“I’m so grateful I found a way out of sadness, a way to take care of myself each day, and a relationship with the God of my understanding, who will never abandon me. The pain I’ve felt in the past is equal to the measure of joy I feel now.”
That’s quite a mouthful. Whoever wrote those words in “The Forum” is saying that somewhere between despair and happiness she or he did some work, and found some answers. For me, anyway, I entered into a state of grace. I quite deliberately let go of my precious wounds, which served no further purpose in my life. The lessons they taught me have been learned. I’ve put my sadness in a back drawer—and replaced it with positive thoughts that keep me motivated to reclaim my life, my remaining loved ones, and keep my heart ticking.
Grief is not a badge I wear anymore. Joyfulness is.
day is a beautiful room that’s never been seen before. Let me cherish the
seconds, minutes, and hours I spend here. Help me to THINK before I speak and pray
before I act. ‘The program helps me gain the freedom to make wise choices that
are good for me. I choose to put that freedom in my life today.’”
used to be on automatic pilot, prone to old actions and reactions that were
familiar to me. But I wasn’t happy. So when I began my recovery program
eighteen years ago, I learned that I can switch that autopilot off. I learned
that I have choices about how I want to live.
Angie to the hellish world of substance use disorder helped bring some things
into focus for me. But not until I spent a lot of time grieving for her. I
tried to help her, made many mistakes in the process, but ultimately as a
matter of survival, I had to let go and practice acceptance of what I couldn’t
did so without shame or guilt. I started to hear, faintly at first, the voices
of other people in my life calling out for attention. Ten years ago my first
grandchild was born, and that changed me forever. I was no longer just a mother
who had struggled to raise her children. With the birth of both of my
grandchildren, I could now start over with a clean slate. I’m not the same
troubled young woman who raised my children. Now I’m a recovering grandmother
with better health and a happier spirit to help raise this new generation. This
is God’s gift to me, a second chance to try and live well without the demons
that plagued me when I was younger.
the beneficiaries of this second chance? Everyone who is in my life today: my
remaining family, of course. But even without family, the world is a big place:
neighbors, co-workers, the delivery man, the man I pass when I walk in the
morning, my friends in and out of recovery, the people I sing to in the nursing
home (on hold for the foreseeable future! L)—the list is endless.
me open my eyes and appreciate this beautiful room that I’ve never seen before.
I believe that if I look for joy, I will find it.
This is a hard slogan to practice. When our loved ones are thriving and living good lives, it’s easy to let go of them and concentrate on our own, sometimes messy, lives. But when we love someone who is hurting himself, how can we look the other way? Short of burying our child, the next hardest thing is standing by while he/she self-destructs, knowing we lack the ultimate power to control the disease.
We have learned in recovery that there are many things we can do to help. Drug rehabs work as a recovery tool for many troubled young people, and if parents can make that happen then that’s a good thing. But without the cooperation of our loved ones to follow through on what they learned in those rehabilitation rooms, our efforts are sometimes ineffective. That’s when I have to look the other way. I give myself and my child credit for trying, and then I let go and leave the responsibility for follow-through with the addict. This is hard. I want to fix everything, make it easier for him/her, protect; it’s intuitive for me. Oh, how hard it is to let go, knowing they could die without our vigilance. Even with it, they could die. Addiction is a cruel taskmaster.
And so, as I keep saying over and
over, I must leave Angie to the life she is bound to by this relentless
disease. If I want to have any peace in my life, any joy in what’s still here
for me to cherish, then I must do this. I hope for all my brothers and sisters
in recovery that they may find peace in their lives, by whatever means
“Today’s reminder: At the start of each day I can make
the decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. This way I
begin my day with a strong assertion that I choose to accept the reality of my
life. I am growing in a healthy direction, growing ever more able to live a
good life and to love those I meet along the way.
‘Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being
My will(fullness) has gotten me into trouble often. I’ve
exercised bad judgment and made questionable decisions, especially around my
daughter Angie. I wanted to help her beat her addiction—as if I had any power
When I was finally, after much trial and error, able to
accept my powerlessness, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Nothing changed
in our situation except the way I began reacting (or not) to it.
Taking my attention away from Angie and the struggle that
is hers alone, what was I going to do with all my energy?
Focus on myself and all the blessings God has given me.
When I turn my burdens over to Him, I am free.
knuckling it through life is exhausting. Different methods to relax work for
different people. Yoga, prayer, knitting, running, reading, listening to
music—the list is endless. The best thing for me to relax is the Serenity
Prayer. It has become my mantra:
grant me the serenity
the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
wisdom to know the difference.”
this prayer in big and little ways every day. Its wisdom keeps me right-sized
and humble, while at the same time encouraging me to make changes in my life
that are within my reach.
