Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Oh the Quandaries we Weave

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 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.


Anonymous said...

omg, this is your best blog post ever, and that's saying a lot.

"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." It is the scariest thing in the world to see your child fall down the path of addiction and I guess we all are just doing the best we can.

What also spoke to me: I have been afraid *for her* many many times. That fear is almost paralyzing. Thank God for al anon and for reaching out to new friends, even ones you met on the internet and learned so much from. I will always be grateful to you for sharing your hard won wisdom.

xo Madonna

Anonymous said...

What a thought provoking post this is. Years later, I still think that I'm feeling my way gingerly through a thicket of thorns. The path is not getting easier, I'm afraid. What do parents who are new to this need to know? Here are a few thoughts: No one is an expert on this and no one has all of the answers. What helps one person does not necessarily work for another. Use your own good judgement, yet know that constant stress impairs your ability to see things clearly. Talk things over with a few people you trust who can be sounding boards. Only you and your family must live with the consequences of your actions and decisions. Don't let "experts" dictate what you should and shouldn't do. Be leery of catch phrases like: detach, enable, hitting bottom, co-dependent, etc. "Harm Reduction" seems to be a more useful concept. For myself, finding enjoyment in being with friends/family and taking the time to see a movie, read a book, go to lunch, etc. is vital. We all need times to unwind and focus on other things.


Anonymous said...

This is a truly beautiful post. You are an amazingly generous writer. Thank you! What especially spoke to me is the idea that showing kindness doesn't make you an enabler, it doesn't make you wrong. And I appreciate the reminder that while we are all together in the fellowship of recovery, our experiences vary wildly. I don't have the answers for others and they don't always have the answers that will work for me. But we all benefit from sharing our experience, strength and hope.

Anonymous said...

You are literally the only parent I've run across in all the hundreds of families I've encountered whose addict did not steal from you. Wow, how different I would feel if my son hadn't stolen and conned thousands of dollars and all my jewelry and valuables from me.

I can't do the tough love thing either. I want my son to always know and feel my love for him, but within MY boundaries. I will say that I'm involved with a terrific group of recovered men and women who all tell the same story of their families completely and utterly cutting them off which led directly to them getting well. Every single one of them tell that tale. If they had any other options, even a small crack of compassion from a loved one, they would take advantage and go on using. I struggle with that concept, because I see the proof in these addicts who are healthy and whole, yet I could never turn my back on my child emotionally. I wonder if I'm blocking him from his recovery (standing in God's way) by staying so plugged in? Today, he is clean...and for that I'm grateful. ~Lori (notmyboy)

EssDee said...

Thank you so much for this beautiful post, it hit home for me. I've been on this journey with my daughter for 12 years now and I have been re-thinking my past decision about using detachment. Letting her go at such a young age did nothing for her but leave her without support and put a barrier between us when she was using. She lives in another state and I'd only hear from her when she's sober, which was rare. During our last contact, I let her know, sober or not, I love her very much and if she wants my help, I'd be there for her. Thank you for sharing your journey and being such a wonderful example of unconditional love. Sandra

Mark Goodson said...

And your guilt is my shame. Me being someone with loving parents. Still an addict nonetheless that put them through it all. Nobody wins with this disease, Annette. I hope you didn't beat yourself up too much. We do recover, but it is a long hard road.

Mary Christine said...

I had a dear friend who was a Catholic priest and chaplain at the hospital where I used to work. He told me once that whenever we love someone, we open ourselves to be hurt. My good girl and my stellar son these days are hurting me more than the sober girl. Oh well. I think it is the human condition. And as an alcoholic mother, there are guilts that will never go away.

beachteacher said...

Beautiful & insightful post Annette. You have so much to offer others as a result of your journey. I find that the past of my son's addiction lingers today,... & despite his being in a very good place now,.. what has been still comes back to sharply grab me/us & our relationship... based upon what was then.

And Notmyboy,... have thought of & wondered about you often !

Anonymous said...

Hi Annette,

Great post ... I've been at this 15 years also and never could have stated this as eloquently as you. My son has never stolen or been been violent either. I've always been grateful for that small piece of this that I know most people in our situation have to deal with. I'm still scared to death for him and it does paralyze me sometimes. Your blog is a lifeline for me to read your experience and thoughts.

I'm really looking to a picture of your new grandson in a few months.


Anonymous said...

Oh Annette, thank you for your beautiful words. How often I read your posts and think, oh yes,yes,me too. You have such a gift for putting these confusing thoughts and emotions into words. I am so grateful you share them with those of us who have been fortunate to find you on our path. I too have some regrets but I realize now they never came from times I was kind or loving.
Blessings to you & yours,