that I think will last them forever. Not to mention that we all have a special friendship. I can’t imagine JoDee not going with us to their house on Christmas. It’s been that way forever. And ever and ever. But, now she is living in a sober house, and she has her own car (don’t judge… I couldn’t keep driving her home at midnight from work), so I wonder, will she blow us off? Will she come with us? Will she be high?
It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure it’s really my job to even try to tell anymore. I mean, if she using, I have learned there is nothing I can do. If she isn’t using, then she is doing the right thing. I went to a support group once and the woman speaking said my daughter has been clean for 11 years but that is really her business. I was so shocked by that because I couldn’t imagine JoDee’s sobriety not being my business, but I get it now. She may be my daughter, and I may feel obligated to do or support certain things, but it is not my obligation to live her life or pay the consequences for her poor actions anymore. She is an adult. And she needs to be responsible for whatever she does, right or wrong. I can’t be her get out of jail free card.
Anyway, the point of all this is that it’s a lot to juggle. Sometimes, the conversations I have in my head before I even get out of bed in the morning are so exhausting, that I need a nap. I have not been great at separating JoDee’s addicted life from the rest of my family. It definitely leaks into all the areas, which it has too because she is an addict and that is a very huge thing. But I need to be better about compartmentalizing. I can separate work from home. I can separate a fight with AC from a fight with one of the kids. But separating addiction from the rest of the family is really hard for me. It’s definitely my weakness. And it’s not about JoDee. It would be like that if any of my kids were addicts. Recently one of my kids (I won’t name which one but he knows who he is) told me that to get my attention he would have to stick a needle in his arm. Harsh words. Which at first I actually did not take personally. I was thinking that is just teenage sour behavior but the more I thought about it, I realized, he meant it. And he was right. Not that he actually has to stick a needle in his arm, but from his perspective and that of his brother and his two step-ish sisters, it would appear that way. I am constantly missing work for doctors’ appointments, program meetings, hospital stays, driving to treatments, picking up from treatments when she gets kicked out, finding new housing, etc, when she needs it and when they have the stomach bug they have to stay home throwing up on their own because I can’t miss any more work. Somehow that does not seem fair, does it? No. It’s not. I certainly do not love JoDee more, or value her life/time/anything more than the others. However, in fairness, the stomach flu is not a comparison for heroin addiction. Oh. Wait a minute…. Should that matter? A child I gave birth too, that I am the parent of needs me. No matter the reason. That does sound like I am comparing illness to illness. And, that I am not doing my part as a parent to all of them equally. Well, that is my point isn’t it. I can’t do that for the holidays. I have to sit Rage down and tell him I need a break. It’s not him, it’s me. Wait no, it’s him, not me. I need him to give me a chance to breath. I need Fear, Reality, Denial all to go spend time with their own kind for the holidays. I am not buying them a present; I am not inviting them to my dinner table. I can’t say I won’t think about her addiction because that would be a lie and incredibly misleading. Especially now, given that I don’t know her state of mind, and I can’t say I support some of the decisions she has made recently. Already, I feel like this Christmas is going to be rushed, agonizing and generally painful. But, that’s our life now. One minute you could be Christmas shopping and the next you stop at home to find the door locked and your daughter might be using (or she might not, who really knows). One minute you could be wrapping presents and the next you’re fighting with her and she says things like “this is going to make me use”. Manipulation. Addiction. Depression. Anxiety. It’s what’s for Christmas Dinner.
Just for this Christmas, I will concentrate on the good, enjoy my family, and try to put JoDee’s addiction in its place; In JoDee’s hands. That is easier said than done but I am at the breaking point. She might not be at her rock bottom, but I am at mine. I can’t take the drama anymore. I don’t mean that in the derogatory “drama queen” sort of way. I mean in the roller coaster, whose life is this anyway, what did I sign up for and how do I fix it without losing my insanity kind of way. I have had all I can take. I am waiving my white flag and if JoDee can’t see it and her addiction can’t see it, it doesn’t matter, because I can see it. I have been a parent for JoDee for 20 (almost 21) years. I will be her parent forever, but I don’t want to chase her, try to make her something she isn’t, beg, plead, bargain, offer to sell my soul for someone who yells at me, demands, makes me feel guilty and treats others as though it is our lone purpose in life to make her life easier. She would entirely disagree with me on this, but it’s my blog and I get to voice my opinion. We have always been close. Maybe to close. I am not her friend, I am her mother. And she loves that when I am there with my checkbook. But my checkbook is closed and my willingness to help is very narrow. I don’t want to hear any more nasty-ness, bitterness or anger from her. I want some normalcy. Not pupil checking kind- but normal, mother-daughter shopping and complaining about boy’s normalcy. I want to pick up the phone to call JoDee without cringing with despair at the thought of the tone of voice she will talk to me. I want her to come home because she enjoys being with everyone, no because she feels beholden. I’m sure there is some resentment on her part. I’m sure as an addict, she is resentful that she can’t use without wild abandon without causing grave harm to herself. And, I’m sure somewhere along the way, I gave her the impression that if she is clean that is all that matters. Now I have to undue that misstep and guide her to understand being clean is part of a larger picture that involves living life to the fullest. And to the fullest that you have worked hard for, and earned. I would rather JoDee not row her boat into heaven in the river of my tears, but I have no say in the outcome. I digress, however. What I want is a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and a good birthday for Jared. Is that too much to ask?