Have you ever thought about how many chances you gave your child, how many “benefit of the doubts”, how many ultimatums? I never did, until I discovered my son had a serious drug problem.
How could that be? After all, he had been in several drug rehab programs and surely he must have learned something useful during that time. Why couldn’t he get his life in order? We thought we were doing all the right things to participate in and support our son’s sobriety. Little did I know how little I knew!
I had spent so much time and effort focused on my son that it never occurred to me that perhaps I was part of the problem. I was a master Saver, a top-notch Enabler. I had a safety net for everything and it was poised and ready for action at a moment’s notice. It was a rude awakening to discover that I was doing the one thing that was keeping my son from reaching his bottom and that I couldn’t get out of his way. It took me awhile to muster up the courage and faith I needed to retire the safety net but once I did, I didn’t take it out. It was tough. I had made the conscious decision to take his life out of my own hands and place him in God’s. Life was miserable and difficult for him. But I stood firm. It didn’t take long before my son surrendered.
By the time my son entered into New Life House I was faithfully attending Al-Anon meetings and working my own recovery program. Despite living 2,500 miles away, I could actively participate in my son’s sobriety by remembering to stay out of his way. I was amazed at how quickly his attitude towards life was shifting. His dad and I visited as often as we could and our times together, though infrequent, were filled with humility, gratitude, laughter and love. I found myself “actively listening” to my son and hearing him speak from the heart. When I reflect on the time he lived in New Life House the word pride comes to mind. That is one of the emotions I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Yet, each time I saw my son, I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride. I shared this sentiment with him over and over again.
Now that he is approaching his 1-year anniversary of the day he moved out of New Life House, I am still struck by the fact that he continues to mature in surprising ways. I was told that the real challenge for graduates is during the first year after they move out of the comforts of a structured lifestyle. I admit, I was nervous, peeking into that closet that held the safety net. I am proud to say that I haven’t needed it. My son weathered the storms with a positive attitude and turned appropriately to his fellow graduates for advice. What have I been doing? You got it, I have been keeping out of his way.
Recently I queried him as to what was the most important thing I did or didn’t do to support him in his sobriety. He replied emphatically, “You left me no chances. The only option available was to graduate. It was the best thing you did.” It was an interesting, but not all that surprising response.
I am constantly reminded of how important it is for me to continue to be active in Al-Anon, and work on my own spiritual and emotional health. I can be easily lulled into a sense of complacency and resort to the ways of old. I didn’t burn that net. It still lurks in the closet waiting for a moment of weakness. My job is to keep that closet locked and simply “stay out of his way”.