Making Amends with An Old Love

olive branch

A couple of years ago I was at a juncture in my life that led me to do some self-assessment. I was just coming off of my fifth divorce to my fourth husband (yes, that’s what I said…like an idiot, I married the first one twice; and yes, I’ve been married that many times). I was trying to figure out where I stood and what I believed, as well as what I wanted to do about my past, my present, and my future. I decided to regroup and go up to Rome, Georgia to have a short visit with my parents. While I was there a cousin of mine in Atlanta invited me to her annual Mardi Gras party. She warned me beforehand that my first really serious boyfriend, whom she had initially introduced me to some 27 years before, would be in attendance.

After attending the party, seeing him and his wife, and visiting with them, I took a day or so to form my thoughts and feelings and I wrote him the following letter. My hope and intent in the writing is clear, and in hindsight I hope it gives you encouragement to make amends in your life, as I did and am doing in mine.

amends 1

After talking to you on the phone a few months ago, and particularly since seeing you last night, I think there are some things I should let you know, mostly just to get them off of my mind and conscience. There is no other reason than that, except that I think you might want to know these things for your own reasons.

Way back, 25+ years ago, when we were together I didn’t realize the value of what we had. I discounted it as young love surely destined to fail. I had no faith in myself to make it work. When you asked me to marry you, I wanted to so badly. However, because I loved you and, at the same time, felt sure that I would screw it up in the end, I made a conscious decision to hurt your heart a little then instead of what I was sure would be more later.

What I have learned over the years since then is that I was very foolish in regard to you for several reasons. First of all, there was nothing to say we would have failed (except for my fears) and we probably wouldn’t have. Secondly, I know deep down within myself that I did not just hurt you just “a little” back then. I realized, only too late, that I had absolutely broken your heart. I have never said so before, and I do wish I could say it to you in person, but for what little it’s worth I am so very sorry that I caused you so much pain. Choosing not to marry you has been the single greatest regret of my life. My second greatest regret was marrying my first husband. My third was marrying my subsequent husbands. I think I subconsciously measured them all against you (or at least my image of you then and what I conjured up you would mature into)…….and they all failed miserably.  I’ve always remembered that time we had together with great fondness and bittersweet remorse.What you’ve become for me since those days is that great “could have been” I missed taking the opportunity to hold on to forever. 

I’ve kept track of you off and on through mutual acquaintances over the years. I’m so genuinely happy that you have a good woman for your wife. I do hope she realizes the value of you as her husband. I am particularly glad to see the pride in your eyes and the love in your voice when you talk of your children. (Sadly, though, I always wondered what our children would have been like. To tell the truth, until I saw the pics of your three children last night I hadn’t thought of that in years.)

I am glad that you thought enough of me to let me meet your wife. She is quite a unique woman. She seemed nervous about meeting me and quite unsure of what to expect. (I’m sorry about jumping all over you at the front door. I really embarrassed myself with that move. Trust me, it was not planned or even considered…..it just happened.)

When you left the room at one point during the evening your wife leaned in and said to me, “You know, he really wanted to marry you. He was very much in love with you,”  and then she let me know that I was nothing like she had expected me to be. She almost seemed like she felt she must let me know this stuff and seemed relieved to have gotten it out. We had a brief conversation about how love changes and that there are different kinds of love.

Sitting there watching her fidget with the hem of her blouse, I told her that I was aware that I had hurt you badly, but we all have to look at the positive side of things. I said what I hoped were words to reassure her, bringing to light the fact that I had married you back then, you and she would not be together and you wouldn’t have those three great kids……and I wouldn’t have my two girls or granddaughter. I think I made it clear to her that I have deep respect for your relationship with her and that I had no intention of trying to wiggle my way into it. I hope I made her feel as though any feelings you and I had for each other are in the past. I would NEVER want her to think anything else.

love and loss

At one point she wistfully told me that she could tell in your voice when you spoke about me that you loved me very much. For a split second it sounded like she thought you still loved me…..her voice quivered when she said that, but only momentarily. It made me want to cry, not so much for you, but for her. However, whether she was putting on a strong front, or is just a very strong person, she seemed to have come to accept the finality of that reality.

