It seems Mother’s Day is coming up (leastwise, here in the States it is). I happened upon something talking about children whose mothers are not there for them, whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. and what this day means for them. The story hit me really hard because it took me back five years to when my kids could be classified as motherless due to my addiction.
There’s this scene in the movie Trainspotting when they all kind of realize that this woman has been screaming after she found her baby dead in its crib. Renton says they had no idea how long she had been screaming – she could have been screaming for days for all he knew, but they were just so nodded off that it didn’t register. That’s kind of how I remember things from May 2007 to June 2008. I was conscious of everything that happened, but nothing fully sunk in – emotions didn’t register at all until much later. In that way, the specifics get a little screwy. I don’t precisely remember Mother’s Day 2008, but I remember the emotions surrounding it.
Those last two months of my addiction were simply atrocious. I had been on a pretty steady decline over the past couple of years, but shortly after I got remarried, my descent became much more rapid and I hit one outrageous low after another before skidding to rest on the eve of July 3rd. It was not long after Mother’s Day that year that my ex sent me the text message telling me he was moving the kids halfway across the country from me. He had many other reasons to leave – the divorce had hurt him in many ways, as well, and he had suffered his own consequences – but he did not want the kids to have to watch me die.
I knew things had gotten really bad and thought if I could only get away from Bobby, I could get clean. My ex went out of town on business and I convinced him to let me stay at his house with the kids. He feared for my life at that time and didn’t trust me in the slightest, but I told him I needed to get away from Bobby so I could clean up. I could have passed a lie detector test when I told him that. That first night, though, I caved and let Bobby come stay with me. When my ex came back to find his house in such a state, with stories from the kids… well, what little trust he had left was obviously shattered.
I found out later that he had begun works on legal action to protect the kids from me during this time. The closest I came to knowing about that happened one day when I went to pick up the kids from daycare. This was a more sober time, and my ex and I were on speaking terms. I walked up to the door to punch in my code and it wouldn’t work. Again, I tried it and it still wouldn’t work. Another mother pulled up, entered her code & I followed her in and inquired at the desk as to why my code wasn’t working. My ex had had them deactivate it for fear that I would come and take the kids for some nefarious purpose.
This was one of those moments of clarity that happen in addiction. Not the good ones which happen in recovery – “A-ha! I see everything so clearly!” No, this was one of those moments where time stops and all of a sudden you see yourself from the outside and say, “Holy shit, how did I get here?” Just a year prior, I was a stay-at-home mother and now here I’ve got strangers telling me I can’t even pick up my own children without their father’s say-so. Even today, five years later, this still hits me like a battering ram to the gut. But it was a game-changer. Even though I continued to get worse over the next month, I knew my kids weren’t mine anymore and if I didn’t keep cool around them I’d never see them again. With only a couple of weeks before they moved away, I did what I could in my limited capacity to make their last memories of me positive ones.
I only saw my kids twice over the next year and went for as much as two months at a time without even being allowed to speak to them on the phone. Even at the time, I knew it was for the best. I needed the time to work on my recovery and they were safe with their dad and stepmom and their new baby sister. For all intents and purposes, my kids did not know me as their mother and I lived as if I had no children over that next year. I honestly didn’t believe I’d get them back. I thought it would be a miracle if they didn’t hate me forever.
Which brings us back to Mother’s Day.
I don’t really have any recollection of Mother’s Day 2008 (in fairness, it has been five years), so I can’t remember my thoughts exactly upon receiving the gifts my children made for me at daycare. Munchie’s present was this ceramic heart he had splatter-painted in my favorite colors: green & blue. Wee’s was a locket with a picture of her inside. My poor baby girl – the picture was about a year old, she still had her hair all spikey short from when Munch chopped it all off and she’s sucking on her fingers with a look in her eyes that says, “back off.” She was always a serious little one – so different from the joie de vivre characteristic in her today. That locket intimidated me, and still does. I hate to remember how sad and angry she used to be.
Wee was three when they moved away, and Munch was five. Today, she doesn’t really remember anything from before they left, which is a blessing. Munchie does have some memories, though they’re a little convoluted. When he first saw that I was using the heart he made me as a spoon rest (two or three years later), he was just elated. He remembered making it in daycare – he remembered he had made it specifically for me with my favorite colors – he remembered that whole day, putting the hearts in the kiln & everything. And I will never forget the excitement and the adoration in his face as he told me the whole story and realized that I loved him just as much as he loved me because I held onto this last thing he made me and looked at it every day while he was gone.
It is so terrible what addiction does to people. My kids are awesome now, but they’ve had to deal with a lot of hurts and insecurities. They know I love the daylights out of them, but there were times when they didn’t. For Munch, he got his own moment of clarity when he saw me using the heart he made for me. The love he received in that moment seemed to have made up for the motherless Mother’s Days he endured. And I pray he never has to endure another motherless Mother’s Day so long as I live.
*I’ve opted to use nicknames for folks here, since it’s more public.