When I think back to the time when our older son was struggling with his mental health and substance dependency, those experiences feel at times like they happened a long time ago – other times, it feels like a nightmare that I had just woken up from. I clearly had no idea how to deal with the fear of losing our son to the point where the sense of helplessness was numbing. When our son entered the first effective treatment program 3 years ago, I started to be hopeful in spite or because I had been in denial that I had been traumatized by our son’s struggle.

Before I reflect on this journey and the conclusions I have come to, I am happy to say that our son is actively involved in his recovery, he has been sober for over two years, but, more importantly, he has been finding strength in supporting his peers, mentoring some or just being a caring friend to others. He has a big heart.

For the longest time during these past 3 years, I felt like I’m playing catch-up, trying to adjust to a new reality and looking at what I can learn from all of this. It still feels like I have a lot to learn but gradually, certain themes keep coming up for me, that seem to provide me with clarity, like an inner voice to help me make sense of it all. Early on, I said what so many parents with kids who struggle say: “It is a very lonely place to be in”; “I don’t know who to speak to; no one understands this.” Fortunately, not all experiences were negative in that I have been surprised by complete strangers, who were empathetic to our struggle. I’m grateful that over these past years, I have gotten the most comforting advice from strangers. And with every chance encounter, I seem to invite more unexpected and soothing conversations.

The way I learn best is to break down a topic into identifiable chunks or themes. Over these past years, I have picked up a lot of helpful quotes, wisdoms and concepts. By arranging all this chatter into sub groups, I can access them more easily than if they were included in a long list. So far, I have come up with 7 themes and chances are that in a couple of years, I will look at our recovery differently. I take comfort that one day, I’ll be smarter than I am today. Which means that what I’m sharing today is the best that I can come up with, given the sum of information, experiences, and learnings that I have had up until today.

I will write a blog series on the following 7 insights and learnings since the start of our recovery:

1. Connection and Relationship
2. Healing and Self Care
3. Understanding/Knowledge
4. Understanding/Empathy
5. Boundaries and Trust
6. Managed expectations
7. Community

Thank you,