Krissie: Games People Play

Speaking of which, Joe South died recently (he’s the one who wrote and sang that, plus a number of excellent songs). But I digress.
When you live a life surrounded by alcoholics and addicts (my father, my brother, my sister, my favorite cousin, a former BFF and of course my son) you learn one thing (well, I learned many things) from Al-Anon and various readings. You can’t play the guessing game about whether the person you love is using, is high, is drunk, is whatever. When my father wasn’t drinking he was strung out on pills (uppers and downers). My sister liked cocaine, my brother liked anything, my cousin liked heroin. So I’m used to getting phone calls, visits, etc. where the loved one is slurring, falling asleep, hyper, whatever.
And you can’t play the game about is he or isn’t he? It’ll make you crazy. Basically it’s just too fucking co-dependent. You can go searching for empty bottles or stashes or pills, or you can let go and let god, because if you take the stuff away they’ll find it some other way, it you confront them or cry it’s just a waste of time. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Your higher power can’t fix it, it’s up to their HP.
All you can do is go with what you see.
Here’s the deal with my son. First off, I know he’s not a drinker — he never has been. He’ll drink socially, but there have never been the overflowing bins of empty bottles.
Marijuana has a very distinctive smell. Haven’t smelled it anywhere around him, not in his car, not on his clothes, not in years. Haven’t run across bongs or papers. With weed, people tend to be very casual about things, particularly the papers. Erin wouldn’t allow any smoking in the house (they had a friend stay with them for a while and when they caught her smoking a joint in the house they kicked her out).
I take Vicodin, and he sent me an email asking me to please keep my pills put away, not leaving a huge bottle of Vicodin sitting beside my chair. In the past (ten years ago) he would have been siphoning them off, even if I’d hidden them.
He’s been on Clonazepam for a year, and he’s takes one a day, doesn’t go through them in the first week of the prescription, etc. He’s been able to manage them.
So. That’s what I know. I haven’t seen him drunk, high, haven’t personally seen any signs of his using, and I’m not going to go ferreting around for proof. If he ends up staying with us (and he’ll want to get out even more than we’ll want him out) then if there’s any sign of using he’s out. I won’t live with an addict ever again. I’m comfortable with him having a glass or two of wine when we have a formal dinner. He never comes in and takes a beer or asks for a drink.
I don’t want to be in the position of defending him. I’m in the position of: it’s his business as long as it doesn’t affect me.
And frankly, I worry about his temper and his depression and his pride and his relationship at this point. I don’t worry about his using.
Shrug. You can only go on your instincts and what you observe. Plus I doubt Erin would put up with a heavy drinker or doper around Alex.
So, it is what it is. I just want to make it clear that I wouldn’t allow an addict under my roof.
One of the reasons I ended up having trouble forgiving my mother had nothing to do with me. It was that she enabled my brother to death, literally. She’d give him money (that he bought booze with), she’d drive him places when he didn’t have his license, she went into debt buying him things when the only thing that would have saved him was kicking him out. I’ve kicked my son out before, and I’d do it again.
Plus, don’t worry, I’m working with my therapist on all this.
We don’t want him living with us, he doesn’t want to live with us. If he ends up staying with us it’ll be short term. I don’t want to live with his moods.
If it looks like it’s going to happen Richie and I will definitely talk about what we will and won’t put up with. But I’ll deal with that when and if it looks like it’s going to happen.
I’m not defending my son, or in denial. I can only go with what I see and what affects me, and whether he uses or not feels like the least of his problems.
Hmmmm. By bailing him out, letting him live here, I’m enabling him to some extent anyway, not with drugs but with lifestyle. We’ll see how things go.
Feel free to call me out on this, BTW. I’m doing the best I can in a tough situation, but I welcome ass-vice or insights.
In the meantime, one day at a time.

46 thoughts on “Krissie: Games People Play

  1. AuntieJB says:

    Krissie you are an amazing woman of strength.

    Especially since you are able to deal with everything life has thrown at you this year and still make progress on your personal goals. I have firsthand knowledge of how tough it is to do these things – even with only one night of poor sleep.

