When one of my babies is sick and feeling a general sort of pain, one that makes them cry and ache all over and there's nothing I can do about it--the only thing I can think of to say is, "I know baby. I know."
It's the same thing I want to say to you. I am not an addict, but sometimes when I think of how easily I could have been, I shudder. I know the only reason I am not is... well... before the Grace of God, go I.
I know that you get high to numb a general sort of pain. I know that you have suffered for years, and by getting high you get to live somewhere other than right here, right now. I know the reality of right now is terrifying and just thinking about it, let alone living in it soberly, makes you want to get high even more. I know baby. I know.
I know because all pain is the same, it just looks different on different people. On me, it can look like a panic attack, or self-mutilation, on others it looks like obesity, infidelity, rage, bankruptcy and righteousness. It's all the same baby, it's all pain dressed up in dysfunction and self-destruction.
I know you've hurt people. I've hurt people, too. I know you want to take it all back, and to that I say hell NO because if you still have air in your lungs there is still time to make it right... and making it right is the whole purpose. Do you hear me? The purpose, your purpose, my purpose, the whole purpose. You and me, as long as we can take our pain and transform it into something beautiful, and honest, and good for this world then that will be our legacy; not the pain and the hurt we have caused, the purpose we get to create out of its ashes.
If you fall again, I'm not going to say I won't be disappointed. I will. I will be angry and I will probably say mean things in a moment of hurt, but rest assured I will also forgive you. I will forgive you because of the same Grace of God that allowed me not to BE you.
If you come back after your fall and want my help, I will need to see your eyes before I know what I can do. I will need to look at your face and name your fear before I can open my door and arms again. Because your pain, is really fear and I need to see it with my own eyes to know if you went all the way to the bottom of it.
If you tell me you're afraid of what others will think or what I think, I cannot watch your kids while you go to AA. If you tell me you're afraid of losing your marriage or your children, I cannot give you money. If you tell me you're afraid of never getting high again, I will not be your advocate to anyone. But if you come to me and say, Shannon, I'm afraid of me; I'm afraid of me because I really hate me. Well then... then I may be able to help you because I know baby. I know.
I know that the pain you feel and the self-destruction you inflict are based on a fear of yourself--a fear of your worthiness, success, failure, loveability, strength and fragility. We ALL have this pain inside and it's caused by that nameless, faceless voice that lives inside our heads and whispers nasty lies into our ears. If you can name that voice and show me that it's THE VOICE you fear, then I will open my door and my arms again, and again, because baby, oh baby, I do know.
And baby I will do my best to tell you that you are not that voice, and if you can't hear me over that voice, then I will do what I do to my own babies when they are feeling a general sort of pain. I will put my arms around you, brush your hair aside, wipe your tears and tell you that this too shall pass and tomorrow you'll feel better.
In the meantime....
The full essay can be read at http://shannonlell.com/2012/05/15/an-open-letter-to-addicts-in-my-life/
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