Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Facebook Conversation That Tugged at My Heart


It's an emotion that any imperfect human being feels from time to time. You first experienced it as a child, maybe after you accidentally broke something and didn't come clean about it with your mom or dad. Or when you were told you could have two cookies, but you took three anyway.

You screw up, you feel guilty. It's human nature. But if you grow up to be the parent of a child afflicted with addiction, at some point you'll likely feel guilt like you've never felt it before. In fact, the guilt can overtake you and be downright crippling.

I've written about guilt before. In a blog post from February of 2011, I wrote:

"Guilt eats me up inside on a regular basis. Usually the guilt is associated with the feeling that I'm somehow responsible for how my son is. That he's a severely depressed addict because of something I did or didn't do as a parent, or because of my genes. I know I shouldn't feel guilty. I've had professionals tell me that, have heard it in meetings, and have read it umpteen times. If it were my brother or sister or neighbor or mother or father or friend or wife who was a severely depressed addict, I don't think I'd feel this guilt. But as a parent, it's hard not to feel guilty. At least it is for me."

It took a lot of years, but I finally got over the constant guilt I used to feel. I'd like to say I've gotten over all of the guilt I've felt over the years, but I'd be lying if I did. The truth is, guilt sneaks up behind me, out of the blue, and bites me in the ass every once in a while. Not necessarily guilt about being responsible for my son's depression and addiction, but guilt about how I handled things.

Which brings me (finally) to the subject of this blog: a Facebook Messenger conversation I had with my son yesterday afternoon. The conversation was about a new TV he and his girlfriend just bought for their new apartment. But all of a sudden, I felt compelled to write:

"Sorry for yelling at you over the years. I was wrong. Just want you to know that." 

Now, I've apologized to my son many times over the last few years. But, like I said, sometimes the guilt emerges out of the blue and I just have to deal with it. Yesterday, while my son and I were discussing a television, was one of those times.

The part of the conversation that tugged at my heart was my son's reply to my apology:

"Hey. The yelling was well deserved. I was an idiot. Thank you for helping to get me back on track. I love you dad."

When I read that, I smiled. And I teared up. And I thanked my lucky stars that things are how they are today, both in my world and my son's; and, especially, where the two intersect.

While the yelling I subjected my son to may have been deserved, I've come to realize that it was wrong. In my new and improved mind, I know that anger never helps a situation. It's just a reaction to fear. And Lord knows, as the parent of an addicted child I was scared shitless.

So my guilty feelings are under control for now, at least as they relate to my son and me. But there's still the little incident with the car that I have to 'fess up to my mom about. I think 35 years of carrying that guilt around is long enough.


"There's no problem so awful, that you can't add some guilt to it and make it even worse." --Calvin, from Bill Watterson's The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin speaks the truth.

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