My son is only 26 but he has been sober for 9 years. I was surprised to have an alcoholic child. One in ten people are alcoholic. That’s still only ten percent of the human population. Plus, I’m not one. It’s a genetic disease and a spiritual malady is what I understand now. They have to be willing to admit they are powerless over alcohol and try to live by spiritual principles or the genetic quirk in their brains that compels them to drink takes back over. I wouldn’t have found any of this information relevant if it hadn’t been for my son Robert.
Robert was always a different kind of kid, even as a little boy. My wife agreed. She wasn’t an alcoholic but she went through a phase in her youth when she got involved with cocaine. That’s another thing I learned. There are some people that are just addicts, they aren’t alcoholics and once they get off drugs they can drink like normal people.
But if you’re an alcoholic, drugs aren’t safe either, all mind altering substances are poison. And there are some alcoholics who prefer drugs over booze but if they do drink it just takes them right back to drugs, thus revealing their alcoholic gene. They identify as addict alcoholics. My son is one of these. All this was very confusing to me at first.
My wife related a little better to Robert than I did maybe because she had a self destructive period when she was younger. But it wasn’t that I didn’t love Robert. I love that kid so much, too much really. I had a piss poor relationship with my own father. I was an angry young guy. My father was a military man, very strict, very religious. Undemonstrative in his affections. Consequently I was an atheist in high school. Then a little later I decided God was simply the highest part of my own consciousness, and it was superior to my lower consciousness, my ego. But I still wasn’t exactly on friendly terms with Mister or Miss God until I met my wife.
She was simply delightful in so many ways, and she also helped me with my anger. She was a spiritual woman, and was very interested in a variety of religious figures and metaphysical phenomena, but not in a poison Kool-Aid kind of way. We were in accord there. I never had a problem with accepting that there are some folks who can work “miracles”, or affect reality in ways science doesn’t quite have a bead on yet; I did a lot of reading in college about psychic phenomena and the fascinating government and military research done in this area, and about documented Native American shamanic healings, things like this, and I had no problem accepting there were folks capable of this stuff- I just didn’t see why people had to revert to baboon consciousness and deify them. Or get so devoted to any particular dogma that one of these people may espouse.
An intelligent reasonable approach to the divine and of consciousness in general makes perfect sense to me. I have read nothing in various books such as “Autobiography of a Yogi” that conflicts with our current understanding of quantum physics.
I loved my wife Lisa very much. We enjoyed each other’s company and I also found her tremendously sexy. She had riveting blue eyes and while I found her very physically attractive it was just her easy going intelligence that really turned me on. For example, it was so pleasant when Robert was born and she agreed with me that Robert should not be circumcized. I wasn’t going to mutilate my son’s genitals and was so happy she understood it was a barbaric harmful practice. Ten percent of the organ’s sensitivity is lost when you cut off the foreskin.
I understand why people get divorced. Most of the time it’s over money problems, but the rest I imagine has a lot to do with simply not being on the same wavelength when it comes to important issues in this life. She and I for the most part shared that same frequency. She thought I walked around with a “perpetual bowtie” on and was uptight (her words) and she was right. Then I’d tell her she was always late to appointments and had other egregious things wrong with her and she agreed. And we’d end up laughing.
Lisa was killed when Robert was six; her car was hit by a semi truck with faulty compression brakes, also known as “jake brakes”, coming down the Grapevine. No one else was hurt in the accident. I didn’t do her memory a discredit by going backwards and turning back into that depressed (quietly angry) young man for too long. I knew she would want me to stay happy for our young son. I will be honest, I was filled with rage and despair for I’d say for about six months. My mother moved in and took care of Robert. Me and a stinky bathrobe and the couch became good friends. I was a young and rising commercial architect but I turned the two projects I was working on over on to some associates and did not go to the office once in close to a year.
