So my therapist had surgery going on three months ago; everything went well but she’s still recuperating. Consequently, here I sit, still simmering with my mother issues. I haven’t seen or talked to her in almost two months. This is mostly on purpose. I hear enough from my sisters (who are, I’m embarrassed to say, much more involved in her daily care and feeding than I am) to know that I’m much happier staying away. She’s not a gun enthusiast but she subscribes to just about every other opinion Rush and his ilk do. It’s highly probable that her rhetoric will only ratchet up the closer we get to the next presidential election.
And you can include me out of any conversations about politics with her.
But even though I’m at the other end of the spectrum, politics-wise, and have made many of my life’s decisions in diametrical opposition to the ones she made, there’s one area in which I am, ironically, forever grateful for the way I was raised.
So, in the absence of my astute counselor, I’ve been talking to my husband even more than usual. Recently, we were talking about a dark time in our family’s life: about 7 or 8 years ago, when our two daughters were heroin addicts. As you might imagine, we had zero experience with heroin prior to their addiction. For a long time, we had no idea what we were dealing with. I mean, seriously – how many people know what a heroin addict looks or acts like, under the influence? Or the pathology of addiction and how it impacts a family? I swear, we could write a book now, but back then….. We had no friggin’ clue.
All we knew was that neither one of them could hold a job or pay their bills or talk on the phone in the same room we were in. There was the overwhelming feeling that we were being flim-flammed and manipulated on a daily basis. They always needed money and were constantly wheedling and fast-talking. They were only pleasant to be around when they needed something from us.
It just about killed my sweet husband. He desperately wanted to fix them, fix their problems, make every hardship for them go away. I should mention that his mother, whom I adored, was much the same way. She was only as happy as the unhappiest of her children. She would do anything in her power to fix any problem her children were dealing with, even if it was of their own creation.
Which I now know was world-class codependency.
My parents could not have been more different. Their philosophy was, “Here are the rules. Don’t like ’em? There’s the door.” It was all about crime and punishment, behavior and consequence. No discussion. No compromise. Done. We each left their house between the ages of 18 and 21. And nobody was ever welcomed back.
So. When I began to see evidence that our girls’ behavior was becoming detrimental to their father’s health, I got PISSED. There was absolutely no way in hell that those girls were going to shorten my husband’s life. And through a tumultuous confluence of events, we were given the opportunity to get into counseling. My husband was not in favor of it. And I pretty much put my foot down and insisted. Personally, I had reached the point where I was ready to cut them out of our lives until and unless they got clean. And what we learned in therapy together was just that – that we would learn how to be okay, with or without them in our lives. Therapy gave us the tools and strength to change our behavior, which was a key factor in their getting and staying sober.
Ironically, if not for the authoritarian way I’d been raised – I hate to think how that part of my story would have ended.
So I guess, in a back-handed, roundabout way, my parents – and yes, even my mother – did something I’m truly grateful for.