Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Anatomy of Control

When I first started going to Al-anon, I figured that I'd be learning to help the addict.  Then after a few meetings, I realized that I'd be working on how to achieve some semblance of peace while living with an addict.  Now, I realize that I am being taught how to really get to know myself and how to live and function, in a healthy fashion, with a recovering addict, and how to become a healthy family member.  I keep forgetting that addiction is a family disease.  That means that every member of my family (even me) has a disease.  I am told over and over again, how I have no control.  I am trying to learn how to accept the things that I can't change and change the things I can. 

What is control really?  Who really has it?  And, do we really want it? Over time our idea of how we define things is not in reality what they really are.   For example, I get really irritated with the terms liberal and conservative with regards to politics.  I consider myself both liberal and conservative.  I am liberal in the fact that I like to question and look at new ways of doing things.  I am conservative when it comes to the environment.  But, in the political world, I would be considered a liberal because I want to "conserve" our environment.  It seems so mixed up.  It is in part because we like to label things and then we stereotype people by suggesting that if they believe this...then they must believe that.  So, in the interest of being correct, I decided to research control. 

The Webster dictionary definition of control is to exercise a restraining or directing influence; to regulate or to have power over or to reduce the incidence or severity of especially innocuous levels.  The synonyms for control are bridle, constrain, inhibit.  A psychologist named Les Parrott wrote a book called Control Freaks.  He says that control freaks think that they have the ability to purposefully direct or change others.  He goes on to say that control freaks think that they are the only ones who know how something needs to be done and won't stop until they get their way.  Control freaks think that their interventions are beneficial and necessary and they have feelings of superiority.  They really believe that things will go wrong if they don't follow every detail.  In their minds control equals security. 

When I look at control as it is defined and analyzed, I don't really like the idea of putting myself in the category of being a controlling parent.  But, I did think that I could control my son.  I did think that I was superior to him.  I thought that I was the only one who could make him be what "I wanted him to be".  After all what I wanted had to be the best way....right?  We can disguise control as suggestions, advice, guilt or even concern. 

When did we first start trying to control or have power over another person?  Well, personally I blame Adam!  He was told not to eat fruit from that tree, but the idea that he could have knowledge sounded great.  He could handle that, right?  It couldn't possibly harm him.  Surely he knew better than God that he would want and could handle this information.  Well, look where that got us.  Yet, over and over again my inner Adam comes out and I think that I am superior to God and I think that only I can fix all the problems  and in the process achieve world peace. 

Hi, my name is......and I am the mom of an addict.  This is where I've taken myself with all of the wonderful control I've got.  Okay, I know that I didn't cause this but I also can't control this.  Al-anon teaches us the twelve steps and the twelve traditions. The traditions teach us about group (or our family) responsibilities.   In the second tradition we learn that there is but ONE authority, a loving God, as He may express himself in our group conscience.  He is the only one whose control has OUR best interest at heart.  You see control is fueled by anxiety.  It is our fear that drives us  to want to influence what we perceive to be a threat.  It is for our own SELF protection that we control.  Just for clarity, who benefits from control?  We do.  When we think that we are in control, who feels better?  We do. 

When I look at all of the evidence, I must pray daily for the ability to let go and let God.  I have to keep an eye on myself to be sure that what I do is turn my will and life (and control) over to the care of God as I understand Him.  I saw a quote today that I really liked.  "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain."  As I am learning to trust God with my family and my life, I am suddenly starting to have the time to appreciate the rain and to see that it is safe for me to venture out into it and now, I am interested in learning to dance in it again. 

Today my prayer is one of thanksgiving for learning and accepting God's will for me and my family.  I am also thankful for the seed of trust that is starting to grow.  I pray for knowledge for my son.  I pray for days filled with hope, excitement and dance for him.  I pray for all souls affected by this disease and as always, for Henry.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The pressure is off!  Why, you might ask?  Well, because it's not MY problem.  Does that mean that I don't care or worry?  No, I care enough to let it be his problem no matter what.  No matter if he has a hard time.  No matter if he is uncomfortable.  No matter if he does it the hardest way possible.  No matter even, if he falls and I pray he doesn' t (everyday).  This is in a very large part, due to step 3.  Al-anon is saving me and helping my family as a whole.  It didn't ever really matter or help when I was trying so hard to control.  I think that the only thing it really did was to delay the inevitable.  In my maddening effort to fix this, I only allowed it to continue. 

I have set boundaries for my son.  Letting go doesn't mean that I will be a hands off do as you wish kind  of gal.  I have told my son that I will support and help aid him in his recovery as long as I know that he is truly working the steps.  He knows that I expect total honesty no matter how much he thinks that the truth might hurt.  He also knows in no uncertain terms that I will NEVER aid him in either going to prison or dying.  There are 3 paths that an addict can take.  They are prison, death or recovery.  Those are some pretty hard realities.  So, why I wonder in light of this information could I ever say whew, pressure's off?  This is my situation.  It's the same situation that I was in before, only I hadn't yet had the courage to turn the light on in the dark room and look the devil in the eye.   Now, I have.  It has become painfully obvious that my son took this path with me trying to "control"  the situation. 

While I was trying to fix things along the way, I was in a constant state of planning.....trying to fix each and every little thing (symptom) instead of standing back and looking at the whole picture.  I was ignoring what I needed to be doing at work, as mom and as a child of God.  I was sending the message to my son that he couldn't do it.  I was trusting that I could do it myself.  Doesn't it seem totally ridiculous to think that you have the ability to to do it better than God?  Well, you might say..."Oh, I would never think that I could do it better than God", but when we refuse to let go, then we either think that or that we only want it done our way.  I think that's a little arrogant.  It's totally give it up.  The sign as you leave, where my son went to rehab says, "Let go and let God".  I love that. 