    Know that we all love you for your strength and your wit and your generous love. We are here for you always.

    Note that I feel this surge of love for you and I haven’t even met you! (Is that creepy? It’s not meant to be creepy.)

  2. Kieran says:

    I’m a real skeptic about the relationships we form on the internet, yet I keep coming back here honestly caring about Krissie–and I felt that way about Lani on her blog, and I feel that way about Jennie at Arghink. There’s something about these three women that’s special–maybe it’s their willingness to share thoughts with people that most of us wouldn’t share. They’re brave and generous and they have an edge I don’t have that I find compelling. I’m such a nerd. And they’re not. They’re the bad girls I always wish I had been friends with in high school!

    This latest thing going on with Krissie–and the urging by Jenny for her to hit the accelerator and move out of that situation–crystallizes for me the big question I have about life in general: how many of us truly know what we want? And what is it that we need?

    That’s why yesterday I was asking you to reflect, Krissie, on what your deepest desire is. So many of us pay lip service to a dream but don’t really go after it. And when we’re called on it–when people say, “You’re letting fear hold you back,” some of us lash out and say, “No! That’s not true!” and fall back in our chairs weeping and falling apart because we know it IS true, that fear is holding us back.

    But then some of us actually lean forward and say, “Wait. I *thought* I wanted to do that special thing. But the truth is, my heart is really here, after all.” Like Dorothy when she figured out that Kansas was where she really belonged.

    So to keep yourself from being torn in a million directions, I hope you make a big decision sooner rather than later so that all the things that need to be done–as a result of whatever big decision you make–can get done.

    I don’t know what decision is awaiting your answer at the center of who you are. But my overall impression is that a decision needs to be made for you to be at peace and truly tackle the enormous things you have going on in your life. Until you have that *resolve* behind you, you might be spinning your wheels. And you deserve to be in a better place than that!

  3. Naked Under My Clothes says:

    Caveat caveat caveat: Here’s what I see. I’m not advocating anything. Just reflecting.

    An addict is an addict, regardless of use/not use. So yes, it’s not really your business whether he’s using. (Your concerns about his personality are reason enough to allow him the opportunity to find his own solution to where he will live, and it’s not with you.)

    Re: your moving. I’m sceptical of the “geographic cure.” Your issues don’t seem to be with the people in Vermont. They seem to be with the people in your heart, who will be with you wherever you are. Plus, people can likely find a highway.

    Therefore, if your therapist is helpful to you, perhaps staying put for X period of time (a real commitment), during which you focus on your own behavior and don’t revisit the question of “should I move?”, might be useful.

    Then again, traditional wisdom for addicts is that even clean, addicts can’t go back to hanging out in bars with their old buddies. (And kudos to your son for asking you to keep the drugs out of sight — that’s something.) So perhaps, being addicted to people, the best course really *is* to remove yourself physically from your situation.

    And what the hell do I know anyway. I’m the one who emigrated to a new country midlife, dusting off the old life without looking back, and I could not be happier.

  4. I admit, I didn’t quite get why people kept assuming yesterday that he’s using anything. I didn’t get that in your blog and I certainly couldn’t tell that about a person I’ve never met from a thousand miles away.

    Growing up I lived with my grandmother. She was an alcoholic who hopped on and off the wagon with little warning or signs. However, when she was drinking, we knew. Obviously is an understatement.

    I’ve never been to Al-Anon and I was just a kid but I remember hunting down the hidden vermouth and replacing it with water. Confronting her never worked. Bitching and crying never worked. She finally went into rehab and got clean and stayed clean. But not from anything we did for her.

    Now the smoking is a different issue. That one ticked me off because family members would buy her cigarettes. If she’d been smoking a joint now and then, she might have lived longer. It was the freaking legal cigarettes that killed her.

  5. German Chocolate Betty says:

    Ah, Naked, I hear you about the move in mid-life. At the age of 45, a recent widow, I moved across an ocean (with two dogs and a cat!) to begin all over again, leaving behind a stable very well-paying job to start again with a freelance, keep-your-fingers-crossed toehold. I needed the move for a whole lot of reasons. Wasn’t easy, but it worked.

