When I decided in November of 2022 that I would not be contemplating resolutions for the New Year, I found some curiosity about resolution.
It has been years since I’ve made a New Year resolution, let alone New Year resolutions. For me, it was always about losing weight, getting in shape and some years, making more money. Really committing myself to these endeavors! Yeah, not so much. Three things I could not get behind for decades. I decided somewhere along the line that my lack of willingness to see a resolution through, made declaring one, well, pointless.
That ended in 2018. Our son, Jon, was transported to wilderness on Christmas Eve. It was three weeks after his 17th birthday, about a week after his latest overdose, which was medically seen as a suicide attempt. For certain, not a good time in my life. The stress, anxiety, shame, doubt, fear, and sadness that had dominated my life for the previous 6 months had me, by and large, frozen. Yes, the primal brain presents only a few reactions to fear: Flight, Fight, Freeze and Fawn. My go-to was freeze. Yeah, I was stuck. Truth is, I really just wanted it to go away. Flip a switch and get my amazing kid back.
Have him stop running away, stop lying, stop using, stop being violent, stop hurting his body and brain, stop holding our family hostage. Please, Jon, just STOP! I did come to the realization that this was not going to stop. He would not stop. It was up to my wife and I to take action. Radically different action compared to what we had been doing. Nothing had helped. The IOP, the counseling, the testing, the monitoring of his phone, the locking up of all the booze in the house, keeping an ‘eye’ on him 24/7 had not worked. A stint of 30 days at a residential treatment center. What it had in fact, done, is see an increase in his usage, his isolation, his resentment of me and his extreme behavior was becoming more and more alarming.
I had nothing inside me then to contemplate a resolution, let alone the energy to see one through. I was wiped. Emotionally, intellectually and physically. Then, I thought. Wait. I had made a resolution that year. No, it did not involve a New Year. It was party-hat and noise-maker free. It was rather simple in notion, and immensely complex in execution. Earlier that year, I had made a resolution to keep him alive. Yes, it was simple: Preserve the life of a 16 year old, seemingly healthy male. Yes, it was complex: 1. I didn’t know what to do. 2. He wasn’t on board. 3. Nothing seemed to make a positive
My resolution required resolve from me, and yet I had none left. My tank was empty, I was feeling defeated and scared.
Group therapy at his IOP was helpful. I was hesitant to attend, my fear and shame trying to hold me back. For me, it’s often the case that that thing I do not want to do is exactly the thing I need to do. So there I was. In a room with caregivers of people dealing with messy stuff. Some were parents with teens in the program. Some were adult children with parents in the program. Some were grandparents with a grandchild in the program. We all had dealing with “IT” in common. Mental health challenges and substance abuse by a loved one. Attending these meetings re-introduced me to sharing in a group, and to listening with interest about what others were going through. ( I had nothing along these lines since H.S. ) I found empathy. I had lost it many, many years ago due to my own insecurity. Next, my very first 12 Step meeting. AlAnon in a stone church with no heat on a very cold NJ day. Five of us sat in our jackets and winter hats around a table. The group regulars teemed with support and love. They did a Newcomer’s meeting for my wife and I. I was awed by their strength and compassion.