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All I Want For Christmas Is My Son

There is always a week or two a year that I consider myself useless.  Everything I have worked so hard at and know to be true about myself is gone.  I forget it.  I forget how hard I’ve worked for the last six years.  I disregard the giving person I’ve become.  I cancel out every step I’ve taken in recovery.  I punish myself.

My husband and I have three children.  We are a family.  But our oldest has other parents too.  His biological father and stepmom live many states away.  He doesn’t see them often, but they are his family too.  As much as I absolutely hate to admit this…I wish that weren’t true.  Not because they suck.  Not because I hate them.
It’s because my son has to spend all of Christmas with them this year.  
I devote so much to him.  That’s because of the guilt.  My oldest son is the one who has seen me in my addiction.  He’s known me high, and drunk, and exhausted.  I left him to go to rehab.  I talk a pretty good game…boy do I talk a pretty good game.  But even after six years, six fucking years…I STILL haven’t forgiven myself for all of that.  I have become a really beautiful person, a person I would want to be friends with.  And yet, this week…the week before my son has to leave, I hate myself.  I hate that because two people got divorced, that a little boy has to deal with those consequences.  So, I do everything I possibly can to take on any of his stress.  I would wear it like a sign if I could.  I create a force field surrounding him.  Anything negative that hits it should have a funnel directly to me. I feel like I deserve it.  
I am always on edge before he leaves.  I never show him or tell him that.  He can’t know.  Any time I’m choking back tears this week, I don’t look at him.   When he asks a question while I’m having a tough moment I take a deep breath, clear my throat, put on my prettiest smile, look up, and move on.

I hold him tight the night before he leaves.  We usually have a good talk.  My pretty smile is out.  I let him know I’m going to miss him.  I just try not to overdo it.  We enthusiastically talk about what an AMAZING time he is going to have while he’s away.  He deserves that from me.  He deserves to hear me be happy for him.   He deserves to know that it is okay for him to be happy with his other family.  He deserves to have me calm any insecurity he has about missing  his brother and sister over Christmas…all while negative, anxious, and fearful thoughts get funneled to me.

When I finally have to say goodbye, I will struggle.  It will take everything I have not to sob and finally tell him how badly I want him to stay. “Please, don’t GO!  I want you to stay.  Please, please, stay here with us…with me.  I don’t want you to leave.  It’s never the same without you!”  Those words will want to come out, but I will never let them.  I will keep that pain in.  I will look at his beautifully innocent face and put on that smile.  He will know I am a little sad because that is the only moment I can’t fully fight the tears but, I don’t let them leave my eyes.   I look at him with complete conviction and a quivering lip (I will be completely pissed I can’t control that). “I love you and will miss you so much.  You will have a blast!!”  I keep my smile.  I know he knows I’m sad, but he has no idea how much.  Not until he disappears do I turn away and finally allow myself to let go.

This is my punishment.  It’s the reminder for what I did to him.   Every time he has to leave, I feel like God is trying to tell me that this is how it felt for my son when I left him.  Like, maybe he’s making sure I never forget so I don’t put my other two children through it. Yet, I recognize how selfish it is for me to think this is about ME.  It’s not about me!  It’s about him!  I’ve never wanted to write about this before or talk about it, because I hate that I still have this hovering.   It will all happen again the next time he has to leave and I will almost welcome it as my punishment.  And if I don’t fucking stop this, it might be the thing that rips me out of recovery.  I want to let this one thing go but, I just don’t know how.  I just don’t know how or if I can or, even scarier…if I want to and deserve to let it go.

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  1. Lauren,

    This post hits home with me. I still have that guilt tucked away too. I still take it out every so often and use it to try to erase all the good things I’ve done in sobriety. Those months I was away from my daughter haunt me every time I see her making a bad decision. Did I cause that in her? Is it because of me? If I’d been a better mother to her those first years or gotten sober sooner would her life be easier today? I play the tape over and over and then at some point I hand it off to God. I truly believe that He has a plan for her and that she’s always been taken care of. Whatever has happened in her life has made her the strong woman she is today and BECA– USE I’m sober today I can help her through whatever comes down the pike. Being without our kids for the holidays sucks and I hear you there. What a strong person you are to not pull him back. That’s a wonderful sign of an amazing mother. Thank you so much for writing this. It is my hope that we can support each other through the shitty “mom guilt” and remind each other of how much we’ve grown. XOXO

  2. Lauren-
    Thank you for sharing this post with us. I could relate in so many ways. I’m an alcoholic. I have three boys. And now I am divorced. However, if I didn’t have my sobriety, I would have nothing. The holidays bring up memories of the past – this time of year is intertwined with nostalgia and dwelling on the past is dangerous for us. Today we are able to be honest, nurturing, compassionate moms because we took time away from our children to work on ourselves and get sober. The positive ripple effects of our sobriety will last well past the time we leave this earth. Our addiction is not a moral failing. You were not selfish in leaving your son in order to get help. You were finally being responsible.

  3. My mom guilt tears me apart quite often , I dont have 6 years clean just 2 but I spent for horrible years back and forth trying to get sober . My older girls there 13, 9, and 7 well even my 3 year old they saw me drunk they saw me angry they saw me leave. I’d love to not care and start fresh but there are days my 7 year old will say things to me because she still angry she doesnt understand she just knows I was gone , I forgot , I was an angry person , the tape I play back makes me feel horrible .when my 3 year old tells me mom I was grammars baby but shes not she wasnt , but my mother in law took care of her that whole first year. That mom guilt cant be released or forgotten but theres always today. Thank you gosh u made me really tear up because were sober moms were good people where there but theres always thst mom guilt right behind it

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