But eventually I came out of it, really for Robert. I went back to work but was able to do so on more of a part time basis because we received a settlement from the trucking company (I did find a bloodthirsty lawyer who was worth every penny I paid him). I wanted to make sure Robert would come through this as unscathed as possible and he did do okay. He missed his mom but children are extremely resilient and shrewd survivors. His little brain calculated that as long as he had one parent present and accounted for, he would get the necessary food and love required to survive and grow into a fine adult human. Which he has.
His boyhood years were trying for both of us though . We were similar in the way we both thought deeply and carefully about the important concepts but he was much more physical than I. I don’t mean sports either. He was never interested in those. He was a violent kid. He was suspended in the sixth grade for beating up another boy in his class and breaking the kid’s nose. I suppose his parents could have sued the school as well as me but their child had actually instigated the argument by physically bullying a smaller student. Robert came to that kid’s defense and witnesses there backed this story up.
I didn’t punish Robert, I actually praised him for protecting somebody weaker than himself. But I told him he needed to be able to control himself when he was in situations like this because if he severely injured or killed someone else he’d end up in jail regardless of why the fight started. And that is giving someone else complete power over you.
He asked me if I ever got in a fight and I truthfully told him only once. He asked what happened and I told him about a high school fistfight I’d been involved in. He asked if I won and I said I had, but I wasn’t fighting to protect somebody or for my honor etc. It was just a stupid pimply high school fight. Robert said okay dad and then continued to get into altercations as he got older. The suspensions were frequent in junior high and then into high school. A few involved him sticking up for another person but most of them were responses to personal attacks. If someone called him a name or hassled him in any sort of threatening capacity, he simply in his words, “beat the shit out of the fucker”.
Robert was not a large guy, he was of average height but tremendously strong, wiry with fast reflexes, which I like to think he inherited from his old man. He had a luxurious head of dark hair like Lisa and her blue blue eyes. It sometimes startled me, because he was very handsome and looked so much like her. I suspected a lot of guys got in altercations with Robert because they called him a pretty boy. I knew he was also considered one of the “artsy” or “punk rock” kids, and it seemed it was many of the sporty type guys, the jocks, with whom he ended up tangling with. I never once heard of Robert fighting a guy who looked like he did. He dressed oddly, in old teeshirts with mysterious sharpie written messages and symbols on them. Black tight fitting pants. Sneakers with more sharpie messages.
Robert rarely lost one of these fights and luckily by the time he was sixteen, they seemed to have subsided and I guessed this was because people were afraid of him now.
As he progressed into later adolescence, he began to read constantly and liked engaging me in philosophical conversations. He confided in me too. He told me when he was fifteen that he believed he was mentally ill. I was taken aback. I said “Why son?” And he said because he had repetitive thoughts and and that he felt bummed out all the time. I asked him what his thoughts were about and he said he was worried about the planet being poisoned by the corporate feudal system (his words).
He told me he had a reoccurring dream about being trapped in a house. “It’s a brand new house and it’s built with toxic petroleum based carpeting and paint and particle board. Everything looks creepy and it stinks like chemicals and there is no life,” he said. “There’s no water coming out of the faucets and no food in the fridge. It’s a sterile place and a place of farts and death.”
I found this dream alarming and asked him if he felt it was a metaphor for growing up without a mother (I was concerned that was what had caused all his problems) and he got exasperated with me and said “No, it’s about what could happen to the planet if the government allows big business to further ravage it. Just everyone dead from carcinogenic chemical poisoning.”
“That’s not going to happen son” I told him and he asked me why not and I told him his generation was going to fix it. I told him “You guys all have the internet in your pockets, you are so much more evolved and educated. You’re higher souls.” He said he constantly worried that humanity was going to fuck it all up. He said “Big Energy has begun using wind power but they don’t give a shit that those windmills are killing the bats. The frequency of the wind turbine rotating fucks up the bats’ sonar and they fly right into them. And it’s all so retarded because solar power is way more efficient than wind and even works in cloudy places. But anyways, we need the bats to eat the bugs or our crops will die. They are also almost as important as bees when it comes to pollination. But the pesticides they spray on the crops are fucking with both the bees’ and the bats’ immune systems.”
