“I’m Done”

by Pam Jones Lanhart
June 29, 2020

”I‘m done.“

I have heard that phrase hundreds of times from parents who are at their wits’ end with their addicted loved one. I know the feeling.

In the summer of 2013 I was done. My son was young, just 16. We could have never asked him to leave our home (short of emancipation), but we also couldn’t force him into treatment anymore. He had to be willing to sign himself in, and he was far from willing.

And I was done.

I couldn’t do “it” anymore (whatever “it was). I didn’t like who I was. I didn’t like what our home had become. I didn’t like what my marriage had turned into. I didn’t like what my behaviors were doing to my son and our other children. And as I sat in front of a trusted advisor in tears, asking what to do, he looked at me and said, “Are you going to be right for the sake of justice, or are you going to love for the sake of the relationship? Because love never fails.” And I was done. But not in the way you would think.

I was done . . . treating my son like he was bad, rather than ill.
I was done . . . taking the behaviors of the disease of addiction personally.
I was done . . . instigating confrontation.
I was done . . . being mean, unkind, nasty, and perpetuating the notion of “tough love.”
I was done . . . placing demands on other people.
I was done . . . putting my expectations on my son.
I was done . . . putting societal expectations on my son.
I was done . . . demanding that his recovery look a certain way and be measured by my time line.
I was done . . . perpetuating stigma about the disease.
I was done . . . worrying about the future and projecting failure.
I was done . . . wasting precious moments that I would never get back.

I was ready to change.

I began . . . to learn about addiction from the perspective of behavioral science and neuroscience, and I began to see my son as suffering and not as “bad”.
I began . . . to understand that his behaviors made sense to him; he was just trying to survive. They were the symptoms of the disease and were not about me.
I began . . . to realize that I played a part in the chaos in our family. I began to do my own hard work, looking at the patterns that I needed to change in my own life.
I began . . . to learn how to love well, treating my son like a human being with intrinsic value. I learned how to set my boundaries in love, for my own safety and to simply allow my son to experience natural consequences, moving from a punitive mentality to a restorative way of being.
I began . . . communicating better, removing “tellling,” “you have to,” “you need to,” and “if you would just” statements from my vocabulary.
I began . . . to learn how to empower my son to make his own decisions and work his own recovery.
I began . . . to understand that change is not linear and it takes time, so I needed patience.
I began . . . to understand that this may take time, but all I have is time.
I began . . . to make every moment count with my son, knowing that I may not have him tomorrow.
I began . . . to practice compassion, not just with those around me but also with myself. Two steps forward, one step back—and that is okay.

And as I began . . .

I found peace.
I found joy.
I found love.

And I found real hope. Not “pie in the sky” hope but the hope that came from a repaired relationship with my beautiful boy. Hope that came from connection. The hope that came in a newfound atmosphere in our home. The hope that came in a life that was no longer coping or surviving but actually thriving. I found hope in the deep understanding that we were going to be okay. No matter what happened.

We were going to be okay.

Connect with Pam at pam@pamlanhart.com or check out her book and blogs at www.pamlanhart.com.

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  1. I love this and it is where I want to be right now. I just don’t understand what that looks like, in real life, on a day-to-day basis. Am I supposed to be accepting of the weed and alcohol use? Where is the line? I realize I am taking the weed use personally, which is a great eye opener for me. How specifically did you find the peace, joy and love you need and re-establish the relationship you wanted with your son? Thank you.

    • Kate, this is so hard and I understand your journey. There were two parts. Practical skills that are informed by CRAFT and the book Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change. And an internal shifting that was informed by really digging deep into my own values, healing the trauma I had in my own life and understand my son’s intrinsic value regardless of his addiction (I recommend the book The Anatomy of Peace as a starting point). So I stopped telling, woulding, shoulding or saying “you need to” and starting asking questions with the stance of curiosity. Sobriety stopped being a requirement for relationship but mutual respect was so I practiced kindness and tenderness, validation and affirmation. But also had boundaries so that I was safe emotionally and physically. Our relationship is great (he is in recovery). But even before recovery by changing my way of being with him I became a safe place for him to come to ask for help. When he wanted treatment he knew he could reach out to me. He will say that my parents had boundaries but they were kind and compassionate and loving towards me. I noticed that when I started changing the way I interacted with him, he started changing the way he was with me. We so often get caught up in a cycle. So we never supported him financially and in fact, he hasn’t lived with us since he was 19 (because I couldn’t love him well with him using in my home) but we stayed close. We took him groceries, took him out to eat, took him to work at times, my husband would take him camping. We did these things knowing he was using and just met him where he was at. And then when the natural consequences built up and he got tired we had good resources available for him. And when it was time we walked WITH him through that. We did 3-way calls. We supported his choices and didn’t insist that his recovery look a certain way. I would highly recommend the book Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change as a starting point. Sending you a big, virtual hug Kate!

      • Thank you Pam, I appreciate the feedback.

  2. Thank you for sharing this Pam. This really helped me. I have finally come to understand exactly what you said so well. Very powerful. Sending you peace.

    • Thank you Carol! And to you as well.

