As anyone reading this must have noticed from this and previous posts, I am struggling at the moment. Not struggling with my recovery, but struggling with what to do with my time and how to handle my life changing as it has lately.
I’ve said some nasty things about my ex lately – the reason being that I am hurt. It’s a normal response and the purpose behind such comments is not to spite her, but to clarify the effects of her behaviour on me. After all that I did for her and her daughter those 19 months, what she’s done is not only hurtful, it is insulting. I thought we were on the same page, that getting our son back was our mutual goal, not just to be clean and sober, and while I appreciate that she wants our son to be back with me alone, I do not understand how she can be so happy to give up on him – again. (She’s still staying in Johannesburg, not far from me. Wherever she is, if things don’t work out, I wonder if she thinks she can come back yet again? I am tired of being told how stupid I was to take her back so many times, and that I would be an idiot to do so again.) So while I agree with what a family member has told me, that blogging negatively about her can be counter-productive, I can’t help it. I am blogging about the effects of her choices on me and our son. (Not to mention her daughter.) Those choices she has made affect me directly, and further, my response to her choices is something that I have been judged harshly for, for years now, even though all I’ve done has been with the best of intentions, for our son, her daughter, her and myself. It hurts that she does not seem to comprehend just how much and how many years I have sacrificed.
People always tell me to focus on my son, because that’s what my recovery is about. But unless you have had your own child removed, you can never understand that it doesn’t work that way. Having your child removed is an intensely demotivational experience. When the child is gone, no matter how much you love them, and no matter how hard you try to focus on that child as a goal, you gradually forget what you should feel. You almost forget that you are a parent. You feel worthless and a failure, but mostly, when the child is not there, you do forget. It sounds horrible, but that’s just the way it is. I anticipate some serious disagreement with these statements, but the fact is, this is the way it works. It’s counter-intuitive in that everybody expects that a parent will be able to focus on getting their child back to such an extent that it will drive them to do whatever it takes. The reality however, is that when that child is no longer with you, the drive to get that child back fades. Unless you are in this situation, understanding it is probably impossible.
On the flip side, having your child with you does drive you to do anything and everything to be the best parent you can be – and as I now know, even somebody else’s child can be a driving force. But then people argue that your motivation is not the child, that you are using the child for yourself. (In my case, to stay clean. But this isn’t true at all. I knew several people in active addiction who had their children living with them. I saw what it did to those children. I don’t want my son with me to “keep me clean”. I am already clean. I want him with me because he is my son and I love him. He is supposed to be with me, and there is nobody in this world who will be a better parent to him than myself.) It’s an argument that makes no sense to me. It’s an insult to my intelligence, and it assumes incorrectly that I am now that same person I was back then when I was using drugs. Not only am I not that person, but also I am better qualified than anybody to teach him just why he should never, under any circumstances, try any such drug himself. I used to phrase this differently. I used to say “Take away my reason not to use, and I will probably use because it doesn’t matter anyway.” That is no longer my argument because I will remain clean either way, but the gist of it remains. Not having my child with me, even though I am clean and sober and perfectly stable, leaves me depressed. I feel as though my sobriety doesn’t matter because I don’t have him with me anyway. Unless he is with me, this is all for nothing.
I only see my son twice a week; the rest of the time I need something else as my focus. As much as my ex used me, I also used her, used my relationship with her daughter as something to focus on, and consequently when my son was not with me, which was most of the time, she was my focus. (“She” meaning my ex’s now two-year-old daughter, my son’s half-sister.) She also became the external trigger for my internal happiness. With her taken away, I still have an improving relationship with my son, but I have all this time that I used to devote to her, which is gone, along with my sense of well-being, my sense of security and stability, and my happiness.
Also, I was focusing on both children. Even when my son wasn’t home with me, she would ask about him all the time. Every time I fetched her from crèche, she would point down the road I would turn into when fetching him. She’d cry on the days that I didn’t fetch him, and I’d have to explain to her that she wasn’t seeing her brother that day. Thus my devotion to her also helped remind me how important my son is to me. It made me unable to forget my feelings for him, which unfortunately used to happen in the past. Every evening at home, she would sit on my lap at the PC, and navigate the photos and videos of her brother. She’d watch some videos I took a year ago of him playing soccer, over and over again. I treasured this time with her. It was the highlight of my day, every day. My issue is that this special time with her, which was most of my time at home, and was about the two children together, is gone, and I have not replaced it with anything meaningful. (Although I am looking into finding ways of occupying my time, they will never have the same value to me emotionally.)
That is why I am sad. I’m not sure if my sadness is normal and to be expected, though I suspect to some extent it is, or if I am really depressed. But right now it feels like, the world was a vibrant, colourful, beautiful place, until about two months ago. Suddenly the world is a dull, emotionless place, desaturated into shades of grey where life and love used to live, and I am a pale, gray-scale reflection of the person I used to be. That’s how I feel, like a monochromatic two-dimensional illusion of myself.
Before, I could always detach from my personal issues. Lately, I can’t. The court case coming up next Monday is a major stressor for me too, and I am not sure how “normal” my response to the stress is. In addition to everything else, I have to deal with all of this. In the past I would have anaesthetized myself by using drugs. I don’t have that anymore, and in my almost two years of sobriety, this is the first real difficulty I have had. That is, I was not prepared for this. My recovery was easy until now because I was happy. As much as I stress that I will remain clean, I also have to acknowledge that all of this is a real risk for my recovery, however small, and that now, more than ever, I have to focus on my recovery again, which is something that I deemed unnecessary months ago.
But I would like to thank the support and advice from my friends online, especially Arnott who has given me some good advice of Facebook. And my brother (and also his girlfriend), with whom my relationship is improving. For a long time, I thought that relationship was beyond repair. I appreciate the advice and support more than I can say.