Someone mentioned recently what a big smile I had. I responded, ‘Yes, I have a lot to smile about…’ Then I thought about how that wasn’t always the case. There were many days and weeks that would go by with no sign of a smile. This was during the depths of the dark time with my child’s struggle with addiction. I was consumed with worry and obsession about her well-being. I did not find joy in anything, even when there were good things going, because my heart ached with despair. But as I reflect, over time that changed. As I got healthier and realized that I was not in control of the outcome of another person’s life, I began to regain my own. I went from reacting to the day to day crisis to being proactive and in control of my boundaries and my time. This began to give me peace of mind, serenity and sanity.
It’s hard to imagine that you can be happy if your child is not happy. But it is possible to disconnect from the sinking ship that is their addiction and swim to shore. Once I started to get perspective and take care of myself, I realized that if I got stronger and healthier I could be in a better position to help my daughter. It is like the airlines when the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first then help your child. It is the best analogy, how can you save them when you are suffocating yourself? As parents we love our children so much that we would do anything to save them from harm. But the very act of helping a loved one in addiction can, sometimes, have the opposite effect and help keep them in their addiction. I am glad that I am smiling today. I have a lot to smile about…my family is in a good place, my daughter is clean and sober. I am grateful for the happiness that I have and I know that just for today I will enjoy and feel grateful.
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.
I had the opportunity to talk to some parents recently about how devastating it is to have a child struggle 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. Yet, it does not diminish the hope that a child who has passed from recreational drug use to full blown addiction, will find recovery. It can’t be denied that not all of our kids find recovery. Even so we should always have hope for our own kids and for everyone’s kids who are active in this devastating disease of addiction. Without hope it makes life unbearable.
When I was in the hardest times of my loved ones addiction I would look for ways to be hopeful. One thing that I did was go to open AA (alcoholics Anonymous) meetings that were specifically 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 found recovery. It was so inspirational and always filled us up with 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.