Is there ever going to be a morning when I wake up on your birthday and don’t feel an ache in my heart for all the wrongs I did to you before you’d even taken your first breath? When I don’t think about the drinks I poured down your throat before it had even been formed in my womb?
The heaviness of remorse today is so great I think I could sink into the floor straight down into the ground beneath me. You were an unexpected side note on a drug screen. A casual mention from a woman wearing white in a detox institution, where I’d stay and try to rid my body of its havoc. And over the course of my stay I thought of you as an angel from God given to me to be saved from this hell of addiction that I was in. That I would never harm you. That I had a new purpose, and that you were enough.
But today is your birthday, and you are seven years old this morning. Healthy, happy, the light the light of my world and the smile in my days. I look back at when I carried you inside my broken body with all the desires and will-power a heart and soul could hold. It wasn’t enough. I never stood a chance. Did anyone see me suffering?
The moment you were born, the second, and the minutes and hours and days thereafter set in motion a type of mother’s pain I’m not sure many comprehend. There is something that happens to a woman when she holds her newborn for the first time. It’s indescribable, and it’s spiritually powerful. So to have that experience with you, knowing all the pain and harm I caused, created inside of me a wound so deep I believe it just might be untouchable. And the only human arms that can stretch far enough to reach it are yours. And you do. All the time.
Sometimes I wonder if that’s why you like to cuddle so much. Because I did a shitty job when you were inside me. It’s our do-over. Our second chance. A secret way for a shameful mom to silently ask her son for forgiveness. -11/12/2017
What a Shame
I didn’t want to do it. I begged for help. I told doctors and family I was overwhelmed- surrounded with a newborn, a toddler, a preschooler, a daughter in 6thgrade, a husband who worked long hours. One day in particular, I sat in a doctor’s office, and just spit it all out. I told him I was drinking, and that I was depressed. Spenser sat on the floor next to me, bundled up in his carrier. I pointed down to him, saying, “It’s him. I can’t take it. I can’t stand to be with him, it kills me to look at him. But I can’t stand to be away from him, either.”
All I knew to do was sneak alcohol. It was my life saver, my secret pain reliever, my comforter so I could keep going. I never thought ahead, never contemplated consequences. I acted out of sheer desperation.
Time Doesn’t Wait For Us
That baby was in kindergarten by the time I finally finished torturing myself with shame. The family came to visit me at my 7threhab one Sunday afternoon, and he and I were having our 20 minutes of alone time. I listened to him rambling on about some silly story, stared at the side of his face, and watched him shuffle through a bed of rocks until he found a perfect one to stuff into his pocket with the others. “I miss you so much,” I said. Spenser abruptly stopped what he was doing and turned to look me straight in the eyes. “Mom,” he said, “I’m right here.”
Well, shit. I heard that. Up until that point, all I was doing was thinking about my mistakes. I was dredging up old mental pictures despicably stained with shame- and not just any shame, but MOM shame. It was the theme of my relapses, the penetrating enemy, the skin I lived in.
Even after I got home and was working on building my program of recovery, I still buried myself in that shit. I’d sit at the kitchen table with him doing Lego projects and spontaneous well up with tears replaying old tapes from the past. He’d get distracted from our fun and ask me what was wrong. I was ruining the present. I was still wasting time.
Give In, Give Up
Sobriety brings clarity, and clearly, I was still screwed up, haunted by history. It was going to take more than showing up as a decent mom, more than staying away from alcohol, and more than apologizing to my son through my actions.
If I Can Forgive You, I Can Forgive Me
All my mistakes as a mother and an alcoholic both in and out of recovery taught me a shit-ton about just how big I really am, and it’s smack dab in the middle. The lessons came the hard way, but they came, nonetheless. I’ve learned about respect and compassion for others on this journey. I know how to forgive, how to apologize, and what that really looks like. I was able to clearly see every single person I hurt and how. Spenser’s not the only one. But I forgot about me. I did absolutely none of that for myself. Why? Well, because I was on opposite ends of the middle. I was, in my mind, either a worthless piece of shit who deserved to be punished OR I was so arrogant I refused to acknowledge the glaring truth. Yikes.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
– Thomas Edison
Spenser and I have a special bond. I don’t know if it’s because he’s my youngest or because he’s my only boy. I tend to believe it’s because he’s a little angel for all of us in this family. Every day after school, he still requests cuddle time on my unmade bed, where he grabs the tv remote and I catch my absolutely necessary power nap. He comes in close, gets in my “arm nest”, and we settle in sweetly until his sisters get home from their bus ride and the shenanigans start. I don’t doubt his love for me, some would even say he’s a mama’s boy. What I do know is forgiveness starts with me. Healing starts in my hands first. I watch my smiles trickle into his face and watch it come back to me.
The past remains. Facts didn’t change, but I did. His birthday, November 12, will always carry a bittersweetness inside of me. That’s okay. It’s my story to tell. Not only can I handle life today, I can also handle what you think of me. I’m not here to win likes and popularity. I simply hope to show somebody how even the very worst tragedies create the best days of your life. It’s your choice.
Stay with me…