This is a story about a human Band-Aid – me. Kids think Band-Aids heal wounds. They rest easy when one is applied to their wound. I am the mother of six children, ranging from three to 19 years of age. My children lived with their grandmother for ten years while I destroyed myself in addiction, while I failed to call, while I failed to show up for visits, while I sat in jail and rehabs. They did all the things the other kids did: played sports, went to school, went to church and hung out with their friends. At night, though, they went to bed minus a mother and father. I hate to imagine the thoughts that plagued them – always wondering, Are my parents okay?
The government removed Benny (not his real name) and my other children from me when he was six years old. From that day until he was 16, I had no real relationship with him. I was sure there would be no Band-Aid big enough to cover the wounds I had caused him.
At three years clean and sober, I received the biggest reward of my recovery. A judge gave my children back to me. Finally we were all under the same roof again, and we lived happily ever after. Well, that is what I would like to write; but fortunately, it is the truth that sets me free. The truth is that Benny was not happy. I apologized. I spoiled him and I made him as comfortable as possible, but he resented and avoided me. Being a mother, I looked past his avoidance and resentment, and wallowed in the guilt of my past. I put a Band-Aid on it, so to speak.
I tried to protect him, but he was getting wasted. I caught him drinking a couple of times and put my foot down. I told him, “If you come home like that again, you are going to have to move out!”
He continued to drink behind my back. Evidently, mere recreational drinking and using did not work for him. One night when I returned home from a Twelve Step meeting, he was nodding off on the couch. This was the last straw. The Band-Aid was off!
There were many issues under that Band-Aid, issues that were his, not mine. He had every reason not to use; his childhood had been terrible because of it. Yet there he was right in front of me – my son, the budding addict. That night I realized that all my spoiling, helping and apologizing had been futile. He was a man now; a man not manning up.
That night I tossed and turned. I tried to think of how I could help Benny. His father eventually popped into my head. His dad had multiple years clean and lived about 45 minutes away. Although I didn’t particularly like the idea of his father helping out, I knew I had to ask. The next morning, I told Benny he would have to go to rehab or go stay with his dad for awhile. On the surface I played tough; but inside, yet again, I felt like a failure. Had I made his life worse by bringing him under my roof?
Thank God for my Twelve Step program where I learned about setting boundaries. I had drawn a line for Benny and he had stepped over it. If I allowed him to continue on that path under my roof, his wounds would only deepen; and he would never change. Neither would I.
I was being a human Band-Aid, covering the obvious while trying to protect my son from pain. In order for him to heal, I would have to get out of the way and allow him to face his own truth. So, after choking down my pride, I called his father, who was more than willing to help.
Benny packed all of his stuff. We put his bags in the trunk and headed for his father’s house. Before leaving, he pulled the last guilt trip on me by saying, “You left me when I was little, and now you’re gonna leave me again.” Ouch. That hurt. I told him I wanted him to be the best man he could be; and if he stayed with me, he would never be anybody. He just rolled his eyes.
After Benny left, I cleaned his room. In general, kids don’t clean their rooms; but this room looked like no one had lived in it, ever. A thick layer of dust coated everything. I don’t know how he could even watch the TV. It looked as if he must have sat in his room like a statue, vegetating, letting life pass him by.
A couple of weeks went by without him answering my calls or texts. That really hurt, but his safety and well-being were paramount. I rested easy knowing I had done the right thing.
When I went to see him a couple weeks later, he met me outside. I got a hug. His eyes were bright – brighter than ever before. We had a conversation, a real one! He said he was an alcoholic, was attending meetings and working a program. I hated to think of my Benny calling himself an alcoholic; but if the shoe fit, he should wear it.
Benny celebrated two years clean and sober this past March. I still miss him every day, but I am grateful for having seen my own character defects in action – being a human Band-Aid is one of them. My new mantra is “live and let live.” I am allowing my son to live out in the open air of life. How he lives today is his choice, not mine.
April P. is a mom, wife, writer and a recovering addict since June 20, 2007. Her favorite way of giving back what was so freely given to her is to write about how recovery works in her life. You may find her at Backfromtheledg.com and at email@example.com.