Turning your will AND lives over to the CARE of God as we understood Him.  Doesn't that even sound good.  God, caring for us.  When I stop getting in the way of God's beautiful, out of this world, more than you could ever expect or imagine plans, things work.  They may not work on my time, but, I am learning about myself during the wait.  I learn subtle little things and sometimes ah-ha moment kind of things, but I always learn. God created me.  I have spent so much time listening to others tell me things about myself.  It is now nice to enjoy the nice,quiet stillness of waiting and listening for God's words and thoughts.  It is through listening and responding ACCORDING to His will that I am learning what really needs my attention.  God does take care of me.  I never gave Him a chance before.  It is so wonderful finally believing that He will provide what I need.  I don't have to worry.  If something happens, He will help me deal with it THEN.  NOW, I have no reason to worry.  All of the things I worried over in the past, mostly never happened.  The thing I didn't imagine, did.  Perhaps if I wasn't so preoccupied with things that could go wrong then I might have been able to better see what WAS going wrong.  Giving over my will and life to God actually gives me life.  It helps me to learn and feel closer to God.  It helps restore me.  I highly recommend it. 

Today, my prayer is for those suffering from addiction, those suffering from the effects of addiction or anything that life has thrown at them, will have the courage to let go and let God.  I thank God for taking care of me all of this time and ask Him to forgive my ignorance in thinking that I could only take care of things.  I pray for perseverance for my son and as always I pray for the soul of Henry.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Change is in the air and I'm not just referring to the seasons.  It seems like in life we go along for such a long period of time just going through the motions.  Then, all of the sudden, Kabam....EVERYTHING changes.  We go from doing the same ole same ole to watching every facet of our lives take a turn.  Today is a day when I have to sit down and slow down and let this aging processor in my brain take the time to sort it out and let it all sink in.

My mother was sick for a very long time before she died.  Her care was not enough for her to go to a nursing home but just enough to be very intensive for those close to her.  In the last six weeks of her life, she became in need of constant care.  It was very difficult both physically and emotionally. For a while we begged God to let us keep our wonderful, loving, sweet mom.  She was our glue.  How could we ever function without her?  But, in the course of her long suffering, we were able to stop thinking about ourselves because it was so hard to watch what she was going through.  She began to detach from things of this world, from us. She helped us get ready to let her go.  After what seemed like relentless suffering without peace,   we prayed for her to go. I think she waited for us to be ready.  That's what mom's do, right?   She went....quietly and peacefully in the middle of the night with only me by her side, I held her hand as she left this world.  I was the last child she brought into this world and now I was the one with her when she left.  I was the one afraid of being there when it happened and yet somehow God prepared me.   After a few hours, our relief turned to Oh my goodness, what did I wish for?  How am I going to go on now?  My dad was so lost.  He had spent so much time caring for her that he did not know what to do with himself.  He had to learn how to only care for himself.  I don't think he ever got the hang of it.  He died 4 yrs later, still missing her. 

Today, my son is making a change.  He is planning to move from the half way house to an apartment.  He wants to room with 2 other fellas, who are also serious about recovery, and begin to try to take care of himself and to try and be like most other young men. He and his sponsor think this is a good next step. 

My oldest daughter is in college and very very busy.  My youngest is a high school senior.  She is also busy.  These days it only seems to be me and my husband and the dogs!  I have spent the last 22 yrs of my life caring for these kids.  The last few years have been so intensive with my son that I don't even know what to do with myself.  I dreamed of "me" time and all of the sudden...I have more than I want.  What in the heck do I do with myself? 

I told you the story of my mom's death not because it is an analogy for my current situation, but, because it was a life change as well.  It was a process of detachment.  We talk a LOT about detachment in Al-anon.  It is a skill that I still work at....daily.  But, it is a necessary one.  Detaching is healthy.  It keeps me minding my own business.  It allows my son AND my daughters to know that I trust that they can do it.  Somehow, trying to prevent the mistakes I've made from happening to them became so much more than it ever should have.  I can love them and counsel them but then I have to let it go and pray. 

As autumn begins in this calendar year, a new season is also on the horizon for my family.  It is a season of change and growth.  It is unfamiliar territory.  It is a little sad....a little happy and a lot different.  I think our kids are a lot stronger than we imagined and I am so thankful for that.  Today, I pray for continued growth.  I pray for those facing change, that they may let it go with grace and have the ability to hear God's will for this new season.  I pray for families everywhere who are learning to detach, no matter how scary that is.  I pray for my son and his perseverance in this journey of recovery and for his great grandfather, Henry.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One Day at a Time

In the beginning of this recovery process, I had the false, foolish notion that we would send our son off to rehab and Voila!  our old, unscathed son would come home and all would be well in our world again.  "If it seems too good to be probably is."  I'm learning so much about life through this difficult journey we're on.  Addiction is a FAMILY disease.  So, if the addict seeks treatment, then, the family needs to seek treatment.  If he changes and we stay the same, what will happen?  Change is so hard.  I think I've mentioned that a time or two...

I don't think that I can say enough about Al-anon or the 12 step program.  It has been such a miracle in our lives.  I encourage anyone to study those steps.  I think anyone could apply them to a variety of situations they might find themselves in.  For example, Step 1:  We admitted that we were powerless of alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable.  Now, substitute the word alcohol for....cancer, ailing health in your parents, learning disabilities, effects of a bad economy, actions of others.....the list could go on and on.  Step2:  Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  In our world today, we are quick to assume that if we have a problem, we can fix it.  We are in the richest country in the world.  We have amazing doctors and hospitals.  We are for the most part, a well educated society.  So, why is it that we go to all of these resources before we give it to God? 

This isn't going to be fixed in a day, week, month or even year.  This is a problem we will face one day at a time.  We will face it for a long time.  The lesson that I am trying to glean from all of this is that all of life, needs to be lived moment by moment instead of worrying so much about how things will turn out.  It's out of my control.  It's out of your control.  It belongs to God.  I belong to God.  My son belongs to God. 

So, today, my son looked good and sounded good.  But, he has told us that he mourns the fact that he can't drink anymore and that maybe one day he can drink in moderation.  I admit that I haven't mastered taking all of this advice I try to give, so I worry, but, I don't panic.  No, I am punting this right up to my higher power.  I am appreciating how good he looks and sounds and the fact that he goes to meetings everyday and is 60 days sober today!!!!!!  If I worry about what he might do tomorrow, I will miss the celebration of this day. 

