“Grief can destroy you –or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it.
But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see that it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”
Dean Koontz, Odd Hours
As the mother of a chemically dependent child, my biggest fear was that he would die. It’s not an irrational fear: addiction/alcoholism is responsible for accidents, homicides, suicides. I am not telling you something that you don’t already know; these fears probably haunt you, too.
I will be the first to admit that, for the most part, I dealt with that fear in a pretty graceless way. I was obsessed with my son’s potential death to the point of not being present in his life. I was preoccupied with what he did/what he might do to the point of overlooking the bright moments in his day and mine. Guilty as charged for overlooking “the present” of today! I was absent from the lives of other loved ones; I was shrill; I was depressed; I was afraid.
I read today about a transcendent mom who, unlike me, looked death squarely in the eye and refused to let it strip her of her child’s life. The mother of a terminally ill toddler, writer Emily Rapp delighted in her child’s short life and learned tremendous lessons from him. You can read about Emily, her son Ronan, and parenting a child with no future. Emily learned so much from Ronan, and we can all learn so much from Emily about how to love a child without life’s guarantees.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
There are times that I can begin to let the challenges of my life become my total focus. Even though I know that living my life from a place of gratitude is where I find the peace and serenity, it is not always easy. I know that there are concerns and life cannot be totally stress free. But it is how I deal with these situations. Do I face them head on and look for the learning and silver linings? Do I see keep things in perspective or let them run rampant in my mind to a place that is not healthy? Sometimes I do well and other times I need to self-correct.
When I come from a place of gratitude it is like the quote from Melody Beattie above. I can turn chaos into order and I can turn confusion into clarity. Being grateful starts your day with a sense of calm and a place of serenity. I have to remind myself daily to be grateful. Sometimes I write down a list of what I am grateful for. You can also keep a journal and refer to it when you are feeling down or stressed. Keep the gratefulness in your heart and that will help to keep the peacefulness in your head!
If you’re reading this…
Congratulations, you’re alive.
If that’s not something to smile about,
then I don’t know what is.”
- Chad Sugg, Monsters Under Your Head
This Seeking Serenity blog was just awarded one of the “Top Ten Addiction Blogs of 2013″ by Residential Treatment Centers. We’ve got some good company in those ranks, ranging from Suboxone Talk Zone which recently exposed the devious marketing ploy by the makers of suboxone to The Last Chance Texaco, described as “an open, honest and vivid account of stumbling through life as a recovering addict.”
This recognition feels a bit off, kind of like sporting a bumper sticker that reads, “I’m the proud creator of an award-winning blog about addiction.” I certainly never imagined that would be my claim to fame; instead, I secretly yearned for the bumper sticker that sang the praises of my child as an honor student at some prestigious school (not really, but you get my drift). But I will take it. I’m proud to be the co-creator of a resource described as “covering educational, inspirational and informative content, Parent Pathway is a wealth of knowledge. The writing is concise and well written.” My English teachers should be beaming.
Most of all, I am proud that the Seeking Serenity blog is seen as “a wonderful source of comfort when facing a difficult situation.” That was our goal when developing this web site.
You never know how and why the universe delivers its potent gifts, some unbidden. But my child’s chemical dependency has handed me an opportunity to be of service to others, and that is yet another silver lining in my addiction playbook. What are some of the silver linings in your experience of your child’s chemical dependency?
The sorrow, destruction and powerlessness of a child’s addiction weigh heavily on our hearts. In my dimmest hour, devastation for my child was all I could see. It was the only thing that I could imagine. I was blinded by his addiction.
And yet, somewhere along the way I began to spot glimmers of light, personal epiphanies of growth and change and promise. My personal torture morphed into compassion for others. I became grateful for small things that wouldn’t have even caught my eye before. I learned to devote time and energy to the truly important things in my life. My appreciation for strong girlfriends grew hundredfold. The dark cloud of addiction revealed some very silver linings which had been there forever while I had been looking the other way.
What allowed me to change, or what changed in me? I had to admit my powerlessness over my son’s chemical dependency before I could see anything else besides his addiction. When I admitted my powerlessness over his addiction, it released its grasp on me. Don’t change my world, change me.
If you have only recently entered the dark Land of Addiction, I know this seems ridiculous, out of the question. But give yourself time. There are many steps in the experience of a child’s serious illness, and you need to work through them at your own pace. Somewhere along the way, the silver linings will start to catch your eye.
The following quote is so true:
“People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within.” -Ramona L. Anderson
How often do we look to forces outside ourselves for peace of mind and gratification? We try new jobs, new friends, and various activities. While we may get some satisfaction in the short run from these changes and new venues, it may not last. What I have found is that ‘where ever I go, there I am.’ It is what we hold inside ourselves that is the grounding force of our happiness and well-being.
The toughest journey can be when we discover that after looking for who’s at fault or to blame that we discover that we can only blame ourselves. I know that I am not without faults, but I also know that one of those faults has been to look to others for the causes of issues. It is certainly easy to do this when you have someone in your family that is doing destructive activities due to an addiction. For me I felt all of the problems where due to my daughter’s addiction. I became consumed with the victim mentality of what was being ‘done to me.’ When I started to realize that there were things I could change within myself that is when I was able to begin reclaiming my life. It was a very difficult journey and did not happen fast. But when I did decide to take a look within, I began to discover what I could do to change me and in that process it affected everyone around me in so many positive ways.
When I look back on my life and certainly the part where I had a loved one struggling with addiction which led our whole family to a place of pain and suffering, I realize how true this statement is. The greatest growth in my life has been through tragedy. Here is what I learned.
* It was when I was in the deepest place of fear that I had to learn to let go of it in order to survive, to trust, to move forward even if one day at a time.
* It was when I was in the deepest place of sadness that I had to cry, to grieve, and to believe that my heart could heal.
*It was when I was in the deepest place of anxiety that I had to be calm, to breathe, and to have faith when I saw nothing to hold on to.
*It was when I was in the deepest place of anger that I to hold back from screaming, to be understanding, to find a way to forgive even when sometimes it was forgiving myself.
*It was when I was in the deepest place of despair that I had to completely understand that I am not alone, to let go and let God if I wanted to find any peace.
These are the lessons that came from my ‘greatest pains’ that slowly became my ‘greatest strengths’ as Drew Barrymore so aptly put it. Would I have come to the place of serenity that now have without the tragedies in my life? I’m not sure that I would have. I believe I may have found some piece of mind along the way but I know I would not have realized how precious it was or that I would not be as grateful as I am. I am grateful for the lessons along the way and I know that while I would not have chosen these difficulties in my journey, I accept that this is a part of my life that accumulates and becomes all of the pieces of me and who I am.
Sometimes we have to just sit and soak in the things we are grateful for. It is easy to let the tasks of the day occupy us and not recognize the little joys along the way. Today I will pause for a moment and relish in the fact that my daughter has over 3 years clean and sober. To understand where my daughter has been and to see where she is now is nothing short of a miracle. A couple weeks ago I was talking to my daughter and I just realized her sobriety date had come and gone and I had not remembered. I mentioned it to her and told her how proud I was of her and how much she had taken control of her life. What a cause for celebration and reflection.
To think three years ago she was still struggling to overcome her drug addiction and to remember the wreckage that was her constant companion. Now she is living a life of recovery. I have watched the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months, and now the months turning into years – I think I can stop holding my breath! She is responsible and self-sufficient. She is my pride and joy just as she has always been. I love talking to her and hearing about her day – it is the simple pleasures that make her happy. I am so grateful and know that if she can do life in recovery that many other young people can as well.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” -