I love you, but…

I love you, but…

How many times did I say this as my son grew up?  How often did I repeat them in the troubled days of his active addiction, sometimes at the worst times?

I recall saying it the evening my husband and I returned from a meeting at the high school where Jacob’s advisor warned us:  your son might not graduate.  He’s missing too many assignments

Or the time I picked Jacob up from his job at the coffee shop and he collapsed into the passenger seat, his head back, eyelids heavy, too foggy for conversation.

Or the worst of all, when I crouched by his bedside long after midnight one night, kneeling on the floor a whisper from his face, feeling for air coming from his mouth or nostrils, trying not to panic, needing reassurance that he was breathing, until he mumbled with eyes closed, “Don’t worry Mom. I’m all right”

These were the times I would say, “Jacob I love you, but…”  The line always ended with a threat.  I love you, but sign this contract.  I love you, but promise to stop using.  I love you, but tell me you won’t do this again.  Stop.  Just stop.

But of course, he didn’t.  He couldn’t.  Not then.  Not until he was ready.

And so “I love you, but” gradually grew into a new phrase:  I love you and…”  With equal weight on what the words meant, without threat, or limits, or qualification.

I love you, and…..

Until the evening finally came when we said to our son, “We love you, and you have a choice.”  He would enter inpatient rehab, or he would need to leave our home.  It was the ultimatum that eventually –  after a few false starts –  led to his choosing sobriety.

And so began a recovery that’s now in its eighth year – for him and for me.

I love him, and…



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