Before he entered New Life House and before he admitted having a substance abuse problem, I was an enabler to my son, with the best intentions.
I was an enabler when I made excuses for him. I was an enabler when his consequences/punishments for violating our family’s rules relating to curfew, underage drinking and drug use were inconsistently applied.
I was an enabler when I would try to coach him on how to be a good son and grandson by being conversational with his family, and not being so isolated. (During a family ski vacation, my son was participating in a card game with cousins. He was having fun and laughing. It was so unusual to see him smile, that I grabbed my camera to take a photograph. I asked that the other family members quickly jump into the photo so that I could treasure this family photo with my son with a rare smile on his face).
When marijuana use became a habit, as directed by an addiction specialist, I started buying home drug test kits from Amazon, and I ended up going through 18 kits. It wasn’t until later that I learned I was enabling my son into using new substances that are undetected on the home drug tests that I was purchasing.
Rescuing him from his mistakes was another one of my futile habits. For instance, if he had consumed alcohol before his 4:00 work shift, I was there to yank away the source of the alcohol and race him to his job with his shoes and uniform under my arm, as he sauntered to my car for a ride.
Not only did our home, our perfect sanctuary, became a place to hide drugs and alcohol, but now young men were entering and exiting our home who we did not even recognize. Those we did recognize were “friends” whose main concern was the next party, whether it be on the weekend, before school on late-start days, or after school.
To sum it up, the way it was before taking meaningful action, nearly every waking moment was spent (a) tracking my son’s whereabouts via our cell phone provider’s website; (b) making sure he did his homework which he was apathetic about completing; (c) checking the school’s online homework assignments for him; (d) making appointments with the substance abuse specialist; (e) searching for, finding and confronting him about empty bottles of alcohol found at various places in our home; (f) requesting urine tests and mailing the samples to the lab.
On the final day of use – I think of it as survivor’s day – we began truly building what was the beginning of the three A’s: awareness, acceptance and action. For me, carrying out the three A’s began with full awareness, which I had for so long been in denial, followed by action to send him to a 60-day drug addiction treatment center. Acceptance, however, has been a long and difficult road for me.
The moment I was advised to find an Al Anon meeting, I did not waste any time because I was desperate for my own recovery. I really needed help accepting my son’s terrible life choices and how damaging it was to my beautiful family that I lovingly poured my heart into. Acceptance, detachment and gratitude have become my new ambitions.
The acceptance I now have allows me to get on with my life. I no longer have to be pushed and pulled by my son’s behavior. I have the choice to enjoy my life with the tools I’m learning at the weekly Al Anon meetings and phone calls and meetings with my sponsor. My sponsor says that Al Anon meetings bring relief, and the Steps bring recovery.
Working the steps has opened my eyes. Step One has shown me that I am relieved of impossible things I tried to do to change my son, because I am powerless over alcohol. I am responsible for my own happiness, not anyone else’s. Faith in my Higher Power, Step 2, has guided me to accept the things I cannot change (my son), and the courage to change the things I can (me). Life before Al Anon demonstrated that my decisions were not always helpful, so it’s best now for me to turn my will and life over to the care of God, and I can wait for the results (Step 3).
Detachment with love is not avoiding my son or being disengaged from him. Detach is an action word, and it is hard to do. However, detachment has provided me the opportunity to place faith into the excellent program at New Life House where my son is an active participant. Detachment has allowed me to redirect my focus from an obsession with my son’s actions and inactions to my own quality of life.
I have faced the reality of the past. The past is over. As stated in the book “Courage to Change”, It’s okay to look at the past, just don’t stare at it. Today my son is sober, and I am filled with gratitude and I also have the courage and will to live one day at a time.