I had always hoped that I hadn’t had that marked years-long effect on you; that the wounds I inflicted on your heart had not been so deep that that they’d only healed on the surface. I realized last night that such might be the case and that your wife might know that in her own heart. I hope that isn’t the case. You see, for a woman that is just like having to share her man with someone else who gets first dibs. I do not wish that pain on anyone. 

Seeing you again, and meeting your wife were a wonderful gift, but hearing that little bit of pain in her voice when she spoke of me and you made me really think about you at great length and in detail. I could tell when you hugged me good-bye for just that extra second or two, and then kissed me on the cheek, that you were feeling one of two things. You were either glad to see me and happy that I am back in your life, albeit to a very, very limited degree or you were closing a chapter in your book of life that has been needing to be closed for a very long time. Either way, I was very glad to see you, to talk to you, to be able to hug you one more time.

Now comes the disclaimer. I’ve been married and divorced so many times I sometimes wonder if I’m a secret sister of  Zsa Zsa Gabor or Liz Taylor. I am at mid-life and am re-assessing myself and my life choices in the physcial, mental, and spiritual realms. I’ve pretty much sworn off men and physical relationships; I’m just not interested in getting into any kind of personal relationship. I’m not trying to do that with you either. Please don’t take this message that way. I want you to be happy and I hope you are. I just had to tell you all of this stuff or I was going to burst is all. I don’t want anything from you, and I definitely don’t want to upset your apple cart, so-to-speak.

One of the things I am striving to do this second season of my life, is to right some wrongs. You are at the top of my list. I can’t go back and change things, but I hopefully can make you understand that I am truly sorry and perhaps shed light on things you may have wondered about since then.

In any case, now you know.

And also, just so you don’t have to wonder, as I did, I have always loved you and I will always love you in a way that I cannot explain. I suppose it’s just that pure innocent first love kind of thing that resides so deeply within a person that it’s just part of who they are. That is the only way I can describe it. And I sure hope that is okay with you because I never could make it go away and now I don’t want to. I have chosen to embrace it and be glad for it. Now it’s just much less bitter and much more sweet. Thank you for that.

forgiveness

This letter was well-received and responded to in like kind. That old flame of mine and I have made our peace. We are friends and touch base on occasion through social media. I rest so much better now knowing that I was brave enough to step out in faith, reach out, and attempt to make amends for a great hurt I’ve caused.

Not all attempts at righting wrongs are met with such openness. Many times doors are slammed in our faces, letters and messages are unanswered, and apologies are made in vain. Let me assure you, however that purposing in your heart to attempt this is half the battle. Whether the person with whom you are feeling the need to reconcile or make amends with is interested in doing the same is the other half of the battle, and it is theirs to attend to or not. Do your part, and let them choose whether or not to do theirs.

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NEWSFLASH: YOU’RE AN ADDICT

addiciton

 

You may think you have your friends and family,  your employers, your kids’ school teachers, and everyone else fooled into thinking you’re not…….but we all know.   Some people may judge you, but we don’t.  We love you, but hate the disease of addiction.

 

When we call you out on lies, refuse to be taken advantage of and manipulated, or hold you accountable, it is because we cannot allow you to pull us down a parallel path of destruction that you are on. We have to dig our heels in and stop allowing the madness of your addicted world to suck us in and consume us. We cannot continue to enable you. We choose to start our own path of recovery from our co-dependency and habit of enabling whether you ever choose to start recovering from your addiction or not.

 

lost love

 

Loving you means we have to detach ourselves from you in love so you can bottom out and get some help. It means there will be a lot of pain and heartache for us and for you. You will feel betrayed, hurt, and treated unfairly. That is textbook classic, and it’s ok.

 

When and if you get clean you will thank us for standing strong. We do this because we love you. We are tough on you because we love you.  We are praying for you because we love you. And we will never give up on you….because we love you.