Today I pray for all of you who are powerless of alcohol, drugs, disease, financial problems, or worries of any kind.  I pray that you will have the strength to give it to your higher power.  I am thankful for all the gifts of this day.  I am thankful for Al-anon, all those families who have come before and support those like me who are new to this new way of life, and to those of you who are willing to listen to my ramblings.  And, as always I pray for Henry.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The devil you know....

I wonder why change is so frightening.  If you think about it, most people don't really look forward to change.  It really doesn't matter how you feel about your situation, the idea of something different isn't something that we look forward to.  In fact, things have to really hit bottom before we have the courage to ask for something different.  That was certainly the case in my situation.  It took the very worst information possible for me to have the courage to say, "OK Lord, I will take my head out of the sand and follow your will, no matter how awful." 

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."  How many times have we read or heard this pray but not really thought too much about it?  I have plenty of times.  Today, I read and really listen to those words.  I am a slow learner.  I have a lot to learn and to begin to understand what change really is or means.  Change is the process of being different.  Not bad different or good different, just different.  Metamorphosis is another word referring to change.  It is any complete change in appearance, character or circumstances.  Why is it that we automatically assume that it will be a bad change?  I guess it is because letting go of one thing for something we don't know involves risk.  We don't know what we will get.  If we know what we face, we somehow think we have some amount of control over the situation.  What a foolish notion. 

There are so many changes going on in my world.  I'm not sure what to make of it, sometimes.  Today, I read a little daily Al-anon reading about making a list of what we have to be grateful for.  Just learning to recognize those gifts in the midst of chaos, is a change of perspective.  I think that learning to rise above the fear if only for a few moments, is a gift.  I think that being slowly and carefully open to change is a gift.  I am starting to see that pulling my grimy little hands off of things I have NO control over, is a gift. If I see change as growth instead of loss, then that is a gift. 

My family is changing, evolving, growing.....What made me sad a few weeks ago, is starting to excite me.  Don't get me wrong, I still have fear and just doesn't consume me.  After all growth involves stumbling along the way.  I see my son growing with some good ideas and some not so good.  I will let go and send a prayer that he is also able to listen to the will of God and change when necessary.  Letting go is probably my biggest change.  It is starting to feel like a relief.  It never was my problem.  It was my son's.  He isn't a child anymore.  I will have faith that he will grow into the person God intends him to be.

Today my prayer list is long.  I pray for continued sobriety for my son.  I pray for his thoughful consideration in all his decisions.  I pray for our families abilty to change and grow.  My prayer of thanksgiving is for all of the changes we've already experienced.  It is for the hope I am starting to feel again.  It is for being able to laugh again.  It is for all of the wonderful family and friends and their loving support which have held us strong through this storm.  I also pray for Henry and all those like him.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Prayers, Principles, and Personalities

If I had a nickle for every time that  my grandmother told me to pray without ceasing, I'd be much better off than I am today, in more ways than one.  My grandmother was a very religious woman.  She was always studying, praying,lecturing, encouraging, etc.  She took the responsibility of sharing her faith very very seriously.  A few years before she died, she decided to teach me to make this candy called divinity so that I could mail it to my fiance.  She was a fabulous cook in her day.  When she went to the kitchen to begin, she couldn't find her recipe.  She searched and searched and began to quietly say,"Lord, where did I put that recipe?"  Then I hear her say, " Thank you, Lord, it is like seven minute frosting."  In the tiniest details that affected her life, she prayed.  She drove me crazy as a teenager, but the seeds she planted were invaluable.  Thank you Lord, for her example. 

Prayer is so very essential.  The older I get, the more I rely on it.  One of the concerns that I've had lately(which by the way is not any of my business/problem) is that my son didn't have a permanent sponsor.  I know that this isn't my problem and while I didn't  nag remind my son of this concern, I did pray about it.  He has had many temporary sponsors along the way but in a fashion that I can describe most closely to resembling dating, he just hasn't had one that he was willing to mention to mom and dad yet.  Along the way, I would ask the questions.  The tidbits that I'd get along the way never really made me think that he felt like he'd found "the one."

 A sponsor is like a mentor.  They are advisers, teachers, role models...they are someone who has been there.  They are so wonderful to give their time to a newly recovering addict.  They help teach their sponsee to work the steps.  The 12 steps were initiated by an alcoholic named Bill Wilson and a friend of his, another alcoholic, who was a doctor.  A nun named Sister Ignatius was also instrumental in the early days of treating alcoholics.  The idea is that it takes someone who has been there for the addict to truly benefit from the program.  In the beginning it seemed counter intuitive to me to imagine a former addict to teach my son how to be a productive, sober member of society.  I wanted someone"good" to do that.  I now see that it takes someone who has been down that road to understand the process and guide my son along his way.

  I had never been exposed to the twelve steps until this great tragedy in my life occurred.  When I read them and try to put them into practice, I feel like I'm on the Oprah Winfrey show and I've just had my "ah-ha" moment.    When my son called so very excited over this new sponsor and I started to question him about this sponsor, my son said, "Mom, principles over personalities."  I thought about my son correcting my old ways of thinking and I just felt so proud.  I know he's got a long way to go but, these alcoholics and addicts that really practice these steps have more insight and "right" thinking going on than many people who appear, on the outside, to have it pulled together.

I can't help but think how quickly we forget many lessons from Jesus himself.  He hung out with thieves and prostitutes.  He founded the church on a man who denied him.  AA was first established by two drunks and a nun.  I've been praying and praying and why am always surprised at the wonderful folks who have been put in my son's path who are former drunks and addicts?  Why am I always looking at things on the outside? 

Today is a day of hope.  It is still a day with fear.  It is also day 55 of sobriety for my son.  He has a long way to go.  I have a long way to go.  Today I pray a prayer of thanksgiving for 55 days, for a wonderful new sponsor and for new insight.  I pray for all those out there who have not asked for help or are unable to get help.  I pray for perseverance in this journey.  And, I pray for the soul of Henry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

May I introduce you to.....

