A parent emails me:
“Oh how I wish I were able to detach as you do! How do you do it? I can’t eat or sleep. I am constantly obsessing about where my daughter is and what she’s doing. I want some peace from all this. I’m so tired.”
My heart goes out to this mother because I’ve been in the same place myself. I am all too familiar with her feelings. I drove myself crazy worrying about my daughter. I wanted, no I NEEDED, to save her from this horrid disease. It’s counterintuitive NOT to, isn’t it? She’s my child.
Fourteen years ago I was exactly where this mother is now. But a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. It’s a roller coaster ride we’re all on. And mine has been long and bumpy. Maybe I just got tired of being sick and tired. In my memoir I talk about what this obsession cost my health and my career. I think that was a turning point for me. I knew I would have to cut the umbilical cord and separate, not from Angie, my child, whom I will always love dearly, but from the addict that is living in her body. If I didn’t learn how to detach I would be lost. At that point, back in 2008, I started to truly believe that I deserved to have a happy life, regardless of my daughter’s choices.
Detachment is a gift we can give ourselves. How did I finally think I was worth this gift? The principles for living that I learned in Al-Anon and other 12-step fellowships have given me a newfound spiritual foundation to guide me through my life. I say “new” because I’m not a religious person and have never had a strong faith in anyone other than myself. But as they say in the Program, “my mind is a dangerous place to be!” Working the steps has helped me to get to know myself and finally like myself as I strive to be a better person. Coming from an alcoholic family, and with addictions of my own, low self-esteem has always been an issue with me. And so when Angie became a victim of the same illness that had crippled me, I just added that to my long list of defects that weighed me down as I hung on the cross!!! Well, I got bored with being a martyr. I decided I’d rather be happy. So I needed to grow up.
As I’ve said many times, I grew up in Al-Anon. My evolving recovery from addiction and the effects of addiction has paralleled Angie’s roller coaster ride through Hell. But at some point on this journey, my daughter and I started walking in separate directions. Our paths stopped intersecting. She was the first to let go, angrily and defiantly. I might have followed her; I used to. I just kept coming back to face her abuse and manipulation. I thought I had it coming to me. But now I’ve changed. Now I’ve found the courage to change; I’ve found the courage to let her go. And nothing on God’s earth could be harder for any parent. Here’s something I picked up at a Nar-Anon meeting:
“I am learning the meaning or concept of detachment and it is becoming a big help to me. I no longer stay up nights worrying about my daughter sleeping in alleys. I no longer obsess at wanting to know where she is at any given time. I no longer worry about that call at 3 in the morning asking me to bail her out of jail. This is, by the way, something that I will not do….This is painful to me but I am learning to deal with it so I can get on with my life…I am learning that the darkness is not worth it.”