Help for Moms
Addiction isn't about me. There's nothing wrong with my life. I can deal with this myself.
As the mother of a son who struggles with addiction, I had all the "nothing wrong with me" thoughts when someone suggested I go to Al-Anon.
It was scary walking into my first meeting. I felt fear of the unknown, and also fear of knowing. But as a parent, I was suffering, and deep down I knew I needed help.
In the beginning I also felt resentful. Why must I turn my life upside down to get to meetings? Where would I find the time in my day? I wasn’t the one who was sick. My problems were unique and I was different from the others. Plus, my son’s drug wasn’t alcohol. Did I even qualify to belong in Alanon? But I took the advice they gave to newcomers. “Try at least six meetings before deciding whether or not this program is for you.” And I took it to heart when they said, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”
In the beginning there was much I ignored from meetings. But I noticed I felt lighter and not so quite alone. People talked openly and honestly about their experiences. I heard stories similar to my struggles. But there was something else, people who smiled and sometimes even laughed as they told their stories. Like many, I went to Al-anon to learn how to fix my son. But that isn’t the lesson Al-Anon is poised to address. Instead Al-Anon teaches me how to find peace and serenity regardless of whether or not my son chooses sobriety.
Re-directing Our Attention
I won’t lie and say serenity comes easily. But as I turned the attention away from my son and toward myself, I began to listen and learn and there were brief reprieves from the running tape of fear and anxiety that ran through my mind. Moments of joy and gratitude slipped in to fill those gaps. I began to learn what addiction looks like and how it behaves. I began to understand that certain things I had thought unique to my son and family were not unique at all but rather simply addictive behaviors.
My son and the disease untangled to become two separate things. I could love my son and hate the disease. I learned that sometimes it’s best to do nothing and in the span of doing nothing, more will be revealed. Caring for myself began to take shape as a priority. Eight years later Al-Anon had saved me a lot of suffering
Al-anon is based on the same 12 steps as AA. As I grappled with applying them to my life, I better understood my son’s struggle. I could lay my experience along his own as he worked the 12 steps in treatment himself. We didn’t need to talk about it, but we were developing a shared language. Step One says, Admitted I was powerless over alcohol and that my life had been unmanageable. I thought that one was easy: I knew I was powerless over his addiction, but wait, my life wasn’t unmanageable! I was holding things together. But as I became more aware, I saw how my controlling behaviors belied acceptance of my powerlessness, and I recognized the specific craziness addiction had brought into my life. Those hours of listening to others tell their own stories helped me understand and accept my own.
We Are Worth It
When we encouraged our son to seek treatment my husband gently said to him, “You are worth it.” We are worth it too. We don’t have to grit our teeth and bare this burden. We may be powerless over alcohol and drugs, but we are not altogether powerless. There are many paths to recovery. Al-anon, Nar-Anon, Yoga of 12Step Recovery, Families Hoping and Coping, Mindfulness practices. My experience suggests they all lead to calming the mind and the inside job of recovery. Our sons are being offered many paths and given the message that it doesn’t matter which one they choose, as long as they choose one. It’s good advice. We have choices too. Getting to treatment is one of them and it’s a gift we can give ourselves.