We Didn’t Know

We didn’t know what was going to happen.

We didn’t know if our son would leave New Life House in the middle of the night, we didn’t know if he would stay 90 days, we didn’t know anything.  This was our first experience with recovery and it was profoundly scary and stressful.

We didn’t know the buzz words or how they applied to our family: addiction is a disease, enabling, closing the door, detachment, trust the house, etc.  All we knew for sure was that the things we tried before didn’t work.  And that continuing along that path of failure would be a disaster for our son and for our family.

The Saturday family meetings and the parent meetings provided a lot of support during that painful time.  The buzz words and phrases began to have personal meaning and we came to see that a new outcome was possible.

I never liked the word “enabling,” because it felt condescending– like I wasn’t smart enough to figure out my part in what was happening or strong enough to stop.  I’ve come to learn that the kind of love and parenting we believed in and had always practiced was not what our son, with his particular personality and disease, needed at all.  Everything we tried had not worked and made our son’s situation much worse.  Maybe that is one definition of enabling.

I also didn’t like the concept of “detachment.”  I thought detachment meant cutting my kid loose and moving on without him—trying not to care what happened to him.  But I began to see that maybe detachment meant I had to manage my strong emotional reaction to what was happening.  As one parent put it, “Detachment is getting out of the way.”  Another parent described it as watching your son on a wild rollercoaster, but not riding it with him– when the ride finally ends, you’re not too dizzy and sick yourself to help him.  I had to detach from my own fear and severe emotional reactions long enough to make rational decisions.

One rational decision was to “trust the house.”  All of our attempts to manage our son’s issues had failed so badly.  New Life House has done this for years and years, everyone we met was extraordinary.  They were not clinicians or psychiatrists or doctors. They were ALL addicts who had personally been through the process of recovery.  New Life has an impressive success rate– it made so much sense to just listen to them.  And we did.  Everything they said, we did.  Even when we thought we knew the nuances of our family and our son better than they did, we listened.

We didn’t know what was going to happen and we still don’t. 

But so far, so good.  It’s turned out better—and different—than we could have ever imagined.  He is a recent graduate and not only has our son learned to manage his addiction, he’s actually becoming a good person.  He’s honest.  He’s got an honest job.  He looks at us and there is actually love in his eyes. He’s made connections that were never possible before, he’s faced hard truths and done hard work.  But we had to get out of the way, trust the house, let him see his life and choose for himself how to live.


Last Updated on May 24, 2022


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