How many times did my daughter relapse before she committed to living a clean and sober life? I don’t know the answer to that question and I bet if I asked my daughter, she would be hard pressed to know the accurate answer – I’m guessing her answer would be ‘a lot!’ I remember early in the journey when I was very naïve about addiction and thought when she went into a 28 day rehab, ‘finally she will be okay!’ Little did I know that was just the beginning of a long journey of trials and tribulations. Not only for my daughter to overcome her addiction but also for myself to overcome my addiction to my daughter! That’s how my codependency manifested itself, like an addiction to my daughter and her every move. What is she doing? Is she safe? Where is she? Will she call? The questions and worry in my mind played over and over again like the obsession that it had become. I distinctly remember one of her counselors telling me, ‘she’ll start getting better when you stop enabling her.’ Huh? Excuse me…I’m not giving her the drugs!
But when I finally internalized what she was telling me, it became clear that I did not the power to control what my daughter did, I did play a key part in making it easy for her to continue in her addiction. When I started taking away the comforts and started holding her accountable for her actions instead of bailing her out, she started making progress. Not because of me but because she had to make difficult choices. One of the biggest turning points was when I made an agreement with her that I would pay for her sober living rent but nothing else. She had a job so she would have to budget her money for food and other necessities. She didn’t like it at first, but over time her self-esteem soared as she took responsibility for her life. It was so gratifying to watch. Having a job and responsibilities is very healing for those in recovery.
Recovery from drug and alcohol abuse is a beautiful thing. It doesn’t come easily when someone has been immersed in an addiction that takes them to places they would never typically go. Many times I knew that my daughter had difficulty getting clean because every time she started to clean up and think about all the wreckage she had created with herself and those around her, it was too hard and back to the drugs and alcohol she went to numb the realities. Luckily there is a point that she got to and many addicts get to where they are ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired’. It comes at different stages for different people, but when the shift actually occurs to get clean the gifts begin to materialize.
Life does not become easy just because someone chooses recovery. As a matter of fact, it can actually become difficult when someone begins dealing with cleaning up the mess that had been created during the addiction. But that is all part of recovery. While we want everything to be bright and positive when the substance abuse stops, it doesn’t always happen that way. It takes time for the brain to heal. But as it heals, and it does heal, there are so many blessings to be had along the way. Many times the biggest gift of recovery is being reconnected with a family that is there to support the loved one as they move forward. Sometimes it’s the small things like remembering an important event because it was experienced with clarity and purpose. Whatever the gift, they do keep coming in many different ways and for all the friends and family that are involved. It is a joyful time watching our loved ones heal and become whole again.
I had the opportunity to talk to some parents recently about how devastating it is to have a child struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. It seems everywhere we turn something bad has happened to a teen whose experimentation with drugs and alcohol turned into a deadly outcome. It makes having hope that your own child, who has passed from recreational use to full blown addiction, will find recovery. The fact is that not all of our kids do find recovery. Even so we should always have hope for our own kids and for everyone’s kids. Without hope it makes life unbearable.
When I was in the hardest times of my daughter’s addiction I would look for ways to be hopeful. One thing that I did was go to open AA meetings that were for young people. Another Mom and I would go to a particular meeting and just sit and listen to all the young people talk about how bad it had been but then how good their life was now that they were in recovery. It was so inspirational and always filled us up with so much hope. We would leave the meeting with a renewed sense that if all of these kids could go through such difficulties and find recovery, then our kids could also do the same. We would continue to have hope and we would continue to pray that they would find their way to a clean and sober life.
It seems that no matter how much time I spend on relieving myself from the chains of co-dependency, I still struggle with worry. And maybe, the biggest gift of all of this self-discovery is the raw awareness of each and every thought and action that I do. Sometimes ‘denial’ does seem like a viable option, yet I know that my life is much better when I consciously deal with issues that arise. Today’s dilemma is that I recognize that I am beginning to worry about future events, also known as ‘future tripping’. For such a fun sounding phrase, it sure does lead to angst.
When my daughter decided to move back to town it was a joyful situation for so many reasons. She was close to 2 years clean and sober, hard-working, and being a responsible young woman. Yet in the back of my mind I struggled with all the ‘what ifs’ that could take place. I am a strong believer of ‘what you think about comes about’. So I consciously had to stay positive and not obsess on all the future possibilities. I have developed techniques to ward off those obtrusive thoughts by engaging new thoughts like a song that I find inspirational or quote or prayer. I also discuss my worries and fears with my daughter. Also, boundaries need to be respected and discussed so that we are on the same page. I also try to remember that things change and I need to look forward. So many blessings and joys have transpired, and I choose to celebrate those along the journey.