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.
I loved the movie Silver Linings Playbook . It’s one of those feel good movies and is especially heartfelt for me as a parent struggling with the concept my child may be afflicted with addiction, alcoholism and/or mental illness.
There were many scenes in the movie that made me laugh, cry, and wonder. But in truth, I loved the movie because it has a happy ending. In real life, as I battled and fought for normalcy where there was none, I was not able to see the silver linings when they happened. Maybe I should qualify: the movie ended on an UP SIDE because in recovery I know life offers UPS and DOWNS! I definitely saw alcoholism, co-dependency and mental illness strung together in the family dynamics. How the family copes, denies, accepts and fights the disease as illustrated in this story is relatable to me on many levels. I think the movie did a good job representing how normal people on the outside react to others who are affected. I saw fear, ignorance and then judgment. I related to that too.
But what sticks in my mind today is when the character, Pat, apologizes when he blurts out something inappropriate – he says “I’m sorry, I have no filters when I speak.” There were no filters in my house before recovery. Even as the co-dependent, I’d blurt out things I wished I could take back – filters are broken, clogged or missing in the family disease. Thank goodness for recovery where there is a strategy to help react differently to situations that baffled me before. Recovery is the filter and gratitude is one silver lining.
Entering the firestorm of a child’s substance use and abuse can create unimaginable chaos and stress. Looking back on my experience, I realize that I added to my stress by going down the road of FEAR. Some say that FEAR is an acronym for “False Expectations Appearing Real.” This definition rings true for me, and I hope that this post helps others understand how we, at times, are our own worst enemy.
The squirrel in my brain can be prodded into action by many triggers: an unreturned phone call from my son, a mammogram that calls for additional imaging, even a sideways glance from my husband. What’s happening? How bad is it? What do I need to do to make it better? What do we do if this happens, or if that happens…or…or….or. The squirrel in my brain races on.
But now, thanks to the guerrilla training I got in the war zone of addiction, I’m learning to redirect myself when my mind spirals into unnecessary worry. In The Power of Now*, Eckhart Tolle explains how we can choose to create our own pain, or conversely, can manifest our ability to live pain-free by living fully in the present.
When I find myself worrying, I am learning to take note of what I know to be true at that exact moment. For example, I know that I am a concerned mom, but I do not know for a fact that my son is in trouble. The mere speculation that he might be in trouble creates the pain that I feel. And at the end of the day, that speculation is purposeless. My incessant fretting about my son had no impact whatsoever on his behavior and choices—good or bad. Maybe he is in trouble, maybe not—but I guarantee that the sleep I lost did not impact the outcome in any way.
I’ve cloistered myself away in a dark place so many times while my son was frolicking with sober friends, playing disc golf in the sunshine. Yes, there were times when my worst fears came true, but they would have come true whether I anguished over them or not.
So here is the gift I got from addiction: I understand that worry is a choice. When I permit the marauder squirrel to tear through my brain, I blind myself to the joy and beauty around me at this moment. I miss out on the laughter, the friendship, and the little joys in life. Understanding that I don’t call the shots and relinquishing my fictitious grasp on outcomes saves me from the bottomless pit of fear and rumination.