Young people don’t come into a recovery community of their own volition. As parents we discovered that our son or daughter was out of control, a danger to themselves and others, was wasting their lives away addicted to drugs and alcohol, and was possibly in eminent danger of dying. We had to do something; it’s written in the unwritten code of parenthood.
Safety Was Our Number One Concern
Our entire lives have consisted of being the Chief Officers in Charge of Health and Wellness. Our sole purpose was to raise good child-people, keep them healthy and safe, and then push them out of the archetypal nest so they could soar on their own.
With addiction to drugs and alcohol the entire game changed, we were rocked to our cores and we landed in a foreign country where we didn’t speak or understand the language. But through our diligence – because parents are diligent – we located a recovery community and our child found sobriety.
When Things Don’t Go As Planned
Whew! Well…maybe not. My experience (being the parent of a young person once in and now out of recovery) has shown me that the parent who has a true ownership of surrender brought about by an unwavering relationship with and trust in God is able to depersonalize their son’s sobriety. Still loving them without strings attached.
When my son first got sober I was thrilled beyond words. This was the answer to all my prayers. Besides the fact that I had secured an established recovery community for him where he was safe and learning to live sober… I felt safe now as well. His sobriety became my sobriety; my family rallied around him, supported him and encouraged him along the way. I lived, ate and breathed everything that he was going through. In the parent groups we spoke about detachment, yes, I had detached… I thought. But the truth was, I was heavily invested in his sobriety.
Co-dependence Undermines Surrender – Sober or Not
I didn’t realize this about myself until my son relapsed almost seven years later. I was massively co-dependent and attached to the quality of his sobriety. At the time, I would have denied it, but it was true. I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride because he had long-term sobriety. I bragged about it, it made me feel good. After a few years, the fear of him possibly relapsing disappeared but I was still co-dependent. And co-dependence – rampant in addiction and recovery, plus an addiction itself – is detrimental to a true ownership of surrender.
I have found a direct connection between the parent who is so gung-ho, such a cheerleader for their child’s sobriety – and the parent who is devastated by their child’s relapse. There is no difference. It’s like being on a teeter-totter – you’re either up or you’re down but it’s the same ride – the real goal is to balance in the middle.
Parents can get their kids sober all-day long, we’re good at it. We are decisive, informed and we do our research. We know how to rally around and support, but what we forget is that young people don’t choose to get sober; we (parents) choose this for them. Hopefully it sticks but young addicts have to find their own way and sometimes that means they aren’t done using. Parents may not want to hear this but it is true. The good news is, they know where to go when they are ready to come back to recovery.
A Spiritual Awakening Significant to Bring About Lasting Surrender
The time will come when turning over our investment in whether our kids stay sober or not is all that is left to do. I’m not speaking about detaching during a weekend workshop or in our weekly meeting of Al Anon. I’m talking about a continuous, meditative, “on-your-knees” heart opening surrender that changes someone on a cellular level. Finding that still, quiet space within takes practice but mostly it takes faith. Getting to the place where I knew that I could get through anything and that my son has his own path came as a result of not feeling separate from the Divine.
When I cultivate a relationship with God and trust that all is well, I have the space to accept my son for where he is in his life. When I put my stock in greater things to come – in the spiritual sense – I find comfort and I shift beyond merely thinking: “I love him but I don’t like his behavior.” I can see that he is addicted and in this lifetime, this is how it is. When I sit amidst chaos – in the center of the fire that devours everything I thought I knew and wanted and longed for – l remain open to the joy and the love and the promise of a better day to come. I am a spiritual being taking part in every experience planet Earth is offering, I am changed again and again and again.