This Christmas and Valentines turned out to be very special to me this year.

My son came home to spend Christmas with us before he began his very first semester at the University of Arizona. He had bought us all gifts, without any prompting from me, with his own money that he had earned at his job as a Junior Staff at In Balance Adolescent Transitional Living (the therapeutic boarding school that he attended and Graduated all of its Continuums from). I could feel and see the excitement and pride in himself around the prospect of giving us all these GIFTS. He asked me if I would help him box and wrap them? There truly are no words that I can find to express how much this special request meant to me. The time spent with my boy (now a young man) was one of the best gifts I had received in a very long time; one I will look back on often and hold in my heart forever. It was a precious moment of connection; We laughed, talked and in the silent moments we were totally present for and with each other (and I teared up big time- because that is what I do).

The next unexpected gift my son gave me was on Valentine’s Day; He had asked me to help him make a special dinner for his girlfriend. The request to help him and the time spent together on the phone (while he grocery shopped) and video chatting while he was preparing the meal was so much fun. Again, connection… laughter, seeing him in his place, talking…He even thanked me for being there for him. Oh yeah, I’ll take these special moments every time – keep them coming! They are the greatest gifts ever! (FYI- Girlfriend was totally impressed and the meal came out delicious!)

These special moments had me reflecting back on how far we all have come. Counting many of the blessings that I have been receiving on this long and often exhausting journey that I have been on with my family. I realize that these blessings ARE also the gifts that I have gotten out of my work on myself and with my family along the way… Honestly, if you told me 4 + years ago that I could see and receive these amazing gifts and that this experience has turned out to be the biggest blessing of my life; I would have told you that you were crazy!

These are some of those gifts that come to mind for me:

Community and friendship. (At first) Reluctantly showing up to parent support and STEP meetings led me to a place that I had always been looking for; A place where there is NO judgment, where people understand and support each other. As some of the brilliant moms in these meetings have said “This is an unshockable group” and “A family we never wanted to be part of but now cannot live without!” A place where I can be ME – and practice being my authentic self. I have also had the privilege of calling these people my friends. I know I can alway count on them as they can with me.

Forgiveness and Peace. By stepping into the work of healing myself and that of my family; I allowed myself space and gave myself grace to accept the mistakes I made and will make throughout this process. To be open to accepting help and guidance when I know I can’t do it alone. All this allows me to put things in perspective, leave the pain and shame in the past and step into my power and strength.

Gratitude. Learning to practice gratitude helped me to look at things differently. To find the little “wins” in situations even if they are challenging. Receive the “Golden Nuggets” of insight from friends on phone calls and in the heartfelt shares I hear in the meeting that I attend. As I have often heard “there is NO room for the negative if you practice Gratitude”.

Communication and Silence. I feel more thoughtful and direct in my communication with my family; and if I backslide I know I can go back and correct myself. I have also seen the power of being silent and allowing the people their space to say what they need too and have learned so much more by being quiet and patient.

Patience, Respect and Trust. I’m learning to have each one of those for myself, my family and my friends. In patience comes respect and in respect trust is earned. It is not an easy road to travel, but one so worth the time and effort. I am also learning to give my sons the space to be patient toward me, that I too had to earn their respect and trust after all that we had been through. Yes, I now know that it is possible to get these all back.

Connection, Hope and Love: We have often heard that “the opposite of Addiction is Connection”. Connection in allowing ourselves and the people we care about, to be where we are (all) at IN the moment, say what needs to be said and feel what we need to feel. I have found that if I allow myself the gift of connection, it replaces the fear!! Which in turn allows Hope and Love to grow in its place.

And…Acceptance and Peace. The start of the healing on our journey … My son taught me the power of this. That was his turning point; he realized that holding on to how he thought things “should ” look and where he thought he “should be ” was harder than accepting where he was at now. That accepting this was our path was easier, and in acceptance we could find peace.

So for “Right NOW’, in addition to these beautiful gifts my son has given me; he has taught me that;

The greatest gift of all is that of loving yourself, not caring who likes us or not, truly thriving and of acceptance!

Much love to all.