A pair of ladies’ slippers. Beige, with fleece linings. This is a memory, sometimes sad and sometimes almost funny, that I shall have all my life. I was attending a Nar-Anon meeting. We had just paused for tea, and I was making my way through the adjacent hall, where N.A. was having their meeting, trying to find a toilet. There he was!
Lanky hair, skin like leather from many months’ exposure to the elements, layers of ragged clothing and those slippers on his feet! My son, my hobo, my darling sensitive, talented, softly spoken son, with his expressive eyes and gentle smile – only now the smile revealed a few stumps of badly rotted teeth. I don’t know what or who brought him to this particular N.A. meeting. I had not seen him for a long, long time. I was just so grateful at the thought that maybe my prayers for him had been answered.
After our embrace (he smelled very badly) I asked if he would come into my meeting for just one minute, so that I could share my joy with my fellow “Nar-Anon’ers”. He said “Mom, I look bad. Surely you would be ashamed of me”. I answered that I was very proud, and overjoyed to share with these caring people with similar problems, that my boy had at last found his way to an N.A. meeting. He put his head round the door, I introduced him, and my friends all clapped and welcomed him.
He came to meetings for quite a few weeks after that first time. Each week he brought with him a tiny posy of flowers, picked from the side of the road, tied with a bit of string. I came to my meetings with my little posy and a smile which I just could not wipe from my face. Sometimes after the meeting, he would join my group, and we would go somewhere for coffee. No-one minded. No-one objected to his rags or his smell. No-one judged him. I always ordered him a burger and chips, which he wolfed down eagerly, knowing that it would probably be his only meal for a few days.
One of our members, a man who had been particularly kind and helpful to me during my low times, saw this happiness of mine, and these little posies of flowers. All he said to me was “Enjoy this time, but BANK it. That way, you will always have it “. I can honestly say that I did not know what he meant.
I do now. Suddenly, one week, my son was not there. A relapse had taken him back to the streets. Back to his home under a bridge. Back to scratching in garbage bins or scrounging at the back doors of restaurants like a dog. Back to endlessly walking, walking, with no destination in mind, just walking through the soles of those slippers, and through the soles of his feet.
Of course I had been through all this many times before. But this time was different. This time I had Nar-Anon. I had, and still have the program, the steps, the slogans, all these wonderful tools I have learned to use – to pull me through bad times, and to take my life back.
Over the last years, I have become empowered by our fellowship and all it offers, and my caring friends I have made, who truly understand what it is like to live with an addict – and to live without one.
I now have regular conversations with my Higher Power. I share with Him my joys and my woes. I ask for His guidance and strength. I also ask – just ask – if, maybe that is what He has in mind for my son – that He would lead him back to the rooms. I like to think that somehow in his mind, my boy will have stored that small seed that is possible recovery within the fellowship, and that he will seek it out again. Above all, I am grateful for the short period in my child’s life when he was clean, and hope there will be more of these times.
Meantime, I work on “me”. I try to learn something every day by reading all the literature I can get my hands on. I attend as many meetings as I can. I try to give back some of the wonderful support and understanding I have received from people in my group.
I have let go the guilt, which I now know was not mine to bear.
The shame I was convinced was mine and my addict’s no longer haunt me.
One day at a time, I try to be happy.