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Sunday, April 17, 2011
The call came just as I was peeling off my scrubs and running a hot bubble bath. Fortunately, I had a drink in my hand, and there were no cigarettes in the house.
“Mama? I have news that is sort of bad and sort of good. I could lie to you and pretend nothing happened, but I have to be honest with you. Mama, you are all I have left in the world. I relapsed on Tuesday and got stoned on a handful of pills.”
“Oh, Parrish, I sighed. Are you still using or was it a one night thing?”
“It was a one night thing and I am back in outpatient rehab. I can’t come to Atlanta this weekend. My doctor says I should not be around you right now. I hope you don't see this as rejection. It’s me, for once, doing the right thing. Please don’t think I don’t love you.”
I have known for years that I am not good for Parrish. A painful truth, for sure, but in my own therapy, I have learned that it is so. He has an enormous amount guilt and shame about the way he acted over the years, and being around me, especially here at my little cottage, boils those feelings to the surface. We do better on neutral ground, but it is still a struggle for him, making him manic and bringing out his schizoid characteristics. When he was here in December, he was as manic as I have ever seen him, perseverating and inappropriate and unable to sleep and having the occasional hallucination. We were both miserable. My emotional energy was nil by the time he left, and he was just this side of blubbering.
“Aren’t you proud of me for doing the right thing? Don’t you think I’m taking responsibility for my own mistakes and working to clean up the mess I have caused? Please don’t have hurt feelings. I love you more than I can say, but I can’t come to Atlanta this weekend. I’m sorry about the airline ticket. Maybe you can get some credit towards another flight in the future. I hope you’re not disappointed in me. I think I’m doing the right thing, don’t you?”
Manic? He went on in that vein for a few minutes, until I interrupted him to say I was proud of him for owning his mistakes and trying to get back on track. I said not to worry about the plane ticket. I told him to take care of himself, that I was okay, that my feelings were not hurt, that I was very proud of him.
The miserable truth about this thing is that, far from being disappointed, I was relieved. And guilty. And sad. And hurt.
What kind of mother is relieved that she will not have time with her only child? How damaged does a relationship have to be for her to feel that way and say it out loud? I know what my therapist would say. She would say it is healthy to be honest with one’s self, that it is a marker of strength and willingness to own my feelings, no matter how negative they may be. She would be right, I believe, but that knowledge in no way makes this easier.
Parrish is 41 years old, and every year he becomes more childlike and needy. The medications that keep him precariously balanced on a tightrope of semi-sanity are also eating away at his liver, his kidneys. Before his disease finishes ravaging his brain, he will have regressed to the mentality of a preschooler.
He, college educated (BA, History), blessed with an eidetic memory, his good looks now ravaged by homelessness and self-abuse, has the mind of a 12 year old.
And he must start from the beginning - again - to get clean and sober. I am not so naive as to believe that Parrish slipped only once. Lately, he has not sounded sober, and when I have questioned him, he has blown it off as side effects from his medicine. Maybe this rehab experience will be the one that works - for good.
I don’t really believe it will, though. I’ve been down this road before.
© cj Schlottman