Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mad and sad....

Hi, my name is Her Big Sad, and I am mad and sad.

This post deals with the sad – or the resigned feeling. That’s how I’d identify myself if I were asked to pick two feelings these days. Mad, which I mentioned a few days ago. And sad but resigned.

I struggle with the concept that if we follow the program of Alanon or Naranon, we will be “happy”. Several members at my meeting say this constantly. They don’t look all that happy, but that’s what they say.

At this point in my journey (obviously it could change! I’ve only been in Alanon a year or so), I think that it is a little misleading to say that.

I’m not opposed to being wrong though!

I’m not sure we should generalize like that. Maybe instead, I will be increasingly more at peace?

I have not experienced a sense of happiness very often in the last ten years. I think the last time was when my daughter took her one-year chip and her mentor told her that she’d always have a place in his heart, that they went way beyond client and counselor, etc. I watched her blow out her candle and Rick (the guy who brought her home one day with her “recovery puppy”) came over and gave me a hug, and handed me her blown-out candle. I have it in my little office safe. I had planned to make her a wall hanging with pockets, to stash her candles in, each year. To me, those candles belonged on the wall right beside my oldest daughter’s diplomas. Much harder to earn than diplomas, those candles!

She never quite got to the second candle.

Then Rick got sick (cancer) and for a while no one knew. He finally told us when he started chemo again, and I made him a “brick road” quilt, to symbolize the particular journey he was on…

He died four months later. My daughter was in jail at the time. During one of her sober moments, she mentioned she still can’t forgive herself that she was not there for him.

Sorry, I get off on a lot of tangents these days.

But, back to my question regarding happiness. I do think that I can be content, if that makes sense.

Maybe the words or ideas I'm looking for are sad acceptance and resignation, and hopeful optimism related to possibilities...

I have to believe that even if there is a pervasive sadness about my daughter for the rest of my life, there will still be moments of gladness and joy celebrating accomplishments (mine, or others'), definitely worthwhile experiences with my other family members, personal goals to attain, hobbies to enjoy, etc. This particular sorrow will still grab me when I least expect it, but I am hopeful that I will be able to tell it to “shut up and get lost” and redirect my thinking and refocus on positive things.

I’m not sure what I’m asking for here, but I would like to understand what exactly Alanon and Naranon are “promising”.

It seems as though even the Serenity Prayer tempers its promises of happiness, in the second half of the prayer.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

“Reasonably happy” hints at “a little bit less than normally happy”? That’s like saying, after the flu, “I’m feeling reasonably well.” For me, that means, I’m up and walking, eating a bland diet and not straying too far from the bathroom, just in case!

Many years ago, I once gave serious thought to throwing a heavy duty mixer at my DH who suggested to me, during one of my full-fledged, super-duper pity parties, that “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Apparently he was quoting Abraham Lincoln.

Now….. my DH tends to compartmentalize things. He has compartmentalizing not just down to a science, but elevated to an art form. An example is when he lost his mother. Granted he knew it was coming (she had cancer), and he had been travelling 8 hours by car to stay with her every other weekend for three or four days, for a very, very long time. He adored her; they took vacations together after his father died, and she was a much loved and much treasured mom. I miss her every day, and it’s been about eight years. I had an amazing wonderful mother-in-law!

But the day she died, he got the call at 6 AM from his brother who was with Mom (along with hospice personnel) when she passed away at home. DH took the call, talked with his brother briefly, strapped on his equipment and went to work at 7 AM. He literally tucked it away and worked that whole day, and the next, and the next. We drove up for the funeral later that week, and returned that same night. It was a 23-hour day by the time our heads hit the pillows again. And he worked again the day after that.

I can’t compartmentalize like that. (And given his diagnosis in the recovery room a few days ago, maybe he SHOULDN’T compartmentalize like that!)

But still, I think my DH is on to something. I can refocus when this threatens to take me down. Does that make sense?

