coming to Al-Anon, my emotional sight improved.” ~The Forum, 8/19, Al-Anon
Family Group, Conference Approved Literature
that mean? When I started wearing glasses, I could read better. Improvement in
my emotional sight has been slower, and not so dramatic. By using the tools of
the program, I started to understand how my own shortcomings were getting in
the way of healthy choices for me.
My guilt around Angie’s addiction was getting in my way, keeping me from resisting manipulation and unacceptable behavior in her. I had no healthy boundaries and didn’t feel I deserved to speak up for myself. This is crippling behavior between a parent and a child, especially a child on drugs. Many addicts when using will try to manipulate to get their way, even lie and steal. Lacking the ability to say “No!” to my daughter, she simply ran over me like a fast-moving train.
Now, many years into my recovery program, I have healthier boundaries and stronger defenses against anyone who wishes to harm me. It is the greatest sadness in the world to know that one of those people is my own daughter. But she is split down the middle: the child I raised is lost right now; the addict is in charge when she is using drugs. It is the addict I must be wary of, not my daughter. Those of us with addicts in our lives need to be mindful of this. We can love our child and feel great compassion for him/her. But when addiction rules with all its attendant behavior, my experience has taught me that it’s wise to be vigilant. I need to keep my emotional sight sharp, while remaining kind and compassionate.
“The Al-Anon program has helped me see that pleasing others over myself is no longer in my best interest.” ~The Forum, 8/19, Al-Anon Family Group, Conference Approved Literature
always been a people pleaser. I wanted others to be happy, and I often
sacrificed something of my own to achieve that. Not always something obvious
like an object: my dessert, my jewelry, or my car. Usually it was much more
subtle so I wouldn’t take notice: my time, my opinions, even my values.
a time when I was like a chameleon, but like the lizard I was usually afraid of
offending people. That’s why I made the “sacrifice.” But it was my integrity
that, over time, I lost.
recovery, I’ve learned to understand that people pleasing isn’t always a
healthy behavior. Often we lose ourselves in the process. My step work has
helped me get to know myself more honestly and like myself anyway. If I value
who I am, it’s easier to stick to my guns and not fear the consequences if
someone disagrees with me. The cost of losing myself to please others is
greater than the benefit of being who I am.
Heavenly Father, I know in my heart that only you
can restore me to sanity.
I humbly ask that you remove all twisted thoughts
addictive behavior from me this day.
Heal my spirit and restore in me a clear mind.”
How often have we tried to play God, to control
everything and everyone around us, especially if they’re on a self-destructive
path? This, to be sure, is what provides us with a sound rationale for doing
“He’s killing himself! We have to do something; we
have to stop (SAVE) him!”
I said those words, and played out that scenario,
for a number of years. But it got me nowhere. My daughter has been in and out
of recovery for seventeen years. And when she was in recovery, I was sure it
was because of my efforts to save her from herself. Then, when she slipped out
of recovery, I found a way to make myself responsible for that too.
I was so joined at the hip with Angie, enmeshed in her
illness, that I wasn’t paying enough attention to mine. I found myself
exhausted and broken from all my efforts to save her. So I cut the cord and
recognized that the path she was on was hers alone. I needed to forge my own
path, continuing on my recovery journey.
Nothing has ever been harder for me than this
separation, watching her flounder in the grips of heroin addiction.
So I turn my pain over to God, and that gives me strength.
my recovery program, I have learned to build bridges instead of walls.” ~”The
Forum,” Al-Anon Family Group, Conference
that mean? From what I’ve learned in recovery, it’s about learning to set
healthy, workable boundaries. And what does that word mean? A lot of questions!
I grew up
in an alcoholic family without many boundaries. There was a lot of guilt, and a
fair amount of permissiveness related to that. My parents were sometimes
neglectful and/or passive. I was allowed to run wild and became rebellious.
Even my moral code was challenged. I was not a happy camper, and it showed.
adult raising my three children, is it any wonder that much of my parenting was
the same? We pass on what we were given. When Angie started abusing drugs at
age 21, I was blindsided, but I shouldn’t have been. I was in such denial about
myself and my own shortcomings that I was incredulous at the change in her. I
couldn’t believe it! But, in time, with a lot of my own recovery, I learned to
not only believe it but to understand it. And most importantly, not to blame
myself for it.
Because of MY misplaced guilt around Angie’s addiction, early on I set almost no boundaries with her. Why would I have to? She was 21; I had instilled a moral code in her since she was a child. What I didn’t realize, and gradually learned with horror, was how the personality of the addict often changes, how they abandon their moral code over and over again to serve their addiction—their new master. Angie lied to me, she stole from me, and she violated me in many ways.
I had to
establish a new set of boundaries for her, quite apart from the boundaries I
set for my other children. With them, I didn’t need to protect myself. With
Angie, I did.
I view an
addict while using drugs as a person split down the middle: my Angie, the
daughter I raised was endlessly thoughtful, always remembering birthdays and
Mother’s Day; the addict on heroin bears no resemblance to the daughter I knew.
This is the tragic reality of how addiction hijacks our children and sometimes
renders them unrecognizable.
boundaries are not walls to shut people out. They are bridges to ensure
healthier lines of communication. I incorporate boundaries into all of my
relationships. Most relationships wouldn’t work well without them. Call them
“rules,” or “expectations.” Whatever word we use, they are intended to help our
dealings with people work better. Curfews with our teenage children are like
lines in the sand, and many kids will tell you that they feel safer when
parents impose limits.
With my daughter, I’ve had to impose tough limits because she is still under the influence of drugs. The addict is in charge, and I need to stay safe. Again—the sad reality of loving an addict lost in the hellish underworld of substance use disorder. But love her, I do, and always will. She knows this.
addicts recover. It’s miraculous to see them return to their former selves once
they stop polluting their brains with substances. I pray Angie will be one of
them someday. She knows how to reach me and I pray she will want to one day. In
the meantime, setting boundaries is one of the many tools of recovery I enjoy
to make all of my relationships work better. I’ve had to learn to reparent
myself in recent years and I’m still growing as a parent. And a grandparent!
Life goes on…