  6. Krissie says:

    OOOh, that’s what I want to talk about tomorrow. Fear. Especially after my wonderful lunch yesterday. Lots of food for thought.

  7. Krissie says:

    Same with my sister. Not the years of alcoholism or cocaine, not the weed that she smoked the night she died (the bong was sitting right there for the police officer to see). It was the years of cigarettes and emphysema (complicated by obesity) that did it. (That’s what on her death certificate. The obesity part hit hard.)

  8. Krissie, it sounds like you’ve thought this through and considered your son from many different perspectives and I think that it’s going to be alright for the short amount of time that your son will be staying with you (short because you all want it to be short). I’m glad you’ve discussed it with your therapist too; mine is always good at bringing my perspective around to something I hadn’t considered, if necessary.

    As far as moving, well, a good therapist is worth her weight in gold. That’s why I’m not seriously considering moving yet. I need mine still. You may need yours. Only you know.

  9. Tricia Halliday says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice for Motherhood to come with a manual to know if you are doing the right thing? I wish you luck.

  10. Krissie, there’s a huge difference, although sometimes a fine line, between providing healthy support and enabling.

    If you, Richie and Tim have a short term emotional contract that allows Tim to live with you for a set time limit while he transitions back to the area, that’s support. If the agreement includes that permission to stay is contingent on him remaining in recovery by not using and that he does not engage in his other diseased behavior — rages, etc., that too is supportive.

    If he comes back, starts using, takes out his emotional trauma on you and Richie or even subjects you to it with his temper and you do not stick to the agreement by making him leave, then you’re enabling.

    Aside from Tim and what he does, you also need to look at whether you’re enabling your own issues to continue and to control you to the point that they erode your recovery.

    What types of behavior — either the addict’s or your own reactions — feed into your issues? What undermines your own recovery? If you know these things, see them happening, and see yourself not doing what you need to do to remove yourself from the equation, then you’re enabling your own relapse into co-dependency or food addiction, etc.

    I know I’ve shared here that my mom was an alcoholic. She had many long periods of rehab, recovery and sobriety, and long periods of relapse. It was heartbreaking. However, my degree of co-dependency and how much I allowed her disease to affect me was totally my responsibility. It took a lonnnnnggggg time for me to learn and absorb the lesson.

    Years ago, I wanted to move back to the family home with her. There was plenty of room for me to have my old bedroom, plus a connecting one that I could convert to an office. I was in a dead-end job and wanted to do freelance work while I tried to improve my fiction writing. Mom and I were very close anyway. Lots of love. She was getting older. She’d maintained a fairly strong sobriety for several years prior to this. We were both very happy that I was moving home. (It turned out to be a Godsend only 3 1/2 years later when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.)

    Anyway, not long after I moved home, she had a relapse. At the time I was working a strong OA program, so the 12 Step tools were strong. I didn’t fight with her when she’d obviously been drinking, didn’t try to break through her denial, etc. I took the car keys so that she couldn’t risk her life or someone else’s if alcohol-induced poor judgment led her to get behind the wheel. Then I went to bed and left her in the living room.

    The next morning, I very calmly sat down and laid out my boundaries. I said, “Mom, I love you. I believe in your desire to be sober. I’m here to support you, but I won’t enable you. I also won’t let your drinking mess me up. I will move out.”

    It wasn’t a threat or an ultimatum, but a simple statement of healthy boundaries. Handling it this way made a world of difference for me emotionally.

    Fortunately, she wanted to be sober and got back on the wagon. Our talk might have contributed, might not. Ultimately the choice and the necessary actions were hers.

  11. Naked Under My Clothes says:

    Take German chocolate Betty’s, add in a childhood dream, a divorce (subtract the widowhood, that must have been scary, GCB), subtract the animals, and move it north.

    Once I finally listened to what my ex was saying and how he behaved, I knew that going was the right decision. But I was running toward, not away from. And yeah, life is still life, and challenging. I am still here in all my tart procrastinating splendor. Just grateful and happy!

  12. Cindy says:

    This is what I admire about you. You put your big girl panties on everyday, and you tackle the big stuff. You don’t sweep it under the rug, and pretend it’s not there.

