Did I cause my son’s chemical dependency?

Just say no to drugsThis is an “encore” post from Eliza

I sat next to a pediatrician at a charity dinner the other night, and the talk turned to teen addiction. He posed a thought-provoking question: “Do you feel guilty that your son became an addict?” If he had asked me that same question earlier in the game, my answer would have been an unequivocal “Yes.” I was wracked with guilt (co-mingled with anger, shame, horror and fear) because I believed I had somehow created an addict by failing my son in some unintended way, although I wasn’t certain what that was. Was I too controlling in my son’s young life? Not controlling enough? Were my standards unreachably high, or perhaps too low? Was I too much of a mother to him and not enough of a friend, or vice versa? My painful self-examination and self-flagellation was endless, but still—I had no answers. I didn’t know what I had done—right or wrong. In the rear view mirror, I began to look at my parenting as an abject failure.

My perspective started to change as I learned how, for some, drugs and alcohol take on a life of their own. It is a neurological, inheritable, biological reaction unrelated to willpower, character or desire. Apparently I passed that gene on to my son from my side of the family tree– unknowingly, as addiction hasn’t reared its ugly head in me. (The gift that keeps on giving across generations –Uugh). Still, my son has chemical dependency in his genetic toolkit where it keeps company with courage, determination and his very kind nature, among many other great qualities. Those are the gifts that he uses today in his life of active recovery. He got those from me, too.

But I won’t take credit for the good stuff any more than I take blame for the bad. My son was dealt a genetic hand of cards; how he plays it is up to him. And how I play the hand that life deals me is up to me, and that includes discarding the guilt card whenever I can.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

If you knew others’ challenges, would you have more tolerance?

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Have you set your mind to achieve your goals?

How to mind my own business when my grown child struggles

I had heard in recovery rooms that when I take responsibility for my loved ones, I am robbing them of the dignity they deserve to experience life on their own. When I continue to harp, beg, plea, judge or offer advice, I’m ultimately in their business, trying to force solutions and eventually will lose their respect.  Worse, I could be adding to the bad opinion they already have about themselves.

This is not the mother I wanted to be! How could I be concerned but not consumed? How was it possible to love them unconditionally when my fear for their life was at stake? I was so obsessed with their problems, thinking I knew the answer; I would bring home pamphlets from on Alcoholics Anonymous and leave the literature scattered around the house in hopes they would pick it up and see the light!  That never worked either.

After being in Al-Anon for a while, I eventually learned tools to keep the focus on me and stay out of their business. Slowly I began to see results. One example I still remember to this day was when my son called and asked if he could come over for dinner and “talk.” Many recent events had happened that were concerning – I was well aware of where he was: jobless, homeless and alone. I was a little apprehensive, wondering what news he would bring this time. After a nice dinner with general conversation, he shared that he thought he might have a drinking problem. Oddly, I was elated to hear him admit a problem. There were 3 things I was able to do that day that made me proud of my program. I said “oh” which helped me compose my thoughts before blurting out something hurtful or unnecessary. The next thing out of my mouth was that I did not know if he was an alcoholic or not but that there were people who could help him learn about it and that I might still have their pamphlet. (I prayed I still had all the literature long put away). When he was getting ready to leave and I had no idea where he was staying (in his car?) I let him know how much I loved him and that I hoped to see him soon.

The most important lesson for me was that by being non-judgmental, not pretending to know the answer, and further, not turning his confidence into a nagging session, I was able to be the mother I want to always be: RESPECTFUL, CARING, and LOVING. I helped where I could then I allowed him to decide what he would do with it. Then I turned it over to my Higher Power, as I placed my son’s name into my God Box later that night. This released me from obsessive thoughts of worry that before had consumed me.

 

As parents of addicts/alcoholics, how do we measure ourselves?

My 3 SunzThis is an “encore” post from My3Sunz

At some point, I questioned my self-worth as a parent. I wanted to blame society and sub cultures that emit beliefs: All good kids take classes that prepare them for college. Good kids are happy, well rounded and driven. Good kids = good parents. If my kids were not that, would the opposite imply something about their parents? Seeds of doubt were forming. I thought I encouraged individuality, promoted their worthiness with heartfelt belief, but did I? Because when addiction took residence, I became overly involved in trying to mold, re-direct, manage and control what they were doing. Irritatingly unsuccessful, it was here that I started to have DOUBTS about my parenting ability and second guess decisions I made. The family disease progressed and my confident motherhood went haywire. On the outside I was doing fine. On the inside…a different story.

