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  • DJ Hejtmanek

The Raw Power of Hard Truth

“Why are you so hard?” My mother’s tone over the phone demanded an answer.

I shut my eyes and sighed. Why indeed? If you’ve ever lived with an alcoholic, or someone with any addiction, you understand why. Why the walls of your heart need protection. Why the emotional distance must be maintained. Why self preservation instincts are fully activated. Why you can’t be disappointed one more time. Why you can’t bear to see someone you love destroy themselves.

But I don’t want to talk about that.

I want to talk about that one time I didn’t stuff it all down and fortify the ever-growing fortress around my heart.

She, the one who tucked me in every night and listened to my “Lay me down to sleep” prayers, then gently kissed my forehead and said “I love you. Sleep tight” as she turned off the light, had been a casual, social drinker who blossomed late into full blown alcoholism. She became someone totally different, a stranger in many ways. Someone I didn’t like. Someone who made me feel like I was the crazy one who didn’t understand her convoluted reasoning and irrational judgment.

Our family crashed and burned. Marriage destroyed. Fractured messes every one.

For ten, twelve, maybe fifteen years, the havoc continued. No disaster on my wedding day, thank God. First child’s birth was a different matter. Passed out on the living room couch while I dealt with a days old son. Church family, thinking we were well cared for that week with Mom visiting, didn’t know to help. No doubt they would have stepped in, but I couldn’t tell them.

My mother was the family secret.

And protecting secrets makes your heart hard.

It must become hard to keep from crumbling into a million pieces. If I don’t protect myself, who will?

Fast forward down the road…five treatment centers later and nothing is working. My hard heart has a crack in it. Composure, stoic façade, Christ-like image shaken and stirred. Then the call came from the sixth treatment center. Your mother is AWOL.

Head in hands. Façade breaks and I come to my human limit. The phone rings and I answer with a hollow “Hello.” It is her. And the dam breaks, full flood, no holds, double barrel. I’m not proud of that moment as every bottled hurt and frustration pours out of my normally oh-so-controlled mouth.

I yell at her. I cry. I spew how painful her behavior has been, to me, to many. When I am spent, I still, not knowing if she is still listening. Silence.

She says: “Okay. I’m coming back.” And she does. Completes treatment and remains clean and sober for 24 years until her passing. Relationships restored. Destroyed bridges rebuilt. Forgiveness given and received. Healing all around.

Why am I telling you all this?


Truth matters. Not the walls, not keeping the secrets, not the inevitable messiness of dealing with humans.

When we make Truth the playing field, things change.


“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32


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