I compare my journey through the Land of Addiction to walking through a pitch-black forest in the dead of night. Tree branches snagged my clothing, I stumbled over gnarly roots and animals bared their teeth. I couldn’t see these dangers, but I could sense them. They haunted me night and day.
At the same time, I also experienced the kindness of others who reached out to me and, like a fireman’s bucket brigade, passed me ahead to the next set of helping hands. These hands were the hands of wisdom, compassion and sisterhood. Sometimes they belonged to real live people who had navigated through the black woods before me; sometimes it was the wise hands of authors who supported and guided me.
I’d like to introduce some of those wonderful authors to you. Here they are, in no particular order
The Lost Years by Christina Wandzilak describes a daughter’s addiction and recovery from the perspective of both mother and child.
Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, a dad’s memoirs and self-discoveries as his son struggles with a meth addiction and he struggles with his own deadly co-dependency.
The Mood Cure by Julia Ross provides critical information about the nutritional foundation of recovery.
Courage to Change by the Al-anon Family Group, which offers daily snippets of wisdom, strength and hope. Many days, I found that one page of this thought-provoking wisdom was all I could absorb.
Moments of Clarity: Voices from the Front Lines of Addiction and Recovery, by Christopher Kennedy Lawford. This is a collection of turning point memoirs by “famous” addicts and alcoholics whose moments of clarity propelled them into recovery. It offers an inspiring and humbling reminder that we are all vulnerable to this disease, even the rich and famous. Not that we need that reminder these days….
It struck me the other day that there is a very fine line between being mad at our kids and going mad over our kids. At one end of the continuum, we’ve got anger; at the other, insanity. That realization got me thinking about the word “mad” and how it can represent the full spectrum of parental experience. To wit:
I’m madly in love with you.
I’m mad at you.
I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore! (Al-Anon calls this detachment. In the ideal world, this would be tempered with love)
Stop the madness.
I’ve gone mad!
We’ve all seen how our incessant anger at teen addiction can percolate into an uncontrollable obsession that commandeers our lives. I reached that point when my doctor asked me how I was doing, and I reported on my son’s travails instead. Like a deer in the headlights, I froze when she reminded me that I was not my child. I was so enmeshed in his wellness and illness that it had become my own.
Saying “No” to madness can mean the difference between getting off the ledge or going over the edge. How do we separate from our children when their substance abuse has hijacked our brains? How do we stop the madness and detach with love? Readers, please share comments on this important topic.
A wise friend once reminded me how things can get worse before they get better when our kids stop sedating themselves with drugs or alcohol. When teens have been using and abusing for any length of time, their cognitive and social development essentially stops in its tracks at the age they began. Your newly-sober 21- year old may possess the coping skills of a 16-year old. As if puberty wasn’t bad enough the first time around¦
On top of that, our kids are quite raw once the sedative power of drugs or alcohol has dissipated. Top off this edgy and vulnerable state with a hefty dollop of remorse and shame, and you’ve got a volcano ready to blow.
I tell you this to help you understand what may be coming down the pike and, more importantly, to help you hold on to the promise of recovery during tough times. Yes, newfound sobriety is accompanied by fear and agitation and remorse. But as the fog lifts and our teens develop new tools to deal with life on life’s terms, each day is a tiny bit better for all. You just have to hold on tight to the promise of recovery. Sometimes that hope is the only thing that gets you through the day. But as they say, “Don’t leave before the miracle occurs.”
“The old Navajo weavers used to insert an unmatched thread into each of their rugs, a contrasting color that runs to the outside edge. You can spot an authentic rug by this intentional flaw, which is called a spirit line, meant to release the energy trapped inside the rug and pave the way for the next creation.
Every story in life worth holding on to has to have a spirit line. You can call this hope or tomorrow or the ‘and then’ of the narrative itself, but without it–without that bright, dissonant fact of the unknown, of what we cannot control–consciousness and everything with it would tumble inward and implode. The universe insists that what is fixed is also finite.”
excerpt from Let’s Take the Long Way Home, a Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell
I’ve not yet reached the point of being entirely grateful for teen addiction, and I doubt I ever will. Addiction has taken a huge toll on my family– financially, spiritually, physically and psychologically. The weight of the worry alone is impossible to calculate. Toss in the dollars squandered, the physical damage, the lost sleep, the lost trust…the price tag is enormous. Against this backdrop of devastation, it’s hard to see a silver lining. But it’s there.
Take a look at this list of blessings complied by the moms from the weekly Wednesday “Seeking Serenity” group that we founded. One Wednesday, we did a quick “round table “of thanksgiving, and each one of us offered up the gifts that addiction has brought into our lives. Here’s what we said and how we’ve changed: we have found ourselves to be more loving stronger, less judgmental happier, more “in the moment,” more humble, more hopeful, wiser, more empathetic, more connected, more honest, more open and more spiritual. That’s a lot of growth and recovery for moms who found themselves beaten down by their children’s substance abuse. That’s a lot of growth for anyone.
I’ll be honest: there are times I start to feel life isn’t fair. But whenever I am tempted to hold that Pity Party, I look at this list of blessings, which I keep tucked in my dog-eared Courage to Change, and I say a silent note of appreciation for these riches in my life. What’s on your list of blessings?
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