  3. I really needed this, this am. I held a 50th birthday for our daughter last night, with her 3 siblings, their spouses and 5 of our 10 grand-God-gifts. When we first began the dark journey of alcoholism, we thought it would be a short trip, however, here we are with her turning 50 and still struggling. She is a single mom (never married) with a 26 year son and she also has asthma & diabetes. My hope rests in Christ and I keep telling her the Lord has some marvelous plans for her because HE has saved her life on numerous occasions. Let’s hold each other in prayer and always find something to be grateful for.

    • This’s is beautiful Mary. You may really love my book Praying Our Loved One Home. It’s available on my website http://www.pamlanhart.com/book. What I really love is that you are cherishing precious moments with her in spite of her substance use. You aren’t insisting that she changes before you have a relationship. Boundaries kindness, compassion and love = connection and the opposite of addiction is connection. Love your heart! And yes, I will pray!

  4. My son has relapsed after a month shy of 7 yrs clean. He isn’t a teenager anymore but a husband with a beautiful 2 1/2 year old lil girl. I feel like I’m constantly asking did you do this, did you remember to do that. That honestly makes him do less. He is to start IOP tomorrow. He hasn’t done anything else his therapist has asked him to. I have been in this bubble for the past 7 yrs of enjoying his sobriety and thinking he would never go back. My bubble has burst and I feel like I’m spiraling into hell and trying to save him, his marriage, and my sweet granddaughter. It is breaking my heart. I know he has to want it and do it. I just don’t want this sweet lil girl who thinks the moon and stars hang on her dad hurt???

    • I am so sorry that you are going through this. I have learned that my response to a lapse makes all of the difference. Be there without shaming, blaming or judging. I can assure you that your son doesn’t NOT want to be where he’s at right now and still thinks he can correct this on his own. Not getting in the way of the natural consequences and staying close to him, his wife and that baby girl are your best response at this time. Kindness, tenderness, understanding and love can change outcomes of relapses in many cases. Remember that he’s not bad, he’s ill. And keep yourself healthy! Stay in your own recovery. Keep doing the things that you know you need to do to be in a place of peace. Sending you much love!

  5. Pam….how does a mother who lost her child deal with the fact that she didn’t get a chance to learn how to compassionately respond? While I do believe I started to “learn” how to respond just in the month or two before my son’s death; I find myself beating myself up that I didn’t know all this early on when we were hit with the realization of his problems fast and furiously and they spiraled out of control from there. (we only had about 19 months between finding out about his problem and his death…..and 9 months of that time he was incarcerated) I didn’t know the real struggle; I didn’t know they couldn’t just “quit”; I didn’t know the possible hurt behind the substance abuse use; I just didn’t know….anything. To my credit; I did read and read and read…..however, I learnt the methods you teach much too late. It eats away at my soul. My only consolation is knowing that you, too, (as I think you’ve shared)…..responded in all the wrong ways in the beginning and that your son is still alive and in recovery……but I can’t somehow feel like if I’d known all the right “stuff” when I was thrown in the midst of it all, if things might have turned out differently. My heart aches and breaks. I know there may be no answer, but wondered if you might have any words to console a parent who lives with regret for just not knowing? I wish I had had more time…….I feel like I failed my boy…….. I wish I had a re-do. I just wish.

  6. Candy, I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. There are no words that adequately express my heartbreak for you. Candy, I believe you were chosen to be your son’s mother. And he was chosen to be your son. And it was a perfect match. I KNOWW that you were the very best mom that you knew how to be while your son was struggling. You were just the mom he needed. Practicing self-compassion and self-forgiveness will be so critical. We can do the best we can (which I know you did) but we will never do life perfectly. You will have to find that place in your spirit of knowing. Knowing that you truly did the very best you could with everything you knew to be true at the time. I will also say that our non-profit, Thrive Family Support is starting a virtual grief from substance loss support group in just a couple of weeks. It will be offered through zoom. If you would like to learn more about that feel free to email me at Pam@thrivefamilysupport.org and I will send you more info on that group. Please know that you are not alone and I am sending you much love this morning.

  7. I have a addict child. He is 32 years old. He’s been incarcerated for almost one year. He has had many success with recovery but always failed at some point or another with relapse. This last relapse sent him straight to jail. My heart is broken and the extreme fear that lives in my heart of how he is going to manage his life once he is out. He will be released to an Inpatient rehab (court ordered) but who knows for how long and will this time be his “rock bottom” also, with the stringent charges against him I wonder how he will successfully manage his life without getting stressed out and feeling hopeless. And possibly turn to the one thing that gives him relief. (Drugs, and Alcohol) My scares are lacerated cuts that run deep within my Soul. My only consolation is prayer. And knowing And believing that God has a plan for his life because he has saved him on so many occasions it’s unreal.

    • Mary Jane. I completely understand. I remember feeling filleted in all of this. Like I was the one bleeding out even though my person was the one with the disease. You might love my book Praying Our Loved One Home. It reflects my thoughts and prayers as I was in the most broken place on my journey. It’s available on my website http://www.pamlanhart.com. Know that you and your son will be in my prayers.

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