Reader’s Commentary – “Recently, someone wrote you that he’d thought his friend was aloof, never had time for him and avoided him, until he one day confided about his divorce and his children’s problems (November 2).
“I’m also a parent who’s been avoiding friends for 10 years, ever since my child became a drug addict.
“He’s lived in shelters, been in hospital with overdoses several times, and presently lives with someone with the same lifestyle.
“He’s been unable to find/keep a job, lives on disability, and has thousands of dollars of debts.
“He’s severed ties with us except for when he needs money.
“He looks permanently high, dishevelled and homeless, and only socializes with underground characters who’ve beaten, raped, and mugged him.
“This is the tragedy of my life and has ruined my later years.
“Can you see why I’m avoiding my friends, particularly those who know my son?
“The first question people ask (out of interest, I’m sure) is, “How are your children?”
“It feels as if someone’s driving a knife into me and twisting it.
“I’ve tried to answer “fine” and change the subject, but they want details. I’ve tried, “I don’t want to discuss this,” and they look bewildered.
“I’ve also lied (i.e. “he works at a bank”) but I’m unconvincing (someone commented “you sound disappointed...”) or they want more details.
“How am I supposed to feel when these friends tell me how wonderfully their children are doing?
“How should I answer the hated question, “How are your children?”
“All of you happy parents with your successful children, please don’t ask others “how are your children?” and don’t brag about your own.
“Please consider that other people’s children may not be doing well, and consider too, the pain that you’re going to inflict by asking this question.
“If other’s children are also doing well, they’d volunteer this information on their own.
“These are the many sad lessons I’ve learned.
“Counselling didn’t help me. I’ve occasionally confided in friends, psychologists, doctors and family (it’s so obvious, the whole extended family knows).
“But confiding didn’t help either.”
Mother in Pain
I’m truly sorry for your pain, and certain that many readers will feel similarly.
Every parent knows they could one day be only a phone call away from tragedy.
Those who haven’t walked in your shoes can’t change the situation, so in that sense can’t “help.”
But you are a person as well as that sick young man’s mother. You need to know that people care about YOU.
It’s called support. It doesn’t change the tough facts but it keeps you in the brave world of people working through their lives by staying strong.
Support means knowing that you CAN confide sometimes, even if it only releases stress for that time period.
You can share a meal, a movie, a conversation, by saying simply that your son’s living in a personal hell, and thanks for asking but there’s nothing more to discuss.
Also, good friends and counsellors too sometimes have important information – e.g. a rehabilitation program that’s been effective in some cases, a treatment program or medication for addicts that’s a new approach, etc.
Professionals and caring people want to be helpful, not pick your bones.
Do not close all the doors behind you.
Visit a support group for parents and relatives of drug addicts, who’ve experienced this same tragedy and developed various coping means.
Find periods of self-sustenance, and confidence that you’re doing the best you can.
FEEDBACK Regarding a column about a difficult mother-in-law and the writer’s desire to “withdraw” from her (June 14):
Reader – “I see many similarities with my own mother in terms of obsessiveness, compulsion, cognitive triggers and, yes, nastiness, and vindictiveness towards family.
Stubbornness is there, too.
“In retrospect, I now see that, in my mother’s case, these were early warning signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s.
“Responding with punishment, pointing out the person’s anti-social behaviour, or using “stick-and-carrot” tactics don’t register with this type of behaviour.
“Eventually, I wrote a stern letter to my mother pointing out her shortcomings and thoughtlessness towards others.
“But I soon realised that it simply didn’t register with her and no emotions emerged.
“She was (mentally) on “another planet,” although capable in many other ways.”
Ellie – Dementia and Alzheimer’s usually present through increasing impairment.
That’s why it’s easy to miss recognizing the deteriorating mental health condition and need for understanding, with people who were already difficult.
Tip of the day:
Hiding from people who care about you leaves you suffering a tragedy alone.