Over 30 years ago my wife and I started a journey of discovery. We had all the hopes and dreams of young couples that were firmly entrenched in a moral and just society. Into that simple world was born a son who embodied all our hopes (we did not really understand fear then) and joys of just a few short years of marriage. He grew up happy, inquisitive and very active. As early childhood passed to preteen and teenage years significant changes occurred. The things I did not know would have scared me.
The lust for knowledge and joy seemed to fade while drugs and alcohol became a focus. It was never really clear when the true addiction set in but the problem had been there for quite a while. It was early in this time I first learned to enable. As a bit of a disciplinarian I was quick to mete out punishment but woefully neglect in my follow through. I chocked all of this up to my wife and her overly protective ways. In no way was it my fault that my son who had just come off restriction or punishment was then allowed to go out to a friend’s party or come home way later than curfew. What discipline… of course I did not know what was going on! That was just the beginning.
Time passed quickly and we realized he had to go to college. The psychologist said he was okay but my head sure said otherwise. Obviously I was unskilled in these matters and so I let it go. Still three and a half years later, after lots of wasted school, more therapy and outpatient treatment, he was declared once again sober and on the road to recovery. We had pulled him out of all sorts of places, fed him, clothed him, given him food and money for medicine(?) and even supported a girlfriend, sober he said, all for naught. None of this was my fault because I said from the beginning he was not truly sober. My exhortations were all a lie and I should have known. Only because my wife demanded I support him did we… or was that truly the reason.
Many fights, nights of lost sleep and lots of learning and therapy later I realized the truth. My anger and disgust were my shields from my own enabling activities. It was not my wife or the “idiots” that first treated him that made me mad but my disgust with my lack of action and my ongoing enabling. As a Dad I had always tried to set the example but I had not lived up to that call when needed. It took me many nights reading and talking with others to understand this reality. Even now that time has passed I realize I was a big part of the problem, but not the only part. It is my responsibility to my son and wife to continue in this recovery of myself and leave their recovery to them. As they like to say I am getting focused on cleaning up my side of the street. Sometimes I still litter but I try hard not to and now I am at least willing to go back and clean it up. After eight plus years, I am a slow learner, life is so much better. My amazing son is back and we are all on our own paths exciting and new. I now know… that I was an enabler as much as anyone and that I needed to let it go and let God.
-New Life House Father