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I am an old romantic. I enjoy being surrounded by family during the Holidays. Fireplaces, football, drumsticks, and the laughter of holidays past have been forever etched into my “Emotional DNA”.
It is truly painful when active addiction takes a family member away from our families’ celebrations. All parents yearn to have all their children by their side.
The choice to have a family member remain away from the holiday table is gut wrenching. A mother’s tears will stream as the Macys Thanksgiving Parade pours into the living room from the television. Forced smiles will be pasted on the faces of broken hearted parents as the younger sisters and brothers squabble over who gets to use the iPad next. We miss our old family structure.
Sometimes it becomes far too much and parents “cave in”. They want to practice the “tough love” concept discussed at their parent meetings, yet maybe this year is not the year. With intense guilt they invite the addict child home for “a few hours”. I am not making a judgement here and no advice. I simply know this “invite” happens.
Should you decide to have that addict family member home, please live with your decision. You also must set realistic expectations in both your heart and your head.
Your “guest” child is very sick. Keep that fact close during his/her visit. Your child is no longer the cuddly little kid that rolled down the steps in their footsie pajamas just a few short years ago. Those days are gone and it takes hard work to accept that fact. Acceptance is one of many holiday “side dishes”.
Your child has become both physically and mentally altered by their addiction. Your parental perspective must remain clear. Keep in mind that ultimately your addict child must answer to the call eventually. Plain and simple, the call is their burden.
I could never have my son sit at the holiday table when he was active.He was far too destructive and I owed other family members a peaceful day.
I do remember a phone call one Thanksgiving. He was complaining about the food wherever he was rehabbing. I reminded him that lousy Thanksgiving dinners are one of many small consequences he will face. He listened quietly. I am still thankful today that I stood by my decisions.
I pray for those of you who are struggling with that decision today. If you choose to have them sit with you, I can only pray and hope it works out well. If you opt to have them suffer the consequences of an exiled holiday, I wish you continued strength as I know this decision cuts your heart like a razor.
Again…set your mental expectations. Keep them realistic. Along with the mashed potatoes and carrots you may wish to serve up a side order of “boundaries” for your Thanksgiving table.
I wish you peace this Thanksgiving.
peace and strength
*If you feel this post will help another parent please feel free to to link, share, or retweet this Addiction Journal.
*** This 2013 my son will again join us at the Thanksgiving table…he is clean and sober. I am thankful.
Last night I met with some old girlfriends whom I hadn’t seen in years. They both had moved away with their families years ago, had just returned (kids now in their 20’s), and wanted to reconnect. I was dreading this get together a bit, actually. While they are truly lovely women, I was becoming anxious thinking of how I would answer “And how are your kids doing?” or “What’s (insert name) up to now?”
I thought about whether I would share the events of the past few years (one addicted to prescription drugs and heroin, the other struggling with alcoholism and bulimia) or not. I was pretty sure that their kids hadn’t experienced such problems and while the other moms might not be judgmental, they might not understand. I also have my own issue of having both my kids struggling with addiction and other things. The ‘guilt’ seems even harder to reconcile when dealing with more than one child.
Anyway, one of the responses I thought I’d humorously say was, “ Well my daughter now is head of her own law firm and my son is currently on Shark Tank.” Or, realistically, “Well, my kids are plodding along, learning about life as they go. They tend to learn the hard way, much like me.” That’s a lot of words that really say nothing, but implies they aren’t doing anything worth sharing and that since I’m okay, they will be too, which I believe is true.
So, when we went around the table to catch up on everyone’s family status, I simply shared that they were still in school and working. The fact of the matter is, however, one is not in school currently, having just finished three months in treatment and is now in sober living. The other does work and goes to school, but still does some drugs after several months in rehab. Yep! I sorta didn’t exactly lie, but neither did I answer with complete accuracy. A few more questions came after about college, and I handled with, “They are trying to figure out what they want to do.” There was nothing much to extrapolate and it seemed to suffice the need for an update.
Upon reflection, I’m glad I didn’t share with them the stories of my kids’ struggles with addiction and recovery. It would have colored the pleasant reunion, opened up a conversation about things that they may not have wanted to talk about, and it was not the place, nor the time. I was truly happy for the successes that their children have had, and shared in their moms’ pride. And, (true confession,) a while ago, I would have been jealous and resentful that my kids weren’t thriving like theirs.
