The In-Between

When you come to the realization that your child is a drug addict, it completely knocks the wind out of you. You summon resolve and seek resources. You ask questions and find professionals to help. He came to you, asking for help, so you seek all the help you can find.

For us, help began with counseling. Twice a week for several months I took my son to an addiction counselor. No one suggested, at that time, a twelve step program. No one suggested rehab. This was 11 years ago. Each visit was $120 and our insurance did not cover mental health at that time. I didn’t care. Whatever it takes was my motto.

For 11 years he has been in and out of rehabs, voluntarily and court mandated. He has been in the rooms of NA. He has been in jail and on probation. Success comes in 4–6 month increments. During those increments, old pieces of my son emerge and, even though I know better, my heart fills with hope. Then, something will happen, a fight with the mother of his child, getting a job, or health issues because of his long term drug abuse, and he goes right back down the rabbit hole.

Each trip down now seems to be worse and worse. He is unrecognizable, both physically and his character. It is harder and harder for him to climb out.

I have to draw boundaries. I stop talking to him until he wants to go back to rehab. I draw lines that, as a mother, go against everything my heart wants to do. I’ve learned the hard way, this person is not my son, this person will manipulate and steal and do everything to get his next fix.

I have friends that have lost their children to this horrible disease of addiction. I’ve attended too many funerals of good kids who couldn’t win against this monster.

I’ve lost my son, but there hasn’t been a funeral. He is no longer there. I can see him, yet I mourn for him every day.

I could say, we need better resources. We do. I could say the system has failed him. It has. But I also want to say, he gets out of this and keeps going back in. The onus is on him. I pray for him, because that is the only thing I am able to do. Until he dies or figures this thing out, I sit in the in-between.

In-between death and living.

In-between my son and the monster that has taken over him.

In-between love and fear.

In-between enabling and tough love.

In-between hope and sadness.

In-between being his mom and turning my back.

In-between mourning and relief.

It hurts. I want a do over. I want to call foul or pause. I want a second chance to protect him from this monster. I want my son back.

If you’re out there and you see him, maybe give him a hug. Say a prayer. Tell him his mom misses him.

Grandma’s Mixer

Grandma’s Mixer

Photo from Bobbie Kaltmayer

I find out 3 weeks before Thanksgiving that my mom would like me to host it this year. My dad has been sick so this is really no surprise to me. I’ve done it before. I’m not freaking out. Really. I’m not.

On Sunday before Thanksgiving I find a checklist on Pinterest. “How to Host the Perfect Thanksgiving” or something like that. Well, it seems I am already 3 weeks behind. Clean your refrigerator, clean your oven, empty your coat closets, clean your baseboards…things you are supposed to begin weeks before the big event. Then, I find all the menus. The perfect holiday feasts were all listed in various forms but sharing mostly the same menu. There is also a cheat sheet for how much of each item you need per person. I don’t think I have enough food. I really know I have enough food, but I start having doubts. I sort of use the lists, to make sure all my bases are covered.

I’m setting out bowls, getting extra chairs, making sure my cabinets won’t be an embarrassment, when I see the most important part of this holiday. My grandmother’s mixer. My grandmother died about 24 years ago and I got her mixer. I use this mixer every year to make mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. I won’t use my newer, fancier mixers. I use hers.

This sends me down memory lane. I start remembering Thanksgivings past. The entire family sitting in my grandmother’s trailer, on floors, on couches, around the kitchen table, and into the living room. There are a lot of us. She had 4 kids and their families are all present. We fit. I don’t remember anxious hosts. I don’t remember feelings of “not enough”. I remember football and cracking walnuts and the smells. Man, I remember the smells. Turkey and baked goods and chicken smells filled the entire trailer. I remember flour everywhere. There was flour on the counters and flour on her face. And her arms. I don’t know how, but she always had flour on her arms. That might be my favorite memory of her.

“Bobbie, the key to good mashed potatoes is mixing them at the right time,” she told me. She got the potatoes off the stove and drained them and handed me the mixer. “You have to mash them when they are right off the stove and still soft.” I mashed the potatoes that year. I don’t remember how old I was. 12, 14? I just thought it was cool that she let me do this. Carefully I added the milk and the butter. She handled the salt and pepper. They were perfect. Maybe. I don’t remember. I know we weren’t looking at Pinterest or Tasty to find the perfect mashed potatoes. Just a grandma and her granddaughter, sharing a tradition.

So, I set aside the lists. The instructions for hosting the perfect holiday feast. I call my sister who insists I have enough food and we remember Wednesdays before Thanksgiving that were just nights of baking. Our kids playing and sometimes helping. Our memories didn’t involve Pinterest and were not documented on social media. They are in our hearts.

