I was talking to a Book Club friend the other day about how much energy it takes to “pretend”. Below is an excerpt from my book, which creates a not-so-pretty-and-oh-so-realistic picture of what it feels like to hide behind a wall of shame.
We convince ourselves that addicts live on another, seedier side of town. And most likely, under a bridge. But they’re sitting at our kitchen counter asking for a sandwich. They’re opening the refrigerator and drinking milk from the carton. They’re rifling the pantry drawers looking for a midnight snack while making furtive phone calls.
When your child is an addict, words like incarcerated, UT (shorthand for urine test) and the slippery-sounding recidivism take up residence in your vocabulary, muscling out team captain, graduation and full-scholarship. Your social network expands, too. Instead of coaches and scout leaders, your contact list includes public defenders, caseworkers, and parole officers.
I’d become proficient at whitewashing Sam’s life, providing just enough information to be technically truthful. “He’s out in Colorado,” I’d say breezily, when the question came up; then change the subject. “Hanging in there,” I’d add, when pressed, as if he were facing midterm exams instead of a court date for felony drug possession. And when the question of Thanksgiving or Christmas arose, I’d chirp, “We’re all looking forward to being together!”
If there was a way to answer honestly, from the heart, I hadn’t found it. Instead, I fudged the facts, determined to hide my shame. And in doing so, I was turning my pain inward, blaming myself: Surely, a better parent would have avoided this train wreck.
I didn’t know another soul who had been pulled through this keyhole, so I threw my energy into minimizing the evidence. I mounted a cover-up. I smiled. I socialized, never giving a hint that too much of anything was wrong. I just focused on saving face, hiding the truth, blending in. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.
But I was dying inside.