Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

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

How do I love thee? Learning to love and trust during uncertainty

Stack of love letters on rustic wooden planks backgroundI caught an Oprah Lifeclass series where an episode portrayed a young couple trying to recover their marriage after the woman had a fling with another man. “How will her husband ever regain his trust in her?” we ask. Dr. Phil’s no nonsense response was good. Trust is not about trusting the other person to do or not do something in the future. The real trust question is within you – Do I trust that I can handle anything that happens in the future? This whole show centered on thinking differently about trust and love stemming not from another, rather, from yourself.

Naturally, I did what I do; I turned the topic around to how it relates to ME and my children and the family disease of addiction. Before addiction’s collateral damage hit me, I took for granted trust in others and may have inadvertently used love as self-serving. When betrayal hit, it did not occur to me that the first thing to go was trust in me.

Back to the relationship in question. The scenario: A man loves a woman, she cheats on him and his trust in her is broken. He’s hurt and afraid to let his love for her hurt him again. My scenario: A mother has a child whose addiction has progressed to a point that he is no longer trustworthy. She’s hurt and afraid if she continues to love him, he might hurt her again.

I had to think about love, while I thought about trust. Love involves caring, respect, giving, commitment, kindness, tolerance and …trust. I used to think love was reciprocal. In reality, if I love myself enough, then it can be without attachment to someone else. It can be given away, unconditionally, because I am confident enough to not have an expectation or implied reciprocity. If I trust myself enough, I can love others and if they hurt, betray, disrespect, take, are unpredictable, are mean, intolerable and untrustworthy, I will cross that bridge when presented. I TRUST MYSELF ENOUGH TO KNOW I CAN CONTINUE ON, MAKE CHOICES, HAVE HAPPINESS, SET BOUNDARIES (AND KEEP THEM), AND EVEN SAY NO.  I love thee freely!

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Can you appreciate what happens to make something new?

Truth be Told, Parent of Addict to Parent of Addict, Self to Self

A friend introduced me to someone whose teenagers turned into addicts but now older, are doing well. “His story has great hope for others”, my friend said.   Well, I thought, I’m always open to talking to others who share a language close to my own.

What I found was a man still deeply moved by the turmoil and anguish he experienced as if it were yesterday. In actuality it was 6 years ago.  I was not surprised by this.  I don’t believe you ever get over the events of having a child struggle with addiction; you learn to live with it. 

We immediately related to each other’s experience: the missing checks, the bank statement confirming the dreaded truth; the full blown lying, arrests, rehabs and relapses.  How college funds were replaced with otherworldly things:  pawn shops, psychological counseling, sober living, wilderness programs and such.  What I found was a man not unlike myself.  We both learned that survival would take a change in how we parent.  He did this with counseling and outside help.  I related to that too.  I don’t believe you can do this alone.

It’s true, his kids, now in their mid twenties, are doing better today.  He even sees mental maturing and critical thinking skills that drugs took away from their developing brains.  I sensed his recent financial support for both had left some doubt in his mind.  Though it felt different this time, he expressed concern in certain “behaviors” and our eyes said “possible co-dependent thinking.” 

Here we both shared an unspoken truth – their future lies in their ability and desire to fight for sobriety, not our wanting them to be sober.  We have little to no influence in this.  If they are OK today, well that’s nice.

We have grown an outer layer of defense about how one day can change to the next.  We won’t allow obsessive thoughts to ponder the “what ifs.”  And we always need to moderate our urges to help:  Will it hurt our new relationship?  Do I have expectations?  Am I trying to control or manipulate?  Did they ask for help, or am I jumping in where I don’t belong?

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Do you know that you are a miracle?

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

A Turning Point in the Family Disease of Chemical Dependency

bright closeup picture of magic twinkles on female handsI have often said my turning point in recovery from the family disease was to keep an open mind be willing to try the Al-Anon program. I somehow needed to re-wire my beliefs, truths and experience. This would be a completely different way of handling life’s situations – and I held doubt. Yet, I had been broken open by addiction and freely admitted that my life had become unmanageable.

