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whole lotta love

Saturday, March 23, 2013

That title (besides being the title of one of the best rock and roll songs ever written and performed) pretty much sums up the past couple of weeks of my life. As many of my Sparkfriends know, my husband and I took in our youngest child as a baby. He is now 9 years old. He began life as our nephew, the child of my husband's "baby" brother and his then wife. Addiction took hold of the birthparents, took them to awful places, and they simply could not take care of a child. We took P. in and have raised him as our own for most of his life. He knows about his birthparents but has had limited contact with them over the years, due to the nature of the beast of addiction. He has, at times, experienced deep sadness and longing for his first parents. There are also other children involved - three older siblings that his mother had when she met my brother-in-law, and a child born to her and my brother-in-law two years ago. The oldest three are with a relative of the birthmother, the 2 year old girl is with a lovely adoptive family who initially took her in as a temporary foster care placement, and, of course, we have our wonderful P. It took a lot of wading through foster care requirements and a big dose of serendipity, but we have been fortunate to be able to connect all five birth siblings. Last weekend, I picked up the three oldest (12 year old boy/girl twins and a 13 year old girl) and they joined P. and I as we drove an hour south to celebrate the 2nd birthday of the youngest sibling. For the first time in their lives, all five siblings were reunited. It was very sweet. My sweet boy spent too much time worrying about his siblings - where were they? were they okay? when would he ever see them? To be able to give him time with them, so he can see that they, too, are in loving homes and being cared for, to give him peace of mind, has been priceless. We had had visits with the youngest, or with the older siblings, and that had been joyous, but circumstances always conspired to prevent everyone from being together at the same time. So, it was a sweet success to gather them all together for a celebration.

The very next day, we had another reunion. It was set in motion earlier in the week when I picked up the phone and called my b.i.l. We had heard he was clean and sober but I was skeptical, as was my husband. We had so hoped he would find his way back but he had gone down so far, for so long, that we had given up hope. We would get occasional updates about him, and, slowly, I found my skepticism receding, my hope growing bit by tiny bit. In a truly welcome, God-given development, my resentment and anger towards him and his former wife dissipated. When I made the decision to call him, I did so with my mind and heart as open as I could allow them to be. He was nervous, I was nervous, but we began to talk. We made a date for he and I and my husband to meet for lunch. As soon as my husband and I saw him, we embraced him. We could tell by looking at him, that he was back. There are no guarantees with being and staying clean and sober. I have been in recovery for 27 years and I know that I could lose it all with one decision to drink. As we spoke, J's humility and gratitude and honesty were apparent. These are all essential components for having any chance at staying away from booze and drugs. We spoke about a lot of things and of course we spoke about the precious little boy we all have in common. We bragged about P. which is easy to do, he is a remarkable kid. At one point, I told J. that P. is an anxious kid and that we spend time helping him sort through his fears so that they don't dictate his life and hold him back from life. My b.i.l. got a look on his face and told me, "what you just said about P., that is me - I have felt that as long as I can remember". Trust me, this would not be your first thought if you met my b.i.l. He is 6'5", 250 lbs, strong and athletic (thankfully, his addiction did not destroy his body and health though it came very close to doing so). I am currently reading a fascinating book "The End of My Addiction" by Dr. Olivier Amiesen where he hypothesizes that the root of addiction, rather than just being a genetic defect, is more often self treatment of anxiety and other mood disorders. He includes compulsive over-eating in his list of addictions that troubled minds/souls use to quiet their anxiety. I had a sense of compassion that, I am not proud to admit, had been missing from my feelings about my b.i.l. and his wife. I had spent so much time being angry and upset with them for the lifestyle they were leading, that it overwhelmed the compassion and empathy I did sometimes feel for them. When I met my b.i.l. he was a little boy of 10 years old. I was immediately taken with him. He was such a sweet little boy. It broke my heart when he took such an ugly path. It broke a lot of people's hearts, including his own. I don't see him as a victim - he did a lot of awful things that he will have to atone for. My husband and I, however, were in agreement after spending time with him, that we would be willing to risk a reunion between J. and P. We did not make this decision lightly, at all. When I expressed concerns to sweet P. about the risk to his heart of us letting J. back into his life, he said "Momma, I am not a little daisy - my heart can handle this." He is certainly not a little daisy. He definitely takes after his birthdaddy. At the age of 9, he is nearly as tall as me (I am 5'3"), he wears a man's size 10 shoes, and can throw a baseball or a football so hard that it makes coaches eyes light up. But, he is a sensitive boy and I have devoted lots of time to protecting him from harm so that is my first instinct. My husband and I and our 20 year old son and P. all met up with J. at a baseball facility with batting cages which turned out to be a brilliant place to meet. P. was a little shy but so excited to see J. J. greeted our 20 year old son, first, with a big hug and then he turned and saw P. He wrapped him up with a warm hug and P was beaming. J. told me, with a wink, "he's a little beast!" Once they got situated and started hitting baseballs, P. turned to me with huge eyes and said "look how hard he hits the ball, Momma". It was a joy to see J. being athletic again, looking strong and healthy, after so long of fearing he would kill himself with drugs. As all "my boys" were hitting baseballs, it did my heart good. I love them, I love baseball, and we were all together, enjoying one another's company. I know it won't be smooth sailing from here on out, that we are in a honeymoon period, but it does not diminish the miracle. P. had a great perspective. After spending the afternoon with his birthdaddy, he told me "we just need to build a bridge made out of trust" (I LOVE this kid, this wise little 9 year old). Just the fact that J. expressed so much gratitude towards us, is a blessing. At one point he told me that he will feel indebted to me for the rest of his life. After years of he and others in the family resenting me for what they thought was my unreasonable stance about protecting P from what I considered harmful situations, it was nice to hear some gratitude, believe me. My b.i.l. and I have been exchanging text messages and one of his, to me, was how blessed he feels to have family again because "it has been a long and lonely ten years".

