I’m holding my son in the NICU. I put him here, my substance misuse put him here.
I am so sorry that I forgot. Forgot about my divinity and perfection and worth, and therefore forgot about yours, too. If I could do it all over again I would fight harder to ween off all the meds, I would go to counseling and finally show up on those sofas instead of manipulate the therapists for my gain. I would reconnect with all my sisters and friends who helped hold me accountable and challenged me to Love well.
Who needs a friend when I’ve got oxy? And Adderall? And Attivan? And Cymbalta? And Ambien? And Lyrica?
Buddy, I was wounded, not wicked. (When you are old and wise you will come to learn that all evil is just unaddressed wounding. Nobody is wicked, because God called our clay Good in the Garden). They ripped me open to rip you out, and I think maybe something else tore apart, too.
For two weeks you laid in your plastic bassinet, healing and spending time with Jesus and nurses who didn’t trust me. They called social services on me because babies who end up in those hospital rooms usually grew inside a mama who injects heroin. Social services never came though because the nurses learned that my medications were prescribed by doctors, not drug dealers. And because I am white.
Once your caretakers witnessed my diaper-doing skills they stood down and let me close to you. I wanted to be close to you always.
I need a NICU. Where can I go to ween off the meds and rest with Jesus and nurses?
So I left you again, this time for rehab, spending my nights in the Shake Shack. No babe, that’s not where one goes to slurp down a paper cup full of blended mint ice cream. In the Shake Shack you shake night after night while the chemicals slowly melt away from the heat of the fevers you spike. In the Shake Shack angry Alaskan women who smell like kimchi threaten to punch you in the face if you turn on the lamp at 6:30am again.
If, by the time you are reading this, you have not been to rehab—you should go. Because you won’t find a safer space to exhale, a more perfect place to be human. Rehab is what Jesus wants the Church to look like.
The 12-steps are the only path I know of to true love, acceptance, contentment, and enlightenment. That’s why Daddy and I teach them to you kids at the dinner table and on holidays and in the car on the way to school. Because we all misuse something, we all want to feel better, and we will regurgitate any lie to keep us comfy.
Atticus, pain will stay a close companion, just like the pacifier clipped to your shirt. Hard almost always rolls in before the Good. The difference between recovering humans and not-yet-recovering humans is this: Radical Self Love.
People who have been brave enough to fail miserably and beg for help learning how to Love. Please don’t try to be perfect (but also please stop peeing on the wall). Your dad and I just want you to ask for help, whenever you need it. I wish I had asked for help…
The Good news is settling into the fact that God takes you AS YOU ARE and that God loves you AS YOU ARE. The longer you marinate in that, the more you’ll taste like Love.
Repeat after me: I can’t fuck it up.
Good job! Son, you cannot fuck it up—ever. Which means neither can anyone else. You’re a human, and God adores humans. I do, too.
When I recall the two weeks you spent in the NICU, shame, guilt, and darkness rush over to me and start painting my body black. Because doesn’t putting you in the NICU mean I fucked it all up? Most people stop drinking and taking drugs when they find out they are pregnant.
But your mama decided to increase the quantities of both, because they said I wasn’t able to have another baby, and my body needed time to heal, and I was consumed with fear about my pain increasing as you grew inside. I forgot about the God of your Aunt Ellen, the God of Joshua and Mother Teresa and U2.
I wish I could’ve done it differently—but I am not ashamed. Perfect Love drives away all those demonic artists who try to cover me in my darkest moments.
Wounded, not wicked.
The good news for you is that I doubt you’ll ever reach the levels of fuckery that I did. Even if you did I promise you that God’s love for you has nothing to do with any amount of debt, terminated pregnancies, or even murders.
Let’s not murder though.
This is by no means a charge to go and shatter Shalom, to undo the perfect peace God is co-creating with us. No, we are to Love: ourselves, others, justice, mercy, God. Grace is the safety net. It’s is the swoop of a mama eagle rescuing her chick from the cliffs below.
It isn’t until one feels fully safe & loved that one can dare to live, serve, and cultivate something lasting with God. Christians have forgotten that loving thy neighbor does not imply a sanitary scrubbing of one’s humanity before a seat at the dinner table is offered. Other peoples’ lives are other peoples’ lives. Let’s stick to spaghetti and meatballs and leave all our projections and judgments on the front porch.
Atticus, you saved me. You tore apart decades of scar tissue the way no number of failed relationships, prescription slips, or prayer could. Bucket loads of necessary death followed your birth, thank you for revealing all my fear & rage, my decay.
I see you with Jesus before your arrival, he is explaining the mission—your mission—should you choose to accept. You, in all your justice-seeking glory, nod and even agree to take me as your Mama. Thank you for your fire, your voice, and your golden baby hair. Thank you for adoring me & all my humanity, for now.
I love you AS YOU ARE.