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.

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.

 

Avoiding angry irrational outburst with your teen

mom daughter arguing trust distrust angerThe Partnership at DrugFree.Org does an outstanding job promoting resources for parents through various campaigns and there is one in particular I heard on the radio that I just love. It completely represents how I acted with my sons in the beginning. When I first heard it, I thought YES! I had a bunch of awkward moments, feeling the intense desire to confront my sons and accuse! I just didn’t know what to call it back then and I did not know how else to “handle” grave concerns. Of course their own responses were fairly well represented in the ad. What’s astonishing is that the same rhetoric was heard in a business meeting I attended last week; all I have to do is change the names in the script.

I guess we humans have a universal way of not communicating how we really feel – especially when the topic is backed by fear, ignorance, or any strong emotional attachment based on…experience, beliefs, judgment.

There really is a better way to have a more productive conversation and it begins with me. Left to my own devices, I come out of the shoot with the finish line in sight and ultimately say something I’m going to regret – it sounds just like this:

Mom: “Awkward, confrontational accusation!”

Daughter: “automatic denial!”

Mom: “Angry irrational statement I’ll regret later…”

Daughter: “Fake, emotional whimper”

To see the “typical conversation” advertisement click here!

It’s a mad mad mad mad world

how to care for yourself Dr. JantzIt struck me the other day that there is a very fine line between being mad at our kids and going mad over our kids.  At one end of the continuum, we’ve got anger; at the other, insanity.  That realization got me thinking about the word “mad” and how it can represent the full spectrum of parental experience.  To wit:

  • I’m madly in love with you.
  • I’m mad at you.
  • I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore! ( Al-Anon calls this detachment.  In the ideal world, this would be tempered with love)
  • Stop the madness.
  • I’ve gone mad!

We’ve all seen how our incessant anger at teen addiction can percolate into an uncontrollable obsession that commandeers our lives. I reached that point when my doctor asked me how I was doing, and I reported on my son’s travails instead. Like a deer in the headlights, I froze when she reminded me that I was not my child. I was so enmeshed in his wellness and illness that it had become my own.

Saying “No” to madness can mean the difference between getting off the ledge or going over the edge. How do we separate from our children when their substance abuse has hijacked our brains? How do we stop the madness and detach with love?  Readers, please share comments on this important topic.

The rights of parents to an addict or alcoholic-free home – do you really know?

My 3 SunzThis is an “encore” post from My3Sunz

You have made a decision to “kick your kid out of the house.” Reasons vary, but the common deominator for some parents with children (over the age of 18) whose addicted or alcoholic children may sound familiar

  • She’s capable of working, but always comes up with excuses. I can’t afford her to stay without helping with food or other expenses – that doesn’t seem to be in her game plan.
  • He’s not interested in rehab, insists he does not have a problem and therefore continues to do nothing. I feel like I’m helping him stay in his disease
  • She does not help with the daily chores, laundry, cleaning, yard work and such. She somehow finds energy to go “out” at odd hours and the erratic comings and goings just adds to my sleepless nights and worrisome days.
  • When he uses alcohol or drugs, I’m on guard, unable to roam freely in my home for fear of sudden outburst or threats.
  • He sleeps most of the day and when he finally awakes; he’ll sloth around and often blames me for his situation in life. This has been very stressful as I work at home.
  • She’s not freeloading – she’s stealing. I’m a prisoner of my own home, unable to leave, go on vacation, and meet with friends. It’s all because I fear she will steal from me, damage the home or bring strangers in.

So you finally decide that, no matter what, this time you are going to insist he or she leave. You set a target date. You give them options such as rehab, a relative, a wilderness program. You are willing to help halfway, yet it seems like you are negotiating with a wall. You have been collecting “home goods” so they will be outfitted when the time comes. This time you are not going to give into the fears that have dominated your mind about what they do or how they will survive without your help. You’ve found the courage to do it and THEN the time comes and you realize he or she won’t leave! Not only that, he or she insists they have every right to be there and will not budge. All of a sudden, they seem to know the law better than you! But wait, this is your house, your property! Surely you have every right to decide who stays or not…but do you?

Charles Rubin, in his book, Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You, suggests that you not do this on your own.  I’ve heard a parent share that when she called the police, they informed her if her son has lived in her home for seven  consecutive days, then he is considered a tenant.  She would have to start eviction procedures like a landlord.  This could take a minimum of 30 days.  I’ve heard from a couple who literally sold their home and moved into a 1-bedroom apartment to get away from their 24 year old daughter - “she” was not invited to move with them.  Another family son’s arrest gave them a window of opportunity.  They moved and did not let him know their new address. These sound like drastic measures, but maybe they are normal responses
to drastic circumstances. What has been your experience with evicting your own child out of your home?