We are pursuing a legal adoption which is complicated because P's birthmama is a member of a tribe and the tribe only allows for adoption if both birthparents sign away their parental rights. I told J. that we want to go the formal adoption route because, to me, the difference between having third party custody, and formal adoption, is like the difference between being married and living together. I want P. to know we were never looking for an exit, that we are committed. He will retain his birthdad's last name (they also share a middle name) and we are hoping to encourage a warm relationship between them but we wish to finish the job we started. J. agrees, as painful as it is, and volunteered to broach the subject with his ex-wife. She told him she wanted to speak to me. We had not spoken for years and the last conversation was not pleasant. I had some trepidation, but I called her. She has been quite ill and she told me that has softened her perspective on allowing adoption. I reminded her, at one point, that we were never protecting P from HER, but from her addiction. She said she understood that. I couldn't help but think she would love to be protected from her addiction. It has cost her nearly everything. Again, she has made horrible choice after horrible choice but, because I know a lot about addiction and I know a bit about her life and how awful it has been from the outset, I do have some empathy. I am guarded, but I am not indifferent to her situation.

Our story is not over. It may get worse before it gets better. It may get sadder. It may turn ugly once again. But, right here and right now, there is hope and there is compassion where there once was a great shortage of both. In the book I referenced earlier, the author is hopeful about a new drug being studied to address the very real biological component of the addictive brain. In my experience, one of the most powerful spiritual antidotes to addiction is love. Love is one of the few forces that holds any sway over addiction - I have seen it many times, in my life and others. Love may not be the cure-all, but without it, there is no hope for freedom from addiction. My family history, and my husband's, is shot through with addiction and alcoholism and other forms of compulsions. There are days that I feel nothing but exhaustion and some hopelessness when I think about it. These past days, however, exhaustion has been replaced by hope and compassion and a whole lotta love.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Just read this and want to say that I learned so much from hearing your story. You have been "blessed to be a blessing." I hope and pray that things continue to go well.
    1859 days ago
    What a wonderful feeling that must have been to see the family all together, and TRULY enjoying their time.
    I really appreciate that you shared this with us and allowed us to see how something initially very painful, can be softened by love. Truly love changes everythng.

