It’s time to shake out the carpets, clean the closets, and unburden ourselves of the things that don’t serve us well. This includes misconceptions, old habits and self-flagellation.
I’ve written before about the squirrel that I trapped in my back yard. He had been creating havoc in my attic, and disaster loomed as he gnawed on electrical wires, roof shingles and more. I was relieved to capture him safely in a humane cage, load him into my minivan and transport him to a local wilderness area where he could play out his unfettered squirrel life. Problem was, he didn’t want to leave the opened cage even though freedom beckoned through the side door of my van. He was paralyzed by some artificial sense of captivity while freedom stared him in the face. Suddenly, something clicked, and he hurtled out the cage like a cannonball shot out the side door of my van. He was as free as the wind.
I’ve been that squirrel. I’ve been a prisoner of my own making. I’ve ruminated endlessly over the “should have, would have, could haves.” I’ve pondered, theorized, blamed, analyzed, and worn a hair shirt with the best of them. Equal parts pointlessness and pain; what a dreadful Victim Cocktail I chose to imbibe.
Somewhere along the way, I had a squirrel-like epiphany, and I dove for freedom. I stopped being the prisoner of my own regrets I got out of the cage of my “Stinking Thinking, as they say in Al-anon. They also say, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” (author unknown). So out with the old, in with the new. Time to change my attitude, to choose not to suffer, and to unburden myself of those regrets and ruminations that serve only to imprison me.
In the normal course of events I suppose every parent will worry about their young adults moving out, moving on and learning to be independent, young contributors in the world.
How’s it look in the abnormal course of events? Seeing your child make choices that lead to increasing incidents of serious trouble and consequences is unbearable to face. This causes abnormal responses from the people who love them. Having a child with chemical dependency is not the norm. And the lifestyle that comes from chemical dependency goes against every moral fabric of character. Living in fear is not normal. Being disrespected, lied to or taken advantage of is not normal. Living in anguish and worry is not normal. Spending every conscience moment thinking, strategizing or anticipating the next move of your child is not normal. Questioning your own values, questioning your own parenting skills, questioning decisions you made early in their development – or, wising for do-overs is not normal. I did this and it’s just plain crazy! But I did not know another way. This turmoil is not only frightening, but very isolating and lonely.
I’ve since learned about the family disease – how it slowly permeates your fiber of being. The lifestyle of negativity became my new normal. Hope that there is help seemed unobtainable or just not possible, hopeless and helpless. After repeated attempts to fix the problem, some of us hit a wall. Sometimes the wall is an event that “shakes us up.” For me it was the physical ramifications of living in a state of combat, fighting for what was clearly being taken: my child. Such experiences included what medical professionals call “stress related disorders.” You need to remove some of the stress in your life! Oh that? OK – how? My only idea was to fix the addiction, that was the problem. Thus, my life would be stress free! But this wasn’t working out so well.
In Al-Anon I learn my terminal uniqueness is relatable to others with similar circumstances – they shared the same thoughts, actions and responses that I had! We are introduced to a concept that removes our old way of thinking and shown how we can make decisions that change our circumstances. The solution is not what we thought it would be, and another form of normalcy is introduced – . Then again, what is normal anyway?
When I realized the seriousness of addiction, that this was no longer a choice or defiant young adult male behavior– When I realized that nothing I could do or did was going to help, I went through a grieving process.
A mother’s broken heart is like no other sadness I’ve experienced before. I’ve had losses in my life. I’ve had the death of a parent, a sister, a nephew, a friend’s baby, a dear pet. These were sad events and great loss, but pales in comparison to the loss of a child to addiction. How would I be able to continue living as a helpless witness to the self-destructing addict, my son, my child? How could I detach and why would I? There were no handbooks in Parenting 101 about this. Unprepared and ill equipped, the reality, that my love could not save the ones I love, left me with a broken heart.
Through Al-Anon, I began to learn that powerlessness is not helplessness. I slowly realized my past efforts were as futile as “stopping the rain from falling down.” If I want to live in constant anguish, sadness and sorrow, I could continue what I was doing. Whose fault was it that I had a broken heart? I learned my part in it, ME. My expectations were breaking my heart. My wanting things to be different was breaking my heart; my denying reality was breaking my heart; my need to control, my unwillingness to bend, to let go…Death by a thousand (self-inflicted) cuts.
The choice was mine. I can accept the grieving, I can be sad, and then, I can choose to trust in love again. To love in the purist sense is a new, learned skill. I was willing to trust in a Power, greater than myself – that no matter what, I would be able to live fully. This spiritual awakening is a change in me and powerful force of change in my relationships – unintended love filled consequences!
HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART: Bee Gees-Live 1998
An important petition that will underpin long-term recovery needs your support. The Anthony’s Act petition seeks support for an amendment to the Affordable Care Act to provide for a minimum of ninety (90) days inpatient drug or alcohol treatment at a facility certified to provide such care by the appropriate regulatory body in the state in which it is located. Here’s why it is so important:
- Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
- Substance Use Disorder (SUD) touches one in ten Americans.
- SUD is a complex disease, not a moral failing.
- Every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs returns between $7 and $12 in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and healthcare savings.
- In 2012, less than 12 percent of the estimated 23.1 million Americans over the age of 12 who needed treatment for drug or alcohol abuse received it.
- The relapse rate following short-term treatment (30 days or less) is between 40 and 90 percent within the first 30 days after the rehab.
- The 28-day model of treatment has absolutely no basis in science and has been repudiated by the doctor who helped establish it in the early 1970s for the U.S. Air Force.
- Ninety (90) day residential drug rehab is suggested as the minimum length of time for effective treatment.
- Long-term treatment at a drug rehab facility can decrease the risk of drug addiction relapse by up to 73 percentage
This amendment will become law only if Congress sees overwhelming support for such a measure. If you love someone who struggles with drugs or alcohol (and who doesn’t??), please sign the petition.