I told him he should write to his congress people and put out a blog and I remember my chest welled with pride. My son was so smart. I suggested he get involved with an organization like Greenpeace after school. He seemed to think this over and thought it sounded like a good idea. And as far as his mood problems were concerned, I offered to take him to a therapist but he refused. And he seemed a little more light hearted after we talked. I waited hopefully for him to join some activism groups and thought how great it would look on his college applications but the closest Robert got to Greenpeace was a picture torn from a magazine I found in his bathroom. It was a famous picture of a young woman protester who’d chained herself naked to an oil tanker in San Diego. She was very cute and very nude. The photo was next to a squirt bottle of lotion.
I was so proud of him though for thinking about important issues. But then other behaviors began to manifest. The police pulled him over for driving around with a coffee cup glued to the roof of his truck. The cops ticketed him and escorted him home. His vehicle was an old four banger pickup he bought with the money I paid him for helping me reroof the house the summer before he turned 16. I asked him what the hell was he thinking and that he could have caused an accident. He told me in his freshly changed oddly deep voice that he hadn’t thought about that, he just thought it was hilarious to see people pointing at him frantically and “losing their shit” while he was driving around. The cops informed me they’d caught him rolling down his window and flipping off one of these concerned citizens before attempting to drive off. One of his idiotic girlfriends was with him at the time and she thought Robert was hilarious too. Well, I put him to work at a friend’s house refinishing their roof and I took away his truck for four months. That seemed to focus him for a little while.
But he began acting more strangely the next year and I just could not stand the young women he was spending time with. One in particular I did not approve of as I overheard Robert joyfully telling a friend that this girl “sexted” him a photograph of her vagina replete with a tampon string hanging out of it. I was happy when this female moved right along but another soon took her place. Each of his harem looked lost and mean and I suspected them of being high. Then I realized Robert was high.
He stopped talking to me and hid out in his room or stayed out very late. I knew he was skipping classes and then the report card came and it was F’s and Incompletes. He got a DUI before Christmas. And then a second one while driving a friend’s mother’s station wagon. It was frightening how quickly he disintegrated. I found pieces of tin foil in his room smeared with a brown substance and I told him he would have to go to treatment or leave the house. He wasn’t rude to me but just smiled sadly and left that evening with an old duffel bag.
I didn’t see Robert for almost two years. It was the worse thing that ever happened to me and I wanted to wring his fucking neck I was so worried. I never even knew where he was most of the time. I drove around many nights looking for him. I lost thirty pounds. I’d heard he was staying in the city at some squat but could not locate him. There were other kids there though, living amongst some old sleeping bags and needles and turds. I asked them if they knew Robert but no one would talk to me. I gave them some twenties. It seemed like such an incongruous waste and I couldn’t figure out how it could have happened so quickly.
I blamed myself. I found myself apologizing over and over to Lisa. And experiencing deep rage at God again. But then miraculously I received a phone call from the hospital and Robert was in it. He had tuberculosis but it was responding well to the intravenous antibiotic therapy. He’d been living in a tent on someone’s property, having heroin and beer for dinner each night.
When I first saw him I was shocked. He looked like a cartoon skeleton. But a smiling one. He seemed really happy to see me and I started crying. For the first time in years he brought Lisa up and told me he had talked with his mom. I was afraid to press him for details as I had never had a ghostly visitation myself but that was all he wanted to say about it. He looked different inside. More peaceful. When he was released from the hospital he expressed a desire to go to AA and I let him move back in with me.
He stuck with the program and will have ten years sober this February. I went to a lot of meetings with him in the beginning, and still attend open ones with him from time to time (open meetings are ones where non alcoholic visitors can attend too). He has always managed to got to two meetings a week even when he’s working overtime (he now co-owns the second largest solar panel installation company in the state). I feel very grateful that I got to watch Robert grow up and commence to living. I know Lisa is very proud of him. I haven’t had to worry about him as much for some time now. I’ve actually even started dating again.
Copyright © 2013 by Kim Campion