Now this is the interesting part: I am really proud of my kids, too! I am happy for what my kids have learned and continue to learn about themselves, about relationships, and about being human. I believe they are learning skills that spill onto many other aspects of their lives and will be better for it. I hate that they were, and perhaps still are “overtaken” by self -destructive addiction demons. I wouldn’t ever have wanted that to happen. But it did. And together, we walked down that road and are wiser and more compassionate. We have learned to love each other deeper and accept our weaknesses better. I know now that I can’t fix them. I believe that they are learning that they can fix themselves.
I have gotten multiple inquiries to why certain “recovery faces” were not in attendance at a Boston rally to protest the closing of recovery beds on Long Island.
To those that have written I cannot offer an answer. However I question where these organizations get their funding. People that are quick to rip the profiteering of big pharma become very quiet when their own funding might be at risk. But hey, I’m just one guy, writing a simple blog and it’s just my opinion.
Reposted from the Parents Supporting Parents group on Cape Cod
( I was told it was always better to call a rep’s office, then paper mail, and last resort email )
Thanks to Lisa and the good work she is doing w/ that group!
HERE IS A LETTER FOR YOUR STATE REPS & SENATORS. Feel free to copy, paste, edit as you wish. Following the letter is a list of all our reps & senators and their telephone numbers & emails. We recommend sending the email and following up with a call on Monday. Have everyone you know do the same.
LET’S GET THIS DONE PEOPLE! WE NEED HELP!
I write today asking for your support of the issues and attendance at The Rally for Rebuilding Hope. The rally will address the impact of The Long Island Bridge closure.
On the evening of October 8th Mayor Martin Walsh made the decision to close The Long Island Bridge. The City of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts failed and neglected over 700 men, women and children living on Moon Island, (hereinafter “the island”) giving the staff of 11 or so programs a mere 4 hour notice to scramble and find replacement beds in a state that already falls severely short of treatment beds and shelters. There were no evacuation plans executed and only a bare minimum of replacement beds were made available. There were no plans for the men, women and children to retrieve their belongings and they were forced to leave the island with the clothes on their backs, without their personal belongings, medications, medical records and the very little possessions that they have been able to hold on to, family pictures, Bibles, etc. The programs were forced to leave all of their equipment, supplies and computers behind. (See, Boston Globe. Video and Article “An Island Frozen In Time, Investments and Services Go to Waste” David Abel, October 28, 2014)
As flu season approaches the City of Boston and State of Massachusetts must not ignore the public health concerns when it comes to the spread of communicable diseases. These people are susceptible to disease and they are exposed to a highly urbanized population. Issues of cleanliness and sterilization exist now more than ever with the loss of the laundry facility, which laundered all the linens for the shelters throughout Boston. Transferring and storage of food poses another threat due to the loss of the recently renovated kitchen on the island, which also prepared meals for shelters throughout the city. The lack of showers and toilets are also of major concern.
The list of problems that currently exists and are down the road for people of Massachusetts are alarming when it comes to the increase of crime, emergency room and hospital visits, the added cost to the taxpayers and so much more. More importantly, these people, their families and the staff of the island are suffering physically, emotionally and financially. This can never happen again!
I ask that you attend the rally and support or create any and all ways possible that the city and state can work together to remedy this deadly scenario. Whether it is through funding, legislation or which ever way you deem appropriate. The rally will assemble at 11:45 at City Hall Plaza, we will hear from our speakers from 12:00 – 12:30 roughly. We will march to State House to emulate the bridge that desperately needs building between the city and state in search of a remedy. Speakers at the State House 12:45 – 1:15 roughly.
I welcome you to offer a few words at the rally. Please call or email 1-774-274-8984 / email@example.com to make those arrangements. Thank you in advance _______________. I am counting on your help. I can be reached at ______________________.
On the evening of Wednesday, October 8th approximately 700 people receiving treatment and shelter on Moon Island in Boston were told they were being evacuated.
The staff of 11 or so programs were given an approximate 3 hour notice to scramble to find replacement programs and beds in a state that already falls severely short of treatment beds and shelters. What a daunting task for so many caring people who also just learned they would be out of a pay check weeks before the holiday season.
Also on the island were farms and chicken coops that were attended to by the Friends of the Homeless and others. These farms provided a variety of fruits, vegetables and eggs to the local shelters both on and off the island. The farmers were also forced to evacuate, leaving behind bountiful crops set to feed thousands until the end of the harvesting year.
The crops are now wasted and lay rotting as too many deserving people in dire need of help lay on the streets of Boston, calling it home. All awhile they are searching daily for answers of where to go, where to eat and where to turn for treatment.
On November 19th we will Rally to Rebuild Hope for all of those affected by the closure of The Long Island Bridge. If you are, you were or you know someone that was affected by this devastating closure, please join us as we address both City and State government in search of answers and solutions to this potentially deadly scenario.
