I’ve been collecting non-truths over the last few years – these are sayings and beliefs that I had to re-evaluate in my own recovery from the family disease - a collection of my changed attitudes on passed truths that I once subscribed to. Here are a few of my favorites:
You complete me – That statement from the movie Jerry Maguire was such a classic love story ending! In actuality, I complete myself. If I relied on you to complete me, then I’m back to codependence.
God helps those who help themselves – God helps those who seek him, unconditionally. Period.
Being involved with the minutia of someone’s life is a natural to do – I’m re-learning how to love and care for people who matter to me without being nosy, opinionated, and judgmental with a snip of entitlement. Because I did not get the co-dependence immunization, my care taking tendency will quickly explode into unhealthy rescuing and I’m sick again.
No news is good news – No news is just that, no news. If I think otherwise, I’ve set myself up with a little expectation and the higher the expectation, the further I fall. Just thinking about it puts me into future tripping and I’m learning to stay in the present.
Ignorance is bliss or “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” – If I did not learn about addiction and the disease, I’d still be fighting a no-win battle. Until then, ignorance hurt me and others.
No harm in asking – This may apply to a sales representative, but in general, asking can cause much harm. One has to think about the consequences of a simple inquiry, see #3.
With recovery comes relapse – With relapse comes death. I no longer subscribe to this “allowance” – I listen to people in recovery. Relapse is not OK for me.
Last year during Teen Drug Facts Week (which arrives this year on Monday, October 31), I spoke to a class of high school kids about what it’s like to be a mother whose child has struggled with substance abuse. I gave a lot of forethought to my presentation, knowing that eyes would glaze over if I was too preachy or dry. At the same time, I didn’t want to strike a voyeuristic note or jeopardize my son’s anonymity. Above all, I wanted to pack the most compelling deterrents possible into my presentation, authentically and honestly.
I started by sharing some accurate and disturbing statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and then the class took a quiz designed to blow some common myths out of the water. Then I spoke about my experience, my son’s journey, and how I would have taken different action much earlier in the game if I knew then what I know now.
We devoted the last ten minutes to a Q and A. One student asked how long we tried to get our son to change before he actually went to rehab. Answer: several years, at least, of walking on eggshell (or glass shards), and wondering when the surly behavior/slipping grades/”out to lunch” behavior would vaporize and our son would magically return. Another student asked me how we could monitor our son’s behavior if he didn’t live with us anymore. I tried to explain how he alone is responsible for the consequence of his actions. That is a hard concept for a high school kid to grasp; it was a hard concept for me, the mother of a high school concept to grasp; but it is key to recovery for all.
My Mama Bear instinct came out during the presentation. I wanted to wave a magic wand and cloak the entire class in anti-addiction powers. I wanted them to understand that they are all vulnerable, that addiction is an equal-opportunity disease. I wanted them to fully embrace the Teen Drug Facts that I presented and run very fast in the opposite direction. Did I succeed? Only time will tell.
A friend introduced me to someone whose teenagers turned into addicts but now older, are doing well. “His story has great hope for others”, my friend said. Well, I thought, I’m always open to talking to others who share a language close to my own.
What I found was a man still deeply moved by the turmoil and anguish he experienced as if it were yesterday. In actuality it was 6 years ago. I was not surprised by this. I don’t believe you ever get over the events of having a child struggle with addiction; you learn to live with it. We immediately related to each other’s experience: the missing checks, the bank statement confirming the dreaded truth; the full blown lying, arrests, rehabs and relapses. How college funds were replaced with otherworldly things: pawn shops, psychological counseling, sober living, wilderness programs and such. What I found was a man not unlike myself. We both learned that survival would take a change in how we parent. He did this with counseling and outside help. I related to that too. I don’t believe you can do this alone.
It’s true, his kids, now in their mid twenties, are doing better today. He even sees mental maturing and critical thinking skills that drugs took away from their developing brains. I sensed his recent financial support for both had left some doubt in his mind. Though it felt different this time, he expressed concern in certain “behaviors” and our eyes said “possible co-dependent thinking.” Here we both shared an unspoken truth – their future lies in their ability and desire to fight for sobriety, not our wanting that to be so. We have little to no influence in this. If they are OK today, well that’s nice. We have grown an outer layer of defense about how one day can change to the next. We won’t allow obsessive thoughts to ponder the “what ifs.” Who wants to go back to that? Our desire to help is met with our own self imposed resistance questions: Will it hurt our new relationship? Do I have expectations? Am I trying to control or manipulate? Did they ask for it or am I jumping in and assuming?
While walking through my neighborhood the other night, I selected a flyer from a newly-installed “flyer box” on a neighbor’s lawn. I assumed it was a real estate ad for a newly-listed home. Instead, I was surprised to see that it was a neighborhood “Watch and Pray” notice asking others to keep neighbors in mind….to pray for the one who needs a new kidney, the child damaged by a vaccination, the one who has fallen and broken a hip. I would add to that, “Pray for the many families challenged by our children’s drinking or drugging.”
I am not one to wear my religion on my sleeve. Truth be told, I don’t even know how to define my religion or my religious beliefs beyond “Be kind, practice forgiveness, and trust that a power much greater than me is wisely driving this bus.” So this whole flyer deal felt uncomfortably “public” to me. But the flyer—and the idea behind the flyer– has been tugging at my mind. Really, what is the harm in keeping each other in our thoughts? To wishing well for our neighbors, even if we don’t really know them or their challenges?
This benevolence bears extra fruit for those who face a child’s addiction. I lived that life of fear and isolation, believing that we were the only family fighting this monster. Today, I can tell from the volume of new subscribers to this blog that addiction lurks behind more doors in my own neighborhood than I ever would have guessed. We are not alone, and we can find power in our numbers.
So for our virtual neighborhood of those who face the addiction of a child, let’s send out a collective wish or prayer for health, serenity, and recovery. Together, we can support each other; together, we can reach for miracles.
Tonight’s a big night: Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic will premiere on public TV in 28 Northern California counties. The launch of this documentary marks the completion of two years of hard work by a team of mothers committed to changing the picture of teen substance abuse.
Spread the word about Collision Course at work, in your schools and in your neighborhood. Watch it on KVIE-6 tonight or catch the replays on Thursday at 11:30 PM, Friday at 4 PM or Sunday at 6 PM. Awareness and education are the keys to changing behavior….use this documentary to start the conversations with your kids, neighbors, teachers and colleagues.
We all fall down when teens abuse drugs or alcohol; let’s all stand up together to stop teen addiction before it starts.
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