I often ask myself, as Alice did when she took her trip to Wonderland, “What’s a nice kid like me, doing in a place like this?”
My journey begins as many do. I believed I could handle anything or…anyone. Like the enabler that I am, I decided, in two weeks, to adopt a child. I didn’t think about how I never wanted kids, or liked being single or that I knew little of children and less about parenting. I saw a kid in trouble that needed help. I charged full speed ahead. In three weeks I had a seven year old in my house. Like Alice who jumped down the rabbit hole chasing the White Rabbit, I jumped to follow my impulse to rescue and control – both Alice and I failed to consider how we were going to get out of the hole.
I spent the next few years telling everyone what a great person I was, adopting a child who had been in seven homes before mine…how I sacrificed everything, spent thousands of dollars and endless hours on neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, testing, hospitals, toys and vacations. In time, I became exhausted, disheartened, and depressed, but that did not stop me. Alice and I were both chasing the White Rabbit. “It was out of reach, but in sight”. I just don’t give up. I believed I had all the answers and the strength to persevere when lesser people would give up – surely I could fix this one child! After all, so many “out of the way things had already happened, that Alice (and I) began to think few things were impossible.”
As time went by outside world began to crash in on me. Everyone began to criticize my enormous humanitarian efforts. I thought it “Curiouser and Curiouser”. The school system labeled him emotionally and behaviorally disabled. I thought: if only you educators would stop whining about him and work harder, surely he could change. Soon, I became fed up with the school system.
The social workers and psychiatrists weren’t much better. Their labels included ADHD, ODD, PTSS, Attachment Disorder, OCD, and Sleep Disorder. Are there any more I wondered? thought: if you could stop and think of the right medication and therapy rather than changing them with the season; he would improve. I became fed up with them too.
I was fed up with the schools, the professionals, the neighborhood kids he couldn’t get along with, my family who tried to discipline him while criticizing me; with the neighbors’ complaints and the police department who arrested him monthly. It started with his making a harassing call (duh…caller ID?) and continued with arrests until finally …DUI.
I was not about to take all this. Clearly they could not see this was a child damaged from early childhood. They did not peer through the looking glass and see through a lens covered with hopes, dreams, illusion and denial. Where was that Cheshire Cat who I could ask: ‘Would you tell me please which way I ought to walk from here” to which the Cheshire Cat replied: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
I decided again to take charge. I intended to lay down the law, get tough, and get results.
- I raged at him constantly about everything.
- I yelled and yelled and yelled louder.
- I yelled morning, noon and night.
- I woke up yelling and I went to bed yelling.
- I wanted him to hear me.
The year went by and other than an occasional sore throat, nothing happened. I wasn’t the same person, but like Alice I asked myself. “But if I am not the same-who am I?”
I was exhausted. There were no more tricks in my bag, nothing up my sleeve except for my arm. I began the next phase of enabling…I screwed up my life. I quit my job. Too tired to go on anymore, I started my own business. Unfortunately, I didn’t quit my role as an enabler and took on the worst business partner in history. She had no job, no money, a long history of living off others; but I overlooked all of this.
We spent a year developing my idea. She spent the year spending my money on attorneys to be assured her fair share. This sounds really terrible; I was relieved when her mother was taken ill and she had to leave; it was the best thing that could have happened or I’d still be trying to make her into the kind of business partner I wanted. After all, I never give up.
Exhausted from failing to raise a decent kid and failing to establish a viable business, I watched my bank account disappear. I spent my retirement money, took home equity loans, started a job hunt and put my house on the market – then the economy went south
My kid was in court once or twice a month. Then a few days in jail once, then back again. His drinking parties were nightly. I began to cry almost every day. Alice said: “I wish I hadn’t cried so much. I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears.”
Nothing worked. Not the parenting, the business, the job hunt, the house sale. When the caterpillar asked Alice “who are you?” she said; “I hardly know sir, just at the present – at least I knew who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.”
I reached my bottom. I was not going to fix this kid; I had screwed up my own life and was dysfunctional. I thought of Al-Anon; just looked it up and went to a meeting, hoping to find a way to get him to stop drinking and become responsible. I don’t know what I was looking for except answers and relief.
At first, I couldn’t connect with anyone there. I was numb and disillusioned. But I kept coming back. I saw some of the other member’s lives changing. I listened and after a year, started chairing meetings. I began to speak on the steps, then on topics. I volunteered to speak at an open AA meeting and work at District Assembly.
What will become of my son, I wonder? Will he die a homeless drunk or kill someone or himself in a car accident? Will he go to rehab – get sober and realize he cannot ever drink again?
I don’t know.
What has become of me?
The Mock turtle said “Why if a fish came to me and told me he was going on a journey, I should say “with what porpoise?” “Don’t you mean purpose?” asked Alice.
After two years of going to meetings at Al-Anon…. I’ve learned my purpose is me.
I’ve stopped yelling. I’m learning to detach. I’ve stopped seeking out professionals. I’ve turned it over to my higher power. I’ve stopped trying to protect my kid from himself. I’ve started to trust that we both have our own paths in life…one full of Mad Hatters and the Queen of Hearts, but we each have to get through life in our own way and time.
I’ve learned my lesson. The Gryphon said: “That’s the reason they’re called lessons because they lessen from day to day.” In looking at my life, the stress has lessened as I continue to learn my lessons, one day at a time, in Al-Anon.
That’s my story. I don’t know how it will end. Oftentimes I wish I were the Cheshire Cat just sitting in a tree smiling while I disappear and only my smile remains.