Krissie: Dodged a Bullet

Phew. The storm clouds were brewing overhead yesterday. I finished going over the revising (or making notes where to revise) my mip and I’m ready to move forward, thank God. I emerged from my office to go pay Mr. Coolbeth and get the hutch when my son arrived and was thrashing around, having a fit over where he’d put his water bottle. Turns out he was freaking out about health stuff (he gets so worried about even minor symptoms which is one reason he should be in VT — he has health insurance here). I calmed him down, he apologized, said he was going to go to the emergency room that night and if they put him on antibiotics he wasn’t going back to Michigan because they make him so sick.
Okay. He was planning to either call us or come by after he went to the emergency room, so we went on with our lives. Then, we get a toxic phone call. Let me give you some history. Erin’s mother is a powerhouse. I happen to really like her — she’s tough, she’s gorgeous, worked her ass off all her life. But she’s got attitude up the wazoo, and she hates my son and is fiercely possessive of Alex, her grandson. Which makes sense, the first couple of years after he was born she took care of him while Erin worked and went to school. She’s always been the real sticking point in their relationship — Erin is very very tied in with her family, and Tim not only wants to travel and live away from Vermont for a while, but he hates doing anything with her family because there’s such tension and snotty comments and outright confrontations. At the end of their relationship my son’s problem was that she was spending more time with her family than with him. Her problem was that he was a screaming asshole. (See, I’m fair).
Actually, I shouldn’t say at the end of their relationship. It limps along.
So Erin’s mom calls in a tight, furious voice, wanting to know if I know where Erin is. I said no. I asked if Alex was okay (she sounded like it was a disaster). She said no. He missed his mother. She said he wasn’t there (I imagine he was staying with his cousin — they go to the same daycare). She said he called and was upset and that ever since Tim’s been home Erin has been ignoring him to spend all her time with Tim, and she wanted to know the phone number of the big house.
My blood pressure soars. First off, she’s wrong. I don’t know what happened the first night, though I know she wouldn’t have asked her mother to help out so she could see Tim, because her mother would say no way. The second night they all slept at the Big House. Don’t know what happened Friday night, but Saturday was the big blow-out of Alex’s birthday, which was a huge amount of work for Erin. And the g’mother wasn’t even in town for the weekend. Alex spent Sunday with me, having a blast, don’t know what went on Monday but Tuesday night G’ma says he’s being abandoned.

So I know she’s going to get things as riled up as she can, and she wouldn’t hesitate to go to the Big House and start some horror scene (she’s done it before) and I worried about Alex and envisioned horrible things happening and where was Tim going to stay if he didn’t go back, which I was pretty sure he wouldn’t, and I knew he’d come over and start ranting about G’ma, so I took a tranquilizer and went to bed. (I’m supposed to take one when I go to bed, BTW), trying to ignore my feelings of impending doom.

I wake up, my car is back, there’s a note on my computer saying “love you guys, never went to the ER but I’ll see how it goes.”

Phew! He is coming back — there’s no life for him out there. And frankly, it’s just not possible for me to refuse him a home if he’s clean and sober, which he is. I’ll just need to keep backing off and see how things go. At this point Erin is planning to get some time off to go out to Michigan and drive Tim back, and he’ll go to Voc-rehab then, plus job counseling. And we’ve said over and over again how we just don’t have the money to get him a car.
So we’ll see. But right now he’s gone for at least a couple of weeks, and I can take a deep breath and get back to focusing on my life and my work, without the anxiety that’s been plaguing me.

And I’d really much rather concentrate on all the brilliant ideas you guys gave me yesterday about the house. I’ll start this afternoon when I come back from lunch. I love the idea of index cards and clear labeling. The breaks from writing to do just a little at a time. The clean sweep ideas of garbage bags and boxes (I put clothes in clear garbage bags and everything else in boxes. If I donate in black garbage bags it feels like I’m giving away trash.

So. Gotta go in and write a little bit, just to move ahead. Then lunch. Then attack the house. But at least disaster and rage and emotion haven’t landed on my doorstep.

22 thoughts on “Krissie: Dodged a Bullet

  1. Good for you Krissie. Glad the gloom and doom has passed over. In-laws can really suck, but I’m glad she’s a strong protective woman. That’s a good thing, but it sounds like she should back off some.

    My offer to help with the house stands…

  2. Deb says:

    In spite of the kid and in-law drama (and the clutter) you sound upbeat and in charge. Good for you! I’m impressed since all the above would have sent me hiding under the bed cover.
    Take care of yourself! And try to get outside to enjoy this beautiful fall weather!