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Anger: A Prelude to Recovery

Meth stole one of our daughters, pain pills is on the verge of stealing a second, and prison for trafficking drugs across state lines has taken our third and youngest daughter. I work my own program for recovery as a co-dependent enabler through Celebrate Recovery. I am in several online Al-Anon and Nar-Anon groups so I can feel more closely connected with others who are going through similar things, both as a parent and as one who loves an addict.

During my time in these groups I’ve noticed a plethora of parents, particularly mothers, who are so lost as to how their child has slipped away into addiction. They grasp at straws, trying to make sense of the chaos that has become their lives. One after the other of these women relates horror stories of addiction, lies, betrayals, thievery, brushes with the law, and brushes with death due to the drug use of their child. I can relate. That connection does make a difference, in fact it makes these things common; common to mothers of addicts everywhere.

I have learned that encouraging others, sharing my story, and offering hope to other mothers, as well as receiving the same in kind, has been a lifeline for me as I bob around in this sea of disbelief and despair that I’ve been cast into by our children. Many moms write their first posts, or voice their first share in a face to face meeting by opening their mouths or readying their fingers for typing….and the geyser of emotion begins to flow. For the most part these moms are full of anger.

anger

I spend a good deal of time telling them what I’ve learned, and if you are the mom or parent, or in any way caring for or loving an addict, I will tell you as well: Anger is a perfectly natural emotion to feel. Please do not apologize for feeling angry. And yes, this is the perfect place to vent. When we lose our children to drugs it is very much akin to losing them to death. In fact, I think it’s worse because we see and/or hear of the shape they are in and it pierces our hearts repeatedly. Caring for their children reminds us daily of our loss. We mourn for their children as well as ourselves.

I found it helpful to learn about grief and how to cope with it, while at the same time connecting with groups like this one so I did not feel so alone in my pain. When you are up to it, read up on the five stages of grief.

#1 ISOLATION or DENIAL of the reality of the situation

#2 ANGER – Anger at the addict for his/her actions; anger at yourself for not being able to rescue your loved one, etc.

#3 Bargaining – bargaining with God, or with them, to get them off of drugs. (THIS IS NOT EFFECTIVE, but nearly every loved one of an alcoholic/addict does this at some point in time.)

#4 Depression – This includes sadness and regret, as well as the preparation for separating ourselves emotionally and physically from our loved one.

#5 Acceptance – Don’t mistake this for accepting the addict’s bad behavior. Acceptance, instead, is of the reality of the situation and the realization that you are powerless to change it.

There, in step #5 of the grieving process, you are brought to Step #1 of your own program through Al Anon or NarAnon or the recovery program of your choice. I hope this helps you know that you are not alone in this. There are many who have gone before you, many who travel this road with you, and more who will travel it after you. In your journey you do not have to be alone. We in the groups (in the rooms, as they say), are here to help. Being in a group and reaching out in the rawness of your pain is the beginning of your healing process. (((hugs)))

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Staying Sane Around An Addict

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I have learned that one problem with people who do drugs is that they are self-centered. Drug use is self-gratifying. A person does not get high so someone else will feel no pain, cope, or check out of reality; they do it for themselves.

By nature drug users and addicts don’t bother, or are perhaps unable, to realize that their using negatively affects everyone in their immediate circle. It affects their family – nuclear and extended, their friends (except maybe their circle of friends who also use), their employer/employees and co-workers, and the public (every time they get behind the wheel of a car).

I  (and my husband, as well) have a very hard time as a parent. I worry incessantly about the 3 of our 4 children who are involved in the drug culture, and the fall-out from their choices. I worry about our grandkids.

I have allowed it to consume not only my life, but “our” life. My husband and I have started going to Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered program, which in our case is similar to NarAnon. We do this to regain sanity and stability in our lives. We are learning to separate our kids from who they are on drugs. We are learning to detach ourselves from them in our lives to protect our hearts. We are learning not to judge them, but to love them; to love them but not enable them. We are leaning to do all of these things and it is working.