If you have ever owned an animal, then you know that it can take up to a year to really get to know them.  We have a little dog who is afraid of the dark and won't go potty at night unless you go out with her.  During the day she is a wild adventurer.  She is a man's dog.  She loves to rough house, the rougher the better.  She loves to pick fights with our other male dog.  She is like the kid in the commercial who almost touches his sister with his index finger while saying over and over, "I'm not touching you."  Our little dog just scarcely touches our male dog's tail and I can see her little happy self saying, "I'm not touching you."  She loves to cuddle but only to a point and then she's done and wants to go off and have her own space.  She is not a morning dog and likes to sleep in longer than anyone else, both man and dog, in the house.  She loves it when you call her a "good girl" and will come in as long as you say, "where's my good girl?" 

It took time to learn what each of these behaviorrs meant.  It took time to be able to tell when she was whining at the door to potty and when she was just wanting to go out and play.  It took time for us to trust her and for her to trust us. 

I have this new and different son, now.  He is a sober evolving young man.  It is just so bizarre.  I've really only known this addict for the last several years and now there's this stranger.  I think that we are strange to him too.  I think that he doesn't remember us in the same way either.  Hopefully, we are evolving too.  I don't know his new mannerisms.  I don't know if he's having a hard day.  I don't know what his thoughts might be.  I know very little about this young man that I gave birth to many years ago.  With my daughters, I can read their body language and tone of voice.  I find myself looking at him and trying to read him and I really just don't  know at all what is going on. 

At first, this just scared me to death.  I thought his need to separate him self was something personal.  Now, I know that he is just working very very hard on himself.  Every now and again, I get these glimpses of this new young man and I am so impressed.  But, many times, I am just still afraid and am trying to figure things out.  You see I haven't totally let go and it will be a hard lesson for me to really learn and practice.  But, I"m gonna try and try and try.  I am so thankful for these new gifts however small that God is giving us, because deep down, I just know that these little gifts are gonna snowball into something magnificent. 

Mother Teresa is one of my favorite christian models.  She is a saint already in my eyes and heart.  I love her because she was a simple woman with tremendous faith.  She used to say that she was God's pencil.  She believed that He would write with her what he wished her to be and do.  Her faith was so big that she was willing to push  many of her superiors and various priests to do what she felt that God was telling her to do.  She would be told to be patient and pray and when she would still have those feelings to push forward, she did, no matter who she had to push....all to follow the will of God.  She was so courageous in following God's will.  I could never have her strength and courage, but if I can just try to take a lesson from her in my life today and let go, let God and see what He writes with my son and his recovery, then maybe I indeed, will see something beautiful for God. 

I can't wait to meet my son, each new day,  as he becomes the man that God wishes him to be.  Each little glimpse into this new person he is becoming is a little seed of faith that makes it easier to let go.  This newness is so much better than anything, that I could have "fixed" or dreamed. 

I am still afraid every day.  I am afraid of relapse always and especially early on, but each day gives me some encouragement too.  It's like when you're little and learning to dive off the high dive and you get on the board so high in the air.  It feels soooo high.  You think of all of the possible problems and they overwhelm you and make you shake to the point that you have to get off.  The next day when you get up there you are already aware of the problems but they still scare you.  You keep getting back up there and start facing one fear and then the next until you finally you can make a move.

 Today, I'm praying for the courage to let go just a little more.  I also have a prayer of thanksgiving for his new growth, and the example of Mother Teresa's courage.  I pray for my whole family to work on their individual needs so that collectively we can be become a family that is something beautiful for God.  And, as always, I will pray for Henry.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Mom's fix things.  It's in the handbook, right?  They cried, we fed them, changed them, rocked them.  They got bumps, scrapes and bruises, we hugged them, bandaged them and told them that they'd be alright.  Problems with homework, friends, or the mean kids, we tutored, counseled and gave the  "they really aren't your friends" speech.  Now, we've hit the big problems in life.  Drug addiction and the life that has been missed out on due to drug addiction, have left a wake of problems.  As Mom, I think I could pull out my trusty notepad, make a list, and have a plan of action in no time flat.  There could be order to this madness.  We could be on the road to recovery.....only now, it's not "we", it's's HIS problem.  I can't fix his problems.  I'm really not doing a very good job of fixing my problems these days. 

My new friends at Al-anon are so unusual and wonderful.   They don't really directly give me advice.  There isn't supposed to be a lot of direct cross talk.  This is really hard for me.  But, it really makes sense.  If people aren't telling you what to do and you are just sitting back taking things have to fix it yourself.  This is exactly what we need to do and what our addicted loved one needs to do.  It is just so hard to let them do it.  After all look at the decisions they've made up to now.  It's hard to trust that they can or will do it.  What it they don't do the right thing?  Then THEY will just have to learn from that mistake.  In the past I might have swooped in to make sure that they didn't have to deal with the ramifications of their actions.  Now I know that I will just have to sit back and watch or I will only keep helping them to be led to an even bigger fall. 

Stephan Covey, the author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, told the story about his son in the early years of school.  He wasn't doing especially well in school and was kind of awkward so he and his wife decided to help him out.  They eventually realized that the message that this was sending was that he couldn't do it himself.  So, they backed off, didn't help with friends or homework and little by little he started to bloom all on his own in his own time.  It is so hard to sit back and watch all the stumbling until a bloom appears, especially a recovering addict who in the past, never failed to disappoint. 

Have I mentioned before, just how hard it is for me to NOT talk, advise, counsel....(interfere)?  As one of the ladies at my meeting says, "I have some really good ideas!"  But, I have no control, I have no control, I have no control.....So, I am trying so very hard to not talk.  The same lady with all of the really good ideas....does in fact have a good idea...."Oh!"  That's it, oh. When you start to open your mouth just stop yourself with oh.  There is no advice or judgement in oh.  It's just a clever way to disguise the fact that you've just opened your mouth to do the usual but it's just right for any situation.  My best friend and I discussed various code words to stop ourselves.  We've come up with a few.  One (so that we can empathize) is I'm so sorry.  One, if you don't really understand is, Is that right?  Or Oh! or Oh?   can serve you very well. 

