My thirty-year-old self would be horrified by my current mental state. She would have wondered about my parenting skills, and she would have totally judged me. Not out loud mind you, but with a look of compassion, pity and a little superiority. My younger self thought she had the world figured out. She would never have believed she’d find herself in the position I am in today.
I am currently happily cleaning and prepping our vacation rental for a visit from my adult son. He will be bringing a girl, one he’s not married to. I can hear myself from twenty years ago – gasp – they aren’t married? What is wrong with you?
They will stay over the weekend and probably eat every bit of the junk food I am stocking the cabin with. Sugary cereal, cookies, sour candies, oatmeal cream pies. When my son was young his sweets were strictly limited, and I would never had imagined one day submitting to his cravings.
To further shock my younger self, I will be picking his girlfriend up to transport her for this weekend, because, well, of course he doesn’t have a license or a car. Oh, and by the way, I’m picking her up from jail. At this point my thirty-year-old mom-brain would have exploded.
But, you see, my son is ninety days sober, his girlfriend is at sixty days. They were cohorts when they were both abusing drugs, a relationship forged in hardship. They spiraled out of control together. He ended up in sober living. She ended up in jail, where she has been for the last two months. When he asked me to pick her up, I had a long internal dialogue about enabling and codependency. I have those conversations a lot these days.
However, the way he approached me was this. “Mom, I can find someone else to pick her up, but our mutual friends are not sober, and I don’t want to interact with them. Would you go with me to pick her up?” I told him I’d have to think about it and he agreed to wait for my answer. (A good sign. He was not demanding or pushing.)
After some discussion, my husband and I agreed that I should do it. When I told him, my son’s face lit up like a kid’s on Christmas morning, it told me how surprised he was that we said ‘yes’. We’ve been very insistent about boundaries during his sobriety, so I think he had been expecting a ‘no’.
He’s heard ‘no’ a lot from us lately, and he’s taken it well. So, it was nice to say ‘yes’, and it’s because he’s been doing his part. He’s working a program in sober living. He’s leading NA meetings and working a job. He’s also encouraged and supported his girlfriend in her sobriety.
It’s probably what helped their relationship go to a deeper level. During their daily phone calls, they began imagining a future where they were both sober. So, although my son knows I think it’s too soon in his recovery for a relationship, a month ago he informed me that he was in love.
We have teased each other about our difference of opinion, me reminding him how often relationships have been his downfall. Him hassling me about ‘mothering’ him; a favorite family catch phrase that kindly reminds me to mind my own business. So, I have accepted his new love interest, after all he is an adult, and I will meet her when I pick her up from prison. (I’m working hard to shut-up the voice of my younger, judgmental self who would be mortified.)
Their plans once she is released are to spend the weekend together and then get her into a sober house. When my son told me the location of the prison, I realized that we would be close to our vacation rental when we picked her up. I asked if they would like to stay there instead of using his hard-earned money for a hotel. They both loved the idea, and I was pleased that they would be far from old friends and familiar triggers. (I know its ‘mothering,’ but no one called me on it this time.)
So here I am, smiling as I neaten the towels, stock the fridge, and arrange their favorite snacks on the counter. I could handle this so many other ways. Ways my younger self would have demanded. I could refuse to accept them as a couple, or I could agonize about where this will go, or if they are good for each other. But when has worry ever solved my problems? So, I’m going to put all my worries about the future aside for a weekend.
I will enjoy the simple pleasure of doing something nice for my son. I will give him and his girlfriend a special weekend to remember – a sober weekend. I won’t let worries about next week, or next month, or next year intrude on the joy. Even as I type this, I can feel the fears niggle at the base of my brain, but I cannot control him or his future. If nagging, lecturing, or giving advice would have solved his problems, we wouldn’t be here now. So I will push away those little jabs of worry and take pleasure in the moment.
I will delight in being a mom and getting to spoil my son. I will savor his smiles and laughter. Being able to do something kind for my sober son is an opportunity that I won’t pass up.
I’ve thought about it and I don’t believe I’m enabling. I’m loving. It can be hard to separate the two when you’ve loved an addict for years. But, this wasn’t something he demanded or manipulated me into. He’s not taking something from me. It’s a gift I freely offered.
Getting to prepare a welcoming environment for my son and his friend feels lovely. This weekend I’m celebrating. My son is coming to visit and I’m meeting his girlfriend. How normal it feels. I’ll take it, even though my thirty-year-old self would never understand.