We are making a conscious decision to not have our kids active in our lives unless they are drug-free. It means that we are learning to cope with things that come up with our children and grandchildren in a healthy way. Emotionally it feels like their drug use, et al will kill us, but we are learning to function healthily through it one day at a time.

We are trying to change the way we approach and deal with many things in our lives. For example, I have decided not to go to court next week to defend myself against a request for a restraining order by one of our daughters. If it is issued against me that’s her business. She is seeking it in retaliation for something I spoke in anger. That’s about her…not about me. It is her decision. When a prospective employer pulls a background check on me and sees it and assumes I am violent and not to be hired, I will assume God doesn’t intend for me to have that job anyway. I will not resent her, but will respect her choice to do this……whether it was meant in retaliation to hurt me or not.

I have come to realize it is time to tend to me and my husband; to our household and our relationship. We will not ask, beg or try to guilt our way into our children’s chaotic lives. If our grandkids come to us before we die and seek a relationship with us that will be fine. If not, so be it.  We will still continue to love our kids and grandkids and pray for them daily. We will continue to heal, to grow, to be happy. We will grow closer to God in the process because only with Him can we make it.

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TO ALL PARENTS – By Edgar Guest

angel

TO ALL PARENTS

by Edgar Guest

“I’ll lend you for a while a child of mine,” He said.

“For you to love the while he lives and mourn for when he’s dead.

It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three,

But will you, till I call him back, take care of him for me?

He’ll bring his charms to gladden you, and should his stay be brief,

You’ll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.”

“I cannot promise he will stay; since all from earth return,

But there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.

I’ve looked the wide world over in My search for teachers true

And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes I have chosen you.

Now will you give him all your love, not think the labor vain,

Nor hate Me when I come to call to take him back again?”

“I fancied that I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done!

For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we run.

We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may,

And for the happiness we’ve known, forever grateful stay;

But should the angels call for him much sooner than we’ve planned,

We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand!”

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Open Letter to My Incarcerated Daughter

kchb pic 1

Dear Daughter,

My heart holds more love for you than you will likely ever know. I have loved you from the moment I knew you had been conceived and I love you now. I don’t like or approve of everything you do, the choices you make, the friends you keep, or the habits you develop, but those things do not diminish my love for you.

       jens beautiful woman sister

You have made choices in your life that brought you to where you are today. I warned you about them, and being young, headstrong, and independent, you chose not to heed my words. I don’t judge you for that, for once I was young also.

laughing red lady

I still have a hard time understanding why the gangsta lifestyle appeals to you. I remember it starting before you were a teenager. I know lots of kids listen to the music of that movement and are never in trouble with the law. Sometimes they never do drugs, get involved in illegal activity, or choose friends who are heavily entrenched in that lifestyle; you did. You idolized the rappers you heard on the radio and saw in videos. You wanted to be and do all that they talked about. You wanted to be tough, to be hard, and to dress and look the part. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now.

KCHB pic leopard bathing suit top

I think of your childhood often these days. When you were a little girl you used to wear those little dress-up princess shoes. You could run in those little wedge heels; fast as greased lightning. You once loved horses, riding rodeo, and rescuing puppies from the pound. You used to love God, church, your friends, and your childhood dream of being a “gospel-singing, rodeo-riding missionary”  You lost that little girl and her dreams somewhere along the way and I hope somehow, while you’re away in prison, that you can rediscover at least a little piece of her.

I don’t expect you to go back to the way you were before you started heading in a negative direction. In fact, that would be impossible. I simply hope that you can rediscover and hold on to that part of yourself that was innocent, full of dreams and ambition, and wide-eyed with wonder at the world around you. Perhaps you can find her and nurture her and let her grow a little bit within you so you can find some sort of peace and happiness with yourself…..and maybe figure out who you want to be when you get out of there. It’ll be your perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over again.

curly highlights

Meanwhile, I’ll be right here, hoping and praying you can figure out how to merge that little girl you were with the woman you have become; someone you can be at peace with and love, nourish and care for. I will continue to write to you, support you, and love you…and to believe, as always, that you are smart enough and beautiful enough to be anything in the world your heart desires.

