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Through all the turmoil of the season, Linda Clare warms our heart with hope. I needed it badly, and I am sure some of you do to. Thank you Linda.
See the Face of Jesus
Linda S. Clare
Christmas Day, I was anxious for a last-minute package to arrive. As I scanned the street for the UPS truck, Jesus came home drunk. Well, not the Lord Himself, but the Face of Jesus, the one we’re urged to see in every person we meet. Standing swaying in the doorway, the Son, OK, my son John, was pretty wasted. “Merry Christmas, Mom,” he said or tried to say as he swept me into a boozy embrace. “I love you.”
It was hard to talk while holding my nose against beery breath. “I love you too.” I meant it, but my voice hitched and tears stabbed at my eyes. To fight my urge to sob, I lit the fires of anger. How could he hurt his mother this way? Selfish idiot, he was ruining the holiday—again! That screw-up, always thinking only of himself! How could he?
I couldn’t bear to look this Face of Jesus in the eyes.
John staggered over to the sofa. I drowned my hopes for a merry and bright season and instead stewed in frustration. Like mothers of addicts everywhere, I grieved for my son and his disease. I begged God for mercy and hoped no one asked me how my holiday went. I cooked the darned ham, decorated the cookies and cleaned up the wrapping paper—I had all the motions down pat. The one thing I didn’t have was hope.
It took another face of Jesus to deliver me out of despair.
This is how Moms of Addicts do holidays: if we are in touch with our sons or daughters, we hold our collective breath hopinghopinghoping they’ll make it through without a catastrophe. If our addicts aren’t in our lives, we give thanks that God watches out for them. And if they’ve passed, we mourn in a thousand ways. Moms of Addicts are in a giant club we never wanted to join, and as the holidays descend, we brace ourselves for pain but try to find a reason to smile.
My love for the Son is supposed to be brighter than all my earthly relationships, and I do celebrate the reason for the season: Jesus’ birth. But, doggone it, I’m a mom, too. A mom of three addicted adult sons, two alcoholics and one meth addict. My love for them defies logic and often sweeps me into a chasm of enabling and despair. Especially during the holidays.
That’s when manipulation gets wrapped in pretty please and enablers like me fall hard. Even those without addiction issues make exceptions. “Oh, it’s Christmas,” we all tend to say and excuse actions and words that might not get a pass any other time of year. I might slip the alcoholic a few extra dollars, knowing full well what it will be used to buy. I might forget that gift cards are easily exchanged for dope. Or I might rationalize my hurt feelings when one or the other of my four adult children disappoints or takes advantage. When it comes to Yuletide enabling, I am a champion.
And most Christmases, my middle son, whom I’ll call Henry, skews our Perfect Clare Family picture into a wreck of dashed expectations. He’s been addicted to meth for years, and in his late thirties, seems its prisoner for life, no possibility for parole. We offer Henry the same sorts of gifts we give our other loved ones, and it has hurt to see him either too high to show up or else too exhausted to care.
Yet this Christmas, instead of tweaking his butt off, sleeping forever or disappearing, he was sober. Sober. It was the best Christmas gift ever, seeing him smile and act normal. He wasn’t in jail or out there somewhere in the cold or skulking around like a methspook. He was the boy I remembered, all handsome and grinning, those green eyes still fringed with lush dark lashes.
I laughed out loud at the joy of it. And steeled my tender feelings against the probability that it wouldn’t last.
All day long, he chatted with family members as if he had never even heard of the awful drug meth. He helped John sober up a little, feeding him (alcoholics often refuse to eat until they are wasted) and speaking to him in love. As I scurried around with the cooking and cleaning tasks, he kept his sloshed bro away from additional spirits and listened patiently as John poured out his heart.
Before the sun dipped and I served Christmas dinner, the unmistakable diesel rattle of a UPS truck stopped in front of our house. I went out to get the awaited package. When I came back in, Jesus aka Henry was just pulling a blanket over a now slumbering Jesus aka John. Henry covered his brother with the tenderness of a father toward his newborn son. This time, my tears flowed in thanksgiving.
Christmas with addicts in the family comes loaded with expectations, but love always rises. Love always wins. You never know where you’ll see the Face of Jesus, or in whom.
I opened the UPS package. It overflowed with fresh hope.