The Battle Within

by Barb Klein
July 27, 2020

Sometimes (often) I don’t trust myself.
I don’t trust my resolve.
Because when I soften
and open my heart,
open the door and let you in,
even a crack,
it’s more than I can bear.

I see your pain.
I see you lost when I look in your eyes.
I hear the fear and despair in your voice.
I see the wounds and scars on your skin.
And I feel it all…
            and when I feel it all,
            it threatens to swallow me whole.

I don’t trust myself
            to not abandon myself
            and it becomes too painful for both of us.

So, I must hold you at arm’s length
            (or farther)
I must armor up my heart a bit (or a lot).

I don’t trust myself to hold my boundaries.
I need time and space
            to find my own ground within.
It is within me, but I need to be alone to find it.

You confuse me
            with the mixed-up feelings you stir—
            love, pain, fear, grief, hope…
Maybe my heart is not big enough
            or strong enough to hold them all.

Until I can trust myself
            to be here for myself,
            I cannot let you in again.

Every time I do, it hurts.
It threatens to break me.
It disturbs my peace.
It disrupts my strength.
You disrupt my strength—
            for I fear I will love you more than I love myself.
It is too easy to lose myself in you again
            (and again, and again).
It is not healthy for either of us, for any of us,
            when I lose myself.

And so, my son, I must step away
            and let each one of us find our way today.
I wrap you in love
            and I pray that God envelops us both
            and keeps us safe and warm,
            one moment at a time.

This is how I begin to trust myself again.

I begin…
            With a pause.
            With a breath.
            With allowing myself not to have to respond.

“The Battle Within” © Barb Klein, 2020


I wrote this poem on a cold wintry morning, after working myself into a state simply from receiving a voice mail from my son. I was inconsolable even before I had all the facts. My mind automatically jumped to all of my assumptions: Now I’m going to have to be the one who figures everything out. He’s going to expect me to…. My mind flew through all the times in the past when this has been the case. I desperately wanted my husband to save me and be the one to call him back and take care of things. Wisely, he didn’t offer to do that.

I wrote this poem after curling up in a ball and sobbing, after talking to my husband until there was nothing more to say; after talking to a friend, who simply listened and let me get it all out; and after meditating and doing what I could to calm myself down. I wrote this poem to get to the core of what was going on for me. What I found surprised me.

How often I have felt this way, caught in the frenzy of the moment? I’ve been conditioned to go into panic mode, remembering all the things that have happened in the past, imagining the worst in the future….

It is only when I remember that I can hit “pause” that I can find some grounding. When I remember that his urgency does not have to become mine. I find my breath, slow everything down, and then respond.

It’s been interesting for me to note that my distress isn’t entirely because of what my son is doing or not doing. He gets to do what he does—he can call, he can text, he can ask. He can be using or sober. I get to choose how I respond. And my choices get to be different depending on a number of circumstances, including my own bandwidth, my strength, my state of mind, and my needs and desires. Those count too.

My distress comes when I forget that I have a choice or when I don’t like the choices that I see. My distress amplifies when I jump into the old pattern—when I get on the roller coaster instead of remembering that I hate roller coasters!

It frees us both when I remember that my response is within my control. Sometimes I don’t even need to act at all. Sometimes he’s taken care of things or found someone else to help him out.

On the day of this poem, in an attempt to stop an onslaught of texts and calls, I did text him to say, “I am not available to talk, but I love you and trust that you know who to call and what to do to get the help you need” (because he does), and then I gave myself the time I needed to be in a place where I felt ready to pick up the phone and call him. It took about five hours. Five hours that included silence and deep self-care. By the time I did call him, he had already taken care of the critical issues and had even set himself up with admission and transportation to a program. The demands that would have fallen on me in the morning were no longer there. Time had served us both. I was reminded of what is possible when I empower and require him to take responsibility.

Remembering not to abandon myself keeps me out of the familiar trap that has caught me far too many times. When I am grounded within myself, I can respond from a place of love and compassion. When I am grounded within myself, I do not become a victim to the circumstances. When I take the time to become grounded, I am giving myself the loving care that I need.

From this space, I trust myself and build my reserves for next time. For, most likely, there will be a next time.

I wish you peace and grounding as you walk through this day. Remember to pause. Remember to allow yourself permission to not respond immediately. Give yourself that grace. I offer this to you as an invitation to a new way of reacting the next time you get that call or text that throws you into a frenzy. And I write this to help me remember as well.

