Playing God

Memoir Excerpt:

 “Recovery in the Program, time and the perspective it brings us, has given me a lot of new information. My own recovery has also graced me with a healthy amount of humility. I used to confuse humility with humiliation. I used to think that admitting my faults would produce shame in me and threaten my self-worth. But in recent years I have a different understanding of this word.

Having taken the Fourth Step (“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”), and later the Seventh Step (“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings”), I began to see myself in a healthier light. I began to see myself in relation to my higher power. I am just a speck in the universe, no more, no less. I’ve been playing God for much of my life. It doesn’t matter any more why; what matters now is that I remain ever mindful of the amount of power I have over others and stop trying to play God with them.”

“Living Well Is The Best Revenge”

I’ve received many emails from moms asking me how I cope with the living death of Angie’s heroin addiction. She’s neither dead nor alive. Many of my friends here know the hellish limbo I’m living in, without any resolution or closure. But I have found a way to cope well and move on with my life. This is what I wrote back:

“I put my grief in a back drawer and close it. Then I look at what’s in my front drawers every morning. I have so many wonderful things to be grateful for. Instead of focusing on the problem, I try to keep my mind on the solution. This is how I live. It keeps me humble, grateful, and glad to be alive. I honor Angie’s memory in this way, and I truly believe she would want me to live well and be happy. Blessings to you, Mom.”

 

Happy Birthday, Angie

Dear Angie,

It’s me, Mom. Today is your 37th birthday. How could I forget? I know it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, and maybe you’re thinking that you can’t turn around and fly over that bridge you burned and come back to your family. But I’m here to tell you: yes you can! You don’t know how a mother’s love is everlasting. It’s not something I even think about, like do I or don’t I love you? From the moment you were born—such an easy birth, slipped in between lunch and dinner—I became more than myself. I grew another body part, or at least a bigger heart. For 21 years we were a part of each other’s lives. We had our ups and downs, but I was your mother and you were my daughter. I have drawers full of cards and gifts that tell me you were there, that you loved me. I look at those gifts sometimes so I can remember, because it’s been 4 years, and I don’t want to forget. I email you sometimes cuz I don’t want you to forget either. Please remember: as long as there is life, there is hope. And our love for you is forever.

“Aye, there’s the rub…”

The Serenity Prayer (Part 3)

 “Courage to change the things I can…

When my ego is involved and there’s a calculated risk, I’m going to be gutsy, not courageous. It takes guts to ski a steep trail; I alone will be rewarded. Courage is different. There is always a parenthesis of fear in Courage; the risk becomes minor. This parenthesis remains a void of fear until it is filled by God. There is no ego in a courageous act. Courage can ask for help. It is often something done for someone else, or it may be something I am not attracted to doing at all. I may lose by doing it. The courageous act is often the unpopular choice, to do or not to do. The results are seldom only mine. It requires more of me than I want to think I can do, alone. After it is finished, gratitude to someone or something is usually in order. Courage requires a moral strength not of myself. This strength is given by faith.”

EGO—Easing God Out—is my enemy in many ways. It makes me willful and arrogant. It’s the great separator—of me from people, of me from God. When I let God back in again, my life and my relationships seem to work better. And God has always given me the courage to do what is difficult in relation to my daughter. My faith in Him has given me the strength to do what I believe is right, regardless of the consequences. I believe things are unfolding as they are meant to.

Others Need Us Too

Memoir Excerpt:

“I’ll never forget a friend I had years ago. She was the youngest of three girls in her family. The middle sister had suffered from cancer years before and had died. My friend was ten when her sister died at age fourteen. But it wasn’t the death that traumatized Jillian so much. It was the years of care, heartbreak and obsession with saving her dying child that her mother endured—to the exclusion of her other two girls—that turned Jillian into an angry, rebellious teenager. She did not get her share of mother love, she felt, and to this day she has not forgiven her mother. I should have remembered that story while I was obsessing over Angie.”

I have since made amends to my other children and family members for allowing my daughter’s illness to take up so much emotional energy in my life. And they have forgiven me. It’s so easy for a loving mother to become enmeshed in the life of a troubled child. But I need to remember that there are other people in my life, and I will try to keep a healthy perspective and a sense of balance.

Who’s In Charge Here?

The Serenity Prayer (Part 2):

“to accept the things I cannot change…

One accepts when one receives. To understand, to take into the mind without debate as one receives a gift – this is acceptance. Serenity precedes acceptance. It must. There is order to this. My mind must be calm in order to understand what you are saying. To listen to you without debate, I must not be afraid of you. With the gift of Serenity, I am able to accept people and circumstances as they are, not as I want them to be or as I think they should be. I am willing to accept the bad as well as the good, because it is all part of the plan. When I accept a situation as it is, when I accept you as you are, I have stopped playing God.”

