An excerpt from S.O.B.E.R.* written by a mother and son
An acronym for Son Of a Bitch Everything’s Real
When we arrived at the family treatment program, I finally started to understand and believe that addiction is a disease. I was more than a little nervous, wondering how my son’s brain was ever going to be normal again. Was he up to this daunting task? There was no surgery for this illness. There was only a lot of hard work and the desire to change. I was cautiously optimistic. Only time would tell.
I was getting more and more anxious about seeing him for the first time. My husband and daughter were excited and hopeful. I, sadly, didn’t feel that way. I didn’t trust my son anymore and wondered if I ever would again.
Sunday morning, we were all led into a very large nondenominational church. I wondered why there were so many boxes of tissues everywhere in the aisles, under the seats, everywhere. The room was filled with excited families waiting to see their sons and daughters. My husband and daughter felt the same way and kept turning around, waiting to see my son walk through the door. I was shaking. I was still angry, still filled with hate.
A man named Father B took to the pulpit. There was something about the way he spoke that made me very calm. There was no anger, no disappointment. In every word you could feel how much he cared for these kids and their well-being. He was a wonderful man, and he made me feel terrible for feeling the way I did.
After he finished addressing the kids who were just starting out, different groups of kids started getting up and reciting poems, reading letters, singing, or just telling their story.
Ten seconds into the first young man speaking, I understood what the boxes of tissues were for. From the moment he opened his mouth, I couldn’t stop crying. Father B introduced each one as if they were his own child and stood beaming with pride as he listened to them.
Then he announced there would be a group joining us that was halfway through their stay at treatment, and my heart almost jumped out of my body. That was my son’s group.
What would he look like? Would he look the same as when we brought him here? Would he ask to come home with us? He had let me down so much for so long that I prayed I wouldn’t grab him by the throat. I prayed I wouldn’t lose my cool and make a scene in front of all those people, in front of Father B.
My daughter Alex was the first to see him. Her face erupted into a huge smile, tears rolling down her face “There he is!” she said.
I didn’t turn to look at my son. I looked at my daughter. I couldn’t understand how she was so happy to see him while I didn’t even want look at him. After all he had put her through, here she was, a proud, emotional, joyous sibling. My daughter looked so beautiful and innocent at that moment.
I was in awe.
I was so on board with the family program at treatment and looked forward to it. I felt that the only way to find freedom was to be honest with them. And I was excited to see my family. I felt so many things seeing them for the first time, but joy stood out the most. This was the first time I felt that way in a long time. I had the piece of paper in my pocket with what I had written the night before, unsure as to whether or not I would actually make it to the podium to actually read it aloud. I let every other speaker get up before me. When it came to the end, I felt as if someone grabbed me by the shoulders and put me up in the front of the chapel. I was terrified to read this out loud, but as my family came up and stood beside me, I felt a sudden rush of comfort and closeness to them.
I began to read the following.
I can remember being young and free, without a care in the world. The world as my playground, and my Big Wheel as my vessel through life. I can remember the warmth of heart from my mother and father as they carried me on this journey. I can remember this felt good.
I remember vacations with my family. Wherever we wanted to go, and together, we did it. Trips to Florida, the Bahamas—you name it, I remember. They all felt good.
I remember playing lacrosse. My family and friends coming to watch me play. The wins, the goals, the great feeling of support and accomplishment. All of it felt good.
I remember going away to college. The loss of friends, the loss of lacrosse, and the loss of my sense of place and direction. I can remember this felt…not so good.
I remember giving up. Giving in to all the wrong things that made me feel good. That took away the pain and made me feel happy again. I guess this felt good.
Now, all I can remember is pain. The lies, the stealing, the manipulation, ignorance, and selfishness. I remember spending every cent, selling everything, and asking for more from others who had nothing to give. I can remember feeling nothing at all.
I can remember making my mother cry, my sister hide, and my father feel helpless. Making those who loved me become full of anger and disgust toward me. I can remember the vacations disappeared, my family and everything I loved slowly moving in the same direction. This didn’t feel good at all.
I do remember the feeling of hope though. That support and love of my family still lingered beneath the surface of all that pain. They’re still here, and they want me back. They want back what I’ve hid from them and what I’ve taken away from them. Is that too much to ask? Why are we so afraid of feeling good again? What is so scary about life and feeling that warmth we’ve all known?
I can feel the hope build and the warmth rise. I can actually feel again. I can remember. There is progress to be made and steps to take, but I believe we can all still live a life that everyone will want to remember.
Anita Devlin is a recovery advocate and co-author of a compelling new memoir entitled S.O.B.E.R.*, an acronym for Son Of a Bitch Everything’s Real. In a phrase, that’s how Anita felt during the harrowing experience of helping her son navigate his addiction, which eventually led to his recovery and the recovery of her entire family. Her son & co-author, Michael Devlin Jr., has been sober for more than six years. Her message is one of hope and faith.
S.O.B.E.R.* is available on AMAZON
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