Do you see what I see?
A child, a child, stolen from my life.
Do you hear what I hear?
A very silent night.
Do you know what I know?
My son drags around his addiction like Marley’s chains, but only he can turn things right.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and I’m trying, but while roasting chestnuts and jingling bells, I grieve for Joey and his very tortured life. The joy of the season and the pain in my heart are like a tangle of tinsel, or competing garlands of flashing lights.
This year, yet again, my youngest son will be home for Christmas, but my eldest son will not.
Joey’s stocking is no longer hung by the chimney with care, and none of the gaily wrapped presents tucked under the tree are for him. Long gone are the days of toy trains and blocks, pjs and robes, iPods and iTunes. Long gone are the days of giving gifts safe for an addict―gifts Joey couldn’t sell for cash, or fall off of while drunk, or cut himself on while high. Gone, even, are the days of giving a gift certificate for addiction treatment; Joey refuses to go to treatment ever again (and has repeatedly walked away or been kicked out in the past).
The last time Joey was in rehab, I collected photos of the people and places Joey loved more than anything in the world (well, until he loved the things that fed his addiction even more). Happy memories, warm memories, I carefully placed them into an album, hoping my gift would touch something deep inside Joey. Hoping to pull him back. But, before I could send my Christmas gift off in the mail, Joey walked away from the addiction treatment program, turning his back, yet again, on the help and the hope and even the order of the court. The album sits on a closet shelf collecting dust.
Sadly, visions of sugar plums are no longer what dance in Joey’s head. On Christmas, he will be far away. My heart cracks a bit just thinking of this. But Rick, my younger son, will be here; we will tear wrapping paper and toss bows and eat too many cookies and watch movies and play games―we will be making new memories, and these gifts of time are the ones that really matter. I don’t get to make new memories with Joey, though. The memories I have of him, of us, are old and dusty like the photo album abandoned on the shelf.
All I want for Christmas is my son back from the addict who stole him, but that’s not a gift I expect to find under the tree this year. Instead, I will wrap myself up in the peace of the season.
My wish is for you to do the same; find the peace of the season.
(And, Joey, if you are reading this, I wish the same for you, too.)
The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction is available in bookstores and libraries.