Anger management -What can I control to keep my anger at bay?

1179314_28920035 angry boyI have learned that anger is an emotion I do get, but it is manageable.  It shows up for me with the alcohol/addiction behaviors.   I’m sure it’s disguised as FEAR in many cases.   It’s when I allow it to consume or take over how I behave that concerns me.  Then anger becomes scary and uncontrollable.  It becomes the Driver of a vehicle I have no name for and don’t like the ride very much.  Like the scary roller coaster!  You see it coming, you FEEL IT, and slowly, creaky, machinery, pulleys, cranks, mountains, lost horizon, GRAVITY, FORCE, SPEED – AHHHHHHH!

I notice that many times I get angry over people.  People who do things that…people who tell me what I …people who make me feel …. People who embarrass me…people whothere it is!  People, who I can’t control.  But, as in everything, once I start to study myself, there are things I do have a part in or “control of.”

This requires me to do something.  State the facts, face the fear, or be inconvenienced!  This is uncomfortable for me to do.  Being able to say:  “That won’t work for me” or “I’m not OK with this going on, can we discuss it?” Setting a boundary so that I’m not putting myself in a position to feel anger or fear also works.   Such are the examples of taking action and managing my anger.

I don’t have to pay for pain at the Amusement Park for rides I don’t enjoy.  But if I do, thinking it would be fun at the time, not realizing the intensity or fear factor later on, I get through it, right?  I’m OK because my Higher Power is there and it too shall pass.

Old Behaviors Disrupt my Serenity

I read that humility means having an attitude of honesty and simplicity along with a mindset of being teachable. This seems like a trait I’d like to possess more, especially in light of having loved ones in their addiction. There have been circumstances where I see my own humility. It seems to show up when I have a negative reaction to something. I ask my Higher Power, “What’s my part in this?” I most always get an answer (sometimes the answer is there but I ignore it). This is an opportunity to recognize my shortcomings and turn them back over to His care. My serenity is restored. I’m willing to listen. I am willing to learn.

One day during the holidays I was outside on our back deck. While outside, my son had called from prison and I missed the call. If you don’t pick up, they can’t leave a voice-mail. Often they lose their turn for that day. I immediately went into ANGER for having missed the call. What was I doing outside? Why did I have to do that? Then I went into blame, I blamed the dogs who were whining to go out…then I blamed my relative for having her dogs at my house and me having to “dog-sit” them. I was getting irrational yet my emotions were very strong. My part? If I were to be honest, I’d have to admit I wanted to go outside and pull a few weeds in the beautiful rare sunshine we were having. The dogs were just the excuse. My sponsor would say “life goes on – you can’t wait or live your life with expectations from someone else.” My son will call again when he is able and I will receive his call when I am able. And this is exactly what happened. Upon reflection, I realized how sad I was to have missed his call and I was able to feel that sorrow but not have it dominate the rest of my day. Old behaviors pop up and I’m reminded how easily I can relapse.  With a program of recovery, I have tools to help me rebound.  I turn my old behaviors into moments of humility and my serenity is restored.

Sunday Inspiration

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”

 

-Buddha

It’s a mad mad mad mad world!

It struck me the other day that there is a very fine line between being mad at our kids and going mad over our kids. At one end of the continuum, we’ve got anger; at the other, insanity. That realization got me thinking about the word “mad” and how it can represent the full spectrum of parental experience.  To wit:

  • I’m madly in love with you.
  • I’m mad at you.
  • I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore! (Al-Anon calls this detachment.  In the ideal world, this would be tempered with love)
  • Stop the madness.
  • I’ve gone mad!

We’ve all seen how our incessant anger at teen addiction can percolate into an uncontrollable obsession that commandeers our lives. I reached that point when my doctor asked me how I was doing, and I reported on my son’s travails instead.  Like a deer in the headlights, I froze when she reminded me that I was not my child. I was so enmeshed in his wellness and illness that it had become my own.

Saying “No” to madness can mean the difference between getting off the ledge or going over the edge. How do we separate from our children when their substance abuse has hijacked our brains? How do we stop the madness and detach with love?  Readers, please share comments on this important topic.