You Get What You Tolerate
Dr. MacAfee, my son’s beloved addiction therapist, told me: “You get what you tolerate. Whatever behavior you accept will continue.”
As I reflect on the 14 years of my son’s addiction, there are many situations in which I tolerated his lies, manipulations, and deep hurts. This constant barrage of problem after problem beat me down. I continued to enable because I was afraid of what would happen to him if I didn’t. However, I learned, in time, that I was powerless. Only he could fix his addiction.
My daily journal entries provide a written record of his journey. Below is one excerpt that highlights my recognition of the roller-coaster we were on, my desperate desire to get off, but my inability to do so.
Journal entry, August 4, 2003, 8:43 a.m.
I don’t know what to do, what to say, so I repeat the mantras from Al-Anon, “One day at a time,” “Let go and let God.” These words are the only threads on which to hold. I wonder when I just lock up my heart and leave Jeff out? When do I live my life without adapting it for my son? He’s not grateful, and I can do nothing that will change his behavior. I must realize that what I choose to do, I do for myself. Part of me wants to run away, to escape it all; part of me stays, hoping to support his recovery. Enough is enough. I’m exhausted, but I need to go forward.
Outside I hear the kids laugh, a pure innocent laughter. I ache to hear Jeff laugh again. I ache for him to find his soul, free and clear of the demons.
Jeremy, my younger son, just left a voice mail, “Momma, this shit is breaking my heart.”
My reflection: As my son’s addiction took over his life, his lies, manipulation, and destructive behavior became more pervasive. With every low, I thought, “This is his bottom,” and I rushed in to save him from the consequences of his actions. The more chaos I allowed myself to be subjected to, the worse things got.
Today’s promise to consider: We, parents of addicts, sacrifice our own well-being as we adjust to the chaos of addiction within our families. The consequences of the addict’s behavior must be his to bear. We reach out in love and stay close, but we need to keep ourselves safe too. For me, firm boundaries were imperative, as was being a part of a support group that understood what I was going through and held me accountable. We cannot continue to tolerate the intolerable.