This is an “encore” post from Eliza
As 2013 winds down to a close, I thought I would share some of my epiphanies from my Journey through the Land of Addiction:
- Addiction and alcoholism are two sides of the same coin.
- Addiction/alcoholism is a brain disease and a family disease. Parents and siblings become as sick as the addict/alcoholic.
- Poor character or lack of willpower does not cause substance abuse.
- Our addicted children did not set out to ruin their lives — or ours — with drugs or alcohol.
- Legitimately-prescribed prescription drugs can become unwittingly addictive.
- Recovery is our children’s choice, not ours.
- A Secret Parenthood of fathers and mothers suffer unnecessarily in silence from this disease. We can find support and strength when we join together.
- You can have a joyful and happy life even if your child is chemically-dependent.
- Recovery is possible for the entire family.
- There is always hope. Never give up.
I’d like to devote this final post to Elizabeth Edwards, who lived a life of grace and resiliency as she lost a son in a tragic car accident, battled breast cancer, and endured her husband’s highly visible infidelity. She died in 2011 after a hard-fought battle against breast cancer.
The loss of her son put other challenges in perspective for me. I remember being buoyed by her comment along the lines of “I have survived the worst possible loss in the world, the loss of a child. I can survive anything else.” Her courage is an inspiration to those of us who fear for our children’s lives. But if she could keep moving ahead in the wake of loss, then I could, too.
Elizabeth’s final Facebook posting reads, “The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered….But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”
And for that wisdom and grace, I am grateful.
Here’s to a 2014 filled with grace, health and recovery for all.
One of the challenges that I face is my desire to help my daughter while she’s in recovery. The problem is that part of her healthy recovery is learning to take full responsibility for her life. It is so easy for me to rationalize in my mind ‘She’s doing so well, she deserves the help’ or ‘If I don’t help and she struggles, won’t that hurt her recovery?’ I could go on and on with various examples. The point is that while it’s only natural to help our loved ones, it has to be weighed carefully with how it will actually ‘hurt’ them instead of ‘help’ them. Struggling with this actually makes me sad. I think of growing up in a family where we helped each other, it was just what we did. If I needed a little boost after college and in the working world, my Mom would often be there to help me through a rough patch or to reach a goal I was striving for. It didn’t come with lots of angst about what I might do with the money or if I would take a step back in growing into adulthood.
While I can ruminate all I want about this, the reality of the situation is that I am not my Mom and my daughter is not me. She is in recovery from addiction and I am a struggling co-dependent – our boundaries can go from healthy to dysfunctional in a very short cycle. The positive thing is that I am completely aware of this dynamic. I stop and think about what I am doing and question what is best, not only for my daughter, but also me. Will this help her in her journey to become a self-sufficient adult or will this hinder that very goal? The other positive aspect is that I can openly talk to her about it. Part of our respective recoveries is having the ability to deal with situations as they arise. It is a blessing to be authentic and open in any relationship, and I cherish this.
“I guess it’s going to have to hurt, I guess I’m going to have to cry, And let go of some things I’ve loved to get to the other side
I guess it’s going to break me down, Like fallin when you try to fly,
Sad but sometimes moving on with the rest of your life starts with goodbye”
For parents whose children struggle with substance abuse, the New Year gives us an opportunity to start fresh and welcome new, healthier attitudes or behaviors. But what happens if we find ourselves clenching grief or loss so tightly that we cannot embrace happiness or joy? Ricki Townsend, a Parent Pathway “Expert,” grief counselor and interventionist, shares some ideas about letting go of grief.
“We have dreams and hopes for our children as they grow and discover life. Then one day we wake up to find they have become involved in the battle of addiction. And so our life as we hoped it would be has changed. As parents, we may find we have trouble sleeping, we may start to have health issues, we may find ourselves crying or even angry over the simplest of things. Please look at the possibility that you are grieving the loss of your child as you knew him or her.
Grief and loss are naturally interwoven into addiction. Grief is different for each one of us, but please don’t discount it. We put so much energy into getting back our child that we often forget about ourselves. Here are some ways to deal with your grief:
- If you acknowledge that you are grieving, I invite you to work through the grieving process with a counselor who will help you understand your losses and deal with them in a healthy and constructive way.
- Grief can feel suffocating. A good exercise to release grief is to take a very deep breath, hold it tightly and then release it slowly. You will feel your body calm down. It is also therapeutic to cry in the shower or yell in the car or smash pillows with a tennis racquet—anything physical to vent your sorrow, your anger, your disappointment.
- You might also want to write a letter to whatever is running your life—addiciton, fear, remorse—and tell it that you are taking back your life. You can also write down your sorrows and regrets and burn them in a fireplace or “burning bowl.” The important thing is to symbolically purge your “if only’s” so that you can free yourself to live more in the moment.
- There are also some great books that will help support our recovery. Check out The
Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman or The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson.
It is up to each of us to ‘push the clouds away’ in order to be happy. Don’t sit on the sidelines and don’t become a victim—you have the power to reclaim your serenity. If you have questions about grief or any other substance abuse issues, please feel free to send me your questions. Best wishes for a healthy New Year.”
Ricki Townsend, NAADAC
It’s been several years since our entered residential rehab as a teenager, and now he is a young man. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we all climbed out of that black hole intact; there were so many dark days that seemed unsurvivable.
I recently uncovered some notes I scribbled after he completed his three-month stay in rehab, and I regressed to my stark desperation of those days. When we had pulled into the driveway at the rehab, I didn’t have a clue about what to expect. We knew only that drugs and alcohol were destroying our son and our family, and that this residential facility came with great recommendations and high hopes. What was rehab, anyway? I recognized that word only as it related to sports injuries and physical therapy.
