“…I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children…”
This line of poetry has been going through my head for hours. It’s from The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. This morning I nearly couldn’t get up after the night and do what I have to do. This morning all I wanted to do was curl up with my aching head and broken heart and forget. I wanted to pretend last night didn’t happen. This is how grief works I suppose. This being the denial stage of Denial, Anger, Bartering, Depression, Acceptance (according to Kübler-Ross), or maybe I’m doing it wrong and I’ve skipped anger and bartering and gone directly to depression (do not pass Go, do not collect $200). I know I’m tired. I know I’m not up for this again. I know having a small taste of what life could be like without this fucking disease (is that you, anger?) makes loosing the hope again really painful.
Pema Chödrön tells us to “lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away”
“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”
― Pema Chödrön
So, when I woke up at 1am I spent the next several hours leaning-the-fuck-into it and it was nearly unbearable. Cursing Pema, not for the first or last time I’m sure, I spent the hours that I would have rather been spending in amnesiac sleep feeling like Oscar Wilde’s nightingale from The Nightingale and the Rose, (read at your own risk, Oscar never pulled his punches). I leaned. I meditated, I said the mantra my old crush yoga teacher gave me, I prayed to God, Ganesh, my higher self, St Francias and to anybody who might be listening. And I survived the night. I’m up walking and talking today and on the outside I look just the same. Inside is not so pretty. Inside I’m replaying my conversation with my son. My son who was thrown out from where he is staying, my son who has relapsed in body, mind and spirit. My son who is killing his own future, his own dreams. My son, who is ripping everyone who loves him to pieces.
You make tough decisions, actually you make gut retching, heart breaking decisions, but unlike the movies, that doesn’t fix things. There will be no soft swelling of music, no neatly wrapping up of things, no wistful and knowing smile that shows you made it, you got through it, because this is real life, it’s not a movie and you don’t get to go home now, now you get to make more of those gut retching, heart breaking decisions and instead of music and scenery you get more pain. So here I am. The light I glimpsed at the end of the tunnel just got smaller and further away. The plans I had dare make will be shelved once again as I am sucked once more into this cycle of addiction.
Last year I read a blog from a man who said he wanted his kids to be addicts. Wanted his kids to be addicts because he worked with a remarkable young woman who was a recovered addict. What he didn’t realize the reason recovered addicts and alcoholics are so damn grateful is because we have been to the funerals, we have watched those around us fall, over and over, we have witnessed unspeakable pain, and we have walked to the edge of our own abyss and stared into it and only then, those of us who recovered, pulled back and rebuilt ourselves completely. We’re grateful because we’re not in constant pain anymore, because we found a way to live life on life’s terms, because we came to believe in something bigger and more profound than our own ego and our own pain. So many do not make it back and those of us who did only get a daily reprieve. This disease has no cure, only a daily discipline and a with that a profound gratitude. There is also profound pain with this life, because when you give up your crutch – alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, food, gambling – you actually have to experience the emotions your crutch was protecting you from. You will ‘feel better’. You will feel pain better, sorrow better, and also love and joy better. I wanted to tell the man who wrote the blog this, but I didn’t.
And so it is for me with my son. I watched this disease kill my father. I’ve seen it tear apart families and now I am watching it tear apart my own family, my own son. I know there is a way through this, but I cannot do it for him, and as a parent this is what hurts the most. My own ego is upset that the break I was starting to believe was coming is not going to happen and I am profoundly tired. I want the easier, softer way, but it does not exist. The only way through this is to go through this, not over it, not under it, not around it, but straight through the fucking middle of it, again. Leaning into it, again. And I can’t imagine doing it all. I can’t imagine walking the path that is in front of me. So I will just do today. Just for today I will do the next right thing. I will go through the middle of this mess. I will lean into the discomfort and not look away.
Just for today.