Thursday, 11 October 2012

Guilt and ghosts

I've decided that I want to talk about guilt and personal responsibility today...

I have had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Gabor Mate speak a few times over the past 2 years, I've read his book called In the realm of hungry ghosts (ironically I read it before I found out my son was one of the hungry ghosts he speaks of!). I was moved, my heart swelled for addicts that roam the downtown east side, unwanted, abused, misunderstood, lonely, hungry and tired...and then I found out my son had a stash of needles and supplies from Insite, and was buying street heroin in just that neighborhood! Suddenly my values and self-identity came crashing together, that of the compassionate observer and that of the judgmental, addiction obsessed mother. I now mark time by dividing my life in two periods of time: BH and AH (before heroin, after heroin).

Now AH, this past spring I saw Dr. Mate speak at a small forum on one of the Gulf Islands. He talked about how he believes all addicts have some trauma or caused stress during the attachment phase of the addicts childhood, often caused their mothers, and their drug of choice is basically the street version of medicating their pain. He also challenged several audience members about their "pain and personal discomfort" when interacting or watching the addicted. He talked about how that more speaks to one's own pain, not really pain for the addict.One phrase he often uses is to help the addict where they are at today, not where you want them to be...

What I love about hearing him speak is that he causes me to think intellectually and in an intelligent emotional way. What I hate about it that there is an inference that I have some responsibility in my son's heroin addiction. Is this true, could this be true, how can this be true???? What do I do if this is true? How does one fix a wrong that they never knew they were doing? How does one live with the guilt and pain of knowing you have cause a person you love so much to turn to the most powerful pain killer on the planet to get away from the pain you caused them?

How do I get to the bottom of this question - did I do something to cause my son such pain that he sought out heroin to ease his suffering? I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I work hard, provide for my family, I'm not a mean person and for a very long long son was the person I considered closest to me on this planet.

How do I get to the bottom of this question so I can begin to fix whatever I caused? Is this type of self-examination even useful? Does it just let the addict off the hook for being responsible for their own choices? Is this more of my psychosis that this type of dialogue is even going on in my head?

I struggle with the guilt every day knowing that sometimes I give him money that I'm pretty sure he's buying heroin with, just because I want to treat him with some dignity (I know, where's the logic?). Sometimes I have found paraphernalia and stockpiled/hidden it from my son and husband because I just couldn't take dealing with the discussion, the pain, the lies. Sometimes I just ignore it all and stuff my face with sweets and stare endlessly at a TV show that might transport me into a life that isn't mine.

Most days I just hope that I can keep a lid on it...not loose it, not dissolve into a messy puddle of broken dreams, guilt, frustration and hopelessness. Today is pretty good, nobody has any idea that this is my life.

Below are some links to the websites of the topics I spoke of. Have a peek, they might help you, or they might not...

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