Staying in My Lane

by Nancy Downing
May 22, 2019

A wonderful fellow Nar-Anon member has shared a great analogy for working our own program and staying out of the way of our addicted children, who are finding their own paths. She says that, just as when she is driving her car, she needs to “stay in my own lane.”

We all know how we try to “show” other drivers the “correct” way to drive by tailgating, flashing lights, honking, or even making aggressive gestures. Usually, the other driver stays unaware of our efforts, chooses to ignore us, or even gives us the finger. Our attempts to control others’ driving behaviors never bear fruit and, in some cases, exacerbate the situation. We need to recognize the futility of our actions and how far they take us away from Serenity.

The manner in which many of us try to control our addicted children is even more ludicrous. It is as if we are hanging out our car window, reaching into the car next to us, and trying to steer the other car as we are both hurtling down the highway. We are not only endangering ourselves, but also the lives of our other passengers, who are depending on us to drive our own car. This is the insanity of trying to control our addicts and the swath of hurt and dysfunction that result from our own addiction to the addict.

Now, if we stay in our own lanes and work on our own recovery, at the very least we can keep ourselves safe, as well as tend to the well-being of those who are closest to us—our spouses, our other children. If we stay in our lanes, we can move forward and even enjoy the journey and the company of those who travel with us. If we have the good fortune of our children working their own recovery, perhaps they and we will arrive at the same destinations along the road.

I first came up with this share during a three-hour drive to chapel at Caron Treatment Center in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. Our daughter was still early in her recovery, just over five months. She was living in Bel Air, Pennsylvania, over an hour away from us. It was her suggestion for us to attend chapel on New Year’s Day. We planned to meet at Caron early that morning.

My daughter was, and still is, notorious for not being able to wake up in the morning. However, I was working my program and understood that I needed to trust her to figure things out, including getting herself up at the crack of dawn. As a mom, you can probably understand how hard it was to resist making that innocent “good morning” call that day. But I stayed in my lane.

My husband drove as I prepared my story to share at chapel about staying in my lane as my daughter moved forward along her road to recovery, hoping to meet her at points along our parallel journeys. We came off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and stopped at the light at the end of the exit ramp. At that point, my husband looked in the rearview mirror and said, “Look who’s right behind us.” 

Miraculously, there was our daughter, in her car, right behind us. We traveled the last few miles and arrived together.

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Nancy Downing

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