What Could I Have Done Differently?

My son, just turned 21 with 16 months of sobriety, lives far away from home at New Life House. While most days I feel good about the progress we’ve made as a recovering family, sometimes I can “relapse” and feel pretty raw. There are days that I wonder, “What could I have done differently?”

Wish number one: “I wish that all the time I spent creating family meals, driving to sports, working on homework, talking about drug prevention, and lecturing about chemical dependency in our family had been successful in preventing my son from being an addict.” I was aware of the genetic risks. I also knew that drugs were readily available in our affluent school district. But I was certain that my own efforts could shield my son, and my family, from addiction. I’m sometimes angry with the literature and the studies that imply we can control the addiction of a child (or anyone else for that matter). I wallowed in failure and self-blame for too long as a result of believing my preventive actions could guard my son from addiction. That is not possible.

Wish number two: “I wish I had found Al Anon before my son entered treatment.” I remember family week, 15 months ago, where all of us with a son in treatment were given the assignment of joining Al Anon. I was scared and embarrassed. Aghast that I would have to share my family’s drama with people who might recognize me. I tried three meetings, one far from home and two closer to home. I quickly discovered two things: First, it didn’t matter whether I was recognized. We were all in it together, without judgment and with the promise of anonymity. Second, it didn’t matter whether my son’s other parents also went to Al Anon. Al Anon is for me, my serenity and personal growth. I can support my son with my own participation in Al Anon, even if Al Anon doesn’t work for another family member. I’ve learned in Al Anon that l must let go of managing everyone else and respect each individual’s dignity in pursuing his or her own recovery path. I would have benefited from joining Al Anon years earlier.

Wish number three: “I wish my son was in a program closer to home.” Relocating my son was difficult because I was losing control, limiting contact on my own terms and delegating management of his treatment program. And would people cast me as a bad mother for not keeping him in the community? But to think I could actually take charge of his treatment and recovery is distorted. To believe for an instant that anybody else has a right to judge my family’s choice of treatment program is outrageous. Of course I miss my son (yes, people actually ask). I let go of those destructive thoughts with the help of my Al Anon group.

Despite the unfulfilled wishes, I know that my son is finding strength by living the AA program. He is surrounded by the support of the men of New Life House, past and present. We are at this place – at this moment. It’s good.

-Patti J., New Life House mother

Last Updated on May 24, 2022


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