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Barb Klein

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  1. Dear Barb,
    I have been receiving newsletters for many months. I have never left a comment, in fact, I haven’t said a peep. I’m not even able to share my story.. its too big, too long, too broken…
    I struggle with even opening these emails and when I do I rarely, if at all, even read the beginning story. Im just too broken. It’s just too painful. So I continue to push the pain Down, away again and again, on and on.
    This Am my eyes locked onto your story. The more I read the harder my tears flowed.. i stopped crying several years ago., I stopped recovery meetings (Naranon,) I stopped reading all my literature and books (Naranon Family book, my grief and loss daily meditation books, my books I’ve recieved straight from the authors personal accounts of life with their adult children with SUD, even autographed. I just stopped all my efforts to heal and recieve hope for my plight which is 2 sons that I love with every part of my soul. They are heroin addicts with absolutely No desire (no hope) to get help.
    Your poem touched my whole heart. I read it entirely. Your words became my “hope for today” my New beginnings.
    Thank you and as much as i don’t wish this on Any Moma I’m so grateful for “”

    • Ah, Juliann, thank you for reading, for sharing your story, and for finding your tears just for today. I am so glad that this poem touched your heart. New beginnings… each day offers them. Blessings to you on your journey.

  2. Thank you for sharing this wonderful prose and your thoughts as they have me great comfort! These actions, these feelings are all familiar and make me realize that I’m not alone in the struggle of being a mom to a son who is an addict… thank you!

    • Ah, Sharon… you are so not alone. I’m glad my words could bring you some comfort this day.

  3. Wow! This really hit home for me. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • You’re so welcome. I’m glad it resonated for you.

  4. Thank you so much for your story. It helped me to be reminded that I am in control nor do I need to take control of my daughters addiction or recovery. It is her journey to navigate and I will walk beside her but cannot lead.

    • You’re welcome. Yes… such good awareness of her journey and your place in it.

  5. Your words are exactly what I need to absorb today and serve as a reminder whenever I receive those calls or texts from my daughter. I am learning to pause, breathe. Thank you for saying so beautifully and compassionately what I, and many others, are feeling.

    • Pausing and breathing…. so important and such a gift of self-compassion. I am glad this post was helpful to you.

  6. This was so powerful to read. The poem spoke to me EXACTLY! Thank you for making a difference in my life.

    • LeAnn, I’m so glad it spoke to you. You are very welcome. Thanks for reading and reflecting.

  7. This exactly where I am at right now with my son ad exactly what I needed to hear. This journey is one of unbearable pain and anguish, but there are angels everywhere and today I thank you for being one of them.

    • Katie, I’m sorry for your pain, and yes, there are angels everywhere when we stay open to them. I’m glad this was helpful to you.

  8. Dear Barb, what a beautiful poem and far-reaching sentiment. I have spent over eighteen years struggling to find and hold onto the sound lessons you describe in your essay, and the most important one finally sank in at some point: take good care of myself. Until I did that, I was very much at risk of drowning myself. And it happened. I wish I had read this about twelve years ago. Thank you for sharing your hard-won wisdom. And God Bless!

    • It’s a journey, for sure. Thank you for reading and for sharing your experience. Blessings to you.

  9. I understand. Absolute emotional torture. My daughter is 50 on Chicago streets panhandling. I am sober 41 yrs I finally accept her. For who she is, not who I wanted her to be.i send money to the homeless shelter address, cause she asked. Trying to change her mind for 30 yrs almost killed me.finally I am changing my mind. God bless all the suffering MOMS ❤️Jan

    • Thanks for reading and for sharing your experience. Glad you’ve found a way to accept her and to stop your own suffering.

  10. Barb, your poem is beautiful, truthful, from your heart of love and pain. Thank you, it is what I needed this morning.

    • Thank you, Paula. I am glad it resonated for you.

  11. Wow!!! This is powerful! We’ve all walked such a similar journey. When I look back at all of my “rollercoaster rides,” I don’t know how I made it through all that. Thinking about it leaves me breathless…and grateful that God gave me the strength when I desperately needed it. ((((Hugs)))) to all the mothers like me.

    • Ah yes, Maureen, we know those breathless roller coaster rides for sure. I’m glad you’ve had the strength and support you needed. Thank you for reading and sharing. Hugs to you.

  12. Thank you, Barb. This is more then just a poem. You just gave me a very powerful tool to survive. I have 30 years old psychotic meth addict son who is homeless in Toronto. I’ve tried many times to bring him home and “rescue” him but as you wrote “Every time I do, it hurts.” He has no desire to get help and I have no hope.
    Your poem is what we all needed to hear.
    Thank you.

    • Oh, Larissa, I’m glad this poem spoke to you in such a powerful way. You are very welcome. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Wishing you strength as you navigate this journey.

  13. Barb, I was directed to this site by an al anon friend. I’ve been in the program for 10 years and finally turned a corner this year with my enabling. I learned how to say No and not get manipulated into a yes. The last major issue was a few weeks ago with our son who left a voice message on my phone late one night. Thankfully, I didn’t see that the message came in until the next morning. It was a panic call that I did not respond to. I prayed, read my spiritual books and al anon daily readers and called an al anon friend who talked me down and suggested to “wait, as more may be revealed”. I did nothing and neither did my son. The “major” problem was handled by him, I guess. After reading The Battle Within, I felt I have lived that. I’m so grateful to be on this site.

  14. Nancy, I am so glad you’ve found your way here to MomPower! So many good resources to support us through this journey. Thanks for sharing your story, and keep on taking good care of you!

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