birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

I Misunderstood Addiction

I thought that if you were a reasonably responsible parent who created an art table with a ready supply of paints, brushes, markers, play-dough, paper, and tape to hang the masterpieces, then addiction would not come calling.

I misunderstood addiction.

I thought that our own resident family addict, Uncle Jimmy, would be a kind of teflon or insulation against addiction in the children. Uncle Jimmy had everything - brains, talents, kindness - and he lost it all. The kids saw it happen. Nobody in their right minds would choose Uncle Jimmy's choices when he had so much good going for him. And they saw us try again and again with him, rooting for him and setting boundaries too.

I misunderstood addiction.

I misunderstood the situation when the interventionist/counselor looked at my husband and said, "Yes, but how are YOU doing? I'm concerned about YOU."

And I thought - "Why are you asking my husband that?" That is the dumbest question - yeah it's hard but we're the parents - parents have to deal with shit and it'll get better.

Then the interventionist/counselor looked at me and said pretty much the same thing. "How are YOU doing?"

Again with that?

I misunderstood the question.

I thought it was a ridiculous question.

How were WE doing? How in the world could that possibly matter when our child - fine - our adult child - our only son needed saving right this second?

I completely misunderstood addiction.

I didn't understand that addiction doesn't give a shit.

Addiction is black ooze.

Addiction is bottom after bottom after bottom followed by trap doors.

I misunderstood it.

I thought we were different. Back then, when we finally faced reality and tried to help our boy, I thought we could weather this thing called addiction within a month or two, and things would get back to normal.

I misunderstood that the disease would threaten to become our entire lives and that we would have to learn how to somehow reclaim our lives even with the unknowing, even with the monster lurking.

I misunderstood that people would judge.

I misunderstood that people would offer advice or ask questions - sometimes offering the same advice or questions over and over and over.

But I did not misunderstand it when one friend said, "My mother knew my brother was hurt. She could feel it in her bones and she went to him and found him and she saved his life. It's a mother's instinct to save her son."

So I did not misunderstand this well-meaning, clueless friend.

I didn't misunderstand that she was insinuating that my motherly instinct was out of whack, and so I told this well-meaning friend, who is not a mother, that I never EVER wanted to discuss my son with her again - that she did not know the late nights or rescue attempts or rehabs or promises broken or wrecked cars or police waking him up to escort him off the property or finding the tree where he slept for a time or the arrests or restraining orders or being screamed at in a car or in a house or sitting in the welfare office or riding the bus because you're afraid to get in a car with him or the therapist's office or the worst of all - the silence of not knowing and the fear of waiting for the phone to ring or a knock at the door...

This well-meaning friend did not understand that if I had any fucking power over the disease wouldn't I have tried?

Wouldn't I have tried?

After I explained this to her she did not misunderstand me again.


But way back when, I misunderstood the art table and its lack of power and protection.

So nowadays I try not misunderstand things so much. I try not to have any expectations, good or bad, so there won't be any misunderstandings.

But sometimes things blindside you anyway.