Our son’s stay in rehab helped all of us regain our footing after substance abuse had sapped our joy and strength. For the first time in years, we could see our son start to heal and grow. Through the education, the 12-step work, the group meetings and counseling, he gained self-understanding and insight. He was given the gift of a fresh start.
We were given a break from the insanity and a chance to regroup. We were also given a chance to clearly define what was acceptable in our home and our lives, and what wasn’t. Our son-yes; drugs and alcohol-no.
The family education changed our lives and the way we interact with our son. We learned about the disease of addiction, its impact on the family, and how to break the cycle of enabling. We learned that addiction/alcoholism is a chronic disease and that the battle is life-long. But we have been armed with knowledge that helps us fight the wily foe.
How hopeless I was at the beginning, and how hopeful I have become. My backward glance reveals miracles that were precious then and shine even more brightly in the rear view mirror.
There was a point in time during my journey with my daughter that I needed to learn more about myself and my co-dependent behaviors. As my daughter had been getting help, I needed to continue to get help in the behaviors that I knew were counterproductive to her recovery and counterproductive to living my life in a healthy way. I had been going to Alanon Family Group (the support group for family members with loved ones who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction). Alanon has been a life saver. I have specifically gone to meetings that are for parents who have children struggling with addiction. It is a wonderful group of people who know exactly what I am going through and how I feel, because they are going through the very same thing. It is a place to express your deepest fears and know that you’ll see many sympathetic nods from others who have been there.
Part of Alanon is working through the twelve steps with the help of a sponsor and an Alanon book explaining how to go through the steps. I found a sponsor who would meet with me every week and help me work through the steps. It was interesting to get the concept of how working through this program was not only a way to help myself but to also help my daughter. The idea is that the healthier you can be, the clearer you can be to make good decisions about setting boundaries and holding your loved one accountable for their actions. It took time and effort to go through the process but I was willing to put in the work. I wanted to have the peace and serenity that others in the Alanon program had.
This is an “encore” post from My3Sunz
I think about hope differently and especially with the turn of a new year. It was in the New Year, and in January of years gone by when sudden and terrible events changed my course in recovery. My sons were arrested. This time was serious. This time things would be different. My hope went from “I hope they will…” to “I hope I can …” This was not an overnight phenomenon. Over time, working the steps with a Sponsor, giving service, and attending Al-Anon meetings regularly, something changed in me.
Was it the fact my sons progressed in their disease and my humility was exposed? From an outsider, things appeared to be getting worse not better. Nonetheless, the focus of my conscience mind was no longer on them 100% of the time – Was it a result of my own growth in recovery from the family disease? More than likely it was a combination of all these things. One day I realized I was no longer consumed by them or other things I could recognize as “outside my control.” I began to get a better understanding of the disease. I gained compassion and empathy to friends and family afflicted. I could no longer lecture or give advice on other people’s matters. I had to acknowledge my limits and stick to my own experience, strength and hope.
My hope today focuses on my own recovery, reaching out to others and giving service. Maybe my experience, like those who shared their experiences before me, will be a beacon of Hope to someone else – it’s not for me to figure out. Somewhere in the recovery community I felt hope and realized it’s a unique, individual awakening and choice to live life fully. There can be joy. There can be happiness. I’m hopeful because recovery is for anyone who wants it.
Just as I had hopes and dreams for my daughter to be happy, healthy and whole, it occurred to me that I have the same hopes and dreams for myself and my family. Somehow along the way we all became fractured and a little bit lost from our path. It isn’t that we weren’t responsible; it was more that we were a bit distracted from what we needed to do for ourselves. For me it is similar to any Mom who has kids. You enter into motherhood and you get swept up in the day to day responsibilities that become all consuming. Then before you know it, you look in the mirror one day and wonder where you went! It isn’t necessarily that you don’t like where you are, you just wonder at times who you are and how you want your life to be. Typically as Moms we are too busy to be concerned with these deep questions.
At one point in my Mom journey I had taken a major detour which felt like I veered into a dark alley and I was trying to find my way back out into the light. I then knew it was time to focus on my life and my entire family and put less focus on just my daughter’s life. I also knew that the struggles we had all gone through lead to major personal growth for everyone. I became aware that there were many gifts that lie just beneath the surface of the path I had been on. I was open to explore these gifts every step of the journey forward.
Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.
This is an encore post from Eliza
While walking my dog one night, I noticed a huge jet flying overhead. It was impossible to miss since it illuminated the airspace with a massive headlight that projected a cone of white light for hundreds of feet. I understand the value of a headlight on terra firma, but what purpose could that possibly serve mid-flight? What could the pilot hope to see? An extraterrestrial perched on the nose cone? Another 747 dead ahead? A large mountain drawing unavoidably near? All of those things fall squarely into the “Things I don’t want to know about” category. They would terrify me unnecessarily, and for what?
My son’s addiction and his recovery, for that matter– is much the same: I don’t want to know about the things that I can’t influence, which would include pretty much everything in his life. My chance to help shape his decisions is long gone, and he is an independent and capable adult now. He’s calling the shots, making the best decisions he can, and I’m staying in my hula hoop. These days, Mother doesn’tknow best, if she ever did.
I’d be better of focusing my attention on things that I can influence like climate change, the national debt and my expanding waistline. Ooops, I can’t seem to control those either. Instead, I should pay homage to the wisdom of Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman, who was obviously way ahead of his time when he enquired, “What, me worry?” I’m a whole lot happier that way. After all, what’s the point of even looking for those things I can’t control? And that’s the foundation of healthy boundaries: I take care of me, you take care of you, and we are all better off.