A couple posts ago, I wrote about hope and despair. Today’s theme is happiness, and like the hope and despair post, it starts with a car. My beloved old car has been replaced by a slightly less old car of the same make, and I am relieved. I wrote about how hard it is to be a parent in Maine without a car, and how the thought alone freaks me out.
After a week and a half, I was downright frantic and feeling nothing but the deepest compassion for other parents in that situation.
There were things, though, that happened that made me happy and got me through the panic. One day I borrowed my mom’s car to go to the grocery store, and I bumped into a young man I know. Last time I saw him, he was in the throes of opiate addiction.
He’s the same age as one of my sons, and I’ve known him since he was in elementary school — a sweet, spazzy little boy with beautiful, brown eyes so large you wondered if he’d ever grow into them. By the time he did grow into them, they were the eyes of an addict, and the last time I saw them that way, I begged him to stop. I reminded him how smart he is and how limited his future was if he didn’t. That was a few months ago.
Happy doesn’t even cover how I felt when he approached me this time to give me a hug, eyes sparkling and clear. He talked about where he was in his recovery, and about his regrets related to his addiction and the behaviors that went with it. And he said he was scared about relapsing but that he was going to have to learn to manage that fear.
He said the road to going straight got messy at the end, and one of the things he thought about was how I lectured him that night. It helped that I had been brutally honest but not judgmental. I was glad to hear it because I had worried after I spoke to him. Intervention-type conversations can be so hard.
This made me so happy I had to pick up the phone to call another young man who is close to my family and has been struggling with opiate addiction for years. He was a little older when I met him with big blue eyes, but equally as sweet and spazzy and smart as the first young man I mentioned. But his history with recovery and relapse, relapse and recovery is longer and more complicated.
As is our relationship pertaining to our conversations around his addiction. We’ve had many talks. He calls me his dark-skinned second mom. (That’s the politically correct version of what he calls me, at least.) I’ve been through so many cycles with him, he knows exactly what I’m going to say any time he comes close to relapse or during his relapses. He keeps me in his life to be the person that keeps it real with him whether things are really good or really bad.
He’s told me that he needs someone that will get all up in his grill about his choices, set clear boundaries about behavior when he’s using, but still love him anyway. And that’s where we left off last we talked. He was not being totally forthcoming with his new doctors about the scope of his addiction, and I knew the care he was receiving would result in another relapse. I begged him to be more truthful. He justified not doing so and relapsed.
The relapse has been brief, thankfully, and this recovery has him sounding different: more determined, more hopeful, more happy to report about how he was filling his hours to keep from using. When I noticed this cycle sounded different, he talked about this go-round being a more profound experience, more spiritual.
That made me happy. More than happy.
Both these young men are so full of intelligence and potential. Underneath their addictions are two of the most sensitive, caring personalities you could hope to meet. I’ve reminded them both they are great guys who would make terrible corpses.
One is working. The other is looking for work. Both are in their 20s and talk about wanting to stay clean and have healthy relationships and families. They’d both make great dads, and any community would be lucky to have such young men achieving these milestones as community members.
Just thinking about it makes me happy.