Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Do you have peace within?

When will the misery end? Stages of Grieving: parenting addicted children

My husband said “no” when my 30 year old son asked to borrow his truck. The conversation ended badly: my son hung up on him with a flippant “I didn’t think it would be a big deal.” My husband is feeling sad about it all.  He said some things he wishes he could take back, replay or do differently. I recognize the defeatism and self-deprecating emotions that happen from outcomes like this. I’ve had a few of my own. Everything about a child’s drug abuse and addiction can have negative consequences for parents. The worry and fear. Then there’s the doubt you place on yourself as a parent; then there’s the resistance to the truth – wishing you could say yes, often saying yes to avoid conflict. Then there’s the hurt and emotional suffering you go through because even though you know intellectually, you didn’t cause it, you can’t control, you can’t cure it, it still doesn’t make the situation better or release you from responsibility. I just wish he was doing better, had sought recovery and fought relapse. The truth is he is ripping and running right now and I am powerless over it.

This disease is an inside job. When will the misery end? It ends when I let go and let God. When I accept what is and chose recovery from the family disease.  I can chose another way in my relation to this disease, yes,  I will have sadness, but not all consuming misery.

Sister Bea talked about the 5 stages of grief in a retreat I attended.  Parents discover grieving  is a term that aptly describes our feelings of having sons and daughters afflicted with addiciton.  First there is denial. Denial of reality is a symptom of our disease. At first, it had its place – to cope with the unthinkable. Used too long, my life becomes unmanageable. Next comes bargaining, a weird but true phenomena with your interaction with God. OH God, I promise this, if you do that! The 3rd stage is anger and there are many articles and reading material about anger. Many parents of drug addicts have issues with anger and resentments. Parent Pathway has a wonderful meeting-in-a-box exercise for Anger and I often speak about it (click here). Fourth is sadness – so strong it overtakes you. For some, there can be clinical depression and other disorders from it. Finally, there are snippets of acceptance, and all of this happens at different points in time. With acceptance there is a shift in attitude filled with hope, growth and splendor through spiritual relief. It is here I find solace from the family disease of substance abuse. It brings me back to the present moment – neither dreading the next moment nor dwelling over past moments. I accept there will be pain and sadness sometimes, but with acceptance, events such as this won’t torment me through the 5 stages of grief.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Do you agree that the serenity prayer could be for everyone?

SHIFT: Less of that, more of this: careful weighing and mindful thinking

Recovery from the family disease involves a shift in attitude and behavior. Years ago my counselor told me that my son would “get it” when “he got it” and I kept asking her “how will I know?” Her flip answer was always “from his changed behavior.” How is a desperate, frightened mother supposed to understand that? I had 5 years of gnarly teenage behavior; never knowing what young adulthood recovery-behavior was supposed to look like. All trust, including my own intuition, was out the window.

It took years of recovery from the family disease, hard work and many sleepless nights to begin to understand the concept “changed behavior”…my own.

I experienced a gradual shift from less of that to more of this.  Each day I’m tasked with weighing my options on how my day is going to be; I have choices and with practice the shift is less noticeable, but more serene.

My SHIFT:

  • Less talk, more listening,
  • Less judgment, more tolerance,
  • Less control, more trust,
  • Less tense, more relaxed,
  • Less egocentric, more spiritual

Reclaiming your serenity with “re-language”

Mental Illness and AddictionI am so fortunate to have XM radio, and sometimes catch Oprah Winfrey’s Lifeclass. One day I listened to her with her guest, Iyanla Vanzant.  (To learn more about Lifeclass, click here)

Iyanla Vanzant, an inspirational and new thought spiritual teacher, is such a kick and is always giving out little one-liners that provoke me to think! She’d discuss how Deceptive Intelligence keeps us from spiritual growth and screamed to the viewer: “RE-LANGUAGE!” Make no mistake, re-language was an aggressive verb, a call to action! I applied it to my own experience of codependency with young adult children in addiction:

DECEPTIVE INTELLIGENCE: I had to kick my kids out of my home. This is so dramatic and feeds the guilt I held for experiencing a scenario I wished did not have to happen. I took on responsibility, as if I could have done something else to minimize the impact. RE-LANGUAGE: My kids chose not to live by my boundaries, so they left.

DECEPTIVE INTELLIGENCE: If I let go, they might fail, get arrested, go to jail. There is a dangerous side effect when I think I know outcomes, especially if I believe I can orchestrate the future – Guilt, Disappointment, Denial, Shame. RE-LANGUAGE: I can’t control the choices my kids make, but they have a right to make them, even if I don’t agree with it.

DECEPTIVE INTELLIGENCE: His girlfriend introduced him to drugs, I blame her. RE-LANGUAGE: She is a child of God, cleverly disguised as a drug addict (another gem from Iyanla).

DECEPTIVE INTELLIGENCE: When I figure out recovery, I’ll be able to show them how to do it! I believed this to the core. So my early help seeking behavior had an end game! I’d pick up a speaker CD from an AA or recovered Drug Addict, and I’d strategize how my sons could listen to it. If they just listened, then …. I was still thinking what I was doing in Al-Anon would help me to the solution for me my kids. I was still trying to control it. Oh, yeah, definately Deceptive Thinking! RE-LANGUAGE: My children will get recovery when they are ready, on their own, in HIS time, and I’m not in charge. I’m just a child of God,  cleverly disguised as a know it all!