Today, my prayer is for the faith to shut my mouth and give the gift of trust in my loved ones to care for themselves.  It is for the courage and discernment for my son as he learns to care for himself.  It is a prayer of thanksgiving to all those that walk this journey and the journey of motherhood alongside me and for our ability to hear God's will for us today.  As always a prayer for my Henry or yours as I think that we all have one.

Monday, September 13, 2010

You get what you need when you need it.

This weekend has been a very indigo one, as my friend, the artist, always says.  I've had a hard time pulling myself off the couch.  I have been sleepy and tired and have no motivation whatsoever.  I am such a worrier and have been worried so much because of expectations that I might have.  I just keep going back to old habits.  I just keep expecting my son to respond in the same way that I would.  First of all, I have never had a problem with addiction.  I don't know what it's like to have lived that way.  He doesn't know what it's like to have lived sober in the young adult years of his life.  I am a forty something year old woman who has never lived a life that was driven by a desire that I can't control.....until now.  This desire is so strong that they tell me  in Al-anon that it is my addiction.  This desire is for my son, my addict, to not be an addict.  I want him to not be in this place.  I don't want this worry anymore.  I want to follow steps one, two and three and for this to be over and behind me.  Why is there a disconnect between me and my brain where one minute I understand that I am powerless over this and the next, I've forgotten all about it.  I still don't trust that I can't fix this. 

Today, I went to my meeting.  It is my lifeline.  Every time I read something, and was asked to comment on it, I couldn't.  Even though I had read these things earlier and thought I understood them, today, I could not figure out for the life of me, how to put them into action.  So, that was my comment.  I don't know enough yet.  I have taken my first few steps back.  One very kind lady told me that I was putting the steps into action just by being there.  I think God had a message for me too.  He kept bringing up the theme of isolation.  It is when we are isolated that those fears start to take over and we tend to knee jerk react as we always did before.  Talking and taking care of ourselves with family and friends is where we start to relax and understand what control we really have.  It's where we can stop and think before those old rote responses of old pop up and take over again. 

These meetings are so interesting.  They have many sayings.  One of the ones I like most is, "take what you like and leave the rest."  Members always also say that if you can glean just one thing, then you have gotten something you needed.  I want the ending.  I want to know exactly what to do.  I think that this is where God is trying to teach me to enjoy my journey.  Our group leader says often that you get what you need when you need it.  I think I need it all now.  Maya Angelou says you did what you did till you knew better then you did better.  I guess that is a lot to hope for. 

Today my prayer is for the ability to listen to all of the helps that God is sending me and to stop listening to the fears that try to take over.  I pray that my son will also keep working his program and not give up when things get hard and they always do.  I also pray for the soul of Henry and for all the souls like Henry.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Have you ever considered yourself a snob?  I have always considered myself a fairly friendly gal.  I felt like I was fairly open minded.  I have been taught that addiction is a family disease.  You will hear me say this over and over again.  This is because it is so astonishing to me.  It isn't JUST the addict that is sick.  The family is sick.  We're sick not just because of the effects of the addicts lifestyle, but because of OUR lifestyle.  Which comes first the chicken or the egg?  I don't know.  We are sick because we have lived inside of the tornado of each other's problems.  We are sick because of fear, insecurity and a lack of acceptance.  We are sick because we don't understand that the only small bit of control we might have is in the control over our own decisions. 

I am a snob.  I realize that today.  It is so very foolish to be a snob.  Part of the denial regarding my son's addiction is that I felt that this couldn't happen to someone who took her kids to church and taught the dangers of drug use.  I couldn't possibly be one of those parents that it happened right under their noses.  I would know.  THEY must not have been paying attention.  Wonder shy you (ME) can have such an elitists' attitudes?  When I first took my son to rehab, I figured that we'd be different somehow than the others.  When I went for the first time to family group at intensive outpatient, I thought I'd be different.  At my first Al-anon meeting, again, this slow learner thought she'd be different.  What a fool I am and why?  Why would I assume that I am different/better?  What could possibly constitute that feeling?  I am a child of God.  So are they.  I was not destined to anything special outside of what God planned for me to do.  I'm not special in the sense that I am automatically, by the grace of God, immune to life's difficulties.  I am not special because I went to college or drive a nice car or go to church.  I am not special because I work hard and hate what drugs and alcohol do to people and their families.  I will only be special if I respond to life's problems in the way God intends for me to. 

The people that I've experienced in this new journey have been wonderful.  They are so very normal everyday kids, adults, moms and dads, husbands and wives and friends.  They are struggling and working very hard to turn things around.  Yes, I've met a few who don't really seem to be honestly making a change, but MOST are in this to win this.  They are people like me, learning how to be stark naked honest because that is the only way to heal.  They are people who are overcoming such huge obstacles and doing it with great grace.  The rehab center my son used, employed only recovering addicts.  This includes all the folks in the financial office, the cafeteria workers, janitors, counselors, nurses and doctors.  Now if that isn't hopeful, I don't know what is.  The leader of my Al-anon group teaches female inmates in the local jail to sew.  The psychiatrist we've started using, was a high school dropout.  Now, she is a medical doctor.  My son knew one friend from high school, one college friend and one person from work in rehab.  He roomed with a young man from his grandfather's hometown over 100 miles away.  This disease lands everywhere and with anyone.  I see that now.

What needs to be seen is that this disease does NOT define them or their families.  None of us are perfect and thinking that we should somehow be is a very defeating attitude to have.  It just can't be done.  I am now trying to understand that my problems are here because I am a normal human being.  The only thing that I am capable of doing is to practice honesty and do the best that I can.  Learning to let go and give God the driver's seat is still a work in see as a practicing snob I still trust my ideas over God's.  How sad is that?  I have been a snob.  But, now I see just how silly this is.  I am going to try everyday to open my mind.  Those new folks that I was so sure were different than me, are.  They have inspired me to do better and be better.  Does it really matter if my kids are at the top of their class and are super at sports or getting special honors?  No, I think that today, I'd be so proud if they were the ones quietly teaching the inmates to sew or to read, if they were the ones who connected with those that society looks down their nose at.  This new attitude has got to be a gift that I couldn't have seen had I not been placed in the position that I am in.  I still don't like this journey because it still scares me.  But, if I must travel this road, I am thankful for the gifts of vision and the knowledge that I am gaining along the way.  I am thankful that my son WANTS to live in a half way house to really be able to battle this disease.  That might have been hard for me to say before, but not now.  This means that he is serious.  This means that he wants more for himself.  I want more for him too.  Now, I know that more can't be my definition or society's definition but only God's definition of more. 

