From Another Cheesy Family Newsletter
I still remember the dream though it happened many, many years ago. I even wrote it all down once. It had affected me so profoundly and preyed upon me so relentlessly, I felt compelled to put it into words. But then my hard drive crashed and with it the impressions I had recorded. It didn’t matter though. The dream, though sometimes fading like a wisp of smoke, still revisits me from time to time in one form or another and reminds me of the past. I don’t know much about the science of dreams except that I have a lot of crazy ones, and that the experts say they sometimes bring out tiny, buried details tucked away in our sub- conscious as the years pass. I still remember some nightmares from as long ago as when I was a teenager. Like those vivid teenage dreams, I will never forget this dream because it portrayed so intensely in precise, excruciating detail the fear and pain I had kept buried deep within me as I plowed through each day of my child’s dreadful heroin addiction, struggling to keep my sanity intact.
In this dream, I was walking into the foyer of a crumbling, neglected old apartment building like so many that provide the backdrop of TV detective shows and movies, as the SWAT team stealthily tiptoes in to bust another murderer, drug dealer, or gangster. The one difference between my dream and the TV cliché was the empty silence. No baby crying behind closed doors. No drunken shouts of the man wearing a wife beater T shirt (how appropriate) and the sound of a slap and a whimper. Just dead silence. As I glanced down, I saw that old white porcelain tile that looks like miniature chicken wire, and it was dirty, sticky, and cracked. The walls were covered with graffiti and who knows what other kind of filth, and unidentifiable trash had collected in the corners. But the most striking feature of the room was the lighting. It was a dim, eerie pale green that cast so many shadows throughout the area, I barely saw her standing all alone at the base of the stairs, leaning, almost sagging, against the newel post.
She was wearing a short platinum wig and was dressed like a hooker. She WAS a hooker. Her micromini skirt revealed numerous bruises in various stages of healing on her still beautiful legs, and I knew that beneath her fake fur bolero her arms were scarred by track marks, a vestige of the habit that had turned her into this pitiful creature. Her face, though cast in shadow, was swollen from a black eye recently incurred at the hands of who knows who ---boyfriend, pimp, dealer, john? All the above? Her complexion looked like the underbelly of a fish, sickly and white, with the slightest hint of green that almost glowed in the dark in that ghostly light. And her lips, full and blood-red, were the only hint of color in that other-worldly room. I could tell she didn’t want me to touch her the minute I walked in the door and started to approach her. She didn’t say anything, but her stance became almost defiant – a stiff, “what the hell are you doing here?” pose. So, I didn’t come any nearer, for fear that she would run away, though I so wanted to grab her hand and flee this horror show in any way possible. To drag her, if I had to, to sanity. But instead I just begged her to come with me. I pled with her to come with me. I gave her every reason that she should leave this hellhole and return to the warmth of her home and the child with the big, brown liquid eyes who so desperately wanted her mommy back. But reason is no longer a part of the addict’s psyche, and the pull of the poison is just too overwhelming, so she refused. She didn’t say a word – just slowly shook her now downcast head – over and over and over…
Dreams are mostly visual experiences, but despite these images that remain clear in my mind, what I most remember was the actual physical pain. It felt as though someone had punched me in the gut. I don’t know how it feels to be stabbed, but the visceral pain that this emotional upheaval evoked seemed as intense as if she had produced a knife out of nowhere and plunged it in my belly. My sobs were so gut wrenching I doubled over and fell to my knees in helpless agony. The pain seemed so real … it WAS real. It was the manifestation of all the fear and anguish I had suppressed as I had tried to make it through each day. It was the crumbling face behind the mask I wore every day as I tried to be the strong, resilient woman everyone expected me to be. It was a grief so profound it brings tears to my eyes, even today. All the rage, disappointment, terror, regret, guilt, and crushing defeat that I just couldn’t express adequately in words were wrapped up in that dream.
When I woke up I was exhausted and still aching from my sobs, still lingering in that half world between waking and sleeping, wondering if this incident had really occurred. But as the dream world faded and the real world stepped in, I realized that in my dream I had allowed myself to let go of my cover and just feel the naked pain. Her addiction was one of the few things over which I had no control, and the torture of helplessly watching my beautiful eldest child willingly fall into this dark chasm. with little hope of climbing out, could only be manifested in a dream. In the “real” world I could not abandon myself to this kind of self-indulgent grief for fear of never coming back. And I had to be a rock for her baby who just couldn’t understand why her mommy, who had once been her best friend, had become a stranger she rarely saw. So, I tucked the dream away safely in my subconscious and carried on as I always had. I didn’t discuss it with anyone, not even the man who has always shared my pain.
The memory of the dream and the intensity of the pain I experienced has burrowed into a little wrinkle in my consciousness like a tiny underground creature, and it pops out occasionally, in a flash of anger or doubt or fear, only to scurry quickly back to its hidey hole as I regain my composure. In perspective, I see it now as a reminder of how much we all love our children, even if we don’t like them anymore. It was a manifestation of the indescribable grief and helplessness I experienced when Kristine slipped out of our arms, and we realized we could no longer protect her as she stumbled along the path of self-destruction. I wouldn’t wish that pain on any parent, though way too many have shared it, and worse.