And to me, my current understanding of the “promises” of Alanon/Naranon is that, I may not ever again be turning cartwheels of glee. But I can focus on the positives and the gratitudes, even while I have that pervasive dull grey cloud off in the distance of my mind. I still grieve. I catch myself worrying. I still cry and scream. But I can accept this thing, that I cannot change. I can stop flailing against it.

As Syd said in the comments of my "mad" post, "there is nothing that you can do for her except tell her your love her. It is time to live for you."

I truly feel that my daughter’s days are numbered (as are everyone’s, but her numbers are winding down, I think). She has told me several times recently, she thinks she is supposed to die from this addiction, and soon. She has admitted to trying to hurry it along…. She has seemed more depressed this year, and her bipolar mood swings have been more pronounced and more frequent.

I sit in the meetings with two moms who have lost one child to addiction and are watching another go down the same road. I know if my daughter doesn’t make it, I will think that I can’t make it either.

But maybe, I will do like thousands of parents everywhere, who have experienced the devastating loss of a child. It’s not the normal order of things. But maybe, in fact likely, I will find a way to take that next breath, and the next…. and the next step, and the next.

I am fortunate. I have 18 years of pretty happy normalcy of family life to look back on (before addiction).

Dammit, I want more!

Some parents over at CHOC (Children’s Hospital of Orange County) would give their eye-teeth and more, for 18 more months with their terminally-ill child. I’ve been blessed.

And I’m still blessed.

I do not in any way mean to make light of the experience of having an addicted child, or losing a child due to addiction. There’s nothing light about it; it is and continues to be, the darkest of experiences I’ve encountered in my life.

I’m not really sure what brought on this post, and the last one. I just wanted to vent my two deepest feelings right now…. Anger, and sad resignation.

(And just a little demented, but that’s probably just the result of having such divergent feelings all the time? Or …..shudder…… a bit of old age sneaking in!)

At any rate, I’m choosing each day to feel those feelings when they surface (often!) and then deliberately turn my focus to something else. Does that make sense? I think there has to be a time and a place to permit these feelings out of their box, let them hit me full blast, grieve, and then put them back into the box, and go on with my life.

I'm being a bit more selfish with my time these days. I declined to do a big Easter thing this year and face another empty chair at the table; instead my oldest daughter and I went to our friend's house and five of us crazy women sat around her big kitchen table with our sewing machines, working on our April block for a quilt pattern we are all making, each in our own colors. We laughed our way through another meeting of the Red Hot Sew'nSews and we laughed our way through the earthquake. (Which was a long one.) But other than feeling seasick briefly and watching the light fixtures sway - no biggie!

Right now, today, I’m going to count my many present blessings and focus on the positive possibilities!

(And “you never know!” She just may get it. I may get more healthy, sober years with my daughter. I may yet get to make that wall hanging to hold those birthday candles!!)

My block from yesterday's quilting bee....


  1. I so relate to this post right now. I can feel the fear jumping off your post. I act out my fear with mainly anger and sadness. But, there is nothing we can do to save our children, they must save themselves. You are such a loving and warm mother!

  2. I am afraid, yes. BUT, I have decided that life is just so precious, and you know, my older daughter could have an accident on the way to someplace, my husband could too, any one of us could have any sort of catastrophic illness or accident - the end result is the same. We are not promised a tomorrow! So I'm working on the compartmentalization angle a bit. I don't want to miss any more of my life, while agonizing over whether DD2 will figure out her own life! Today, I choose to live my life and carve out all the special moments I can, amongst the mundane daily grind of work, chores, etc! :)

  3. All I can say is that you are amazing, in your ability to articulate what you and all of us are feeling at any given moment. I think you already lead an amazing life and will continue to do so. But don't give up HOPE for DD2 because I truly believe she has extra guardian angels on her shoulders and they may just get her through t his.

  4. I don't think that Al-Anon has any promises that say life will be easy. It will continue to have its ups and downs. But the way that I deal with life is different now. I can take care of myself better. I don't have to live in drama and with anxiety unless I choose to do so. I can trust that others who are sick with an addiction have their own Higher Power as do I. Al-Anon has shown me that I can make choices about how I deal with life. I am learning to live life on life's terms. That's a cool thing.