For the past four days Jon and I have been running a division of the Betty Ford Clinic as we try to break Leta of her crippling addiction to the pacifier. We’ve taken away her cigarettes, her heroin, her daily 64 oz Diet Coke, and from the resulting hours of weeping and gnashing of the toothless gums you’d think we’d taken away her will to live.
Our little Robert Downey Jr. has cried more in the last four days than she has in the last four months of her life on earth. She has used up all the crying. There is no more crying left in the world. Your baby shouldn’t cry anymore because Leta “The Gawker Squawker” Armstrong has cried enough for all the babies ever in the history of mankind and the universe.
Everyone thinks we’re insane for attempting this intervention, this game of chicken with the most stubborn will ever given a body to enact its wrath. There have been so many moments in the past week when I have wanted to pick up that binky and plug it into her face to stop the wailing, it would have been SO EASY. Maybe a couple puffs would tide her over, make the transition a little less painful. But we all know that it wouldn’t stop at a couple puffs. She would want those couple puffs and then a couple more puffs, and then she’d have to have more puffs and within an hour she’d be injecting the pacifier into her veins.
Once a binkaholic, always a binkaholic. Leta is an abuser.
We probably wouldn’t be in such a hurry to cleanse her of this disease were it not for the terrible things it has done to her sleeping habits, and thus to my sleeping habits, and my sleeping habits have taken precedence over water and food, over the air that I breathe. Leta needs the pacifier to go to sleep, and when she wakes up in the middle of the night and the pacifier isn’t there she becomes one pissed infant, like someone has stolen her last pack of cigarettes and that last pack of cigarettes was the last pack of cigarettes in the world. And for months I have had to put the binky back in her mouth. I have climbed out of bed, walked into her room, handed her a cigarette and asked, “Do you need a light?”
We’ve also discovered that these bad sleeping habits are causing her bad eating habits, and everything can be traced back to the cigarettes: the yellow stains on her fingers, the wrinkles around her lips, the raspy sound of her cough as she swallows tobacco-colored drool.
All of our problems are tied to that stupid fucking plastic sucking device, and the withdrawal is ripping apart the fragile fabric that holds this family together. None of us is sleeping, and both Jon and I have developed muscle spasms in our faces and arms. Chuck trembles and licks his empty nut sack every time he hears Leta crying for more binky, and after four days of detox his ass has become a rubbery, hairless knob.
Addiction affects everyone.
I am on the verge of a mental breakdown, and Leta, sensing my vulnerability has been giving me guilt-trips in the form of helpless, wistful gazes that seem to say, “Mama, why dost thou hurt me so?” And even though I know I’m doing the right thing, that helping her to learn to sleep without the cigarettes will help her eat better and become a healthier, meatier baby that we can sell to the butcher, those gazes pierce my heart and grip my quivering soul. I know she’s in pain and that she’s suffering, and that knowledge is perhaps the worst pain a mother can endure. Worse, even, than giving up whiskey WHICH I COULD USE RIGHT ABOUT NOW.