Sunday, July 5

Oh, hello Mr. Elephant! How long have you been in the room?

It's 11:34 p.m. Sunday night and I'm holing up in the guest bedroom at my in-laws' place. We came down for the 4th of July and are staying on through Tim's mom's birthday.

So, why am I holed up, you ask? (Well, you should have, anyway.)

I think it has something to do with the fact that the other bedroom is currently housing a pregnant 20 year old carrying what is purported to be Tim's niece or nephew. Oh, did I mention she already has three kids?

Tim and I expect Matt to screw up. He's been an addict since he was 10. He went into rehab at 12. (And, the next day, started using drugs again.) He went to prison and got his first strike only about a year and a half ago. He was let out on probation, which he then violated by not only using but (as we discovered later) selling drugs.

But, being the cunning fellow he is, Matt went straight from the UA that he was about to flunk and into his parole officer's office, saying he wasn't handling the pressure of being outside well and that he thought he needed to go to rehab. That's the only thing that kept him from being sent back to prison.

Instead, the officer spent about three months trying to find Matt a bed in a rehab facility. His parents were really stoked about the rehab center. It sounded great. Except that the state decided it would only pay for 30 days of treatment. After that, it said, everyone could just see how it goes.

So, anyway, that's a (very) brief recap of Matt's life. It's barely skimming the surface of his ridiculous life. I could rant at length (and am tempted to) about the many ways he's screwed people over, but this isn't really the point of the article. So for now let's just say that, like most addicts, he uses people when he needs them and otherwise treats them like dirt. And, like most addicts, he has a good core of family and friends who continually excuse his behavior and forgive him over and over.

Given all this background, we were understandably blown away when a friend decided to catch us up on current events. I think she found it funny that we were so out of the loop. I got that from the subtle way she cracked up and even nudged her husband to say she couldn't believe we didn't know.

Frankly, neither of us was surprised that Tim's parents didn't tell us. They probably knew how we'd react. Which is with horror and grim, Pandora-like predictions.

What did surprise me, though I don't know why, was just how quickly this friend defended it as an okay thing. There was:

  • "Maybe this will make him straighten up and fly right finally" Yes, because what a recovering addict truly needs is the added stress of financially supporting a child.
  • "Actually, he's really good with kids." Uh, yeah because he's their friggin' PLAYMATE!
  • "Well, he watches my kids." Hey, I was a good babysitter at age 12. Does that mean I was ready to be a mom?!
  • "Well, he's almost 30 now, so if he wants to start a family, he'd better hurry up and do it." Gee, thanks. Did I mention my 31st birthday is coming up next month?

Whatever. We shook it off. And decided not to bother confronting Tim's parents. It wasn't worth it. But then, today, I was in the living room playing around on the web, while Nadine talked to the girl on the phone. Not quietly. And asked several questions that made it obvious the girl was pregnant. (I mean, I'm pretty good at reading between the lines, but it's also made easier by questions like, "So did the doctors let you know about the pregnancy? Oh, okay. Did they tell you how far along you are?")

So when Tim woke up, I told him what I heard and kind of laughed about just how bad his parents are at keeping secrets. On our way in to take a shower, Tim asked them if they were ever going to tell us that Matt got a girl pregnant. His mom said that they only just found out for sure that morning. Apparently, she announced her pregnancy to Matt and his parents after taking a home pregnancy test. But she didn't bother to get it confirmed by, say, a doctor in the past week or two since then. At least until she had passed out during a heat wave from dehydration. So she was already in the hospital.

At any rate, Tim's mom insisted that she had just then found out for sure. Tim shook his head and excused himself to use the bathroom. Which left me standing around with his mom. She proceeded to talk about the baseball game that was on. And what we were going to do that day. And maybe a couple other things. It was hard to really listen, what with my brain screaming, "Why aren't we talking about this at all?!"

So, yeah, that was the last time his mom mentioned it. Apparently, Tim got his dad to talk about it a little while they ran an errand. But it wasn't really information that was volunteered.

I really thought Nadine would be thrilled to have a grandchild. She just seems so ready to be a grandma. So I'm not sure if she's not shouting it from the rooftops because even she recognizes what a screwed up situation this is, or because she knows we're not exactly thrilled.

