I heard the squeak and the roar of the Monday morning trash pickup as it crept through the neighborhood. It was always a loud wake up call- on the dot-at 6:30 am. The brakes, the lifting of the cans, the dumping. Then the steady, beeping horn, signaling the truck’s reverse gear.
The air was thick with a cold January breeze- always threatening a new winter storm. This day, like so many others lately, was not a typical Monday morning grind day. This day was going to be a “mental health day” for me. Sounds wimpy, I know. But the reality is, over the last 2 years, I’ve had at least 2 a month sometimes up to 5. Yes, it hits hard on the budget, but I can’t seem to help it.
Emotional overload is a thing.
Some days, the emotional energy required to function outside of my ‘safe’ house is astronomical. The mental anguish that is like a not-so-silent black and white film- always running in the back of my head- is exhausting.
People who delight in telling me how horrible my son is,
Seem to think that they are giving me some new information that I’ve never thought of. Not that I think he’s horrible, nor will I ever entertain the “lets bash the black sheep drug addict” crowd by talking shizz about my 35 year old very lost, very in trouble, son.
What they don’t know is that the rolling script of everything that he’s done and continues to do, plays over and over in my mind constantly. The brief glimpses of sobriety and in- person interactions that I get with him always seem to be criticized that I do too much, or that I hang onto his every word, or that I have too much hope that he has really turned the corner.
They’re not wrong
I DO do those things. I DO have too much faith sometimes. I do hang on his every word. Trying to figure out the chaotic mind of the person I birthed who still eludes all rational thought and reason.
I do those things because I know the time is limited. This moment shall pass. He is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. Sometimes, in those brief moments I have physical eyes on him; I catch him staring off into the distance even as he is rushing to get somewhere. I see his torment. His struggle. So many people want so many things from him that his unhealed brain can’t promise.
Yet he still does what he has always done:
Spin a great tale about this or that; starting another business, building tiny homes, or taking on the world of concrete again.
He wants to. I know he does. He wants to be known for his success again. He wants to be respected. He wants to be worthy of people’s ( family) time and attention. He was looking so forward to being able to see his kids again🥅
What I see that no one else sees, is his pain. His actions depict an uncaring addicted person who can’t get off the spinning wheel and who can’t seem to follow the legal requirements to break out of it’s grasp. But I see that all those things are an attempt to fix an internal problem. He hates when I say that. He won’t admit anything.
I’m not the textbook addict who has had trauma”. He would say.
I can hear his voice saying it now.
Maybe not trauma, per say- but I hear deep pain- in those moments of frustration, when he makes the call to me to vent. It’s not very often. It’s like a pattern of when he takes 2 steps forward, that are not enough, because it was supposed to be 3, so he falls back 5.
His anguish and fear and disappoint come through in those moments of realization that he will never be good enough or reach high enough for some- especially the legal system who now have brought up charges from 9 months ago.
To him, the goal is completely out of reach.
Why bother? Says the defeated unhealed brain.
Despite his pre-drug life of reaching every goal he worked day and night for; now his damaged brain and reward system can’t think that far ahead. He’s still in survival mode. When he was searching for jobs to re-enter the workforce, I caught a glimpse of the man afraid to fail. He casually mentioned that some of the jobs would be too much responsibility, too stressful for what he could manage in early recovery. I couldn’t believe it- after all his experience. But it was honesty. A brief glimpse into his vulnerability of failure.
He knew one thing he was good at. Hustling. And within a week of seeing the reality of his sobriety challenges including the “correctional system”; he was back doing what he does. Hustling and bustling. At first he was trying to get enough money to help himself and his kids. Then he realized it would never be enough and he was back into the life of isolating and hiding from warrants. Like a snap of the finger, he was gone.
So now, he’s a liar, I hear. Projection- that he never intended to do anything. Fulfilling the stigma of the drug addict who’s incapable of keeping his word.
The circle continues- shame- blame- hope- disappointment – failure.
We were all guilty………again. Of placing so much responsibility and expectations so soon onto a brain that was slowly trying to figure out life without the safe covering of substances to dull it. But we won’t be called out, because the addict is always the scapegoat now. For anything that goes wrong.
Steven Covey used to say:
“People are very tender, very sensitive inside. I don’t believe age or experience makes much difference. Inside, even within the most toughened and calloused exteriors, are the tender feelings and emotions of the heart.”
So yes. I’m aware of my sons failings and flailings. I was told that I should stop listening to what a drug addict tells me and that I should put my time and energy elsewhere.
Let me turn off my mind and my heart.
But first I need a “sick day”.
A Monday morning mental health day.
Tomorrow hasn’t even begun and your chest is already tight and your heart is racing just thinking about this week.
I get it. It can be so easy feel trapped in a downward spiral when we begin to think about everything we have on our plates. All the things that could happen or go wrong. All the emotions that come with the unknowns.
But may I remind you, dear one, God has already been through this week. He knows what’s going to happen, it doesn’t surprise him. He knows when you will be anxious this week, and he’s already preparing you to fight that anxiety. He understands you are having a hard time trusting his goodness over life right now, and he is strengthening you by his Spirit.
Take a deep breath in.
Remind yourself of his perfect sovereignty.
Lift your eyes up to the heavens.
Speak his name as you let your breath out.
Allow yourself to be still.
It’s more of him and less of everything else you need to hear right now.
Feel your heart beating in your chest.
It’s already slowing down and your chest doesn’t feel quite so tight.
Do you feel that?
That’s the peace of the Holy Spirit that passes any kind of human understanding or reasoning. And it’s that same peace that will be ready for you every moment of this hard week ahead.
Grasp it tight, knowing it’s your saving grace.
Trust its strength, believing in its perfect power made strong in your weakness.
Believe fully, knowing just how loved you are and how freely this gift is given to you as a woman hidden in Christ.- From Blacktop to Dirt Road