Today my prayer is one of thanksgiving for what God has revealed to me in the gift of all the wonderful people that I have met along the way.  It is a prayer for guidance and listening for my son and for the soul of Henry and for all of his descendants affected by the disease of addiction

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Still In a Mess but Not Too Stressed

Do you ever drive by those churches and read the signs that they post outside.  I just love reading those.  They are usually a little goofy, sometimes clever, sometimes they use poor grammar.  I don't know why I find those so interesting.  I've been driving by this church which is being  remodeled, it has had this slogan up for a few days, "still in a mess but not too stressed."  It occurred to me that perhaps that is my life right now.  As God has begun to prune my life, there is a remodel going on.  Remodels are never fun.  They usually require tearing out of the old (ouch), sometimes a demo, then building to fit an existing, not always square structure.  When I have any work done at my previous house, I am usually making apologies for the previous carpenter.  They always complain about the shotty work done before that they are now having to correct. 

Our family is in a remodel.  The old ways are being torn out leaving in their wake the dust and debris that bad habits leave.  We are all fussing about how bad  the job done before was.  It is a painful venture.  It is scary because who knows how the final project will turn out.  We are still in a mess,  but sometimes, we're still very stressed. 

Tonight is supposed to be our last family night at intensive outpatient.  I was really looking forward to it.  We were supposed to reveal to our son out requests, appreciations and regrets and he was to do the same for us.  Our family was to receive our coin for completing family therapy.  I find such peace in that group.  But, it is not to be.  Our son is so anxious at the idea of doing this in front of the group, that he refuses to go and doesn't feel prepared.  Since it's all about me, my first reaction was panic that he might be thinking of relapsing.  Now I mourn the loss of that time with those people and the loss of completing a very hard emotional program.  Shame on me.  I backed off and told my son, to do this on his time instead of mine.  

I am going home for the night.  A long day at the job site.  There is still no order to the mess.  I wanted just one section completed.  I guess it will be when it will be.  Oh my these slogans are hard to swallow.  My prayer for today is for patience for me, comfort and strength for my son and again, for Henry

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Last weekend, I moved my son into a half way house.  The week before that, I moved my daughter into her dorm at college.  Now, my home is only my husband and I and our youngest daughter.  Three months ago, before the realization of what our problem really was, I could not see the day that my son would ever leave.  All of the sudden, all of the things that I thought I knew, are not.  This doesn't mean that it's necessarily bad, just different and unplanned.  My mind feels as though it is traveling in slow motion trying to process this new information.  As with every change, my first reaction is a little panic and then worry, until I have a few days under my belt that didn't end tragically, then I can really figure out what my true feelings are.  As of late, life has taught me that my very worst fears, can come true.  I hate that feeling but know that I must accept it to really be able to address the issues in my life.

It is very strange in my house.  Suddenly going from 5 to 3, is a big change.  Especially since number 3 is a high school senior with so many things on her plate that she is gone more than she's home.  It has been 22 yrs since it was just me and my husband.  I got so used to him being gone all of the time with work that I don't really know what to do with him when he's home.  Yesterday, I tried to come up with one thing that I really wanted to do and couldn't.  This is a little depression I'm sure.  This a bit of relearning my new life too.  I am still seeking the will of God in every day.  I am trying to live in just this moment.  It is a work in progress.  It is a little scary still.  Letting go is so very hard. 

Everything does indeed have a silver lining.  My son seems very responsible all of the sudden.  He showed up for work before his dad this morning.  He looks great.  He is taking care of himself and it shows.  He called his mom for a cooking lesson last night.  He wants to watch me cook a certain dish one day.  I could have never dreamed of such normal gifts of growing up before now.  For this I am thankful.  He is now the one concerned about his financial situation.  Wow!!  I'm not saying all is fixed, just the fact that he suddenly cares is a huge step in the right direction. 

My daughter, who is the very responsible one, because she had to be, and I think it's in her nature, is doing quite well not having to be the responsible one.  She is loving school with a wonderful new roommate and the possibility of joining a sorority.  She is able to let go of worries that plagued our home and become a typical college kid for a change. 

My youngest, is willing to go to our last family night at intensive outpatient and face her brother in front of the group, and for this I am thankful.  She was the one that could not open up the least.  As our fears begin to subside, so do hers. 

The pecking order is shifting.  My husband and I are relearning our roles as the family grows up and tries to move on.  Now we have a lot of work to do.  I love him so much but we must learn healthy new ways of living.  Change is hard and painful but we will do the work necessary.  I am learning to take care of me.  This felt selfish in the beginning, but now I see that this is what allows the rest of my family to do what they need to do.  If I keep doing for them, they might think that they can't.  If I keep doing for them, what do I know about myself?  What will they know about themselves?  This new phase feels shaky and scary but hearing the pride in their voices as they KNOW that they CAN do it themselves reinforces letting go.  It's funny how you think that doing for everyone is trying to be giving when in fact, it takes away from their confidence and their being needed.  We all need to be needed.  Let Go!  Let Go!  Let Go!  And, let God! 

Today's prayer is for the stillness necessary to hear God's will for me today.  It is for my family to learn to hear God's will for them today and it is as always, for Henry.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Get Low

This week will be our final week of Intensive Outpatient Family Group.  I will miss it.  On this final night, each of our family members have a sheet to fill out which states the feelings we have when our loved one does a certain thing and another which we list our regrets,requests and appreciations.  My son has the very same sheet.  He will sit in the middle of the room across from each member of our family while we exchange these very personal feelings in front of all of the other families.  This is a nerve wracking and very therapeutic exercise that I both dread and look forward to.  In many ways this is a lot like going to confession.  While there is no absolution, those frightening thoughts and feelings are pulled out of the dark and into the light where they can be better understood.  