With counseling and support groups I learned how I was measuring myself against what others thought of me, even society. I was measuring my worthiness as a parent against my child’s success, happiness and failures. IF THEY ARE NOT DOING WELL, I WON’T BE DOING WELL EITHER! This was during the daytime. At nighttime my mind would re-play past events, I would question where I went wrong, what I should have done differently, why I did not see the signs; I reminded myself that a competent parent would have! Days turn to months, then years. Over time, this skewed thinking and behavior affected my self-worth.

I chose another way: I chose to learn about the family disease and the effect on me. I chose to relearn how to care about me, to accept that I too am worthy and worthwhile and to stop relying on others to measure myself.  I was my own best critic and enemy. I sometimes say, “don’t believe everything your mind tells you, it may be a lie” and the rooms of recovery remind us that “you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it.” Most importantly, I had to get over myself. I was so vain to think that this was about me.

Why I am grateful for addiction

Dandelion blowing in windWith addiction in my family tree, Thanksgiving has the potential for myriad emotions:  trepidation, joy, chaos or gratitude, to name a few. Last year, with several years of recovery in our wake, I made note of my many blessings.  I try to say a prayer of gratitude every night before hitting the sack, but with Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I’d like to look back on what I wrote down last year about the holiday, which holds potential for both joy and chaos…if I let it.

I am thankful that my son has claimed a life of recovery, one day at a time.

I am thankful that people are beginning to understand addiction as a disease of the brain.

I am thankful that I discovered Al-Anon.

I am thankful for the friends that addiction has ushered into my life.

I am thankful for the opportunity to support others though their own child’s addiction.

I am thankful that my marriage survived our son’s illness.

I am thankful that I have had the resources to help support my son’s recovery.

I am thankful that my faith sustained me.

And thanks to addiction, I am appreciative of the perspective I’ve gained about what really counts in life.

Count your blessings…..and  please share with our readers what you are thankful for.

Bountiful, Blissful and Beautiful – Honoring our loved ones and ourselves

I had the pleasure of attending a concert called Songs of the Soul with Guruganesha and Tina Malia. Their music is truly beautiful and definitely fills the soul. One of the songs they sang was called Ma. It is a chant to honor Mother Earth and all that it provides. The first part of the song is the chanting of Ma and then the second part of the song is ‘I am Bountiful, I am Blissful and I am Beautiful’. The artist Guruganesha said, ‘Isn’t this a mothers dream? That her children truly embrace that they are bountiful, blissful and beautiful?’ I have to admit, I agree easily that as a mother I would love for my children to embrace these beautiful words and thoughts about themselves

 
I reflected later on the irony of how opposite it is with our loved ones struggling with addiction. When active in addiction they do not feel bountiful, they are filled with the feeling of scarcity of their drug. There is never enough money or drugs to satisfy the craving that inhabits their brain. They do not feel blissful; they feel a temporary high that they continually chase. They are haunted by the torment of coming down from the drugs and the desperation to find more. They do not feel beautiful, not even for a moment; they are consumed with self-loathing that robs them of seeing their true beauty.

 
Yes, it my dream as a mother that my children feel that life is bountiful, that it has no end to the abundance that can be manifest when you follow your heart with a clear and healthy lifestyle. That there can be blissful times amongst life’s challenges when you are present in your life and spending time with those you care about most. And that they know deep within themselves they are beautiful inside and out and that they honor their spirit with self-love and respect. I do not think this is too much for a mother to dream for her children, it is what comes most naturally from our hearts every waking day.

Seeing our addicts and alcoholics through judgement-free eyes

This in an”encore” posting from My 3 Sunz

A couple of years ago I was driving my son to a local transit station.  What happened then is as crystal clear as if it were yesterday.  At the stop light, I quickly glanced his way to see if he was wearing his seat belt. I had not forgotten a previous time I was driving him.  Shortly released from prison, the police officer pulls up next to us and I realize his seat belt isn’t on. This panicked me to no end.   How could I not have noticed and insisted “car rules” but then again, why would I have to?