  3. Rose says:

    Please don’t let your son back in your house. He sounds like he’s not good for you, Richie, Erin, or Alex. I can understand why Erin’s mother hates him, though from what you say she sounds like a shit-stirrer. And from what your last past about your kids said, your son is *not* clean and sober. He’s still using pot and drinking, which for someone with past substance abuse problems should be a huge red flag.

  4. You sound like the calm eye of the storm.

    Erin’s mother is worried about her getting back with Tim, and I can sympathize; I’m not thrilled about him getting back with you. When Alex says he misses his mom, she’s in such a state that she forgets that kids his age say that after an hour in nursery school. She has her own issues, they’re not yours, so good for you for disengaging.

    As we all know, Tim is not my fave person in the world, but I’ve been in those emotional storms where you’re searching for solid ground and not finding it and hearing all the screaming in your head while you’re looking. I agree that if he’s still using pot and alcohol, he’s not clean. I know there are people who can do that, but he’s not one of them because he’s so emotionally volatile. He needs meditation and therapy, not stimulants. But those are his issues, not yours, so good for you for disengaging.

    One more thing: if he moves back to Vermont which does seem to be the best thing for him, you have to move somewhere else. Everybody there is so used to using you like an emotional and financial ATM that they won’t be able to break the habit and neither will you. You can see freedom right up ahead of you, but if you look in the rear view mirror, the past is gaining on you. Hit that accelerator.

  5. romney says:

    Brilliant work stepping back. Getting out of the situation physically is a big step to getting out of it mentally too.

    Having Tim in the house sounds like too much of a temptation to get drawn in again though. I wouldn’t advise an alcoholic to keep whisky in the house, no matter how good it is for the whisky. Erm, that made more sense when I was thinking it.

  6. That is a lot of drama that could have gotten even worse so I’m happy the today contains less of that mess. Good for you on keeping some distance and not jumping in with both feet ready to fix life for everyone. That’s progress!

    After a few years of nothing but drama, I’m very anti-drama now. And my life is so much better for it.

  7. So glad that you recognized a lot of the red flags and took a step back. Way to go! However, I’m with the others on the thought of your son. If he comes back to VT. it has to be on his own dime, to get his own place, his own car, etc. Do not let him move back in under any circumstance. You need to protect your health and your sanity.

    Hugs, Krissie. glad you’re getting some writing done.

  8. DJ says:

    I’m not sure what bullet you think you have dodged, because it sounds as if you are going to let your son move back in with you, which hasn’t sounded at all positive from your past posts.

    By your recent post, your son, who struggles with addictions, is still drinking and smoking marijuana, which cannot be considered clean and sober.

  9. julianna says:

    I agree with the others that it doesn’t sound like your son moving back in would be the best choice for you. But I understand why you think it’s the best choice for him. Given that you’re determined to do this, please think it through and set some boundaries before he moves in. For example, no drinking or drugs while he lives under your roof (none at all — don’t fool yourself into thinking a little isn’t a problem. If it’s not a problem, then it won’t be a problem for him to do without). He needs to get therapy for his mood swings. (as a bonus, if he’s using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, the therapy will help him there, too). He needs to do the voc-rehab and job counseling. He needs to get a job by a certain date. He needs to do specific things around the house to help you and Richie.

    You need to discuss all of this with your therapist and have her help you come up with whatever ground rules you need to keep your physical and mental health while your son is living there. You have to communicate those rules to your son. And if he breaks them, you have to kick him out. Not only is that the best thing for you, but it will be the best thing for him as well.

  10. Kieran says:

    Krissie, if they become a family unit again and you look deep into your heart and find that–risks to your own well-being be damned–you’ll be happier staying near Alex rather than leaving Vermont, then you need counseling *right now* about setting boundaries with your son so that he doesn’t become a black hole and suck you in.

    I hate to say it, but in your picture today, you look like a sitting duck–totally vulnerable with those wide, trusting Krissie eyes. Gird those loins, lady. Kick that son’s ass around a bit–make him clean out your house as payment for living there or being around you AT ALL.

  11. Reb says:

    Excellent analogy!

    Krissie, would it help to sit down with Richie and make a couple of lists: Things we’ll do for Tim and Things we won’t do? Then when he demands something, you either give it to him or don’t, depending on which list the thing’s on. And if it’s not on either list, you have a calm discussion with Richie about which list to put it on.

    Ignore this if it’s not useful assvice, but I thought it might make the specific boundaries easier to set and keep.