 

12 Signs of Spiritual Awakening for Parents of Addicts or Alcoholics

checklist to keep our kids safe
  1. Increased tendency to let things happen versus make things happen.
  2. Frequent attacks of smiling.
  3. Feelings of being connected to others and nature.
  4. Frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  5. Tendency to think and act spontaneously versus react from fear or past experiences.
  6. An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  7. Loss of desire to worry.
  8. Loss of interest in conflict.
  9. Loss of interest interpreting the actions of others.
  10. Loss of interest in judging others.
  11. Loss of interest in judging myself.
  12. Gaining the ability to love without expecting anything in return.

 

Curious nature of powerlessness

There is a recurring fear my son, who struggles today with addiction, will get into more trouble, hurt someone, or hurt himself. These feelings of anxiousness happen to me randomly after long period of time where I haven’t heard from him. My sick mind tells me no news is bad news because before, I used to say no news is good news and that wasn’t true!   My sick mind tells me doom & gloom is around the corner, “any day now.” My sick mind wants to get into my sons’ business because my sick mind tells me he  can’t manage without me.

My healthy mind tells me it’s OK to love my son, be concerned, hope for the best. My healthy mind tells me that I did not cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it. My healthy mind reminds me to keep to my own business, that sticking my nose into his affairs will muck things up – I may not like what I see and not accept him as he is.  Then I’ll behave badly and not be the loving mother I want to be.  My healthy mind assures me that my son is where he is supposed to be, and he is smart & resourceful.

My healthy mind is healthy because of my program, the Al-Anon program, which keeps me grounded and clear about what’s mine and what isn’t. My program reminds me that there is a Power greater than me that can restore me to sanity and my son also has a Power greater than me to restore him to sanity. I’m not in charge!

The curious nature of not knowing to a co-dependent like me encourages my monkey brain to project the future and replace my present moments with worry and fret. I’ve been there too many times, and today I can accept the truth: Not knowing does not mean bad or good karma or that my son purposely keeps me in the dark.  Not knowing is just that, nothing more nothing less.  Any kind of eventuality outside of my control I am powerless over.  I can detach from the monkey brain, get back in to Today and trust in that Power.

Mobile Serenity – Detaching from stress to relax

finding serenity while campingI heard someone say, “nothing like Arkansas in the rearview mirror!” to illustrate a point about running away from problems. It’s also been termed a “geographic” – meaning, if I move away to another city, state, country, I will leave the problems behind. This sounded like a good idea – boy was I ready to escape! I had entertained those thoughts myself because addiction and drug abuse was creating havoc in my life and I was at wits end.  I felt cornered where the only way out was to pick up and move!

I have since learned that running away doesn’t solve anything because I still have to live with myself! I can’t run from me – but early on I did not see my part in the equation. I only saw what THEY were doing. Detach with love! Detach with anger! Detach however you can! These were recurring suggestions. Not knowing how to detach, one thing that did work was to take “mini geographics” with my husband in our travel trailer. These little escapades, new to us, in an old used hunting trailer my husband brought home, became my way to detach. For one long weekend I would go to the mountains, the ocean or a lake and have serenity. Eventually I found my higher power. Eventually I learned how to focus on my life again with no outside influences; phone calls, knocks at the door, newspapers, neighbors. We detached, if but for one weekend at a time!

These road trips were my time: to read, paint, take walks, kayak. I could sleep; sleep some more and read my recovery material. I worked on me, and what I gained was health: spiritual, physical and mental. I fondly think of my old trailer as my “mobile serenity” which helped me understand the solution to my problems begin with me.

 

Spiritual Relief from the Anguish of loving an addict/alcoholic son or daughter

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.

Another trip over the rainbow – spiritual lessons from the Wizard of Oz

Each day I work on my spiritual health. I do it by quiet meditation (practice practice practice) and daily readings of affirmations. There are immeasurable ways to practice, but these area few examples. Today, I discovered another book of daily reading I’d like to add to my collection: The Tao of Now by Josh Baran. Before I share how I discovered this, I’m compelled to give you a little history.

I once wrote about the metaphor of the Wizard of Oz and my experience in Al-Anon. I had a chance to catch the last part of the movie after many years of not seeing it. When my kids were little, my youngest son would watch this movie over and over and over again. Well 20 years later I’m watching the tail end through Al-Anon eyes. I had shared my sentiments of the Scarecrow who I related to when in my disease of codependency, a result of having addict/alcoholics in my life.  The Scarecrow was pretty miffed at Glinda, the good witch. It was when she came floating in via her bubble and explains to Dorothy that she had the power all along and could always get home. The scarecrow wanted to know why she didn’t divulge this information sooner, like when she landed in Oz. Glinda, the persona of all that is good, explains “she had to learn it herself”.  Al-Anon is teaching me that I can’t do for or advise others, especially my sons, how to get on in life without danger, fear, and adventure. I can’t substitute experience that accompanies learning even when I think it will help. I have to act like Glinda – loving and patient, ready when called on.

Today, I’m riding in my car and listening to a portion of a repeat of Oprah talks “soul series’ with author Josh Baran about his book The Tao of Now. Oprah shares with him her belief that the Wizard of Oz is the most spiritual movie ever made and the most profound statement being the quote from Glinda “you had the power all along”.

I decided this must be a sign; I definitely will be getting this book! To hear the Oprah ‘Soul Series’ interview of Josh Baran, click here.