I remember thinking about and using affirmations such as this:

  • I am willing to be willing to consider the Al-Anon program as a solution for healing from the effects of alcoholism/addiction.
  • I am willing to consider the Al-Anon program as a solution for healing from the effects of alcoholism/addiction.
  • I consider the Al-Anon program the solution for my living life happy, joyous and free.
  • I thank life for giving me the fellowship of the Al-Anon family group where there is love and understanding.
  • I see the hurt I have suffered as an opportunity to learn compassion.

And so goes the process – used at every step.  I’ve come a long ways from being angry, resentful and contemptuous.  I sleep at night, I’m not paralyzed by fear.  I have faith, better tolerance and acceptance.  I’m not perfect, but I keep working on me and I’m excited about the growth in my relationship with my loved ones.

Post-discovery: How do I help my son, the addict?

Jan'es JournalGuest blogger Jane is sharing her experience with us in “Jane’s Journal.” We embrace her insights and offer support to her and to all parents of beloved, chemically-dependent children.

In the age of the internet, almost anything you want to learn about addiction is out there. I found the experts’ phone numbers, email addresses and articles to teach me what I’d never known about opiate addiction. And I dug in.

The first person I speak with is a man with 30 years’ experience as an NA counselor. He is factual, brusque, and makes what I believe are condescending comments about my son and our relationship. He asks if my son was a loner, if he felt socially inept, if he had trouble making friends. No, no, no I say. He was a leader of his high school class, elected by teachers to a role of student responsibility over those younger, and was by any measure a well-adjusted person. Sure, he’d had his share of love disasters, and a best friend who betrayed him in middle school, but was he maladjusted? No. He said, “Mom, you know you can’t love away his disease,” and I remember thinking, do you think I’m an idiot? Of course I know I can’t love it away.

I ask him about the Vivatrol shot… isn’t it the way to go? Why wouldn’t anything that makes the transition to a drug-free life be good? Especially one that deadens the opiate receptors and makes getting high almost impossible? He says he’s not a fan of anything other than doing the hard work of recovery, and he suggests that rehab is where we should put our son. But our son has asked to recover with us at home, in rural New Jersey. So I thank this man with 30 years’ experience, and say to myself: We are going to throw everything at this and see what works. We can always get him to rehab later if nothing else works.

We are lucky that my husband owns his own business, so we come up with a plan that involves our son working a daily shift at one of his offices so he can restart a normal life with few real tasks but a definite daily schedule. He’s a nocturnal animal who can’t sleep at night but seems impossible to wake in the morning. While he’s withdrawing physically from the drugs, I buy him an electric blanket for his chills, prepare the healthiest meals I can concoct, and pump him up with every vitamin and mineral I can find to restore his depleted body. I find out the best herbs and supplements to cleanse and rebuild his body while we also find a local psychiatrist with great credentials.

I take our son to his first NA meeting and cry silent tears as we hear story after story of both success and failure, of lives restored and ruined, of pain and suffering previously unknown to me. I know my son will not share during this first meeting, and I don’t expect him to. But I am confident that this is the best place for him to learn about honesty and reality as it applies to addiction. Afterwards he agrees and we are both convinced this is an integral part of his future. I feel hope when he says that he is glad to go to NA meetings every day, that they really help. He goes to nightly meetings, and on weekends sometimes the day meetings as well. He gets a sponsor. We track his movements with a phone app. Every night when he returns from a meeting, he tells us stories, says he’s committed, and we congratulate him on One More Day Clean. He’s collecting the NA tokens. Things are looking up.

I take him to his first psychiatrist appointment and wait outside while they talk for an hour, then I go in. We talk about his willingness to become sober, the requirements for the monthly shot, which are that he goes to his weekly session and he stays clean until the shot arrives, and I ask the doctor if there’s any problem with the drugs he’s prescribing interacting with the vitamins and supplements I’ve been giving him. I sense condescension again as he says: “You can give him any vitamins you want, Mom, but they’ll only make YOU feel better.”

PS: I find out later that some of these supplements, like GABA and 5HTP, should never be taken with the drugs my son was prescribed. But it really doesn’t matter, because unbeknownst to me, our son is not taking any of his medications save the one for sleep. Why? Because he’s still using. But that’s another chapter. For now we are dealing with the fact that our Opiate Addict Son is a Consummate Liar.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

- C.S. Lewis

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

bright closeup picture of magic twinkles on female hands“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” — Mary Oliver