This time he has acquired tattoos that runs from his shoulder to his wrist on one arm. I’m having trouble accepting it, and I’m aware of it.  Soon I noticed things around me. At an intersection, the car just next to me pulled up to the stop light. Here was a young driver who appeared to be a drug dealer. There were several young people at the corner gas station; they too looked suspect to me – did I just see them nod to that drug dealer driver? And the car on my right, the driver also had a very noticeable tattoo… Somewhere there was loud music BOOM BOOM BOOMING… Everywhere around me were suspicious people, my son’s age, in cars, on sidewalks, parking lots and bus stations, all seemingly with no direction or purpose. It was like the ZOMBIES had all come out in the afternoon. This is an area I drive daily and I never noticed this before!

What just happened here? I was uneasy about his tattoo. Why? One word: Judgment. I was placing judgment on him AND would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned about how people would judge me! So, as sneaky as my EGO can be, I involuntarily defaulted to my old defects of character – placing judgment on those around me – they looked suspicious! This tactic used to work good when I did not want to take a good look at myself. Let’s face it. If I put the focus on them, I don’t see where there is any “me” in the equation. This time, however, I CAUGHT ME!

I never know when I’m going to resort to old habits where character defects surface, but I am able to recognize what I’m doing and stop it soon after. Before Al-Anon I would not have considered my viewpoint the problem. I sometimes look forward to finding another thing I’m wrong at because it’s so humbling! What a gift!

My 3 Sunz Takes Leave

Dear readers, thank you for checking in and reading my blogs.  They were my heartfelt experiences I went through struggling to understand this disease called addiction.  They were my experiences struggling with my own addiction – THEM.  In the years I’ve been posting, I’ve also been growing in my own life.  I‘m more spiritually  fit today.  I’m learning to accept, to love and be loved and to listen without judgment.   I’ve seen many other internet sites and resources for parents grow in a variety of formats.  There were no such things readily available back when I was searching on-line.  Back then, in the still of the night, when I could not sleep, I’d turn on the computer and search, desperately seeking the answers on how to stop my son’s drug problem. Worrying about tomorrow, fearing the worst.  

I’m stepping down from blogging and older posts will be re-used for a time. If I could impart one thing I’ve learned along the way, it’s that I don’t have to do this deal by myself.  No one should try to carry the burden of a sick child alone.  Where there is fear, there is faith.  Where there is anguish there is hope, where there is no end in sight, there is light. Take the necessary steps to get help for you; whether through your care provider, church or non-profits like the Al-Anon/Alateen Family Groups.  The first step is deciding to find help. This is a WE disease.  Everyone is affected.  Best of Luck to you and your family-  – My 3 Sunz

Here Comes the Judge!

One day I was driving my son to a local transit station. I quickly glanced his way to see if he was wearing his seat belt.  The last time I was driving him he did not have his seat belt on and I realized it just when a police officer pulled up next to us. This panicked me and bothered me to no end.  I don’t want any trouble.  At the time he was 28 years old, by the way. Now he has acquired a ginormous tattoo that runs from his shoulder to his wrist on one arm. I’m struggling to accept it.  I kept seeing it in my periphery. Soon I noticed other things around me. At an intersection, the car just next to me pulled up to the stop light. Here was a young driver who had all the earmarks of a young drug dealer. There were several young people at the corner gas station, loitering; they too looked suspect to me – did I just see them nod to that drug dealer driver? And the car on my right, the driver also had a very noticeable tattoo… Somewhere there was loud music BOOM BOOM BOOMING… Everywhere around me were suspicious people, my son’s age, in cars, on sidewalks, parking lots and bus stations, all seemingly with no direction or purpose. It was like the ZOMBIES had all come out in the afternoon. This is an area I drive daily and I never noticed this before!

What just happened here? I was uneasy about his tattoo. Why? One word: Judgment. I was placing judgment on him AND would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned about how people would judge me! So, as sneaky as my EGO can be, I involuntarily defaulted to my old defects of character – placing judgment on those around me – they looked suspicious! This tactic used to work good when I did not want to take a good look at myself. Let’s face it. If I put the focus on them, I don’t see where there is any “me” in the equation. This time, however, I CAUGHT ME!

I never know when I’m going to resort to old habits where character defects surface, but I am able to recognize what I’m doing and stop it soon after. Before recovery in the Al-Anon Family Group I would not have considered my viewpoint the problem. I sometimes look forward to finding another thing I’m wrong at because it’s so humbling! What a gift!