Love,

Mom

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How It Really Went Down – The Jeffrey Bailey Story

Jeffrey’s life was not altogether unlike many of his generation. At 28 years old he was a strikingly handsome man with a beautiful smile and a caring heart. He was intelligent and well spoken. Jeffrey, like many these days, had a hard time growing up. Raised by a single mother, who was raised by a single mother, Jeffrey started life out at a disadvantage. Drugs were a part of his everyday existence for as long as he could recall and he struggled with addiction, got into some trouble with the law, and made some mistakes in his life. He was not a bad person; rather a good fellow who made unwise, and sometimes outright poor, choices.
Two choices he did not make in error, however, were his two sons. If Jeffrey did nothing else in his lifetime, he loved his children with a love that only a parent could understand; a love deeper than anything he had ever known; a love so great it sometimes consumed him. He wanted to give his boys the world, though he was in a constant battle with his oldest son’s mother to spend time with his child.  Consolation, to some degree, was found in that he had full access to his infant son, whom he had with his girlfriend.
His choices, some of which were unwise, might have seemed to some like material for a Jerry Springer episode, but to Jeffrey, it was his life, his reality. He was not proud of the habits he had developed or the things he had done to support those them. He regretted his mistakes and had vowed, just months before, to not repeat them and to make retribution to his loved ones for the suffering he had caused them. He was in recovery and had been clean for more than six months. He was very proud of that accomplishment and was looking forward to the positive changes he had planned.
Estranged from his wife, with whom his son, Jayce was born three years prior, Jeffrey struggled to spend enough time being an active parent. He was not married to his infant son, Bryce’s mother, though they were in the process of planning their future together as a family. Their plans were cut short on a Thursday night in September when Jeffrey, taking a shortcut on foot through a wooded area on the outskirts of a small south Georgia town, disappeared.
Having been released from his latest stint in jail only a couple of weeks beforehand, local law enforcement, having knowledge of Jeffrey through the legal system, didn’t get particularly excited about him going missing. In the small town of Jesup, Georgia, social prominence plays a huge role in how seriously authorities take such a report. Needless to say, Jeffrey’s family was not one of the creme’ de la creme’ of Wayne County Georgia. His girlfriend filed a missing person report, but law enforcement did not take any significant action toward finding him.
It felt to Jeffrey’s family and friends that the authorities just viewed his case as unimportant and unworthy of their effort. They tried to make sense of that. Did the authorities believe that though Jeffrey had been clean and in recovery, that he had fallen off the wagon and just gone on a binge? Perhaps they thought he’d eventually surface, but after a week he was still missing.
Combing the woods where they knew he had been, day after day, loved ones found no sign of him. They had posters printed up and put them all over town and on the internet. They practically blew up FaceBook posting requests for help in finding him. After family members hounded the police for ten days, the authorities finally gave in and submitted the info on Jeffrey to local area television and radio stations for help in gathering information on his disappearance.
Jeffrey’s girlfriend started packing a pistol for safety and then, along with her best girlfriend, went to the worst parts of town. There, where drugs and violence were prevalent, she looked for information, asked questions, showed his picture around. Though she found out he had not been in the area, had not hit up his old suppliers for drugs, she still had to realize the seemingly inevitable possibility that perhaps he had gone back to his old ways and was somewhere within his old stomping ground. She kept looking. She did the detective work that the local authorities didn’t have any inclination to do.
She and Jeffrey’s family were frantic. They knew that if Jeffrey did not, at a very minimum, call to check on his children, that no good could come of the situation. His girlfriend knew that even if he had succumbed to the lure of the prescription pain pills, which he fought so hard to resist, surely he would still call her. In her heart-of-hearts however, she knew something bad had happened to him.

Rumors started to fly; they were varied, and some were implausible.