    How wonderfully blessed P is to have you as his mom, and even more of a blessing that you are pursuing the legal adoption, so he will know in his heart that he will always be a part of your family, your son!

    It seems that your love for P has mended some strained family relationships too. Truly amazing.

    1872 days ago
    Mind-blowing...only the heart can handle such things. And what Ellen said!
    1872 days ago
    What an amazing blog: such a complex mix of candour and compassion and wisdom and hope and appropriate caution! What you've done is nothing short of miraculous . . . and the path forward is not necessarily going to be easy either. But: good to rest a moment and receive gratitude, so richly deserved, and experience optimism, so essential.
    1872 days ago
  • DAISY443
    1877 days ago
    You're such an awesome woman, Carole. I'm truly blessed to have you in my circle of friends and you're family is even more blessed, especially P.

    You know we share the same life. I'm going through the exact same thing. We FINALLY got together with Kina's brother who was adopted by another family. And her other brother has moved closer to us and he stayed with us over the weekend.

    Now Kina is asking about her father. So.....her mom contacted him and we'll be making time for them all to get together. By the way, he has 10 other children! emoticon

    I'll keep you posted.
    1882 days ago
    Thank you - this was a wonderful blog and it gave me a lot of thoughts and warm feelings to read it!
    1882 days ago
    When you started with the rock and roll song reference I didn't expect to end reading your blog in tears emoticon Love is an amazing thing and all of us broken humans have hope where there is love. You are right you don't know what tomorrow brings but today is blessed because of the openness of your hearts. It is truly fitting this last week before Easter and I thank you for inspiring me to be less insecure and more courageous with my loved ones. Love conquers all!
    1882 days ago
    Well I see great things ahead. And it all began because you reached out. You are agem. And so is that boy of yours. How awesome to get those kids all together!!!! That must have meant the world to are just....wwonderful.
    1883 days ago
    C.....I'm speechless........(my friends would say, "that's impossible!!! lol)
    I'm awed beyond words at your courage, compassion, insight, generosity, kindness and more. And I believe P is as wise as he is (at 9!!!) because of YOUR influence on him since his babyhood.

    This reunion was truly a gift....but it wasn't a free gift. It required a huge investment from you & and your DH's hearts to experience further pain as well as courage & willingness to put himself out there on J's part. I don't even know the words to express such emotions as you all have experienced. Furthermore, I cannot quantify my admiration and respect for everyone's effort to NOT BE overcome and give up. YOU are say you have "warts", but baby, I can't find 'em! Thank you a million times for your heart that connects you with so many who desperately need someone Just Like You.

    1883 days ago
    What a deeply touching, wonderful entry. Thank you very much for sharing this with us.
    I read the book by Ameisen, it was a fascinating read. I'm also impressed with what you said about love being the antidote to addiction. Thank you.
    1883 days ago
    What a powerful voice you have -- your capacity for empathy is extraordinary -- and your little guy is so full of love and understanding. Most stories like this don't have happy endings -- but with your good judgment and care, this one WILL. You have a gigantic heart, Carole. You Are Awesome.
    1883 days ago
    Thanks for sharing... I am in awe of how well you have handled the situation. Kudos to you and your family.

    1883 days ago
    Oh my. Trying to type this through a bucket full of emoticon . I just am so awed by the level of understanding your son has. He is a very special young man, to say the least. BUT I just have to jump in here and tell you that you & your DH are awesome, totally awesome, the way you're helping that young man work thru the plethora of emotions that he must be feeling. I can't even begin to imagine, except to know that at least for my son, there will always be an "empty spot" in his heart that he knows next to nothing of his birth parents. I just think it is spectacular that you could help him connect with the rest of his family.

