From Hope for Today, April 20:
“For me letting go is like a tree shedding its leaves in autumn. It must let go of them to produce even more beauty in the following spring and summer. Letting go of what I do not truly need—whether it be old thoughts, things, or behaviors—makes room for new growth in my life.
Turn that problem over…Then begin to do something about your own life.”
My sponsor told me to “loosen my grip.” How many of us white-knuckle it through life? Holding on to old ideas, old destructive habits—because it’s all we know, all we’re comfortable with? Like holding on to my need to save my daughter Angie from her drug addiction. The Serenity Prayer encourages me to let go, with grace, of the things that I cannot change. The disease of addiction is one of those things. So I’ve learned to let go. And I’ve found peace in my life—and gratitude for all that remains.
Happy New Year, everyone! May we all find some wellness and joy in 2017.
My very talented Vietnamese student cut out most of the letters for this poem I wrote several years ago, and shaped it into the shape of a tree:
The Christmas tree is a sight to see,
All decorated up ornamentally.
The bulbs all colored, the lights, all bright.
I love to watch it late at night.
The gathering of gifts and family I see
As a child of five in my memory.
And now the gifts have come back to me,
Hanging here on this Christmas tree.
There aren’t enough branches on the tree for all the gifts in my life. How about you? I haven’t forgotten about my daughter Angie. But I’m happier when I count my blessings. Happy Holidays to all my dear friends!
My recovery, and my life in general, is all about appreciating what I have amid the disappointments. For me, that’s the only way to be happy. My recovery is grounded in gratitude. God Bless Us—Everyone!
Like most of us here, I raised my family with the best of intentions. I loved my kids to the moon—still do—but I also felt completely responsible for them. That’s understandable when they’re children and young adults. But at some point—and this place is different for all of us—we must relinquish our responsibility and allow our children to be responsible for themselves.
This gets so complicated because mental health issues so often accompany active addiction. There is so much for our children to shoulder, and we want to help.
This understanding is never more critical than when our adult children struggle with addiction. If we are hampered by guilt—a truly crippling emotion—we might allow ourselves to feel overly responsible. This in turn puts us at risk of becoming enablers. And that downward spiral will continue—until we break free of it.
”We didn’t cause it; we can’t control it; we can’t cure it.”
Letting go…how do we do that? Whether our addict is fifteen or thirty-five, how do we let go of the fight to save them? I guess when I’m finally convinced that I can’t play God anymore. When I finally see that she’s not making a choice, but is in the grips of a cruel disease. When I accept all this, it’s easier for me to accept my powerlessness. When I’m finally convinced that I don’t have the power to cure a disease—not in my daughter…not in myself—then I can let go and let God.
That realization is a painful one, but it also sets us free to live our lives as best we can. I have much in my life to be grateful for; I want to celebrate my blessings every day. And that includes Angie—because without her struggle I never would have taken such a close look at my life in an effort to live well. In spite of everything, I believe with all my heart that my daughter would want me to.
‘Tis the season…yes, it’s the time of giving and thinking of others.
I think of Angie often and even more so during the holiday season when she is so missed in our family. But I have learned over the years that the best gift I can give my daughter is the gift of detachment with love. One of the hardest ways we can love our children struggling with addiction is to let go and encourage them to choose recovery. This is something we cannot do for them.
We can pay their rent, buy them a car—in short, we can make their lives comfortable. But is it always wise to support them financially? I know that every case is different, especially when grandchildren are part of the picture—and my heart goes out to you grandmothers—but in my case, my generosity just gave Angie more money for drugs.
So I’ve learned the hard way to let Angie face the consequences of her choices and take responsibility for herself. It’s the hardest thing…to remove the safety net we want to put under our children. It’s the hardest thing… to watch them flounder in the grips of this cruel disease.
So all I want for Christmas is the serenity to remember that I don’t have the power to save Angie. All I can do is love her. She was raised in a loving family for twenty-one years before she turned to drugs. Wherever she is and whatever she’s doing, I know she knows this.
“The Serenity Prayer teaches us to accept the things we cannot change. This disease has strongly affected us because our relationships and the quality of our lives have changed. We may feel confused, disappointed, resentful, or frustrated as a result of our present changing circumstances. If we accept we have these feelings and deal with them, we may find that we are strengthened in faith and self-care.
We learn to accept love, support, nurturing, and comfort from others and our Higher Power. We ask a Higher Power to change the things we can and the wisdom and clarity to make the right choices.”
“Agape” is one of the Greek words for love. The English word agape comes from that. We see the image of an open mouth. That to me is what love and acceptance can be: a readiness to receive what is given—without resistance. That’s the key; acceptance without conditions.
From Hope For Today, October 15:
“I need to spend a lot of time doing nothing. I watched the world pass by as I berated myself for not accomplishing anything. When I did take action, it was often a reaction. I reacted impulsively and compulsively to the words and behaviors of everyone around me. Itb seemed as though I was always ricocheting off two walls, one marked ‘inactive’ and the other marked ‘reactive.’
I need to remember to cultivate a balance between action and inaction. Impulsiveness can be as much a trap as immobility…It helps me to remember that a period of inner waiting and preparation, what I used to call doing nothing, takes place before I can realize which action to take. When my Higher Power and I are ready, everything falls into place in a way that never could have happened had I acted alone.”
In the program there is a saying: “Sit there; don’t do anything.” In other words, all my frantic fixing, doing, and attempts to protect are often counterproductive and achieve just the opposite, especially if I haven’t thought things through first. And experience has shown me to use prayer and meditation as I go through this process. All too often fear will lead me to make unwise decisions. When I slow down and ask for help, doing nothing for the moment, I feel more confident in the choices I make.