We Have the Power
As parents who love a child suffering with the disease of addiction, we may often feel fragile, but we are strong. And we are many. Considering the trauma we have already endured—and survived—and the millions of others who have endured and survived similar trauma along with us, it’s clear we have the strength and numbers to achieve whatever we put our collective minds to. With our words and our actions, we have the power to overpower the destruction that addiction spreads, each of us a virtual dandelion, growing, maturing, and scattering seeds of truth and understanding into the wind, rooted in a world-sized field of other parents scattering their own seeds of truth and understanding, too.
Our children are sick. They suffer from a disease as devastating and deadly as many other diseases. However, too often, they are looked upon as derelicts, pariahs, and losers instead of people caught in the grip of an agonizing compulsion. But we have the power to change the way the world sees and reacts to the disease of addiction—and therefore, to our beloved addicts, too.
Change won’t happen overnight, but it won’t happen at all unless we make it happen. So let’s get started. Treatment and recovery will be more easily pursued, accessed, and managed once addiction is accepted and treated like the disease that it is, instead of like a disgrace.
We have the power to make the world a friendlier place for those suffering with the disease of addiction, a world where comfort will start showing up on doorsteps, baked into Bundt cakes and casseroles, just as it is for every other disease.
Change happens when we turn pain into power. Addiction is horrible enough without us making it worse. But, too often, hurt, fear, helplessness, and grief ignite into a towering inferno of angry words—heat, combustion, and flaming destruction—both with The Addict and pretty much everyone else. We do have the power, however, to redirect our hurts and fears into something constructive. We do have the power to take control of the things we say and do. We do have the power to take the poison out of the pain by consciously and carefully filling the hole in our hearts and lives with goodness, not badness; kindness, not madness. With respect, tolerance, patience, and generosity of spirit, we have the power to calm the volatile dynamics brought on by the disease of addiction and to spread seeds of healing outward, one by one, far and wide.
Change happens when we talk about addiction. Addiction is a disease and nothing to be ashamed of. Period. (Neither is any other mental illness or disease, by the way, the affliction of which is very often avoided by luck.) So we have a message to spread. A stigma to erase. A truth to be shared so it can absorbed and finally understood. We can start by telling just one other person that we love an addict. Today. Try it out. Shame, guilt, fear of judgment and blame be damned. Every time we say, out loud, “I love my child. I’m sad, not ashamed, he’s an addict,” it becomes easier to say it again. It becomes easier for those around us to believe addiction is a disease, not a disgrace (including our beloved addicts) and easier for someone else who is hurting to release their own soul-killing secret, too.
We have the power to help the people around us to see beyond the stereotypes and stigma. To bring the human tragedy of addiction up close. We have the power to open eyes and hearts and minds—not only to help our children survive this deadly disease, but also to help create a world in which they can thrive.
Change happens when we help others—when we turn our helplessness into power by aiming our actions and reactions in a new direction. Too often, we feel shackled, unable to do anything productive when faced with this disease that is so frustratingly—but realistically—not in our control. As with any disease, the treatment plan for addiction is ultimately in the hands of the person who is addicted to manage; no one can take someone else’s medicine for them. But even when we’re unable to help our beloved addicts directly, our love and hope have the power to come full circle. By reaching out to help someone who feels every bit as helpless as we do; by reaching out to help someone going through a rough patch; by saying or doing something, anything, that might help someone to head off on a better course—we, each one of us, have the power to send love and hope outward in ripples and waves. Drifting, bumping, floating into the lives of those we cannot reach on our own.
Change happens one day, one word, one step at a time.
“We may often feel fragile, but we are strong. And we are many.
We have the power to overpower the destruction that addiction spreads.”
Sandra Swenson is the author of (Central Recovery Press 2014), Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children (Hazelden 2017), the Readings for Moms of Addicts app (Hazelden 2018), and her blog.
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My biggest powers are acceptance and unconditional love.