OK, I knew he drank, but don’t all teenagers? Then came the drugs. He’s finding himself. Experimenting. That’s what I believed, sitting and watching from my corporate management job. I take care of 40 employees. How is it that I can be so disconnected from my own family? When my perception started to clear, I had to face it. My son is addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Off to Al-Anon I went. That’s what people do, right? They will tell me how I can get him sober. During my first meeting, I listened to a woman tell of how she set up healthy boundaries for her relationship with her adult daughter. She recounted for us how they bake and share such wonderful experiences. Wait, bake? My life is completely out of order. I immediately wanted what she had. After the meeting I approached her to see how to get it. I asked her how long her daughter had been sober. “Oh, she ‘s not sober” was the reply. Again, what? Then how do you function? By this point my family had become so angry and disconnected that going a full night without being awakened to a panic crisis phone call was a blessing.
Here is my journey of how addiction saved our family.
1. First, anger. You have to go. I can’t move forward feeling so enraged. Alcohol and drugs can rob anyone of their personality and leave them temporarily cold. My son was cold, searching and in distress. I could focus once I dropped the anger. Easier said than done, but this is how I did it. It was through a constant reminder of “This is what he does, it is not who he is.” Then it hit me. My only opportunity to help him was to get myself in a great place. Maybe some would spill over.
2. Become present. Many nights were spent gazing into the future, panicked that he had ruined his life. Then I’d search the past for places I went wrong. I let my thoughts go to everywhere but right now because now was so painful. Well, pain or not, the only place where my anxiety took a break was now. A few years in I took a trip to Disney. Yes, I actually went to the most magical place on earth when my life was completely falling apart. That was my turning point. Having spent years not wanting to leave the house for fear he would wake up, or go out, or stop breathing, or whatever? I left for a week. It was a long painful week. The task I set for myself was to live in the moment. Literally every few minutes bringing my thoughts back to Disney. It was exhausting and very little fun. But looking back, it was completely necessary. I would never be the same.
3. Meditation. Shortly after my trip, I began to meditate. Something that never really held much stock for me in the past. Arrogant thought for someone who had never tried it. But I heard it was good for anxiety. After much research and lots of practice I could still only go a few minutes. This was the first time I considered that I pick my thoughts. But after months of doing the same thing each morning, I finally started to feel the effects. Calmness and serenity started to sneak into my early morning ritual for the first time since I was a child. This was the beginning of realizing that my life had been broken for a while and long before my son took his first drug. That was hard to accept. It felt like the problem just got bigger. But in reality it didn’t. Just my realization of it had expanded.
4. Positivity. I made the plunge to positive thinking. Well, it’s been more like a slow and steady journey. I realized that most of my thoughts were negative despite thinking I was an optimist. But here’s the thing. My thoughts ran so fast through my head with one on top of the other, that I could barely sort them out. It took a while just to train myself to separate them. As each thought was identified I would change it. So, instead of picturing where my son was and what he was doing to harm himself and how much I didn’t want that, I chose to picture him healthy and happy. It just plain felt better. I had spent too much time thinking about what I didn’t want. Which just brought me more of what I didn’t want. What you think about expands.
5. Health. Watching his body deteriorate, put thoughts to my own physical state. As it usually goes in a family affected by drugs and alcohol, I did little to nothing to take care of me. Family meals were a thing of the past. We were in survival mode. I remembered I still had a few sessions left at the local yoga hangout so I went. Before I knew it I added walking. Almost daily. And almost was ok for me. You see, all I needed to do was to link well being (not one of my highest values) to something that was a high value for me (family). When I found that key, I realized every walk put me closer to the health and resilience I knew I would need to get through a long night of confusing, disruptive phone calls. Link achieved. Walk happens. It was a step I could take in a situation that was way out of my control. And it felt good, so I did it.
6. Connect with nature. We all need nature to feel connected. I drove to a nearby popular hiking area. I got out of my car feeling like a fake. I don’t hike. What am I doing here. I remembered my son always had a great love for nature as a child so I called him and, surprisingly, he met me there. It was so foreign to me that it was extremely uncomfortable. Turns out we were chased out by the biggest swarm of bees I had ever seen. He grabbed my hand and we ran up the hill to the road. Just the physical contact was enough to send me into tears. But then he started to laugh. Not that staged, shifty eye laugh we were becoming used to, but a belly laugh that seemed to awaken his 4 year old self and we carried on all the way back to the car. Did it solve our problems. No. But for those moments we laughed and shared.
7. Find your blessing. I had the opportunity to go to Toronto and hear an author speak on “how to turn stressings into blessings.” Although I liked most of what he said, I left annoyed and confused. His message was simple. Life is a balance. For every good, your will experience bad. For every bad, there is good. Obviously this guy doesn’t live in my house because lately all we’ve had was bad. I was put off with his ignorance and proceeded to shut down and go back to living my secret life. The one where my truth was so bad that a lie must be better. Who was he to claim there was anything good in my situation. My son is addicted to drugs. My life is falling apart. MY LIFE IS FALLING APART! Wait. Give it a thought. Ok one good thing. Our family has really pulled together. My husband has shown support that leaves me feeling warm and cuddly. That felt good. And I did walk twice this week. And I tried to eat better. Wait, there’s more. Get my point? Dr. Demartini was correct. And as soon as I started to see my balance, my reality seemed a little brighter. Not only could I see the light above me, I was starting to climb the ladder out of the hole I built for myself. That’s right, I put myself there. My son didn’t put me there and neither did life. I DID. And now I needed to fix it.
In conclusion, my son was my teacher to a life that was out of balance before he took a single drink or drug. Both my kids have been my teachers. And I was arrogant enough to think I was theirs. My goal certainly is not to minimize the damage addiction can cause. I have lived the devastating results of how drugs and alcohol can destroy a family. But how we build back up is what’s important. And I refuse to settle for feeling horrible. Now I know I can handle whatever life throws at me, because it will always come with a lesson I need. My son actually claims he felt my shift when I went to Disney and has had some significant sober time that we have all enjoyed. We are more honest with each other now. I no longer deny my family of their lessons or try to fix everything. We cannot push or force change. But we can inspire it through our own lives. My family is definitely not perfect, but we are now whole. I pass along these little bits of information to you in the hopes that it will bring some calm in your storm. With love . . .