“Don’t Water the Weed” is what the therapist told me when we first started talking about C and his drug use.
“The Garden of C is full of beautiful flowers. They are all being blocked out by the weed, which soaks up all the nutrients in the soil, and blocks the other plants from getting enough sun. Focus your attention on the other parts of the garden. Don’t water the weed.”
Of course, I instantly pictured this as a giant marijuana plant. Because THAT used to be the biggest and baddest weed. Used to be. Made C lethargic and red-eyed, indifferent to most of the stuff in his life, except….scoring more weed. Friendships changed, grades floundered, family relationships changed.
He started using at age 15.
Now, 3 weeks away from his 18th birthday, the summer BEFORE his senior year of high school, my son is no longer living at home. He has been arrested twice. He left his part time job. He has evolved from smoking pot a couple times a week to using it every day. He uses psychedelics. He drinks. He smokes. He has begun to use Xanax. Probably other stuff.
My son is an addict.
This terrible reality sits like a heavy stone on my solar plexus. I alternate between desperation (we have GOT to get him help! How? Call the doctor, call the psychiatrist, call the family therapist; learn the hours of treatment programs, talk and talk and talk and talk.) to cool detachment that has more than a little bit of it’s roots in anger. HOW did this happen? How dare he steal from his siblings’ bedrooms, how dare he steal my sleeping pills to sell, take jars full of change, blow off school, sneak drugs into our home, calling me a fucking bitch. Isn’t this the same kid who couldn’t spend the night at a friend’s house because he was too homesick? The same kid who brought me a cup of coffee if he thought I looked sad? The same kid who got so excited about having his favorite books read to him outloud (he has dyslexia) far past the age most kids outgrow it?
This is a game-changer. Although I hate the expression ‘the new normal’, that’s a version of what’s going on here. Because, no matter what happens, if things get worse, even if things get a little better, we can never go back. We’ll just have to find a new way to BE.
So, we try NOT to water the weed. We try to water the other parts of the garden: all C’s other amazing and original traits, his sensitive soul, his single-minded curiousity about random things (“Mom, have you ever really examined the British Monarchy from it’s beginning until now?”….”Mom, did you know that cancer is actually uncontrolled cell growth? What if there was a way to HARNESS that power, for good? Maybe I should be an oncologist.”….), his excellent work ethic, his sense of humor, his intelligence and weirdly specific and detailed memory, etc etc.
But now he is just gone. And I feel like I am already grieving for a person that is still ambulatory. A character from the Walking Dead who occasionally stops by for a meal. Stoned, of course. Tells us to ‘chill’. Tells us to ‘not make things weird.’ His eyes are blank and his hygiene terrible. He smells like cigarettes and pot and body odor. He has a deep cough that makes me wince. He shovels in food without making eye contact. His brother and sister are subdued and watch him with wary eyes. His little brother goes upstairs to hide his favorite things. When he uses the bathroom, I wonder what he is stealing. We all cry when he leaves. And tucked alongside of the goodbye is relief: he is gone again and the chaos and discomfort this new version of C creates has gone with him.
The weed seems to have consumed the garden. It’s choked out the other plants and blighted the flowers. The garden is dying, leaves grey and shriveled and crackly like an early frost has come. We didn’t know the weather would change so fast.