So, I've been thinking a lot about addiction lately. It's got a grip on almost every family, whether directly or indirectly, and my family is no exception. My brother's wife, my sister in law, has been struggling with addiction since before my brother ever knew her. She's currently in a long term inpatient rehab and while she's in a safe and supportive environment, I know that the struggle is never far away because it's within a person that the struggle takes place. Anyway, although at times I've felt angry and disappointed and upset with my sister in law, I still have the utmost compassion and empathy for her. I know she's put my brother and my niece and nephew through a lot, but I know that she's put herself through more. Also, I recently read a couple of books. First, I read "Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction". It was so many things. Heartbreaking, horrible, terrifying, disturbing, sad, enlightening, insightful, uplifting... I recommend it to all of you, but it's not something that everyone could read. The book is nonfiction and is written by David Sheff about his son, Nic Sheff. Nic is a recovering meth addict. Nic Sheff wrote the second book, which details his addiction from his own perspective. It's called "Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines" and wow.
It's everything that Beautiful Boy is and more. It's unbelievably painful in places. And so sad in others. I can't put into words how much this book had me by the throat as I was reading it. I found myself rooting for Nic to get well and stay well and after I read the book, I found his blog online and read the whole thing. This book is amazing, but be forewarned. It's an honest, gritty, and real look at life as an addict so there are some very graphic references--drug-related, sexual, and otherwise. Plus the language is pretty bad. All of it was necessary to capture this snapshot of his life, though.
I was thinking a lot about my sister in law before
I read those books, but definitely a lot after
reading them. So I did what I do. I made something for her. Basically, it all stemmed from this poem I found online. It's written by a lady named Lani Kent. She has a wonderful blog called Healing Expressions
. Her entire site revolves around art that she makes for those recovering. The recovery can be from anything. Whether it's substance abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, an eating disorder...her art is very broad in scope and can encompass all of them. So, I found this poem and with her permission, I used it in the gift for my sister in law. The text for the poem is as follows:
by Lani Kent
Shattered, distorted, painfully sharp
innocent colors scattered
around my still and grieving heart
pieces of a glass puzzle
lay in confusing disarray
whispering of shame...brokenness...dark hurt
I numbly stare in disbelief...
then anger...then deep sadness
beauty so carelessly scarred
each shining remnant reflects
a faint image once known to this child
naive perfection...pure design...a Master's touch
As the last of the sharpest fragments
fall near enough to cut
I must pause to honor
the small, welling voice within
release the anguish of her soul
the silence pierced...a screaming question..."Why?"
A new design awaits its birth
fresh tears need time to fall
upon the jagged crystal
perhaps to cleanse, refine...restore
beauty is to be found here
amidst what appears destroyed...useless...beyond repair
Where does one begin in the gathering
of a stained and shattered soul
one so weary and little and sad
Help me, Master of the fragile brilliance surrounding me
In your strength can we
lift each broken piece to the light...and mend...and heal
Copyright 2000 Lani Kent
It spoke to me. I mean, it really just reached out and grabbed me, much like those two books did. So, I decided to use a stained glass image that's interpreted in fabric form to show alongside the poem. Here are the finished pieces, side by side, which is how they're intended to be displayed:
Ignore all the weird looking bits on the pictures. Those are just reflections in the glass of the frame. It's really hard to take a picture of something in a frame.
The image I chose for the stained glass is an iris. I chose that flower because the meaning behind it is "strength, hope, wisdom, and valor". I think all of those things are good weapons in the arsenal of someone recovering. It was made by cutting out all the individual portions, fusing them to the background fabric, and then sewing down black bias tape to use as the "lead" part of the "stained glass". I like how it turned out and I think it looks really great all framed up. I found the image online. There were a lot of patterns online for this type of thing, but none of them were downloadable. They were all snail mail. And, me being me, I didn't want to wait so I just muddled through as best I could. The absolute hardest part was figuring out what order to lay the bias tape down. The whole point is that you're supposed to put them all down so that the end of one strip is covered by the end of the next one. In the whole thing, there is only one folded under end and that's the very last strip I laid down. Figuring out the order was crazy hard. I originally intended to embroider the poem, but it was too much text in too small a space and I couldn't find a lettering pattern that would fit the space allowed. So, instead, I had it printed on some really heavy good quality paper. I love how the two pieces look together.
I know that some of you reading this have felt the stranglehold of addiction, directly or indirectly. I wish all the best to anyone who is currently struggling with this in their family. There's this one part in David Sheff's book that just really stuck with me. It's when Nic has relapsed yet again and David has gone to the rehab that Nic is in to take part in a family therapy weekend. Nic and his mom and dad have to do group therapy with the other addicts and their families. Here's what David says about that:Parents are suckers. I am a a sucker to contemplate opening to the idea of healing. And yet...Suddenly I recall when I prayed for Nic. I never planned to pray. I just looked back and realized I had been praying. What did I pray for? I never said Stop taking drugs. I never said Stay away from meth. I said, Please God heal Nic. I prayed, Please God heal Nic. Please God heal every ravaged person in this room, the dear ravaged people on this planet, these dear, wounded people. I look around at them. They are brave. They are here. However they got here, they are here. They are here and so there is a chance.
So, I told my sister in law that that's what I'm praying for for her. I'm praying that she will be healed-mind, body, and soul.