We are all
challenged, of course, by the last line. That’s why I keep going back to
From Courage to Change, Al-Anon Family Group, Conference Approved Literature, p. 216:
important to understand where we’ve come from, what was done to us and what we
did to others. There might be many lessons for us in the past. But the time to
apply them is now.
If I can
learn from my mistakes and try not to repeat them, then they have value. Making
amends is a good thing; but they’re words. Of far greater value, to me, is the
practice of living amends. We can’t do anything to change the past, but we can
try to do things differently now.
particular importance is my ability to let go of resentments when they crop up.
Sometimes I find myself holding onto my anger, even clinging to it. But such behavior
is a big threat to my serenity. An oft-heard saying in the rooms of recovery: “Having
resentments is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Holding
onto resentments hurts me the most.
grudges toward people or over events from the past is a heavy undertaking. It’s
that knapsack full of stones (boulders for some) that is burdensome to carry.
When I set it down and free myself of its weight, there’s a lightness in my
steps, and my days flow more easily.
This is another
example of how I’m striving to live well. For all of us familiar with the living death of drug
addiction, the value of life comes into sharper focus. How I live mine, today,
will bring me the peace and serenity I work hard for.
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.
“One of the gifts I
have received from recovery is learning how to maintain an attitude of
gratitude. Before the program I didn’t really understand the true nature of
gratitude. I thought it was the happiness I felt when life happened according
to my needs and wants. I thought it was the high I felt when my desire for
instant gratification was fulfilled.
Today…I know better.
Gratitude is an integral part of my serenity. In fact, it is usually the means
of restoring my serenity whenever I notice I’m straying from it.
Gratitude opens the
doors of my heart to the healing touch of my Higher Power. It isn’t always easy
to feel grateful when the strident voice of my disease demands unhealthy
behavior. However, when I work my program harder, it is possible.
‘Just for today I
will smile…I will be grateful for what I have instead of concentrating on what
I don’t have.’”
Accepting life on
life’s terms is hard. My daughter has been a drug addict for seventeen years,
and I grieve the loss of her in my life every day. The five stages of grief:
denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance—I know them all, and not
always in that order.
My path to recovery
involved a lot of denial in the beginning and, as it said in the reading, “the
voice of my disease demanded unhealthy behavior.”
So I’m grateful now
for the serenity and peace that I have in my life. Acceptance is the gift I
give myself every day when I let go and give Angie to God. When I remember that
my glass is half full, it dulls the ache from losing my precious daughter.
She’s still alive,
but I haven’t seen her in seven years. When they say that there’s always hope,
I agree: as long as she’s alive there’s hope for her to recover. Many, many
addicts do. But more importantly, there’s hope for me to move on with my life
and focus on my blessings. I deserve to be happy, and that’s the only thing
that I can control.
Help me this day to understand the true
meaning of powerlessness.
Remove from me all denial of my loved one’s
The first step is probably the most important
one in assuring our recovery from the effects of another’s addiction. And it’s because I refused to take it that it
took me so long to start to recover. I simply wouldn’t accept my powerlessness
over my daughter’s disease. I felt as though I would be dropping the ball, appearing as though I didn’t care about her. I
felt that I had to do everything in my power to save her, not realizing that I
had no such power.
So, deep pockets helped me to put Angie
through four rehabs. They also had me paying her rent, paying off her loans, and
paying back the creditors. All my “help” simply gave her more money for drugs.
In short, deep pockets can be dangerous if they allow us to enable our
children. She might have learned something from the consequences of her actions
if I hadn’t kept getting in the way.
So yes, my life had become unmanageable. I
love Angie very much. And I kept making things easy for her. But we can enable
our children to death. Now I’ve let go of all my attempts to control her and
And I feel as though the weight of the world
has been lifted from my shoulders.
like about my recovery program is learning that I’m not a victim—that I have
choices. My daughter, Angie, is an addict, yes, but I haven’t been victimized
or punished for my sins. Angie is sick; addiction is a brain disease, and she
has the power to fight it. She can choose. Not easily, to be sure, but the
power is in her hands.
By detaching myself sufficiently from the agony of her struggle, I can recognize that I am free to choose too. I can help her, if she wants recovery, but beyond that it’s not my battle. As heartbreaking as that is for any mother—to admit her powerlessness—it’s what I have had to do in order to reclaim my life. I love my daughter, and I pray with all my heart that she chooses recovery someday. But in the meantime, I have many blessings to enjoy and pay attention to.
Even if Angie were my only child, there are still sunsets…