Al-Anon teaches that we did not cause this, can't control this and can't cure this.  I have had a constant struggle with the first "c".  I have felt very responsible.  This is my son, my responsibility.  After much mental wrestling with this idea, I have come to the conclusion that I did not cause him to be a physically addicted individual.  But, I also know that my priorities during his formative years were in the wrong order.  I worried more over his grades and how I thought he was perceived by others than I was about how safe he felt, how secure he felt, how grounded he felt by the love of his parents, that he knew what a marvelous person he was.  For this, I desperately need to go to confession.  My self centered pride and fear took over how I treated my son more than my love for him.  I have known that I've needed to go to confession  since this all began, but I have been frozen and unable to act on this need.

Last night, my husband and I went to the movies to see Robert Duvall in the movie, Get Low.  Without giving away too much, this was a movie about an older man who had done something he shouldn't have that ultimately caused something devastating.  He was so shaken and unable to face the world to confess his sins before man and God that he became a recluse for 40 yrs.  He received word that a friend had died and decided that he'd buy himself a funeral.  But, he wanted to be there.  Initially he wanted the townsfolk to tell stories that they thought they knew about him, but later it was really his story that he wanted told but he didn't have the courage to do it himself.  He wanted another minister to do it for him.  This very wise minister knew that he needed to do it himself and he refused.  In the end, Duvall's character gets up to tell his story.  He admits to the sin he had committed and starts to describe the devastating act that occurred but  not at his hand.  He admits that while he didn't do this, that in the middle of this horrible act, that he realized that he caused this by not doing the right thing to begin with.  He admits that it could have been so different if he'd never done the wrong that he'd done.  That was such a poignant story.  It is my story.  I did not ask him to experiment with drugs.  But, why didn't I help him to see the marvelous individual he was so that he wouldn't need anything else to make him feel good.  Faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love. Simple, simple, simple but I did not listen.  My confession starts before man today and before God tomorrow.  Today my prayer is for the courage to have a good confession and as always for Henry.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Sacrament of the Present Moment

Recovery is a journey.  Life is a journey.  I wonder if our tv and movie watching have conditioned us to want to know the ending?  There is safety in knowing that the ending will be a happy one.  When my husband and I first married, we moved to northeastern Ohio.  We were 500 miles from our families.  He worked many many hours while I was home alone with little ones.  We lived in the snow belt and not having grown up there, I had a really hard time dealing with the cold.  I was just so determined to leave that place, from the first minute that I unpacked my last box.  We didn't look to buy a house, because we weren't staying.  One year for my husband to gain experience in his field and we'd head closer to home.  I was constantly looking to the end of the plan.  I wanted warmth and sunshine and family.  So, I kept myself looking only to that goal.  Funny, how it works when I am following my own year became two, then five became six and around the eighth year in Ohio, I said OK Lord, I hate it here, I miss my family, I don't understand but if it is here that you want me to be I will stay(I won't like it, but I'll do it).  Doors began to open and within a year we moved closer to family and in warmer climate.  I can't imagine what I would have done, if I had known that I'd be there for over eight years.  I wonder what would have happened if instead of constantly stamping my foot, refusing to be a part of this place, I had enjoyed it.  What if I had learned to ski?  What if I had become a part of the community?  What if I had said on day one, Lord, if this is where you want me to stay, I will?  I often wonder if we'd come home a lot sooner.  In all probability, it would have been something much grander than all of that.  You see, when you allow God to be in charge, the possibilities are so much greater than your imagination can even dream. 

This recovery is so scary to me.  Do I have the courage to say Lord, your time and not mine?  In the beginning, my prayers were, send me a miracle.  I want him cured without the possibility of relapse.  Then they moved to please give him strength and perseverance.  Now, they are a whisper of thy will not mine, but please, please help me.  This road could take over eight years....until I am could take a lifetime.  Fear and anxiety plague so many of my wakeful moments.  They wake me from sleep.  They make me weary.  My dearest friend gave me a wonderful book called the Abandonment to Divine Providence.  The topic is of course abandoning your will to the will of God. walking away from...our will.  But wait, I'm so worried.  What will happen if I don't put in the work of worry....something will surely go wrong, right?   Oddly enough, I think that is what I am thinking.  Steps Two and Three ...turn our will over to the will of God so that He might restore us to sanity.  But, how do we just let go...walk away?  I need a plan.  I need clear instructions with pictures.  St. Therese had some really good advice:  "If I did not simply live from one moment to the next, it would be impossible for me to keep my patience.  I can see only the present, I forget the past and take good care not to think about the future.  We get discouraged and feel dispair because we brood about the past and the future.  It is such folly to pass one's time fretting, instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus."  Resting quietly on the heart of Jesus....comforting do I get to that level of trust and confidence?  I guess it will take time and prayer and practice in waiting on His will. 

As I travel this new reality of my life, and I am waiting on my Lord for direction, I already have received so many gifts.  Maybe not THE big gift of this to be over, but gifts of people that I never would have met, seeing the goodness of so many who surround my family, getting to know my son again, my girls finding strength and amazing me with their loving hearts and resiliant spirits and finally learning many truths about myself, like it or not, that I needed to learn.  So, for today, my prayer is for the ability to abandon my will to God's will and to do it with great confidence and as always a prayer for Henry.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rebuilding Trust

This roller coaster ride that I am taking, is making me tired.  I highly recommend a journal or blog because putting these fears and thoughts down in tangible form helps me to organize and better understand my feelings so that I can address my concerns, not just fret.  As my son embarks upon the journey of recovery, the issues that need attention are endless.  His heart, mind, body and soul have been so altered during drug use, that all of his ideas and experiences couldn't have been clear. He has so much to catch up on.  One of the things that rehab tries to accomplish, is to figure out if there is another problem, such as ADHD or another mental illness to determine if the patient is trying to self medicate.  What are all of the issues?  Treating all of the problems, helps so much in the success of the recovery. 

