Saturday, February 2, 2008

Broken Windows

"Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars."

Broken Windows by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, which appeared in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly

Yesterday I learned that my mother had finally, after all the crap she's done, all the drunk driving, drunk dialing, drunk wedding wrecking, drunk ax wielding, drunk lying, drunk sending her kids to Scandinavia and leaving them there, etc. -- gotten herself arrested. Money can insulate you from almost anything, but not forever, and money cannot buy happiness. It can finance a spectacular misery and it can postpone, or evade entirely, reaching a real bottom. That is mom's situation; too rich to have the kind of consequences that it sometimes takes to fully concede defeat.

I learned from my sister that my mom had been arrested. I was checking e-mail on my mobile phone at work last night around 9. Her note said if I ever need a reminder of why I stay sober, take a look at the Ada County Sheriff's Arrest Report for January 31st. Of course I called my sister immediately. I'll spare you the details of the sordid story - it will probably make it into a screenplay at some point anyway - but the climax was my screaming mother being arrested in front of her home for obstructing police. Some part of of me, the part that isn't perfect yet, was thrilled that she was finally reaping some consequences from her addiction. The part of me that still hangs on to resentment toward her for any of the thousand ways she has harmed her children suddenly felt vindicated. In spite of all the 4th step inventory written on her and in spite of having some idea of my part, I have kept a careful distance from her. It wouldn't do either of us any good to make that amends too early. Clearly I need to do it so that I can put that inappropriate glee behind me.

The joy was fleeting though. It lasted just long enough for me to get home from work and pull her mug shot up on the sheriff's web site. It shocked me.
If the community of recovery is a neighborhood and the eyes are the windows of the soul , I live in a great neighborhood today. I live among people who solve their problems by serving their Creator and helping others. Windows in my neighborhood don't stay broken. Trash doesn't stay out on the street. Looking at the windows in mom's neighborhood breaks my heart.