Rumors started to fly; they were varied, and some were implausible.  Jeffrey was with a seedy character, known locally for robbing people at gun or knife point. He was climbing a fence into the wooded area which was thick, littered with debris, and contained several ponds. There was a contract out on him in retaliation of a wrong committed against someone in the past. He was the victim of a drug deal gone wrong. A family member had him killed for stealing from her while he was struggling with addiction. He owed people money, and instead of collecting it, they killed him. He was a narc in jail, and someone killed him in retaliation.
The rumors were too many to count and too varied; they didn’t make sense. They were all reported to the authorities and still, the authorities were refusing to commit to a manhunt. When contacted, the local police and the Sheriff’s office were ill-coordinated; the left hand didn’t know what the right was doing, and there was little to no sharing of information between the two agencies. It seemed many people, including law enforcement, had the attitude about Jeffrey’s disappearance that there was no cause for alarm; it was just a case of another drug addict and drug dealer being off the streets.
Another week passed. Jeffrey’s girlfriend and her family contacted a renowned local non-profit organization which utilized tracking dogs, cadaver dogs, and boats with sonar equipment to search for missing persons. They were willing to look for Jeffrey free of charge; all they required was a call-to-action from law enforcement. Local law enforcement failed to request their services, even at the insistence of Jeffrey’s loved ones.
Nothing surfaced on this young man after two weeks until a local fisherman saw a body floating in a pond in that same wooded area that had been scoured by search party volunteers. It was Jeffrey, but he was unrecognizable. Two weeks in the water and the heat of September in South Georgia had taken their toll on the corpse.  He was still wearing the clothes he had on when he went missing fifteen days before. It was apparent that he had died that same night or shortly after that.
What a place to be found!  His body was lying lifeless in an area known as a dumping ground for murder victims. In years past, at least two other local homicide cases ended with the victims turned up in the same area. Local law enforcement had no choice then but to be involved. They called in state agencies and began to treat the discovery as a homicide. They sent his body to the state crime lab for identification.
It was then that the grisly facts started to come out. Jeffrey’s body, decomposed to the point that none of his tattoos were recognizable, his facial features were indeterminable, and his fingerprints were non-existent, was a grisly reminder to the family that he had was to the elements for too long. The lab obtained dental records, and a forensic dentist was brought in to make an identification before they released his body to his family for cremation.
Though a large part of the back of Jeffrey’s skull was missing, the decomposition of his body gave no physical evidence for authorities to use in pursuing a criminal case and his death was determined to be accidental, pending toxicology results.  Had he been located sooner, if authorities had done the job they are paid to do, then any evidence of foul play would be intact. An accidental drowning determination is of little comfort to his family. It doesn’t explain why a virile, healthy, athletic guy who could swim, would drown in a pond less than 500 feet from where he entered the woods. Many questions are still unanswered and may remain so indefinitely. Those who knew and loved Jeffrey will always believe foul play was involved and his case swept under the rug by local authorities, or at the very least made a moot point because of their slow call to action.
Jeffrey was only 28 years old, and his life had just begun. He may not have been important to local law officials, but he was still someone’s child, someone’s brother, friend and lover…and someone’s father.  He was his mother’s only son; his sister’s only sibling. He was a Daddy to two beautiful kids. His girlfriend loved him beyond measure. His wife mourned the fact that there was no longer any chance at reconciliation between them, as well as the fact that her child would never know his father. His death was tragic, untimely and unfair, but they can all hold fast in their hearts the beautiful things about him.
There are some things the family can rest in knowing and in which, perhaps find some comfort. Though it was cut short, his life did produce many memorable experiences, words, and deeds that were positive.  They can celebrate those things and cling to the love they had and still have for him. Though they can’t hug a memory, thought, or a feeling, they can put their arms around one another and give comfort where they can. For years to come, they can see Jeffrey in the faces, eyes, mannerisms, and dispositions of his sons. For this, they can be grateful, and in this, they can continue to express their love for Jeffrey.

 R.I.P. Jeffrey Lee Bailey. You are loved and missed.

 

online Obituary

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