It is absolutely paralyzing to learn that your child has substance abuse issues. Where do you turn for help? How do you know what steps to take? What is addiction, anyway? There are endless questions and no consolidation source of answers or support. In addition, the stigma of having an addicted child causes many parents to retract and withdraw rather than seek help. In truth, many families struggle with substance abuse issues, and the support, wisdom and guidance they need are not easily found.Parent Pathway was created for parents, by parents, to provide a place to find peace of mind at a time when their world feels like it is falling apart.
Addiction can be a transformative experience. I never imagined that I would give thanks for the gifts that addiction has given me, but I do. I give thanks, and I am grateful for the experience (although I would never wish it on my worst enemy). My son’s illness puts many things into perspective or shines a new light on gifts previously unseen or unappreciated. Here are some of the items on my thanksgiving list:
Support from friends and strangers who became friends
The opportunity to meet wonderful people in the recovery community
Compassion for others
An appreciation for each and every day
A kinship with other parents
Gratitude for guidance along the way
Appreciation for resources to smooth the path to recovery
Some very good reasons to stop judging others
Straw into gold, pain into gain….what’s on your list?
“A lot of things are inherent in life -change, birth, death, aging, illness, accidents, calamities, and losses of all kinds- but these events don’t have to be the cause of ongoing suffering. Yes, these events cause grief and sadness, but grief and sadness pass, like everything else, and are replaced with other experiences. The ego, however, clings to negative thoughts and feelings and, as a result, magnifies, intensifies, and sustains those emotions while the ego overlooks the subtle feelings of joy, gratitude, excitement, adventure, love, and peace that come from Essence. If we dwelt on these positive states as much as we generally dwell on our negative thoughts and painful emotions, our lives would be transformed.”
- Gina Lake, What about Now? Reminders for Being in the Moment
This is a guest post from Cathy Taughinbaugh of cathytaughinbaugh.com.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. – Mahatma Gandhi
Has your child put you through the heartache and emotional exhaustion of their addiction? Do you find it difficult to forgive them?
We live in anguish wondering how far down our addicted child will go before they realize the life consequences of their addiction. This may affect your life and the lives of other family members in many ways. Sleepless nights, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, broken promises and commitments left unfulfilled are just some of the things we may have may experienced as we deal with our addicted child.
After a period of time, forgiveness may be something we consider, but may be difficult to really feel and carry out. We are burdened down by the addiction and what it has done to our lives.
Is there a payoff for not forgiving? One payoff may be that we can continue to feel miserable and blame our misery on our addicted child. That allows us to continue to blame others for our unhappiness and not take responsibility for our own lives. But we can learn to forgive. One way is through compassion.
Step 9 States: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
When we forgive we give the other person room to make amends and it allows us to let go of past wrongs that we feel were done to us. We may make amends to others that we have wronged, and equally important is to make amends to ourselves.
Sometimes we blame ourselves or our life circumstances for the addiction of our children.
As parents, we may look back on our parenting years, and ask ourselves, what did I do to cause this addiction? We can be filled with regret, and relive what we could have done differently. We hear that we didn’t cause the addiction, can’t control it and can’t cure it, but we may not quite believe these words because we can’t quite forgive ourselves.
When we realize our children are addicts, many parents blame themselves, and yet as time goes on regardless of the outcome, it is important to forgive not only our addicted child for the pain they have caused us, but ourselves as well for our part in the addiction.
A 2006 study from A Campaign for Forgiveness Research “shows that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments. The first study to look at how forgiveness improves physical health discovered that when people think about forgiving an offender, it leads to improved functioning in their cardiovascular and nervous systems.
Another study at the University of Wisconsin found the more forgiving people were, the less they suffered from a wide range of illnesses. The less forgiving people reported a greater number of health problems.”
The research of Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University found that people who are taught how to forgive become less angry, feel less hurt, are more optimistic, become more forgiving in a variety of situations, and become more compassionate and self-confident. His studies show a reduction in experience of stress, physical manifestations of stress, and an increase in vitality.
We would all agree, I believe that forgiveness is included in most religions. In Buddhism, forgiveness is seen as a practice to prevent harmful thoughts from causing havoc on one’s mental well-being. Buddhism recognizes that feelings of hatred and ill-will leave a lasting effect on our mind karma.
Alcoholics and addicts feel guilt, shame, remorse and self-loathing. Knowing that they are forgiven is another step on their journey to sobriety.
Here are some additional reasons to forgive our children and ourselves.
1. Forgiveness does not mean that you condone the action.
2. Forgiveness means regaining a sense of wholeness and peace.
3. To withhold Forgiveness, means you remain the victim.
4. When you Forgive, you do it for yourself, not for the other person.
5. Forgiveness means focusing your energy on the healing, not the hurtful action.
6. Compassion leads us to Forgiveness.
7. Healthy relationships need Forgiveness.
8. To be present and available, you need to heal the hurt from the past, and Forgive.
9. Forgiveness allows you to move on with your life.
10. Forgiveness lifts anxiety and depression.
11. Forgiveness means restoring yourself to basic goodness and health.
12. Forgiveness can enhance your self-esteem and give you hope.
13. Forgiveness allows us to restore faith in yourself.
14. Forgiveness is a journey and does mean that you will forget, but you can still forgive.
15. Forgiveness means we give up resentment, revenge and obsession.
16. Forgiveness allows us the freedom to begin many new and healthy life choices.
17. Forgiveness allows us to let go of the past hurts, as well as confusion.
18. Forgiveness does not mean you must continue a relationship with someone causing you harm.
19. Forgiveness allows us to let go and detach with love.
20. Forgiveness keeps ourselves in the flow of good.
21. No one benefits more from Forgiveness that the one who Forgives.
22. Forgiveness is the key to our happiness.
23. Forgiveness helps us make peace with the past.
24. Forgiveness helps us create a new future.
25. Forgiveness is a gift that one gives another.
26. Forgiveness helps us on our path to serenity.
“…ultimately, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Bitterness and anger imprison you emotionally. Forgiveness sets you free”~ Victor Parachin
Cathy Taughinbaugh is the mother of a former crystal meth addict who has been in recovery for over 6 years. She writes on addiction, recovery and treatment at cathytaughinbaugh.com. You can also follow her on Facebook at Treatment Talk and twitter @treatmenttalk.