  13. hmm, not sure that’s true about people not outlawing McDees, but regardless, I have personal issues with people trying to legislate other people’s addictions. Really it is simply too dumb. It always makes me think of “people in glass houses”. NYC just outlawed sweet drinks over 16 oz.

  14. My only ass-vice is your last sentence, “One day at a time.” this is your journey and you are a grown woman with lots of experience under her belt. A couple of years ago my mother allowed my older brother to move back into her home. He’s in his 60s. It was a huge mistake. Not because he was using again, but because she didn’t realize how angry she is at him for how he treats his three kids. He’d say stuff to her about them and she’d lose her mind. It was crazy.

    He moved out again and they are back on an even footing. She does recognize that her anger at him made her behave in the exact manner to him that she’s angry at him for displaying with and to his kids. Family is crazy making at best.

    Bottom line for me is that I know you know your limits and that you are working on defining new ones, too. It’s all a journey and as we spiral upward, it may appear to others that we are repeating steps, but we aren’t really because we are a new level of that step, challenge or issue.

    Go you!

  15. Lynn says:

    I have no assvice, but I hope for the best for you and your kids. Things can get better, and I really hope for all of your sakes that they do.

    Also, I have no thinking ability because we are having a Murphy’s Law sort of week here, and the in-laws arrive tonight and then my mom is coming over tomorrow for a dinner party, which means I am in frantic “CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!” mode. On the positive side, all the lights in the kitchen went out, which means no one will be able to see how clean it is (or isn’t) in there. Hoorah!

  16. oneoftheotherjennifers says:

    Ass-vice, as requested:

    Just listen to your own feelings. That sounds so sappy, and I am not sappy- really not sappy. But I think usually, we all know what is the best thing to do in various situations. We just need to actually listen to that little voice, instead of shutting it out or rationalizing it away.

    You are a smart woman. You know what would be best for your son, for yourself, for your husband. Do that, whatever it is, no matter how hard it is. When you are doing the right thing, you will be able to tell, no matter how much it hurts.

  17. nor should they. the concept of free will is integral to this country and our fundamental structure. attempting to legislate behavior is a very very dangerous step down a slippery slope.

  18. Yes, this. Also, yes to putting him to work while he’s staying with you. He’s a grown ass man, he can earn his keep. If he whines, sing a few bars of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

  19. ass-vice, maybe. (it all seems so clear when it’s someone else’s life…)

    can your therapist help you and richie work out a written contract for all of you? or a checklist or something? maybe not a defined time period for tim to stay (or maybe that too, i dunno), but a defined set of behaviors – acceptable and not – for the 3 of you to use to exist together?

    in my own life, i know that when i’m near the edge emotionally, my behavior changes in ways that my best friends pick up on. i would wager you aren’t that different. if this goes forward, i would urge a fail-safe of some sort. if jenny or lani (or bff, or richie, or us, or you know, clerk at the grocery) sees the tailspin in you start, they call “STOP” and the situation needs to change. immediately. for your own health, which needs to be your first concern.

    good luck with this.

  20. I wasn’t really advocating they make McD’s illegal, but cigarettes kill and that’s a fact. They’re highly addictive and they don’t just affect the person doing the smoking. That’s my real beef.

    Skipping the unhealthy, special sauce slathered beef is up to individuals. That sweet drink thing is crazy.

  21. romney says:

    I guess there are two things here – using drugs and being a “user” – of people that is. Its the second I worry more about. Even something as positive-looking as asking you to hide your drugs could just end up as a way to shift the control/blame onto you. e.g. if he found them and used them, would it be his fault for using or your fault for not hiding them well enough?

  22. Lulu says:

    It’s so hard, isn’t it, to be the kind of parent _of ourselves_ that we need to be — sometimes it’s even harder than being the kind of parent we want to be for our actual children.

    Good luck, Krissie, with this next round of parenting. You sound centered and conscious of what may come. I wish you strength every day to stay centered and conscious so you can continue to be a good parent to yourself and to your kids!

