I need help. Every year I send out a “Holiday Headlines” letter. It’s an overview of my family’s year and a bit of a spoof on those insufferable letters that everyone receives, detailing the sender’s every trip, child’s accomplishments, and privileged life. My letter is a parody on all of that. It’s filled with self-deprecating humor, some of the ‘worst things’ that happened all year, plus a few philosophical ponderings and musings. All in all, the letter is a creative/literary challenge for me, and my friends seem to clamor for it every year. They say that it’s the only thing that keeps them sane and laughing after reading through the onslaught of the more typical ‘report card’ letters.
Since about 2002, it’s always been a challenge to write Hayley’s paragraph. I wanted to be honest, yet preserve her dignity. In dealing with her eating disorder, job changes, living situations, etc., I sweated bullets to present things in a positive way, with humor woven throughout. Generally, it worked, and Hayley was pleased with the results. But, I am absolutely stumped as to what to do this year. I like being funny – it’s one of my ‘gifts’. But there is absolutely nothing amusing about my daughter being a heroin addict – plus the fact that most people on my mailing list don’t know about the seriousness of her troubled history.
One friend suggested I just leave out a reference to Hayley all together. I don’t think I can do that. I guess I could ‘come clean’, as I did in 2002, regarding Hayley’s bulimia (*see below) – but acknowledging that my daughter is a heroin addict ‘publicly’, to a mailing list of ~150, seems unnecessary – and it would literally kill my 92 yo mother, who is filled with fear and shame that her friends will find out about Hayley’s drug addiction. Other years, I’ve alluded to Hayley trying to ‘find herself’, ‘navigate through the labyrinth of adult life’, ‘find her way’. These euphemisms seem ridiculous now. And yes, I guess I could send out a more traditional card – but that’s truly compromising who I am and how I want to be.
*YOUNG ADVENTURESS FINDS HERSELF AT HOME: (2002)
Hayley, 23, is in transition. In July, she made the courageous call from Santa Barbara to confront her eating disorder. I helped move her back home and she left, shortly thereafter, for a residential treatment center in Missouri. She is now back in (our small city) working full time, doing a lot of personal work and focusing on getting well, the ultimate journey. She has a long road ahead of her, but we are enormously proud of her and hopeful for her complete recovery. She misses her friends and life in SB, and her job with ComputerMotion, an exciting SB-based medical micro-robotics company (they develop, manufacture, and market the “Zeus” endoscopic equipment, world-wide). For now, this is where she is and needs to be.
So – if anyone has any language suggestions that would be less harsh, yet still somewhat honest, please let me know.
The other dilemma I’m grappling with is: what to do about Christmas? I haven’t initiated contact with Hayley since August, when she walked out of a medical detox facility against medical advice. I decided to try the ‘no contact’ approach, which we have never used before, thinking that this would be more effective in letting Hayley feel the full impact of her lifestyle choices. However, on Thanksgiving I broke down and sent this text to her:
Missing u, loving u, praying 4 u.
Hayley’s text back, on Friday:
I love you so much mom. Yesterday was so difficult for me. I miss my family so much it’s almost too painful to bare.
You are the only that can change that – and it is possible. What are you so afraid of?
I don’t know. Being reminded of what I have left behind and how selfish I am, I guess. I do want to see you and would seriously consider it.
I haven’t responded to this last text of Hayley’s, because I don’t quite know what to say. What would be the point in seeing her? Honestly, I don’t know if I can take seeing her again as a heroin addict with her abscesses, deteriorating health, and fading beauty. It’s too painful; plus, I feel very vulnerable to her manipulation – and never know what to believe.
The holidays have become hollowdays for me. My oldest son doesn’t even like coming home anymore, because Hayley’s sordid life is right ‘in his face’ when he does. I can’t wait for January 1st.
And then, it will be a countdown to her birthday in April – always something to not look forward to.