Photo from Bobbie Kaltmayer

Today, I am grateful for the grandmas, the sisters and the aunts. The ones that insist we all get together, even when our lives have become so busy. The ones that dig out the extra chairs and table cloths to make sure there is enough room at the table. The ones that spent days making enough fudge for every family to take home. I am grateful for women that know how important it is that we pass on mashed potatoes for a family meal. I am really grateful for my grandma’s mixer.

I Wasn’t Done

I watched as Bradley Cooper’s character glanced at the camera and pulled down the garage door. I couldn’t breathe. I knew what he was going to do. I knew what he was feeling. I glanced at my husband, who was now sound asleep. I started to cry.

It has been 4 years for me. 4 years since I woke up in the ER surrounded by family. 4 years since I felt what he was feeling on that screen. But I knew those feelings intimately. He was just a character in a movie, but at that moment, he was me. Aging, past his prime, alcoholic, an embarrassment to his family. I had become all those things.

I had this big plan. I’d been thinking about it for a while, but always found a reason to put it off. I was always looking for a reason to put it off. But this day, this Friday morning, I really couldn’t find a reason to stay. I had made a big mess of our lives. My oldest son was angry with me, I was no longer allowed to babysit, my youngest daughter wanted absolutely nothing to do with me, my husband told me he didn’t want to be married to a drunk and my best friend of forty-something years just told me she was done with me. I knew people would grieve, but not over who I was right then, but over who I had been before the alcohol changed me. They would be sad, but they already were. In my head, this would provide my family with the opportunity to move on and stop worrying about me.

You would think that the simple thing to do, and the most obvious thing to do would be to quit drinking. I tried. Every day. I was afraid. It had become such a part of who I was, I was terrified to live without it. My crutch had become my lifeline.

So, I grabbed the bottle of Xanax that I had talked my friend into giving me, I poured them on the counter and mentally thought, that should do it. I grabbed a beer out of the fridge, and I put them all in my mouth. I swallowed them with a big pull from the beer. I went to my room to lay down. I thought I would just drift off to sleep and not wake up again. It would be over.

Suddenly I became frantic. I wasn’t done. I loved my family, and I couldn’t do this. I tried to throw it all up and couldn’t. I called my husband. I didn’t want him to know what I had done, so I began telling him without telling him. I wanted him to come home so my daughter wouldn’t be the one to find me. I was having a tough time being coherent at this point.

I vaguely remember the ambulance and the paramedics. I sort of remember our dear friend showing up to make sure I was still alive. The rest is vague.
I spent almost a week in the psych ward. During the first couple of days, I was still messed up from the Xanax. I know my husband feared I had damaged my brain. Slowly, I began reading. I joined the group stuff. I talked to doctors. I just wanted to go home.

I was okay but felt strange for a couple of weeks. I didn’t know how to exist without alcohol. So, I started drinking again. Slowly at first, then a lot. Right back where I was. It took more fight from me. It took strength I wasn’t sure I had. But the looks from my family was enough. The fact that they kept showing up for me was enough. It was time I showed up for them.

Then, one day, I did. I made an appointment with an addiction counselor. I began doing the work to heal myself. From the inside. It was work, but all I had to do was follow directions. I had to dig deep and look inside myself for what got me there in the first place.

Little did I know that day 4 years ago, how much living I still had to do. I didn’t understand how fulfilling it would be to heal the damaged relationships with my children. I didn’t know how much I could love my husband, whose love saved me. And those grandbabies. It scares me to think I almost missed all of this.

So, I sit here, grateful for the second chance that Bradley Cooper’s character and so many others don’t get. I still have a lot of things to do. I have a lot of life to live. And, if you are ever thinking you can’t find any reason not to, remember me. The purpose was always there. I just lost sight of it for a minute.

Strong

Bobbie Tipton Kaltmayer
Sep 5 · 2 min read

Daddy’s Girl

My Dad

At family gatherings he somehow manages to be the center of attention. Everyone moves to be a little closer. He tells jokes and pokes fun and usually at someone’s expense, but that doesn’t matter. If you’re included you feel special.

He came from very little. 1 of 12 kids from a small house in The Bootheel of Missouri. Of the 12 my dad only had 4 sisters, so as one can imagine, they were always causing trouble. It’s funny though, the town was small, the house smaller, but if you heard him talk about where he came from, you would have believed he was a Rockefeller. He was so proud of his upbringing and so loyal to his family.

