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DETACH: Don’t.Even.Think.About.Changing.Him/Her.

“How can I best help the alcoholic? By not interfering when he gets into difficulties. I must detach myself from his shortcomings, neither making up for them nor criticizing them. Let me learn to play my own role, and leave his to him. If he fails in it, the failure is not mine, no matter what others may think or say about it.” One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.29) For mothers of addicts, detachment is one of the hardest tools to use. We are inevitably joined through years of raising, nurturing and loving our children as best we could. And when things go so horribly wrong as they do with drug addiction, it’s only natural to question ourselves and how we raised them. Self-blame is common, as we take on too much responsibility for our child’s illness. I myself overcompensated where I shouldn’t have. I felt guilty and that guilt crippled my judgment. I became an enabler, and that prevented Angie from learning from the consequences of her (drug-induced) behavior. Thankfully, I’ve had years of recovery work to learn how to detach from the pain of watching my daughter self-destruct. I did send her to several rehabs and hoped that a sound upbringing and family love would turn her life around. But ultimately the choice to recover (or not) is hers alone. I wish I had the power to change her. I wish things were different. But I have two other children who were raised the same way, and they are blessings in my life. I’ve stopped blaming myself, and I’ve learned to accept a situation I...

QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally

“When the guilt of the alcoholic explodes, I must realize that it is always aimed at those nearest, and often dearest. I want to remind myself that such outbursts only reveal the drinker’s own unhappiness. I will not make the situation worse by taking seriously what the alcoholic says at such times.” (One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.55) I can think of two run-ins I had with loved ones recently because they were in a bad mood and I was handy. Instead of internalizing it as though it were my fault—and overreacting badly—I might have brushed it off and tried to brighten their mood a little. Next time I’ll try...

LOVE: Let. Others. Voluntarily. Evolve

  “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” ~Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island My sponsor often tells me that whatever I decide to do in my relationships with people, let it come—not out of anger or spite, jealousy or resentment—but out of love. And if I truly love someone, I need to just let them be. This is VERY hard when a loved one is addicted. But I don’t have the power to change other people or their choices. When I make the effort to let go, things usually turn out...

Expectations

    “In recovery, we learn to profoundly adjust our expectations, hard as it is. We raised one child, and now we have another. We are all too aware of the change that drugs have produced in our children.  A parent wrote in Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope a very revealing statement, something I could have written myself. It is a key to understanding my story, my mother and father’s stories, and my daughter’s painful struggle: ‘I expected my children to be perfect, to always do the right thing. I tried to control them by giving them direction and making them do things in a way that I felt was correct! When they didn’t, I could not handle it. I could not accept their drug use and I felt that their behavior was a reflection on me. I was embarrassed for myself and scared to death for them. I became so distrusting of my children that I showed them no respect. I would meddle and invade their privacy looking for any excuse to challenge and confront them. When I came to Nar-Anon, I learned that my interference and my attempts at controlling them were actually standing in the way of their recovery. I learned to let go of the control I never had in the first place.’   Weeks were passing by and I was growing suspicious that I wasn’t hearing more regularly from Angie.  I knew in my gut that they had moved to Richmond hurriedly for a reason, and if they were running away from something, they were probably using drugs too. I called this hotel chain...

Good Enough

“Easy Does It” When I entered the rooms sixteen years ago, I was desperately unhappy and wanted to learn and do everything perfectly. But I needed to slow down and stop trying to force solutions. I especially needed to get to know myself better, because until I did that I would continue making the same mistakes in my relationships. So I’ve learned to be patient with myself and to let go of expectations. I can only control what I choose to do. Not my addict. If I’m happier these days it’s largely because I’m taking it easy on myself. I know that I’m doing the best I can, and that’s good...

The Freedom That Comes With Surrender

From Courage to Change, January 14: “I learned in Alanon that I’m bound to fail to make someone else stop drinking because I am powerless over alcoholism. Others in the fellowship had failed as well, yet they seemed almost happy to admit it. In time, I understood: by letting go of this battle we were sure to lose, we became free. Gradually, I learned that nothing I did or did not do would convince my loved one to get sober. I understood intellectually, but it took time before I believed it in my heart…Today I will take the path to personal freedom and serenity that begins when I surrender.”   My mother love doesn’t operate on an “intellectual” level. I behave on instinct, and it’s a natural instinct to want to save our children. I tried to save Angie—for years. I thought that NOT trying was giving up. And I would never give up on my child. In time, I learned about the nature of addiction—what it was and what it wasn’t. It’s not a choice or a moral failure; it’s an illness, and I have no more power to cure her from that than from any other disease. So, other than leading Angie to programs that might help her, I’ve let go. There’s nothing more I can do. I pray for her and hope she reaches for recovery from the illness that has separated her from her family. And I hope she comes back to us. But life is short, and I want mine back. I’ve turned my attention to other people and things in my life. I...