    As an adoptive parent, I wish you ALL the best as you go forward with the process. I hope it is successful.

    HUGS HUGS and more hugs.
    1883 days ago
    How awesome are you and your husband? I will keep you and all in my prayers.
    1883 days ago
    Awesome, With all that love, the story WILL have a great outcome despite any dips, turns, and bumps you encounter. After all, problems are no match for a whole lotta love!!

    Thank you for sharing.
    1883 days ago
    What a beautiful blog Carole! You do indeed have a whole lotta love. You also have a whole lotta compassion and ability to forgive. Addictions of all kinds are so powerful....and it's easy to forget when we feel like we are in control of our own, that others are still fighting against theirs. This is where your compassion comes in. I never knew you little "P" was not biologically your own son. I know he is your own son is every other way that matters though. He sounds like a lovely, intelligent and insightful boy--I guess he was raised by parents who are also lovely, intelligent and insightful, not to mention compassionate. Well done Carole!!

    My son & his wife are trying to adopt their little Mia, she's 3 and has been with them since she was 1. Her Vietnamese (but American born) mother is fighting the adoption, but she has such an unstable life, I know Mia is better off with my son and daughter-in-law. Mia's father is a Native American, and he has signed off on the adoption, as well as his tribe, so all is well. An interesting part of their heritage that I was never before aware of. Good luck to your family--that whole lotta love you all seem to share should come in real handy as you navigate these healing waters!
    1884 days ago
  • DOODIE59
    Hi Carole
    Your wise words are a benefit to anyone fortunate enough to read them. It's funny ... I find forgiveness heals the forgiver most ... and that is a blessed, blessed thing. I hope things work out the best for sweet P -- he deserves it. I know how crippling anxiety can be, so I am grateful you see the importance of supporting P and teaching him skills to work around it. That is a life long gift of enrichment. Hugs, hugs, hugs, and thank you again for sharing.
    1884 days ago
    What a fabulous son you have in P.! Your love and compassion has ensured he is able to live a good life, full of love and family. I have to agree with that author. I've had experience with addiction myself (not just my own food ones) and it boiled down to self-medicating for feelings of anxiety, etc. (particularly in the case of my loved one). It's a rough road that still has a lot of stigma attached to it, even among recovering addicts, sadly. I've found myself in the situation on more than one occasion trying to impart some education and knowledge to those that judge quickly and harshly. Good for you for your openness and understanding.
    1884 days ago
    Thank you SSSOOOOOOOOOO much for sharing this with us all. Only those of us with deep roots in the world of family addiction and the journey to the other side for ourselves and our family members, can relate to this so deeply it makes our bone marrow weep. You told this beautiful story so powerfully, it made my heart pound. God Bless you all as you step day by day into the future filled with hope, love, and joy.
    1884 days ago
    sending love to you all, another great song once said "all you need is love"
    1884 days ago
    What a wonderful story. I hope that things continue to move in this direction!
    1884 days ago
    Words fail me here; very touched and moved. What special people! What a whole lotta love, indeed.
    Amazing attitude and perspective on life. Wow!
    1884 days ago
    I don't think I have read anything so moving and heartwarming in a very, very long time.
    Thank you for sharing, for telling us so much about your family and your hope for them all.
    You have a wonderful handle on all this that is happening, and you are not a dreamer, but a realist.
    I, too hope for you, for your DH, for P, for J and for P's mom. Your compassion is heartwarming, and you have it right....Love never fails.
    1884 days ago
    I'm speechless here, Carole... and with eyes full of tears... I always knew you were a loving and caring person but... I had no idea how much!
    I really wish you the best for P., for you and for the whole family. And even if there are awkward and ugly moments again in the future, there will still be love. And love really conquers all. Always.
    1884 days ago
    1884 days ago
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