Recovery — The Tough Road
When I discovered my son was an addict, I struggled with denial and anger at the same time. He kept his worlds totally separate—the “drug world” and the “other world.” He could be whatever anyone wanted him to be in any and every situation . . . until he got caught in his lies. He took pride in his chameleon behavior. I felt a lot of guilt for not seeing through his façade, and as a result, it took me a long time to accept that he was an addict. I spent months soul searching and agonizing over how I could have missed the signs pointing to his addiction. I was blinded by the unconditional love of a mother for her child and afraid to face the inconsistencies I saw in his behavior. We are called to love our children unconditionally, but what does love look like when dealing with someone in the throes of addiction?
Anger is generally the first emotion I feel. I don’t feel hurt or sad; I feel angry. I now know that underneath the anger is sadness. Through my own recovery, I’ve learned that I have shut out many of my feelings, just like addicts do. I didn’t want to feel; I didn’t want to hurt. Growing up in an alcoholic home, I learned to compartmentalize my feelings as a survival technique. There was so much uncertainty. On any given night, I never knew which of us kids would be the target of my Dad’s verbal abuse once he started drinking. The crazy thing was that, the day after, we would all act like nothing had happened. There were no apologies, no explanations, nothing. Just silence. The only thing I knew to do with those feelings was to put them away. That was how my sensitive heart survived, and I carried that with me into adulthood.
Acceptance of my own son’s addiction did not come easy for me. Acceptance is a key component in Step One of the Twelve Steps. Acceptance is realizing we are powerless over not only alcohol, but the alcoholic as well as persons, places, situations, and, many times, our own thoughts and feelings. My sponsor told me over and over that acceptance is the key. I had to accept that I couldn’t then and cannot now get people to do things the way I think they should be done. True acceptance is our only real source of peace.
What is the meaning of acceptance? Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it. The concept is close in meaning to acquiescence, derived from the Latin acquiēscere (to find rest in). Acceptance is saying, “It is what it is, and what is, is what is.” You do not have to agree with something or even like it in order to accept it. Acceptance is not permission, authorization, sanction, agreement, sympathy, endorsement, backing, maintaining, aiding, abetting, or even liking what is. It’s not a seal of approval of unacceptable behavior. Acceptance is a state of being and not an action directed at another person.
When I accept, I relax and let go. I become patient—patient with myself for the times I obsess over my son’s recovery, patient with my family and with my spouse, and even patient with God. This means believing that God is at work and His timing is perfect, even when it doesn’t seem like change is happening. One of my favorite quotes is “Patience with others is love, patience with self is hope, and patience with God is faith” (Adel Bestavros).
There is a calmness of heart that I experience every time I pray the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Below is a clip from the documentary ASK. Caleb, who is in recovery, and his mother each recount the same story from their own perspective. Here is an example of a mom who has fully accepted her own powerlessness, the impact that has on her son, and the freedom they both experience. May we all grow in our serenity every day as we accept our lives just as they are today.
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My biggest powers are acceptance and unconditional love.