My son, Paul, has been released from prison today. We made a vague plan for his first morning of freedom. He was to catch a train to Exeter, which would bring him about a third of the way home. I was going to catch a train from Barnstaple to Exeter, then we intended to meet up, and return to Barnstaple together. This would have meant that he would be at less risk at a time when he is vulnerable. Most addicts in prison, even when they’re clean, and determined to stay that way, think about having a hit as soon as they are freed.
However, there was a risk that he may be arrested as soon as he left the jail – for a small outstanding offence – so, whatever happened, he had to phone me and let me know. In order for me to be in Exeter at the right time, should he make it there, I had to get on the train before he would be available to ring me, but I realised that if I was on the train, I would be out of signal. Therefore, I couldn’t get on the train, because I would miss his call. The next train would get me there an hour after him.
He rang me as planned. I was still in Barnstaple. He had to use a public phone, and there wasn’t much time to talk. He pointed out, quite rightly, that he can’t be nursemaided for the rest of his life. He said I should stay where I was; he’d stop in Exeter for long enough to get something to eat, and see me later, in Barnstaple.
I can switch off the specific thought of what he may do – rather than, or in addition to, eating – in Exeter, but I can’t switch off the anxiety. To distract myself, I went to the gym, but found I’m too washed-out to exercise. I thought of going to Oxfam, and asking Karen (the manager) to give me something repetitive to do, rather than my usual work, which I’m pretty up-to-date with anyway, but I suspect that in my current mood I’d be a burden. Yesterday didn’t go particularly well. It was my regular day there, and in the afternoon I got a phone call from my daughter’s housing officer saying she’s been missing for a week. Although I knew that she’d been spotted on Tuesday morning by a friend, it made me so anxious that I had to leave early. I managed to locate Laura, and let the housing officer know that she was safe, so she could call off the welfare search, but now Laura is homeless again, and she probably hasn’t paid the top-up on her rent allowance either.
Paul reached Exeter fifty minutes ago. He will do what he will do. I should trust him. Families Anonymous literature on “helping” (written in the first person, making it useful as a visualisation) states:
- I will have no thought for the future actions of others, neither expecting them to be better or worse as time goes on, for in such expectations I am really trying to create or control. I will love and let be.
Those are wise words, but it’s hard to carry them out when your son has just left prison. From here, things will get either better or worse; they certainly won’t remain the same, and my own future actions depend on what Paul does today. I’m finding it impossible not to dwell on it. It would be false for anybody who has an addicted loved one, to pretend that they don’t hold out hope for their recovery, and where there is hope there is fear.
I cannot help having thoughts of his future actions – of his current actions even. I have a great deal of hope, but at the same time, I am very afraid. If he was your son, wouldn’t you be?
©Jane Paterson Basil