Either way, it was just strange how the subject was dropped. I mean, there were things that we just didn't talk about in our family. But it's been rare that something so obvious, so big wasn't talked about. The whole thing was practically palpable. But no one discussed it.

Right about now, I'm close to either packing up and leaving (I'll explain why in another post) or leaving some peanuts out for the elephant in the room. He looks kind of hungry.



Blogger FB @ said...

Maybe it's as if they're so weary of trying... they've just half given up and are still in shock trying to process the magnitude of a grandchild that the kids probably won't be able to take care of

July 6, 2009 at 5:21 AM

Blogger DogAteMyFinances said...

Honestly, the other elephant is that she might not keep the baby. Maybe that's why your MIL doesn't want to get too emotionally invested.

July 6, 2009 at 5:59 AM

Blogger Alissa said...

Families are strange, and I speak from experience. Not that I've ever been in that situation, but it's weird the way people will ignore big and obvious issues in the hopes that they will go away, and get them stressed out about tiny, inconsequential things.

July 6, 2009 at 6:11 AM

Blogger Living Almost Large said...

Keep the baby? Or have it taken away? Is she an addict as well? Truth is a funny thing. Sometimes it's the elephant in the room people never mention. I have a few.

July 6, 2009 at 7:09 AM

Blogger Mrs. Modern Tightwad said...

Abby, I feel for the situation. Unfortunately, I have several generations of addicts in my family so I understand what you're dealing with. A couple things I've learned: there's a huge difference between forgiving and enabling. There's nothing wrong if your in-laws want to forgive his addiction behaviors (once he actually understands what he's done and is sorry), as long as they do not continually enable his destructive behaviors (which it sounds like is your bigger peeve). Also, when a person starts doing drugs they become emotionally arrested at that point. I have an aunt that, even though she's almost 20 years older than me, since she started doing drugs as a young teen we share the same maturity level. Since your bil's never maintained sobriety, that means when you deal with him it literally is like talking to a 12 year old, frustrating at best.

Addicts are cunning and charming, and horribly pitiful. Sobriety happens when it does and never sooner. It is a disease, and he has no more control over it than someone else would have over a mental illness. (In fact other mental health diseases like bi-polar and depression are increasingly diagnosed in addicts, leading to many self-medication theories.) What they can control is their behaviors, like taking their medication when they're supposed to, or staying away from former associates and environments that encouraged their addiction.

For a little bit of hope, my aunt has now been sober for 13 years and I'm so very proud of her. It took her until she was in her mid- to late- thirties (I always celebrate her sober birthday instead so I forget). Her daughter wasn't going to get her sober, her family and friends weren't going to get her sober, she had to do it on her own.

The best thing you can do is encourage the family to go to an Al-anon type group, which assists in developing the coping mechanisms to deal with the elephant in the room. You can even go yourself before you leave for a trip for that extra boost of "I'm really not crazy with what I see" sanity. If your brother-in-law goes to a regular program, not rehab, but a program, where he goes to weekly meetings, it would give your family a chance to air their grievances in a safe setting as he would have to "make amends." My aunt still goes to meetings every week.

When I go with my aunt, my favorite part of the meetings was the "serenity prayer." The one about the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Whatever happens, I wish that for you, sounds like you're going to need a lot of serenity as the outsider looking in on this elephant.

July 6, 2009 at 9:28 AM

Anonymous Shevy said...

Speaking as someone whose spouse also has a relative who is, once again, a recovering addict I feel for you.

The staggering lack of communication is probably par for the course in these types of family relationships. In our case, the relatives either ignore that there was ever a problem, ignore current problems especially when said problems might indicate a relapse, or when the addict is actively in rehab or a recovery program they praise, praise, praise whenever they mention the person (not often, which seems hard to do when the person is back living with you yet again).

And some things are *never* mentioned, like the things one has to do in order to have the money to buy the drugs on a daily basis.

One last thing, since your MIL is clearly an enabler, she just may find herself raising this grandchild. I hope her health is good and her back is strong.

July 6, 2009 at 11:32 AM

Anonymous Plumbing Bell Gardens, CA said...

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July 6, 2009 at 12:10 PM


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