My dad worked hard. He really did. Sometimes two jobs, sometimes delivering newspapers, but always doing whatever it took. My dad was king of the side hustle before it was a thing. He was a man who believed in paying his bills too. I mean, if he couldn’t afford it, he didn’t buy it. I cannot remember ever seeing a late notice arrive in our mail. When he finally went to purchase a vehicle and get a loan, the loan officer told my dad his perfect credit score was like a unicorn. They didn’t exist.

Friday nights were about popcorn, soda and Uno or crazy 8’s or just any card game where we could all sit at the table. Friday nights were about family.

As I got older and wanted to keep up with my friends, I never really knew we didn’t have a lot of money. I had the designer jeans, the cool tennis shoes and I was always somehow able to go on the church trips and attend the camps that now, looking back, I know we couldn’t possibly afford. I can only imagine the sacrifices and extra hours that went in to make those things happen.

My dad was about commitment. If he said something, he meant it. When my dad told you he would show up- you better believe he did. Sometimes the first to arrive.

My dad hated being late. With two daughters, this sometimes proved to be difficult. Once, on a church night, my sister and I were still fixing our hair or doing our make-up, he decided it was time to leave, so he left us. No warning (besides the 200 times he’d tell us we’d be left if we didn’t hurry) he just left. We went to get in the car and it was gone. We moved faster after that.

My dad was about loyalty. If you were one of his, he would do anything for you. He wanted everyone around him to be okay. He would do whatever that took to make that happen. Let you move into his house with your four kids, pay to get your car fixed, or even, come pick up your kids and take them to school in the morning when you tore the ligaments in your ankle and couldn’t walk.

My dad was the first man I ever loved. So. When I began dating, first of all, if my dad didn’t like you, there probably wouldn’t be a second date. The big litmus test though, for me, was could you give him a good game of ping pong. Seriously, if you sucked at ping pong, there was no second date. My favorite guys were the ones who wanted to hang around my house on a Friday night playing ping pong with my dad.

My dad always believed in showing up. One of the best feelings for me was playing soccer at a far away school, looking up, and the only parent in the stands was my dad. I wouldn’t even know he was coming. That’s just how he rolled.

My dad is my hero. He taught me how to play sports. He taught me about work ethic and commitment. He taught me to always show up for the fight, even when you knew you were going to lose. He taught me to live without boundaries and he taught me that you could be rich without having money.

My dad is a really big deal.

Watching him lay in his hospital bed, looking like an old man is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve done some hard things. To say that this is a chapter in my life that I’m not prepared for is an understatement.

I watch him as the confusion sets in and I want to hold him and kiss his forehead and make it all okay — the way he did for me when I skinned my knee or lost a big game. However this ends, I know, without any doubt, I was one of the luckiest ones.

I will forever and always be Daddy’s Girl.

Pink Clouds Aren’t There Everyday

what-is-pink-cloud

Today I don’t want to be strong.

Today, I don’t want to tell everyone they’ll be okay. I mean, what if they won’t?

Today, I don’t want to say “you got this.” I mean, what if you don’t?

I don’t feel like saying, hang in there, keep getting up, it’s worth it. What if it’s not?

“Life on life’s terms” is not always an even playing field. Sometimes, life’s terms suck. People get sick, husbands have heart attacks and parents get older. Those are life’s terms. I used to cheat life’s terms. I didn’t “do” life on life’s terms. I’d drink through it and change the terms. I’d hide from the feelings and just not deal.

Guess what? Hiding from it doesn’t make it go away. Closing my eyes doesn’t mean it can’t find me. Life still happens. And, I’ve learned, it is okay. It really does get better.

Happy is an emotion and emotions change. So is sad. It is okay to be sad. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or that you need to be fixed. For me, being able to be sad has become somewhat of a super power. I don’t need someone to tell me don’t be that way. I don’t need anyone to say anything. I just acknowledge that there are sad circumstances going on and that it is really okay.

I think, in today’s world, with instant everything, we forget that life is a process, that it takes time to heal and it takes time to develop. Instant gratification, instant coffee, instant being okay. It is just not how it is. Sometimes, the good stuff takes work and it takes time.

So, guess what? I might not feel it every moment of every day, but I really do mean it. “You got this.” I know this in my heart. I’ve got this, too.

As a wise woman recently told me, “you gotta feel the low lows if you want to be able to feel the high highs.” Well, life, give me what you got. I’m ready.

We Have Those Days

Today I don’t want to be strong.

Today, I don’t want to tell everyone they’ll be okay. I mean, what if they won’t?

Today, I don’t want to say “you got this.” I mean, what if you don’t?

I don’t feel like saying, hang in there, keep getting up, it’s worth it. What if it’s not?

Today, I just feel like something else is winning.

I’m having one of those days.