For so long we had been so obsessively preoccupied with our son, trying to “fix” him, trying to save him, trying to show him how much we loved him; making appointments with acupuncturists, homeopaths, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and so on; paying for all the mishaps, moving him out, moving him in…in an endless cycle of anxiety… We lost track of everything else in our lives… In this frantic obsession, he, with his substance of choice, us, with him, we were overwhelmed with fear, and guilt, and resentment. If we had done this differently…, if we had forced him into treatment one more time…, if we had stopped giving him money and bailing him out…, if, if, if…, we could have stopped the wreckage.
And then, New Life House came into our lives…. Their approach to recovery based on accountability, humility and behavior modification, their dedicated guidance, their unconditional support helped us embrace recovery and start the healing process. Little by little, one step at a time, we were not waiting for that dreaded phone call anymore. Those words “step back”, unfathomable for years, took a new meaning…; our son had had his moment of clarity, and had asked for help of his own accord. Though reluctant, he seemed ready, he had had his own reckoning, and we understood we had to step back. This was his journey, not ours. We had to figure out our own…
The beginning was really tough on us… Can we call to see if he is ok? When will they call us with an update? Will he walk out that door…? We were still harboring that constant fear that blinds you. “Step back…” But we knew we had to take care of ourselves and be ready. We had to understand, in the first place, what we were really dealing with. We had learned a lot about this relentless disease of addiction over the years, but we had been in denial…no, this is not happening, it can’t be, not us…, he is doing well in school, he has a lot of friends, he seems fine…., that was the hardest thing to accept.
For years our lives revolved around our son. We were getting as sick as he was, but we didn’t know how to break the cycle. All the signs were there, but we kept dismissing them with excuses…he is stressed out with school, he is anxious about his future, that breakup hit him hard… And he seemed so resilient, so determined to graduate, he would never give up. After each and every crisis, we fooled ourselves that things would now be fine, because he persuaded us he would be fine, because we wanted so badly to believe that he would be fine. But the truth is we were overwhelmed with pain, fear, resentment, guilt, and increasing isolation, and it wasn’t until we came to New Life that we realized our son and us shared the same hurtful feelings, and no matter how hard we tried, we could not help each other. We could not let go of his hand, he could not stop using. All of us needed to understand and accept what was going on deep inside.
Our son embarked in this strenuous journey of recovery with the incredible support of New Life managers, directors and house members, and we were simply asked to “step back”, and find ways to start our own healing process. We knew we had to do our part.
Learning about addiction, as much as we could, was the first step in our journey. The Blue Book offered some guidance, but we still didn’t get it, until we started hearing our son and the guys at the house share their stories in our casual conversations on family weekends. Then it all started to come together, through their struggles with the step work, one by one, their programs and verbals, their words, and when they were confronted and brought to task. And then we would go back to the Blue Book, to some of the stories or steps they had brought up, with a much better understanding of the process.
“Pleasure Unwoven” is a wonderful documentary by a recovering psychiatrist that explains the cycle of addiction in a very simple, tangible way. “Hijacking the Brain” by Dr. Harry was another mind-blowing read. Understanding the disease, its progression, put us in a much better place to realize that no matter how hard we tried, the change had to come from within, he had to figure out how to make peace with his past, how to modify the behaviors that were drowning him, and why they were happening… Things started to change… We had always felt we had failed him; we, his parents, should have been able to stop the wreckage… There are so many other valuable books that explain all of this so clearly, “Saving Jake’, “A beautiful boy”, “Moments of Clarity”, and of course, the Al-Anon literature. We attended a few AL-Anon meetings and AA Speaker meetings, but our true Al-Anon has been the family barbeques. The interaction with families and house members has proven invaluable to us. Everybody seems eager to share something at one point or another. Sometimes it is sad or painful, other times encouraging. Sometimes the guys inadvertently show us where we went wrong. Sometimes they make us laugh, even though they are very serious about what they are sharing. We always leave Miracle House in peace, hopeful, strong, eager to spend some more time in two weeks with the guys that are still struggling, those that are making progress, those that just got a job and feel proud, those that just need somebody outside of the house to talk too, those who are still struggling with their family relationships. They have a lot to offer to us parents learning to detach. They are truly talking from “the trenches of addiction”, and we always learn something from them. We are not alone anymore, none of us is…
Recovery is possible, and it’s hard, and it’s wonderful. The more we get in the way, the more we enable the lies and manipulation that addiction seems to breed. Be grateful for each day in recovery that brings back a sense of hope and peace. The guys are working on shaking the dirt off their knees and getting back up again, with a new purpose, and without us. Every minute in recovery, good or bad, counts. We have a long road ahead, but we can stay on firm ground if we pay attention and stay connected.
Marco has reached his one year milestone! He should be very proud of his efforts, and what he has accomplished, and what he has contributed to this extraordinary community. He has shared his frustrations and missteps along the way, there were many, there still are… It wasn’t easy, it won’t be easy. But there is hope and peace in his eyes, that spark is back. It’s like coming to terms with a reality that we kept avoiding, hiding from. We are thrilled to see how receptive he is to criticism and suggestions from his peers. They work it out all together as a group, once again, without us.
We are grateful to New Life and all involved, and to his sponsor, Howard, for the dedication, the leadership and guidance, and the genuine support. We are grateful for the New Life House blog, where parents and house member share their stories, our stories. And we are grateful for today, for our willingness to embrace recovery, for this opportunity to grow and learn, for the grace of being a witness to a New Life emerging from the rubble. Trust the process, embrace recovery, step back and enjoy life!