I almost hit the wall today. I have to keep in my mind at all times that co-parenting with an alcoholic means never using the word "when" to your child, but "if." That you must always have a backup plan. That your child will suffer disappointments more frequently than most. That he will have anger and other issues that will have to be addressed. That you will be called upon to parent alone most of the time. That you will have to bite your lip and hold your breath and allow the alcoholic time with your child when sober hoping that wellness lasts through the entire visit. That you will not venture far when your child is in the alcoholic's company. That when it goes well you will smile and laugh and talk fondly about the alcoholic for your child's sake when he relates his successful visit. That you will you be there in a moment's notice to rescue him from the chaos when that wellness does not last and the alcoholic gives into his addiction during his parenting time. That you will have to wipe tears of disappointment from your beloved child's face when said parenting time is cut short and all those wonderful plans your child made with the alcoholic are scattered to the wind.
I should know all this by now. I shouldn't let myself be lulled into a false sense of security from a few weeks of months of sobriety. My son has spent several very successful, happy and uneventful weekends with my ex. Spring break is here and he was able and willing to take our son for the entire week. Weeks of tweaking our son's schedule to ensure he was at soccer and catechism and karate took place and those discussions were reasonable and joyful between us. He was sober and had been for some time. Our son was looking forward to it. There were museums to visit and soccer to practice and games to play with his dad.
His dad came to the house Friday morning to pick him up to start vacation. He was on time. He was sober. That afternoon I had a missed call from that house. When I called his grandfather answered, out of breath, said our son had called. There was commotion, his father and grandfather had been arguing, it had gotten slightly physical. My son needed to, wanted to, leave. His father was gone when I picked him up. He was crying, with his head facing the wall so as not to be seen. He said his dad started to seem funny late in the morning and it got worse. He was disappointed and scared. En route I thought fast -- funny what adrenaline will do -- and I already made plans for him to be with my sister her kids for the week, a place our son thinks is heaven on earth. That chased his tears, at least for now.
When we got home he was there. He of course, was the injured party in the situation, the victim, he is so misunderstood. I heard him out, away from our son told him I was sorry but he can't fix this now. He was in tear with the disappointment of it all. He left peacefully enough, though he called later several times, more angry and self-pitying which each call. The botched visit was everybody else's fault.
I plied our son with McDonald's and Star Wars and he went to bed happy.
I spent the night at my sister's after I dropped my son off there, for the change of scenery, and a sympathetic ear.
When I drove home this morning, that's when it hit. Self-pity. I was really feeling sorry for myself and my situation. I was hurt that my son has to go through this. I felt sorry for myself that I can't rely on my ex to be well enough to take his son during scheduled time. Summer is coming up and the camp in my neighborhood I can afford, my son hates and refuses to go. My sister's husband will be recovering from heart surgery this summer so I can't ask them to take him. What if the scholarship for the Y summer camp doesn't go through? Where does he go and what do I do? I have limited funds and vacation time. That got me thinking about my situation. I am in a job , yes in my chosen journalism profession, and yet pays bad enough that my son qualifies for free lunch and medicare. I have been looking for another job since I got hired and have yet to get more than one interview. My profession's stock has gone down significantly while it tries to find its footing with "new" media. I have no insurance for myself. I'm paying off a mortgage on a house bought on top of the real estate bubble. It's worth less than my outstanding loan by half, which means I'm pretty much paying rent for 25 more years. My son is getting in trouble in school for fighting and angry outbursts and I'm worried about him. And I'm lonely, at least sometimes. I'm not young anymore and its hard to meet -- or want to meet -- new people that would want to even try to fit themselves into my chaotic life. In other words, my mind traveled down a very hopeless and dark path.
So I'm driving home and listening to Bruce Springsteen try to cheer some aging woman up on the radio -- but not this aging woman -- and I hit....the...wall. I pulled over into a cornfield and crumpled. I was tired of slugging it out every day and getting up every morning and doing it all over again. I give!
I gave in to that for awhile and thought to myself that if I lost myself, if I forgot who I was and what I was about and just gave up what that would mean. How desperately my son needs me. So I wiped the tears. Started the car, drove out of cornfield to slug it out for another day. And will do so tomorrow too and the next day and the next.