My time as a New Life House parent gave me so much more than I could have ever expected. I came in emotionally numb and truly not understanding the many facets of Avi’s disease or what my role should be in his recovery. I didn’t have much difficulty letting go: I was playing the tambourine and singing to the Oldies on my way home that first day!
But I really appreciated having lots of other parents to talk with. I soon learned my experiences with Avi were similar to so many of them. I began to realize kids with drug problems come from all kinds of families; those with all the credentials and advantages, and those with less. And while some members in the family had drug problems, often their siblings did not. It was reassuring to me.
I learned a lot by coming up every Saturday to attend the parent and family meetings. Parents with more time than I kept repeating “trust the house.” Initially, this seemed a bit “cult-ish.” But it is true. The managers are carefully selected, experienced, and extremely well supervised. Interventions for unacceptable behavior are discussed with upper management and are designed to promote growth. Appropriate consequences, not punishment are put into action by house members taking accountability for their actions. You can see this in house members’ newfound ability to identify and discuss character flaws through others, while at the same time learning about them selves. They learn to be honest with each other and to trust each other. They learn that keeping secrets and collusion are counterproductive to sobriety. They learn the consequences that can result in relapse, jail, or worse. It was always been reassuring to me to see how well members with more time and graduates coming back for birthday cakes are doing. The house works. Our job is to be consistent in letting the process do its work.
The other important thing I learned is to “run everything by the house manager.” Our sons tend to respond to various circumstances in self-defeating ways. While in the house we don’t know what they may be dealing with at any given time. News that their dog has died, the house caught fire, or Dad got diagnosed with a serious illness may be just the impetus they need to leave the house, perhaps even with it appearing they are just taking honorable action. This isn’t to say they should be kept ignorant of important information. But, house managers know what is going on with our sons at any given time. They can make a plan to present this information with proper timing and emotional support. I have seen them deal with crises with intelligence and maturity that is awe-inspiring. Bottom line: Letting go isn’t giving up. It is changing our role with our sons, while giving them the chance to grow and recover.