Absent Mother PTSD

8 Dec

Some nights it doesn’t take much, a flickering light, a familiar scent, a memory that leads to another, and I am back there again. Gut wrenching on a mattress, enough sweat pouring out of me to put out a wildfire in the peak of summer’s heat but not enough to cleanse me. It only takes a few moments of memory combined with the sound of you sleeping beside me to remember how my addiction took me away from you.

Son. .. The sun and moon and stars and any provision of light in my life. Within seconds of rifling through these faded mental photographs where I had left you to question whom you belong with, I start choking on air, my body folds into itself, and the sounds I muffle from escaping get stuck in the back of my throat.

After the midnight hour passes I am up with moonlight, mourning the times my spirit was too crippled to be there for you. The times that I had put the bottle, the drugs, and blotting out my own traumas before you. I will never get those moments back. I search for old photographs to remember what you looked like during that time, to assure myself that I was present in some way, shape, or form. It doesn’t work though. I long to melt into photograph to reassure you that I love you and to greet you with the morning sun.

I know this feeling that haunts me. It is the guilt and shame that I packed away with a counsellor in a parking lot just a little over a year ago. I told her that this feeling was taking me away from being your mother now and it’s hands were pressing upon the neck of my fragile sobriety. I know I’m an addict with addict behaviours and tendencies. This feeling wants me to drown myself in a glass of cheap rye again.

I left that feeling in the parking lot that day, but sometimes it finds me with my guard down. It is a kamikaze shame shooting attack. It drops bombs in the landscape of my daily mental/emotional/spiritual/physical life. Your mother has become an expert at putting invisible fires out.

When I was at a writer’s residency a few months ago and you were with your Grandparents, I awoke with my entire body missing your being. I cried so hard I literally fell off of the bed, my body trembling with memories of times I had left you with only ungodly acts to commit. Snot slid down my face, my breath quickened and split up by my heaving. I crawled towards my phone to call your grandparents so I could hear your voice knowing it would provide me peace.

My body remembers my absence.  

This is a whole other element of recovery that I wasn’t taught about in treatment, in Alcoholics Anonymous, or in my Addictions course in fourth year.

Maybe these passing midnight moments will forever be with me, maybe I’m still so new in my sobriety that they surface to cause me to struggle, or maybe it’s absent mother PTSD and eventually, after repeated exposure it will not have the same effect on me.

I am here now. I am present. I am sober. I fall asleep to the sound of your light snoring and awaken to your “piggy back me to breakfast” demands that I always indulge. I am your mother, and sometimes I still fall short, but I am learning.

I just wanted to say that I love you.



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