A major characteristic of genuine love is that the distinction between oneself and the other is always maintained and preserved. – M. Scott Peck
I used to be obsessed with rescuing my daughter. In the early days (make that years) of her addiction, I devoted countless hours to worrying about her, nagging her, arguing with her, and trying to figure out where she was and what she was doing. My main purpose in life became trying to solve her problems – in other words, trying to rescue her.
I arranged counseling appointments and drove her to meetings. I searched her room for evidence of drugs and listened in on phone conversations. I studied her face for signs of trouble: was she high, was she lying, was she sick, was she depressed? What was going on?
There was nothing wrong with my motivation: I wanted to save my daughter from a horrible life and possibly death.
The trouble was, in the process of trying to save her, I lost myself. My own friendships and interests faded into the background. My energies and passions were all directed at her. She became the sole focus of my existence, even to the exclusion of my other children and grandchildren.
She came to resent me, of course, and our relationship grew increasingly strained. Worst of all, none of my efforts made much of a difference. She went to meetings and therapists, but only because I badgered her to. Eventually, she moved in with a boyfriend – also an addict – and continued to use. I felt miserable and helpless and walked around with a knot in the pit of my stomach all the time.
Fortunately, I found a wonderful Nar-Anon group that was welcoming and wise. Everyone in it knew exactly what I was going through. They didn’t judge me and they didn’t tell me how to solve my problems. Gradually, I began to understand that the best thing I could do for my daughter was to become as healthy as I could be. How could I hope to be a positive influence if my own thoughts and emotions were in constant turmoil?
For her sake and mine, I had to accept that she is a separate person who is responsible for her own life, just as I am responsible for mine. The only person I can control is myself.
I still forget this important lesson at times. A couple of weeks ago my daughter was depressed and I was ready to jump in with advice. She firmly told me that she would figure it out on her own. “My life was so out of control for such a long time, I need to feel like I can control my own life,” she told me.
It was a gentle but clear reminder of the importance of boundaries in maintaining healthy relationships.
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My biggest powers are acceptance and unconditional love.