Friday, December 30, 2011


Dear Crabby:

My mother won't forgive me. Honestly I don't know how long that woman intends to hold her grudge. I'm 39. When I was 15 I went with a pretty wicked crowd. We drank and did a lot of drugs and I ran away from home and was involved in some pretty crazy stuff. I broke into houses to feed my habits. I even beat up a few people for money. I wrecked a few cars, tore up the house and was in and out of jail. The last time I was in for nearly 6 years.

Two years ago I found God and the help I needed and got my (act) together. I've been sober and upstanding ever since. But my mom, the one person who's supposed to love me unconditionally doesn't even want me to come over and visit her. That's cold. I don't know what to do about it. Telephoning and email hasn't worked and neither has my confronting her at the grocery store. She didn't even call me for Christmas. Any help would be appreciated.

Sydney in Missouri

Dear Recovery in Progress:

You've presented me with a double-edge sword of a question so permit me to give you a double-edged sword of an answer. I see addiction differently than most of my contemporaries. I'm wholly unsympathetic to the addict - not because I lack compassion but because I've come to realize that compassion is often seen as weakness by the addict. It's something they think they can manipulate to their advantage.

And if you thought you're mom toted a hard line then I'm afraid you'll find my thoughts on the subject as immovable as five miles of hardened cement. Since it's neither my place or intention to condemn someone who seems to have straightened out their own life, permit me to congratulate you on finally seeing the light.

It only took you 24 years. I suppose 'better late than never' is the adage I'll stick to here. But it does tend to wear thin on my patience. Witnessing the steady decline of this cesspool we laughingly refer to as our pop culture in North America over the last 40 years will do that to you!

Today we often praise and reward those among us who crash and burn but manage to pull themselves from the ashes and then write a tell-all memoir that nets them millions in book sales and a brief stint around the talk show circuit. Frankly, I think that's a bitter and very sad statement on what we're willing to tolerate in our 'culture'. The coddling of addiction - treating it as a social disease - has sent the opposite message to addicts. It says, 'hey, it's okay to be one as long as you get straightened out in the end.' Where the end is, is entirely up to the addict. Gee, how forgiving of us all.

Some celebrities like Lindsay Lohan have made a second career out of their revolving rehab. And every time such celebrities fall from grace they fall back on 'Don't judge! I'm only human.' But not all humans do drugs. Not all humans beat up people and steal their money to feed their habits.

Instead of saying 'good for you' to someone who's reformed after having made such severe mistakes that have nearly cost them their lives, why don't we have the same appreciation for people who never fall into these pits of drunken, drugged out despair in the first place?

Our culture rarely sings the praises of people who do the right thing first. Yet, with increased frequency it's been all too quick to charter a band wagon and throws a ticker-take parade for those who crawl out of the muck and mire they willingly put themselves into in the first place.

I mean, correct me if I'm out of bounds here, but you did shoot or snort whatever your drug of choice was for all those years of your own free will, right? There were no crack junkies holding you down the first time. You weren't locked in a closet, tied to a bed and force fed a daily diet of Jack Daniels and heroin to coerce a confession from you, right? No one stuck the needle into your flesh. No one held a gun to your head and said "Drink this 40 ouncer or I'll kill you."

You did these things. And having 'experimented' once with all these vices you chose to explore them further and escalate, rather than turn away from, your addictions for all these years. I don't care what your reason was. Whether you were angry at mom or just the world in general for not giving you all the things you thought you deserved really doesn't impress me. I don't pity you. I pity the people around you who were not free from your will to abstain from riding this nightmarish roller coaster with you. The ones who had to put up with your crap for 24 years get my sympathy!

Instead of seeking rehab earlier and counseling from professionals and acceptance from your mother by saying "Hey, I'm lost and I need help. Please help me," you left her home and safety at a tender age to become your idea of a badass on your own terms. Congratulations! Mission accomplished.

That you did not die of all your self-abuse is a testament to good genetics, a strong constitution and ultimately the will of God who kept you grounded on earth until such time as you decided to get right with Him. You finally did.

That's commendable. But realize this. That in those 24 years you wasted going down the rabbit hole with a bunch of other burnouts you might just as easily have been committed to more lofty and worthwhile pursuits that would have improved your life and the lives of those around you.

Let's be clear about one thing, Syd. You don't owe your mom a good, honest, clean life. You owe that to yourself. If you've truly found yourself and risen from the stupor I am glad, please and happy for you. You've expelled your demons. The battle's won - though probably not over. That took guts, determination and courage. But you overcame your suffrage by yourself - for yourself.

Sounds to me like mom's still hurt, and angry and maybe just a tad worried that your transformation is just a passing fad - that the minute she embraces you with loving arms you'll turn back into the pumpkin that left her patch so long ago. It doesn't help that you seem to be stalking her on the phone, on the computer and out in public.

Stop that! Give her time. She lived with a drug abusing and very belligerent toad of a human being for 24 years. You want forgiveness for 24 years of the hell you put her through in 24 minutes. That's an unacceptable time line.

You are not entitled to her forgiveness. It's earned. Prove yourself. Not for her sake but for your own. Continue to live clean and move forward from this point in your life. If you're word is your bond then mom will eventually want to reconnect with you - when she's ready. Right now she's not. Give her, her space and accept that it's going to take more than just your word to convince her things have really changed for the better.

You have my best wishes for that reconciliation. But realize that it may or may not happen. Whatever the outcome - you'll have to live with it.

yours truly,

the crabby critic


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