Mom's like to fix things.  My wrist has been slapped by many a counselors for all of the fixing I've been doing.  After all, look where we are.  I really didn't do such a hot job.  Right now, I'm dealing with me.  It may seem like this total focus is him, but it's not.  I am still working step 2 and trying to find the will of God to follow and to allow Him to restore me to sanity.  I know your thinking, tall order, huh?  As my son decides to embark upon caring for himself, he has so very much to learn and it scares the bejeebers out of me.  His expectations of what he wants and what he expects to contribute to get those things, don't seem to add up.  His lack of not thinking like me (yesterdays post) sends the fear shooting through my veins faster than anything.  Sometimes, after slowing down and listening, I can become calm.  When his thoughts are a black and white, number crunching, you can't afford to do this without working this much and he disagrees, I'm scared.  This is reality Bud.  Maybe you haven't been present lately, but here's how it works.  He doesn't know how to manage money.  He can't seem to organize or clean his room.  He's not sure about what he'd like to study.  He seems inconsistent.  They tell us that insanity is doing the same things and expecting a different outcome.  While he isn't using drugs, he is doing many of the things he used to do with regard to his everyday care.  This is what scares me.  Is this just something teachable?  Does he just need to learn life skills?  Can his ADHD be managed?  Can he slow down and think things through before acting?  These are just things, symptoms.  The bigger problem at the very bottom of all of this is trust.  How do you trust the person who has lied for so long.  The person that really doesn't consider how important trust really is.  He is trying, but when that trust is so very fragile, every action you take can either build trust or question it. 

Stephen Covey, says that "Trust is the highest form of human motivation.  It brings out the very best in people.  But it takes time and patience and it doesn't preclude the necessity to train and develop people so that their competency can rise to the level of that trust."  Okay, after reading that statement, I have hope.  I need hope.  Hope sustains me.  I began researching trust building and I found a few wonderful articles with concrete steps that not only define trust but tell you how to get there.  I've copied them for my son.  I will tell him that if he wants me to trust him, here is a road map.  I don't know if the counselor will slap my wrist for this or not.  I am still learning.  I am trying to clearly understand my concerns and ask for what I want.  I want him to recover more than anything.  I think that if you are a trustworthy person that people come to depend and rely on, it will feel good and give you confidence.  Yes, I want to be able to trust my son.  That is for me.  But, being trustworthy is also for him.  Today I pray for my son to be willing to work on being a trustworthy person.  And I pray for Henry.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fools Rush In

I am a talker.  I simply talk too much.  The twelve steps and the practice of them teach us that in order to restore ourselves to sanity that we have to turn our will over to our higher power.  I can easily accept that "concept".  But, really, how do we put that into practice every day?  These 12 steps are so amazing to me.  If you haven't been exposed to them, you should check them out.  You do not have to be an addict to need the 12 steps.  You don't even have to be a family member of an addict to use them.  To me, they apply to everyone.  They can apply to any situation.  Bottom line here, we are simply not and have never been in control.  The reason that I live in my particular situation today is the direct result of my talking and not listening to the will of God. 

So, just how do we listen?  I'm so particularly inept at this skill that I looked up the definition of the word listen.  The verb to listen is to give attention with the ear, to attend closely for the purpose of hearing, to give ear.  Lastly, it says to pay attention, to heed and obey.  Ok, I usually hear what is being said but to heed and obey when it's not my idea.....well....that's where the rubber meets the road. 

One of my very favorite movies is an older one with Salma Hayek, called Fools Rush In.  She was a very devout catholic who believed that God gave us signs and they were everywhere.  Her husband who was less grounded in his faith didn't really believe that.  But, as time passed he came to believe because he started to notice.  He started to feel that this was too orchestrated to be coincidental.  He started to trust. 

So, I've been a lousy listener.  Pig headed, wanting my way not God's way.  I'd like the easy, less painful way that is my idea with a side of I want it right now, thank you very much.  Well, my way, my vision have been just lousy.  Easy didn't make the real issue go away.   Ignoring the signs, the intuitions, being too fearful to really look the devil in the eye just haven't worked.  So, now Lord you have my attention.  I am willing to listen. 

Guess what,  there are signs everywhere!  Who would have thunk?  In family group night of my son's intensive outpatient therapy, you can listen and find nuggets of truth everywhere.  Tiny messages meant to hit home with other members of the group, a perspective not yet considered, a life line, hope, compassion and understanding of what you are going through.  I think I just needed to have my eyes opened.

There is one mom there that I have really connected to.  Her son also attended rehab with mine.  Her son is married and his wife also attends.  They are a wonderful family.  She made a comment one night, that really hit home for me.  She always knew that her son shared many of her attributes.  For example, she mentioned that they were both procrastinators.  She felt that because they shared so many qualities that her expectation of the way that he reacted to situations, the way he thought about things and  the choices he made should be much like the choices that she would have made.  She had to realize that he was not her.  She had to stop getting upset when he didn't react the way she would have.  It didn't make it wrong, just uniquely him.  That was me.  I expected my son to react like me and when he didn't it couldn't possibly be normal.  I am the poster child for normal, right?  Boy when you type out your real honest to goodness thoughts, it becomes painfully evident just how big a fool you really are.  Thomas Merton said that, "The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not to twist them to fit our own image." 

My son recently decided that maybe a half way house would be an environment that  could better serve him during the early part of this journey.  I recoiled at the thought of this idea.  I couldn't keep my eye on him.  Those folks couldn't possibly care about his well being like I could, but, I listened to him, REALLY, listened for a change.  Mom, he says, it is here with you guys that I got high.  It is in this area where I can't get out of the people, places and things that I used to do.  It is with other people going through recovery that I can learn.  I need to learn to take care of myself for a change.  I need to be on my own to learn to be on my own.  This is a safe place to start.  His counselor agrees.  He made a great argument.  I have to say that I agree with him.  I'm a little impressed by him.  I could not have seen this perspective if I hadn't listened and a few months back, I probably wouldn't have heard anything outside my thoughts and ideas.

Today, my prayer is to have the wisdom to never stop listening to God.  Whether He speaks to me in my thoughts or he gives me visible signs, I pray that I can stop my own thoughts in order to hear his.  And, I pray for my son's ability to listen to God's direction, the strength to carry out His will and the perseverance for his journey.  And, as always I pray for Henry.