My friend repeats her question: “How's Nic?” I say he's doing pretty well after his relapse. I also admit that I relapse, though in a different way. I'm usually fine, but I can still be overcome by worry and panic and a futile need for control. Then I'm better again. I live with the knowledge that I can listen to Nic, advise him when he's interested in what I have to say—we're pretty good these days about talking openly. But it's up to him.
I stop speaking and my friend looks up at me. “It sounds as if it's still so hard,” she says. Then she says that she read a book that might help me. “It's about exactly what you're going through—about how hard it is to be a parent,” she says. “You really ought to read it.” I can use all the help I can get, so I take out a pen and notebook to write down the title. She says, “It's called Beautiful Boy.”
So here's the point: I struggle. I know, and have repeatedly said, that it's an ongoing process, yet I can forget that ongoing means—well, it means ongoing. I've come a long way toward accepting that to live with addiction—one's own or a loved one's—involves living with uncertainty. It also requires enormous suffering. I'm coming to accept these truths after years of fighting them. The surprise is that the more I accept them, the less I suffer. But that's not all I feel. Early in the year, before it was published, Jasper read Beautiful Boy. Of course he knew the overarching story, but he had been too young to remember many of the details. In a report about the book for his English class, Jasper wrote that he had known the book would be hard to read, that much of it would be scary and sad, but he hadn't been prepared for something else. He didn't expect to laugh. "It was so great remembering all the things we did when I was little,” Jasper wrote. I understand how he felt. Somehow it's easier to recall the trauma than to hold on to the contradictions and complexities and yes, the joyful times. “There were horrible moments when Nic was using and on the streets,” Jasper continued. “There were happy moments such as when our family was together, or when Nic and Daisy and I played in the garden.” Both. Both, and every other moment, tell the story of our family.