I walked up to the counter at the convenience store with my drink to purchase. “Good morning! anything fun planned for today?” The cheery clerk said to me, his smile evident even under his big black mask. “He would have to ask today”. I thought.
I stammered and stalled a bit.
“No, not really”. I lied.
My stomach dropped in sadness. Sadness that I couldn’t actually say what I was doing.
Sadness that I couldn’t leap for joy and tell everyone what this day represented. Sadness that I couldn’t be happy and have everyone accept that happiness.
“Oh well, it’s probably for the best”. I thought as I walked out of the store. I need to conserve my energy for the day. I don’t need to waste it on explaining and justifying my happiness.
You see, I was on my way to rehab to pick up my son. The last few months had been a much-needed break from his addiction journey. This wasn’t a usual occurrence. Exactly 2 years ago to the day, he was headed to the airport to go to his first rehab in Kentucky. Two years ago this morning, we had a family intervention in the middle of a raging snowstorm. 2 years ago today, my son chose to not run away and go back to his life of drugs. He flew across the country with people he didn’t know and tried his best to battle his disease. His experience at that time lasted about 76 days. It was a miracle. And today is too.
Five weeks in jail, 2 months in rehab, all culminated to today. He was being released to sober living. With all the nervousness of the event, and the need to keep my excitement reined in; it was hard to feel relaxed and give thanks for it all. But I needed to. I just could not be attached to the outcome. I had done everything possible to help my son succeed. But the real work was on him. He’s the one that has to fight the demons. He’s the one that has to make responsible choices. He’s the one that can save himself. Not the store clerk. Not my family. Not me. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not his sober coach, probation officer, or judge.
How to explain all this to the casual person? Impossible. Yet if I said “My son is graduating from the University”, it would need no explanation. It would just be wonderful. Congratulations would be thrown around like confetti. For a rehab graduation, I can just hear the tongue in cheek
“Well…. alrighty then- congratulations”. As if it’s an afterthought.
It’s ok though. Those other people don’t have to live in my head or love my family or pay my bills. In reality, I will probably never see that clerk again. What matters is that my people feel loved. That my God calms my fears.
It’s as-if he was gone away to the university anyway. I didn’t see him for 9 months then for 16 months. Four years of struggle and strife. Not being at family events. In and out of jail. Worry after worry. He received the degree. The degree of grit. Persistence – even if it was in the wrong arena, he still survived incredible odds. He deserves an award of:
‘Most Likely to Get in Over His head and Come out with Valuable Lessons to Share’-
From the college of real life addiction in every city, America.
The day turned out great, despite the condition of the old sober living we took him to. After trying to change it- but lacking the funds; and going shopping to get him some supplies, I dropped him off at the door. At the end of this momentous day- he said, “Mom, it’s ok, it’s better than running and hiding like I have been”. I made sure to compliment and encourage him. I was so proud. I sent him this text later:
I just want to tell you how amazing you are.
You're my hero. For how resilient you are, yet so kind and caring
None of this can be easy. Being tossed around & told what to do, but you are a champion. A warrior.
I'm so grateful I get to be your mom and I'm grateful that I get to see you grow in this journey. ... I mean you are still the same old boy but I love that I have that back.