There is a litany of loss for what substance misuse has taken from our family. Other families who have been there can recite it too: graduation, sleep, prom pictures, trust, hope… Finding other parents who understand these losses has been an immeasurable comfort. What we have lost is real and painful, and I have spent considerable time grieving. What I want to talk about here is not what I have lost through this trauma, but what I have found. 

Recently I heard a podcast speaker describing recovery in beautiful language. He said that recovery is not about recovering from something, but about remembering…remembering what God told you about who you were when you were born. 

Ordinarily I am skeptical of a confident claim about what God does or says, but I felt the truth of this claim in my bones. I know it can be true, because it happened to me and my family.

My seventeen year-old son Bennett went to a wilderness program in Utah days before the pandemic shut the world down. Like many who travel what Krissy Pozatek calls the parallel process, I started my recovery journey as Bennett entered his. Bennett learned to love and accept himself through a supportive community and brilliant therapist, and I began work in my own wilderness. 

Each week that Bennett was in the woods, I talked with a parent coach, Bennett’s therapist, and my own therapist. I felt skinless. Completely flayed open as I talked about all the guilt, shame, regret, and rage I felt. It was all out there for everyone to see. No more hiding behind tasking or tidying. What I found is that I could bear it. I could tell the truth. 

When Bennett finished Wilderness and went to a transitional living program in Arizona, my husband and I joined a parent support meeting that became invaluable. I found acceptance, hope, different perspectives that challenged my beliefs and ideas, joy, and gratitude. This group taught me that codependent thinking limits me, keeps me “safe” and small, and the group showed me new ways of being that are hopeful and healthy. I started to find who I am apart from my roles of mother, wife, and teacher–roles that I allowed to swallow me even as I loved them. 

Belonging to my parent support community has helped me remember that creativity and connection are essential to me, and I can live in alignment with those values through my choices. I started writing every day. I make time to be among trees, to hear the sound of water, and to put my hands in dirt. I need to feel seen and known by other people, so I let go of fear and allow others to hear my stories, and I make space for theirs. I have much more to learn from recovery, and I am so grateful for what I have found so far.