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.
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My biggest powers are acceptance and unconditional love.