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.