  23. Sometimes it helps to say it out loud. Sometimes it helps to write it all down. You get to do both here. And you have a record of prior episodes/unhappiness and how you worked through them, and you can go back and reread and see your progress. I have faith in you that you will come to a good understanding that will benifit all.

  24. This is not easy stuff, but you seem to be dealing with it really well. Having a plan is really important – presume you have discussed your boundaries with Ritchie? If your son does move in with you, could you and Ritchie identify some behaviours that are deal-breakers and communicate them to your son?

    Blogging can easily create a false sense of intimacy – none of us, except for Jenny and Lani, could claim to know you very well. But I agree with Kieran that your honesty and willingness to put yourself out there for all to see is what draws me back every day. You do us, your readers, a great favour in letting us give advice. That’s pretty rare in of itself – most people just want to tell you what to do.

    In the end, I, like others, really want you to find and follow the path that is best for you. From where I sit, you are well on your way.

  25. What Kate said. Hell, what everybody said!

    You have to take care of yourself first. (I’m going to blog about that one myself one of these days.)

    *hugs* for being so strong.

  26. Jessie says:

    Despite everything everyone said, you and all the refabbers (we need a new name that is not so close to re flabbers), I keep remembering that Lani and Jenny had to take your cell phone away from you because smart, aware woman or not, you couldn’t deal with your son and daughter in a a smart, aware woman way. How on earth are you going to deal with him with him living in the house and Jenny and Lani are not there to save you?

  27. I heart inkgrrl, too. He’s a grown man. It’s admirable that you want to help him, admirable that you’re not judging and trying to control his addictions, but I hope that while he is there, he has a list of set tasks that he has to do in order to earn his keep.

    All that junk you don’t know what to do with? Let him help sort, haul, etc. He can do that. The progress (or lack of it) will be obvious. It’s not hard labor. You need it. You’re giving him something, he needs to give you something back. If he gripes, tell him that’s the cost of living there, take it or leave it. If he tries to guilt you, don’t let him. YOU are important here, Krissie, and if he sees that and participates, he’ll show he’s growing up.

  28. Jen Wyatt says:

    I have nothing to say about addiction or enabling. The death of Joe South should be a reminder for us all to enjoy every moment and savor every day.
    I’m sending you all big hugs through cyberspace.

  29. Reb says:

    That second-last paragraph, that by letting him live there you’re enabling him, not with drugs but with lifestyle… that’s true. And tough.

    So here’s my bit of assvice for the day: Is he getting any kind of govt income support? If so, charge him board.

  30. Micki says:

    I dunno; I read an article in the New Yorker, and there’s a lot of scientific evidence behind the new law. People don’t like to do stuff. If they have to order two cokes instead of one, they won’t, and it winds up that we have a saner definition of “drink” as a result. It’s not that you CAN’T get a coke — or 32 ounces, or even 64 ounces of coke. It’s that you have to stop and think, “Do I really want four cokes? Maybe I could have one coke and three waters.”

    Could be a slippery slope, but everything is a slippery slope. Look at the slippery slope that led us to huge Cokes being the “small” size . . . .

  31. Kathryn says:

    I didn’t have a chance to go thru’ all the comments on the previous post, but I didn’t get any drug use vibe, either. But, what I did get was your statement:

    “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 he’s going to live with you again. And that anxiety will, once again, become part of your everyday existence.

    The only thing that I’ll call you out on is that old co-dependent subconscious running inner monologue that we don’t even know that we have:

    “Chaos & upheaval is all I’ve ever known, Mom is gone, she took a lot of the chaos & upheaval with her, I’m very uncomfortable, too calm, too calm, where can I find more….aahhh, there he is…”

    If you’re insistent about doing this, I would just ask, for your sake, that firm house-behavior rules are in place. It’s time to explain that Mom just can’t tolerate a lot of emotional chaos anymore. Maybe it’s unfair, coulda/shoulda/woulda, but Mom & Dad are getting up there in years, we don’t like a lot of yelling. You yell, you stomp around, you gotta go.

  32. Kathleen G. S. says:

    I’d suggest also making some very clear rules about when he can use your car. It’s so frustrating to be stuck at home all day because you’ve let someone take your car.

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