It is such an interesting time when certain recovery milestones begin to occur. In the early days of my daughter’s recovery, I would put on such a celebration at the 30 day chip, the 60 day chip, the 90 day chip, the.…Well, you get the picture. I would put such fanfare on these early recoveries because I wanted all the hope that came with it – you would have thought I was the one getting the chip. It is easy to look back on this and, while I think it’s great to celebrate the milestones of recovery, we also need to keep it in perspective. Nevertheless, as the years accumulate in her recovery I’m not sure I would be any less proud if she’d just gotten her college diploma! It’s been a long journey, and it did not come easily.
Is it time to claim victory over addiction? I hardly think so, but it is time to celebrate and sit back and relish the healing and recovery. She has become responsible: performing well in her job, paying her bills, making good choices. These are all wonderful things to celebrate. Yet I know how illusive addiction can be – it’s like cancer, it’s in remission, healing has taken place and a clean bill of health is declared. Yet, it can reoccur when unmanaged, turning life upside down in a moment. I do not dwell on this possibility, for today I will rejoice in my daughter’s recovery and the healing that has taken place in our family.
In rehab there are so many wonderfully transformative changes that occur. It is truly a place of miracles. There are also inherent challenges, one being the introduction to more ‘like minded’ people. Each time my daughter went into rehab, she had a new collection of friends who were also struggling to get clean. This can be a built in support group and for many they forge lifelong friendships in recovery. For others this can open a door to a whole new level of drug use. Sometimes those seeking recovery end up in a relationship that is a bad combination for trying to stay away from the life style that brought them into rehabilitation in the first place. It is very difficult to enter into sobriety, let alone in a relationship. It is always advised to avoid starting a relationship the first year of your sobriety. This is for many reasons, but for one, many relapses occur over the trials and tribulations of relationships.
When our kids become of adult age we no longer have the same ability to know what they are doing unless they give access either by telling us or by signing release forms at facilities they engage with. Once out of rehab and into a sober living house – it becomes very difficult to know what is truly going on. We no longer have a way to know what was going on unless our kid decides to tell us. In rehab my daughter would sign a release to allow them to discuss her case with me so that we could all work together so I was involved. Part of the experience of rehab is to also help the parents/family members understand their part in the journey and to get educated about addiction. I’ve learned more about the disease of addiction than I ever could have imagined. I knew that letting go of managing her life was a big part of my growth-really any parent as their child transitions into adulthood, yet it was like asking me to stop breathing with all the circumstances in motion. I was so fearful of what would happen to her that I obsessed about what she was doing…was she safe? …was she using again? …was she going to her AA meetings? …was she in a new relationship that was harmful or helpful? The list goes on. I learned that in order for me to help her, the best thing I could do was help myself get out of my obsession about what she was doing and give up my illusion of control. It was a difficult time and even though it was years ago and I’ve had a lot of learning and growing, an incident with either of my kids where I begin to worry whether it’s about school, friends, jobs, or anything I can find myself beginning to obsess about their wellbeing. I recognize this and then take steps to put things in perspective and know that I am not in control and that are capable young adults.
For those of us who have lived with loved ones in addiction, you start to sense when things are beginning to go awry. It isn’t one thing that happens but a series of little things you begin to notice. Like fewer texts or phone calls, a sort of distance in the conversation. There are times when we sense something is happening but we can’t quite put a finger on it. Maybe it’s a Mom’s instinct or maybe we also get better at watching for certain signs. Things sometimes begin to shift to a different place in the journey – of each of us on our own and with each other. Things begin to be different than before, yet the same in some ways.
Then it seems we get the dreaded call that there has been a relapse. It never falls that our hearts sink knowing that our loved one is out and using again. Yet over time it becomes different, not because we become hardened or immune, but because we begin to understand that it is there journey. We understand that we can still love them just the same even with the difficult choices and actions they choose. I don’t think the situation ever gets easier, but how we respond and take care of ourselves in the process can get better. Over time I knew that I couldn’t let the actions of my loved one tear my life apart every time something occurred. I would try my best to detach with love and continue with my life as best I could. Of course there was a lot of praying for my loved one and my family to get through the difficult times. I began to realize that this was my loved ones journey and I was resolved to keep perspective about how it affected me.