  12. Lynda says:

    Everybody else has already been so wise and thoughtful that I have nothing to add, so I’ll just say, Good for you, Krissie, for avoiding the shitstorm for a change.

  13. C.G. Morrison says:

    I agree with what everyone else has said.

    Although, didn’t he go to the Midwest to take some job training? Is that done with, or did he blow it off? Or am I totally wrong?

    No alcohol, no pot, and counseling. Minimal money, if any at all. He’s a big boy now.

    IF he and Erin get together, then that’s their deal, and they should also get counseling. It’s not your deal, though.

    Good for you for stepping back from the drama queen. Your life has enough drama in it.

    Keep on doing what’s best for you, and secondly what’s best for Richie. Together, you’ll make it through.

  14. Barbara Cameron says:

    I bought a book called Boomerang Kids by Okimoto for a friend who had the same situation with her kids, Krissie. She loved it and said it helped a lot. I just saw it on Amazon. There’s a 2011 book by another author with the title Boomerang Kids which looks more updated. Maybe you can get one or both of them from your library?

    My son and his wife have had an up and down marriage for years bot so far my son hsn’t asked for help when he lived apart for a while. But I’d be hardpressed to know what to do in a similar situation. You want to help but how much help is too much? Sigh.

  15. jinx says:

    Well, see — I don’t know any of the people you are talking about, and I’m in basic agreement about the self-protective boundary stuff that people are supporting you in, as described in the posts above.

    But I keep reading that description of the solutions the Mother-In-Law seems to be proposing, and they all seem to be really absolutist, Good versus Evil solutions, with your son pushed across on the BAD BAD BAD side of the fence while she is on the GOOD GOOD SO GOOD side, free to barge in and disrupt other people’s lives by controlling them and trying to enforce her whole Good & Evil vision on all and sundry.

    Which doesn’t seem to me like such a good thing.

    We are all kind of participating with you on this blog in a well-intentioned struggle away from harmful habits and dangerous drugs that require from us a lot more self-control than most of us can find on a daily basis. (Well, by dangerous drugs I mean in this case Mrs. Fields cookies, tempting Goldfish, Diet colas and so on. In my case it’s Mounds and Almond Joy, but that’s neither here nor there.)

    At any rate, so (it sounds) is your son, only what he’s coping with are way more dangerous drugs, and he’s doing it with a daily dose of testosterone, plus forty or so fewer years in which to build up all the self-control muscles that are needed.

    Take this with a grain of salt, but if your boundaries get set in an absolutist way like the Mother-In-Law scenario, rather than a rational & less judgmental way, it seems to me like you’re going to regret it fairly soon, because it’ll cause some amount of resentment from him based on a sense of fairness, which will muddy all the waters.

    If you can say ‘Look, when I feel attacked by emotional talk and shouting, I’m going to withdraw because I need to do that to stay in balance myself’ it’ll both define what you’re doing and model a reasonable way to say No and set boundaries. If you can say ‘whenever adults start to make a child suffer by their grownup disputes, I’m going to step in to help the child because everyone who’s powerless deserves some help,’ it’ll both state your intentions & reasons in advance, and provide a general rule that doesn’t vilify, just clarify. And so on, and so on, and so on, for each thing that’s a firm boundary on your part.

    To me, your son’s biggest need, apart from a safe space where he can develop more self-control and battle the temptations, is a clear, firm, testable model to help him work out clashes with a lot of the people around him, including you, Richie, Alex and the Meddler-In-Law. Fair self-preservation and fair fighting, basically. I don’t really think that’s an easy thing to discover for yourself when you’re in the midst of all the addiction battles.

  16. “But at least disaster and rage and emotion haven’t landed on my doorstep.”

    Somedays that’s the best thing you can say about a day and it’s better than the reverse.

    Good luck, Krissie. Sounds like a lot going on and I wouldn’t presume to give you assvice.

    Happy to back you up in any way I can, though.

  17. I couldn’t possibly give you advice either. What I will say is listen to your sisters who have no other agenda but to see you happy and strong.

  18. Micki says:

    I’m a conflict avoider, and that sort of scenario would have me catatonic. It has me breathing a little heavy just hearing about it.

    I think you are doing the right things. Let him try his stuff. He’s choosing to move forward, too, by braving through the health stuff and not going to the ER. He can make these decisions. Give him some time and space . . . .

  19. smidget says:

    Not to be pedantic, but I think that’s what Jinx said. He’s had 40 fewer years than you have had, to build up his self-control …

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