When my son entered a 12-Step rehabilitation program after 19 months of using, I was naively thinking 30 days and he’d be back to normal. There was just no way he would use again, it was such a waste of his young years, and surely he saw this. Well, not only did he relapse WHILE in rehab, he subsequently relapsed many times over. I heard others say that with recovery comes relapse. This helped me accept unfavorable outcomes and not be so disappointed, angry or resentful. Later someone shared that relapse expectations can be dangerous and that perhaps I should not expect it or justify it. Think about the addict who may rationalize as do I: “Craig has relapsed a bunch of times before he made it, so what if I have a drink or two.”
What is minimized is that the last time Sabrina relapsed, she went into a coma and never came back; the last time James relapsed, his drug induced high for 3 days left a trail of armed robbery and arrest. The last time Joe relapsed, he hit a pedestrian while driving under the influence, and Sally? She nearly died from insulin shock, no longer in touch with her blood sugar monitoring.
Having this brought to my attention changed my behavior and attitude towards expecting relapse. Addiction is a deadly serious disease and any attempts to smooth things over, allow or assist the addict to justify relapse while in my sphere of influence cannot be tolerated. I will not expect it, but I can learn to accept it. And with love and prayer, a program of recovery from co-dependency, I have faith that a Power, greater than me, will guide us all toward a program of recovery.
“Faith is not for overcoming obstacles; it is for experiencing them.”
- Richare Rohr
“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it by the handle of anxiety, or by the handle of faith.”
I attended a 2 day taping of Echart Tolle TV in Mill Valley. It was like a spiritual injection and renewal of positive inner thinking very similar to my Al-Anon Program of recovery. Interestingly, someone asked Eckart how to reconcile a perceived conflict they had from his spiritual teachings (the power within us) to the concept of a “Higher Power.” That God, which they came to understand through their own 12-Step Program recovery of Alcoholics Anonymous, seemed to be something bigger, higher and outside of them – “up there somewhere.” His response was perfect: the term “Higher Power” is just a language pointer. We have no language that adequately defines this. “Try using INNER POWER instead,” he suggested.
It got me to thinking about my own attempt to get my mind around the Higher Power concept. Al-Anon’s 12- Steps, adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, were simply something on poster boards to alert me that my sons would need to pay attention to that so they could get better. I never considered that it would have anything to do with me. Once I realized my part in the illness – the family disease of drug and alcohol addiction, I wanted relief from the anguish and worry. I slowly realized it would take work. I made the decision to obtain a sponsor and I had to work my own 12-Step program of recovery. Until I accepted where I was, I disregarded the concept of turning anything over to a power greater than myself. Why do I need to bother with any of this? I’m not the one with the problem!
The 12-step recovery program through Al-Anon family groups was exactly what I needed. I slowly became willing and embraced the necessary steps for a spiritual awakening. I was using “pointers” in the language of recovery. I heard and casually picked up the term, Higher Power, which came from the people in the program, not the program itself. There are several references in the steps that point to a Power, greater than ourselves and to a God, as we understood Him, the latter was up to me to figure out. There is no wrong way. It was evident Echart made no judgment. He simply offered an alternative language to the term “Higher Power” which to him is “Inner Power.” It is faith that this Power, whatever words you use to describe, that restores us to sanity.
Fear had become the Higher Power in my life while my sons’ addiction progressed. Oxycontin was a force, a power of its own, over them; and I was taken hostage by fear. Shut down completely to a reactionary mode, I was in constant mind chatter. Fearful they would get hurt, fearing the phone calls, the police, and the incarceration. Fear became the source that ruled my life. Fearful of change at work, of making a mistake or wrong decision, my behavior turned to panic driven reactions! I would be irrational, angry or wishy-washy. If someone were to look into my life like reality TV, they would quickly assess: Kids have issues with drugs, what’s the matter with the mother?
My program of recovery through Al-Anon is a spiritual one that offers a solution for living in constant fear. I have tools that help me discern if my thoughts are about things I am powerless over. I seek the help from my Higher Power rather than battle it on my own. I am presented with options that are calm, rational, secure and serene. I am powerless over the fearful feelings, but I’m not helpless.
Watching the Wizard of Oz through eyes of a recovering co-dependent is an awakening. I understood the Scarecrow’s reaction upon hearing Glinda tell Dorothy she had the power all along to get home. He was pretty miffed she allowed them to experience all those horrible events knowing she could have helped her get home sooner. Co-Dependents don’t like seeing their loved ones suffer discomfort, danger and sadness. It makes us uneasy, fretful and worried. In my experience, I did not want my addicted/alcoholic loved ones to have to go through negative consequences from their risky behavior. I also relate to the Cowardly Lion, fearful of all things. It was my fear that drove me to become obsessed with them and in my mind the outcomes were always dark: danger, hunger, homelessness, attacks, crime. I never considered their sense of adventure, making new friends, surviving, sadness, and purpose to name a few. Any positive outcomes, such as independence, growth and self realization, were not a possibility – to my way of thinking. My thinking had become distorted – what happened to my brain?
I’m learning how fear and ignorance drives my behavior. I’m also learning to have courage and believe that whatever happens to my loved ones, good and bad, both have purpose in life and I don’t have power over that. It helps to remember my co-dependent tendencies when I want to rescue. I’d rather be a respectful mother, not a rescue mom. It feels better to let go of my fear and grant them the dignity to grow and live their own life. To do so, I have to accept that it may not be what I would choose, but accepting nonetheless.
I’m betting that after Dorothy returned to Kansas she was a different person – her experiences shaped new beliefs and attitude towards life. Because of my program, I am a different person too; I would say “a better person”. My recovery program has enabled me to have a relationship with my sons that would not have been possible if I continued to act irrationally, force solutions, become unreasonable all the while living in denial. Courage, Wisdom and Faith, it was there all along. There is no place like home.