Without knowing it, I had a definite agenda for my son’s life. I had a story in my head of how his life would unfold. I envisioned him living a fairytale life. To me, he was greater than life and deserved to live what I imagined to be the perfect life. According to the story I told myself, he was going to grow up in a home with 2 parents. He was going to play sports, make good grades, have kind and caring friends, attend school activities, stay away from drugs, graduate from high school, and eventually go to college. He would have few struggles, be happy in life and feel complete. Little did I know that the story I imagined was fabricated by me and never promised.
When my son was a little boy, I could soothe his tummy by rocking him. I could make a scratch feel better with a band-aid or redirect his frustration with a toy or a special treat. I had no idea that one day my son would wake up with his own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. I had no clue that he would be so hurtful and disrespectful towards me. I could not believe he chose to disobey me and my rules. I was dumbfounded when he refused to attend school, considering it was the law!
During all of this, I still thought it was my responsibility to solve my son’s problems and mend his emotions. I truly believed that I could take away his internal pain and prevent him from using drugs to cope with his anguish. In time and with taking a deep dive into educating myself on addiction, I learned that my belief was not accurate. In fact, I finally understood that I had little to no say over my son’s choices or the direction of his life. The only thing that I could do for my son was love him, be supportive of him, and work on myself.
My son’s drug use affected me emotionally, mentally and physically. I was a crazy woman desperate to help my son. I longed to be heard, but felt like no-one was listening. I felt alone, whether I was with people or not, because no-one could identify with what I was going through. I was continuously anxious due to the verbal abuse I received when my son wanted money for drugs and I would not give it to him. I was petrified he would commit suicide because he threatened this regularly to manipulate me. I was angry and resentful over the damage he continued to do to my car and my house because he experienced episodes of supreme rage. I lived in fear for his safety, as I knew he was in areas of town that were extremely dangerous. I lived with trepidation for my own safety and his siblings safety because he had dealers after him. Worst of all, I was scared for his life because his drug use was out of control. I worried he was going to overdose and/or die.
I did everything imaginable to get my son help locally, but he needed more. He needed to be removed from our town and be far from his peer group. Once my son was taken by the transporter and settled in his Wilderness program, I could finally breathe, knowing he was safe. I decided to use this time to work on my own healing. I realized that I had been in survival mode for years. I had been so overwhelmed by deep concern and sadness, that I needed to work on my own healing. BUT, I decided I wanted my healing to be quick, so I gave myself a deadline. That date came and went and I was still grappling with my feelings. This made me realize that it’s impossible to put a deadline on our feelings. It also showed me that I had a real issue with control! I never knew that I needed to have as much control. I also never noticed how I felt when I didn’t have control. For some reason, I truly believed that if I maintained control, which I never really had, I could dictate all the outcomes. Once I began paying attention to all of the things I tried to control and surrendered to the idea that I was not the almighty, I began freeing myself from the sense of responsibility to make everything better. To this day, I work hard to give up the idea that I have the power to turn a situation around. I can now notice when I feel the need to control something. When this happens, I’m able to ask myself, “what am I afraid of and what’s the worst thing that could happen if I let go of control?”
My son’s addiction hijacked me as a person. It caused an immense amount of stress on me. I decided it was necessary for me to become an active participant in my own healing. As part of my healing practice, I began attending support groups like OPLM. These groups provided so many benefits! Listening to other parents share from all different stages of the same journey gave me enormous hope. It was also a safe place to express how I was feeling. It was comforting to have a space where I could admit my parenting mishaps without feeling judged. Hearing how other people handled their experiences and learning new tools allowed me to support my son and relate to him in more productive ways. Support groups, podcasts and books provided me with mountains of knowledge that equipped me to better communicate with my son. I could stay neutral when discussing conversations that were uncomfortable for me. I could listen to him while remaining calm and then validate his feelings without injecting my two cents. Once I learned to hold back from saying everything I felt like saying, the negativity I felt diminished. Also, I stopped coming across as a constant nag to him, which allowed our relationship to grow. Today, our relationship is much stronger than years past. We are both still healing and working through the hurt we experienced.
I let go of the story I created with regards to my son’s life. I sincerely thought the story I had for him was a story he would miraculously adopt and live out. I honestly thought him living a story he knew nothing about would lead to him feeling fulfilled, happy, and complete in his life. The truth is, the story I created was nowhere close to who my son actually is and he is a very cool kid! Today, I celebrate him for all that he is and all that his journey has taught me.