Tough love, unconditional love, staying connected, detaching, disease, choice, enabling, codependency, black, white, right, wrong. If the lines were only more clear. The choices more delineated. The outcomes more sure.
An old blogger friend was getting ready to speak to a group of parents and asked me what I wished I had known in the beginning of this journey. Then this past week I was involved in an online conversation exploring the "disease" or "choice" dilemma. These are such complicated issues with so many extenuating circumstances and there are so many passionate and emotional responses and people feel certain that they are right...me included.
For me, I wish I had learned early on more about maintaining healthy connections and less, much much less, about detaching and letting go. I wish I had heard about ways to set healthy boundaries in love and with patience. I wish I had been able to recognize my own part more. My fear, my anger, my compulsion to control and that it was directly tied to my sheer terror. I wish I had known that there are other ideas out there beside tough love. That every act of kindness wasn't enabling. I wish someone had explained that recovery is NOT a one time decision but rather a very very long process that consists of hundreds of little and apparently unimportant decisions made every single day, that hold the potential to profoundly impact your life. I wish I had been taught that trips and falls happen, and no, you do not need to go back to the beginning to start fresh. You can get up, brush yourself off, and start again, right where you fell. I wish I had known that progress counts. I wish I had not bought into the shame that because I loved my daughter so fiercely that that meant I was sick too in some way, that I had some warped connection, was addicted to her addiction. I was a parent and like most of us, I didn't see this coming and like a parent I jumped into action to save her child. I needed to be directed and taught how to do that in the most effective and healthy ways, but there is no shame in a parent grabbing their kids ankles as they see them falling over a cliff. I wish that I had understood the disease concept more, the actual physical changes that were happening in my girl's brain and body. I wish I had understood dual diagnosis more....or that there even was such a thing. I wish I had understood that I couldn't change her trajectory, but there were ways to protect my own heart while still staying connected with her. Boundaries are not high, thick, impenetrable brick walls to keep people out...they are just a resource to help me to keep my side of the street clean and to allow other's the dignity of at the very least having a say in what their side of the street will look like.
I do carry some regret, but I don't carry lots of guilt. I was doing the best I knew and I was doing what I was taught. I think it is so important that we are careful about what we tell parents who are early on in this journey. I never in my wildest dreams thought we would still be navigating all of this 15 years later, but here we are, and we have learned through many avenues including Alanon, the tools of CRAFT, my many friends who are also traveling their own journey's in their various forms of recovery, and my faith, how to live more gently with one another.
This journey has been one of the most painful, soul searing, deep unearthing of my spirit, purifying, experiences of my entire life.....and I am so deeply grateful for what we have gone through and who we have become through these experiences.
I can only share my experience. My experience has been with a daughter. A beautiful girl with all of her own inner battles to wage war against. She has never stolen from us. She has never been physically abusive toward us. She could be full of sass though, but never was I afraid of her. I have been afraid *for* her, many many times for a very long time, but never did I feel that my safety was in jeapordy. Some parents can't say these things and for them, of course, they have to make different decisions, very difficult and painful decisions. In no way do I want to present that anyone who has to take a firm stand to preserve the safety of their home or their younger children, is wrong to do so. There are no easy answers in this world of addiction.
God bless us all, deeply, fill our hearts with peace beyond understanding.