My work in the program has humbled me as I’ve learned to view myself in relation to God. For reasons that don’t matter now, I always felt that I had to be in charge of my life and those closest to me. But when Addiction hijacked my daughter, I was not only blindsided but powerless as well. It took me a long time to accept that Angie was in the grips of something far greater than either one of us. This acceptance enabled me to let go of my illusion of control and turn to my Higher Power for help. My faith continues to get me through the darkest days because I’m not in charge—He is.

Letting Go…Over And Over Again

From The Forum, June, 2015:

“My son’s future is his—not mine. ‘He is not living his life for me,’ I thought as I shuffled into the cold kitchen. It was three o’clock in the morning. I was in search of an Al-Anon daily reader. My son, my only child and someone I loved more than anyone, had been arrested, spent the night in jail, and was in more trouble than I ever imagined possible.

I had never thought that my child, whom I put through college and spent many waking hours imagining his promising future, would be in that situation. However, all of that changed when his addiction became known to the family. From that time on, I faithfully attended Al-Anon meetings, sometimes four times a week, got a Sponsor, chaired and spoke at meetings, and volunteered to speak at an Al-Anon meeting at the women’s prison.

My son’s future was my future, and I told myself that my efforts made in recovery were for the both of us. Deep down, however, I was betting that my recovery would ultimately guarantee his recovery. In my heart, I believed that the love we shared along with the Al-Anon and A.A. program would be the life raft he needed to recover. I was his mother. I could make it happen…

Now, weeks after the arrest, awake at 3 a.m., I reached for the book, Courage to Change, and randomly opened to a page that said, ‘You can’t live someone’s life for them.’ It was what I needed to hear. As challenging as it was, I had to stop living his life and focus on myself. I had to let go of the life he was creating and embrace my own life…

Finally, I was beginning to understand that for my serenity, I had to live each day focused on myself and my recovery.”

 

In my memoir, I said the same thing, a reflection of my early time in recovery. Drowning in codependence, I hadn’t yet accepted that Angie’s illness was something I wasn’t responsible for nor was it something I could control with my own recovery:

“In fact, I was still so joined at the hip with her that, in the beginning during the brief periods when she was in recovery, I used to claim at meetings that our mutual recoveries were intertwined. I remember saying, ‘I have no doubt that her recovery goes along with my recovery.’ My Program friends just nodded their heads in support, probably wondering what the heck I was talking about. It would take a number of years and much Twelve-Step work to rid me of that notion.”

 

Of course it gives us parents much comfort to think that we have the ability to save our children. We all wish we had that power. But that power ultimately rests with the addicts themselves. We can offer love and emotional support. But because of the complexities of the disease, we need to let go and allow the addict to take responsibility for his own recovery.

Inner Peace

The Serenity Prayer (Part 1):

“God grant me the serenity…

I have known peace. The peace that comes in front of a fireplace on a cozy winter’s night, the peace of the mountains. But when I would leave the mountains, the peace would leave me. When the fire went out or the phone rang, the peace would be gone. Peace came rarely and went quickly – a mood conjured by myself for myself. Serenity is different. It is with me and in me. Nothing disturbs it. It is not given; therefore, it cannot be taken away.”

 

When I work at my recovery program using the tools at my disposal, I am free of the burden that brought me into the rooms. The first three steps—admitting my powerlessness over addiction, believing that a Higher Power could restore my sanity, and turning my burden over to Him—have taken the weight of the world off my shoulders. Serenity is mine to take when I let go and have faith in God’s plan. This doesn’t rid us of our problems; it just makes them easier to bear.

Letting Go Of The Responsibility

 

Memoir Excerpt:

 “Where do the seeds of addiction take root? It’s the old chicken and the egg confusion. Was my father predestined to become an alcoholic? Or was he made one by the emotional abuse he endured? And if the latter is true, then how and when was I an emotional abuser of my own daughter?

But Twelve-Step recovery gently steers us away from questions like that; we can’t go back and do things over. And I’m only human. I sometimes ask myself what I did wrong or what I missed seeing. Then I remember that addiction is a disease: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.” And like a gentle breeze blowing away the clutter of remorse, I let go of those thoughts and embrace my life again, free of responsibility.

In any case, whatever she chose to do now, I needed to leave her alone to do it. I knew better than to scream and wail in the night to God and all the graces that protected the innocent to save my daughter. Whatever the roots of addiction are, whatever holes were missing in her that this opportunistic disease filled in, I didn’t have the power to combat them. And I just had to let go of the struggle, or I would disappear down that rabbit hole with her.”