From “The Forum,” December, 2016:
“When I’m taking that long walk down that dark hallway, I might as well keep going. It’s just as hard if I turn around, and then where have I gotten?”
There’s no going around it; you have to walk through the pain to get to the other side.
Addiction is a family illness and it affects all family members, not just the addict. There’s sadness, guilt, an inflated sense of responsibility, not to mention shame and secrecy.
I’ve spent years learning how to cope with the reality of my daughter’s drug addiction. But I’m glad I stuck around long enough to get to the other side. I didn’t want to such a cruel disease to destroy another victim. We can all fight the stigma that tears so many families apart.
From Courage to Change, July 12:
“If you would be loved, love, and be lovable.” ~Benjamin Franklin
For much of my life, I didn’t take good care of myself. I was often focused on how other people felt about me, and, chameleon-like, I adapted my behavior to please them. After years of this, I lost touch with who I was or what I really wanted.
I’ve gotten much better at doing what’s best for me, but I still have slips now and then. I went off the rails spectacularly last summer, putting other people’s desires ahead of my own. But I’m grateful to have a recovery program that got me back on track.
“Progress, not perfection.”
In the first years of my daughter’s drug addiction, I lost my compass a great deal. I often put Angie first—at great cost to myself. In my case, it backfired.
I’m less concerned with being lovable than with loving these days. And loving sometimes involves hard choices. Ironically, putting myself first is the healthiest ground for love to flourish. And if I’m lovable as a result, that’s icing on the cake.
From Courage to Change, June 9:
“If my problems have brought me to prayer, then they have served a purpose.”
There are so many different ways to pray: walking; meditating; talking to a Higher Power; singing; baking bread; sewing. I view prayer as letting go of myself for the time being and turning my attention to another activity. Turning to something else that calls me, that enriches me.
My problems with my AD Angie leveled me to the ground in the beginning. I took it on myself as if that were my calling. And I felt good about myself in the process because I was trying to fix a terrible problem. But what distinguished my behavior from prayer was that it was all about me. Far from turning to someone or something else, my obsession about saving my daughter was grounded in misplaced guilt, feelings of inadequacy, and stubborn will. I was addicted to my daughter.
I’m grateful I found a recovery program for parents of addicts that was compassionate and useful. I wasn’t helping myself or my daughter by blaming myself for an illness I didn’t cause. I needed to let go of behaviors toward her that weren’t helping. Though I’m always ready to help Angie when she asks for help, I’ve moved on.
I don’t know what the future will bring, but I do know one thing for certain: I deserve to enjoy what’s left of my life. I don’t want addiction and its wreckage to claim two victims in my immediate family.
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its strength.” ~A.J. Cronin
Living in the present moment takes a lot of discipline. To never think about the past? The parts we can’t seem to let go of: our remorse, guilt over things we can’t undo now? We have happy memories, too, but the bad ones often pop up like weeds.
And never look ahead to tomorrow? We have hopes and dreams, fantasies. Sometimes our fears push us to project in negative ways. And that’s just wasteful, though I always rationalize that it’s preparing myself for the worst.
But placing all of my attention on what’s happening right now, without distracting myself with other times, gives me a chance to maximize each moment I’m experiencing. Time is a valuable commodity, and I want to make the most of mine. Watching my daughter and all other addicts lose themselves in the hellish world of addiction has been a powerful object lesson for me.
I’m learning to appreciate the gifts of time and appreciate what’s right in front of me. “Just for today,” I will do the best I can with what I’ve got.