God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. – Reinhold Niebuhr
“Mason, is that you? This is Nana.” She gave a little giggle like she did when she was sober and happy to talk to someone. “Oh, hi” he said.
“Mason, do you have a gun?” she asked. “Well, yes…I have a gun. Why? Do I need it?” he questioned. She went on to explain how there were some bad people who were getting ready to get out of prison and she was scared. Really scared. She told him he needed a gun to protect himself and us.
The phone call bothered Mason. “Mom, Nana asked me if we had a gun.” He went on to tell me about the conversation. I told him there was probably some truth in what she was saying about the men in prison and getting released soon but we were safe.
I called Mother. “Hello?” she said. Good, I had reached sober Mother. I could always tell if she was sober by the way she answered the phone. I went on to inquire as to why she was asking Mason about a gun. She explained there were some really bad people who were locked up years ago and it was time for them to start getting out of prison. “Well why would we need a gun?” I asked. “Because I think they might come after you.” Mother stated. “Why, me?” I asked. She replied “because you’re my daughter.” She wouldn’t elaborate any more. I asked her for their names so I could look them up and see where they were and when they would be released. She said she didn’t know their names. It was a long time ago and that I needed a gun to protect myself and the boys. I tried to comprehend what she was saying. She had mentioned people getting out of prison a lot lately. I wasn’t exactly sure what she was talking about. I remembered a couple of incidents from my teenage years and early twenty’s that she could possibly be referring too. About 23 years ago, I had received letters addressed to Mother at my house. Scott and I had only been married a short time. After getting the first letter, I called Mother who told me to open it and read it to her. It contained such ugliness – “We won’t stop until you’re wearing a toe tag.” It really scared me. Holy Cow! What twenty one year old gets death threats in the mail for their mom? It really freaked me out. I ended up taking those letters to the FBI and I never got another one. Those ended up being from someone she had known. What Mother was referring to was different and I knew it had nothing to do with the old letters.
Mason had given her his cell phone number sometime back. He felt bad for her and when she had asked him, he gave it to her. Once, she called Mason when she was drunk. It was a terrible experience – talking to drunk Mother. She was mean, slurred her speech and difficult to understand. You had this overwhelming sadness and felt desperate to help her. The call had upset Mason terribly. Scott who is extremely protective called Mother and gave her the what for. “Don’t ever call his phone again. If you want to talk to him, you call my phone. I’ll decide if you can talk to him.” I felt sorry for Mother. I knew she was crying and she felt bad but I also understood Scott’s need to protect his son and family. Mother had been drinking so the ugly fighting person was who he was confronting. They went toe to toe…Mother arguing and throwing ugliness with her words to Scott. Scott making sure she got the point…Not to call his son again. She finally submitted. Scott could get in a verbal war with her when she was drunk and win. Not many could. However, it didn’t matter if you won over drunk Mother because sober Mother wouldn’t remember the whole incident. Besides sober Mother was sweet and timid. She would never hurt a fly. She didn’t like her drunk self any more than anyone else did. I think she hated drunk Mother more than anyone. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat animals. Mother had the most compassionate loving heart for animals. Especially dogs. Sober Mother was kind, gentle and wanted to be good.
Mason eventually ended up blocking her phone number. He couldn’t take the drunk calls. It was tearing him up. After Mother’s death, Mason told me he felt guilty for blocking her calls. I told him he had done the right thing. He had set the boundaries he needed too in order to care of his own emotional wellbeing. Besides, she could always call my number to speak with you – I told him.
I never tried to shield my boys from all of the craziness addiction brings but I did try to shield them from some of the hurt. I didn’t want them to know the heartache like I had experienced. But they needed some sort of understanding so they would be able to maneuver through the ugly world of addiction. They needed tools in order to stand a chance to beat it themselves and in order to have some sort of relationship with those they love. I didn’t want them to just cut those people out of their lives. I wanted them to be able to recognize the difference between drunk Mother and sober Mother. I wanted them to learn to set boundaries based on which they were dealing with…have little contact with drunk Mother but show love and kindness to sober Mother because they really were two very different people trapped in one body. Some families have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, cancer, heart disease or hypertension…mine is addiction. I have experienced the consequences of addiction my whole life and have managed by the grace of God, prayers and compassionate loving people to find some sort of a balance between what was thought to be normal and dealing with the craziness.
Mother was like most addicts, a liar. However, her lies were not about things like this. They were about when the last time she had used or drank was…or things related to her addiction. Although mother kept my world scattered with craziness through her addiction, she was also very protective. She tried to protect me from others. She couldn’t protect me from her own craziness but she fought tooth and nail not to let others hurt me. She was tormented by demons from her past. And as time progressed she drank more and more to try and drown out or quiet the demons. I told her over and over again…”Mother, forgive yourself. God has already forgiven you. Stop living in the past. Go forward and create a different future for yourself.” Those words rolled so easily off of my tongue because I believed them. Mother believed God forgave her. She talked to me about that stuff sometimes. But I don’t believe Mother ever forgave herself.
Mother couldn’t protect me from her choices and consequences from her addiction but she did do her best to protect me from the harm of others.
I couldn’t protect my boys from the world of addiction and how it affects our lives but I could teach them how to maneuver through the craziness, set boundaries and still show love. I could teach them the difference between sober Mother and drunk Mother. They were two completely different people. It was important to recognize the difference.
Finding the sweet side of crazy!