We will assemble @ Boston City Hall, hear from our speakers and march on to the State House to hear from our closing speakers. Our march will be unbroken and will represent the need for unbroken communication between The City of Boston and The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Unbroken, transparent communication, planning, funding and accountability is absolutely necessary and must start now in order to increase the number of treatment facilities and shelters.
In honor of all who have battled the disease of addiction and have been taken too soon we ask that you consider being involved so we can continue to work to save the lives of those continuing to struggle. God Bless their families/loved ones and put peace and happiness in their hearts.
On behalf of all parents of homeless, adult children battling the disease of addiction living in the streets of Boston Hand Delivered Hope welcomes all your questions and comments.
Every person receiving services on Moon Island was someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter, no matter what their age. We are all in this together. ♥
With my warmest gratitude,
Hand Delivered Hope
P.O. Box 189
East Bridgewater, MA 02333
I have met many inspiring parents over the years ago. I met Carrie at a parent support group I no longer belong to, but our friendship has continued. She has always been a strong advocate for recovery, and brings her point of view concisely. I respect her immensely. I consider her to be one of my “sponsors”.
￼It’s taken me a long time to reflect on what I could possibly say about being the parent of a child afflicted with the disease of addiction that hasn’t already been said. So, while talking to my son (who talks with lots of parents like us now as part of his job), I said the sentence, “In some respects, I became sicker than you.”
It’s true. I became so overly involved with my son’s illness that I was pretty damn close to being a walking definition of insanity. My anxiety level was so high I couldn’t sleep, I was trying to control every part of his recovery (or lack there of), and I constantly obsessed about him and what he was doing. It was like I was desperately hanging onto him by my fingernails while he was violently shaking me off. Getting him well was my only objective and I would move mountains to make that happen for him, even if the mental health professionals and rehab councilors didn’t understand him. Sound familiar? Of course it does…we all do it.
There is a saying that a parent is only as happy as their most unhappy child, and I believe that in most cases to be true. I too have compared addiction to cancer and other scary diseases that could kill our children and young adults. And while they are similar in some ways, addiction is a unique disease…with a unique path to wellness. It truly is a family disease.
Because addiction can be classified as a family disease, doesn’t it make sense that if all don’t work toward recovery, none will actually recover? (Or it will be a hell of a lot harder on the family members that do) Let me repeat. We all become just as ill as our kids are. It might not be a popular idea, but if you really look inside yourself you’ll know it’s true. (My insanity was affecting my daily functioning and I wasn’t even on any drugs!)
As frightening as it was (terrifying actually), once I let go of trying to manage my son’s disease and started focusing on getting myself healthy things started to change for the better a little at a time. I needed to get sick and tired of being sick and tired too. We, as parents, have our bottom also and only when we get there can our healing begin. (This is too true for our kids- we can help set the stage for recovery all we want, but they aren’t going to commit to getting healthy until they are ready.) Once I started becoming healthier, old behavior/ relationship patterns between my son and I couldn’t continue. I had started to change, therefore everything was affected by the change. Because of this he couldn’t interact with me the way he had been-he had to adapt and change too. I had often heard that ‘Change creates change’, and it’s very true. Nothing can stay the same when some sort of change is introduced, and my son wasn’t capable of being the change so it was up to me. I even came up with a script for those times when our phone calls spiraled down into anger and abusive comments. (Me: ‘I love you but this conversation isn’t good for either of us. Let’s try again tomorrow. Bye.’) My son wasn’t as able to lie or manipulate me any longer, because I was focusing on what was healthiest for me and our family. I was no longer going to participate in the insanity his addiction was creating. When you are at the carnival, you can’t be half in and half out of a ride while it is in motion. You are either on or off the ride. I got off the carnival ride.
When I say I wasn’t participating I really wasn’t. If he was using he wasn’t welcome to live in our home. His car was in our name and on our insurance, and we took that back that so he couldn’t kill someone in an accident. No money. I will forever remember the look of disbelief on my ￼husband’s face when I asked him to please arrange to have the locks changed the next day. (This was after my son refused to go to treatment and I told him he would have to live somewhere else.) Throughout all of these extremely hard choices, I kept telling my boy that ‘I love you and want you to get well.’ I also kept repeating that when he was ready to get into treatment we would help him. Inside my heart I was hoping, praying and waiting for him to get ready. To get sick and tired enough. I felt like I was gambling with something so precious but that I had no other options. If we continued on as we had been, there was a very likely chance he would end up in jail or dead. If I changed, and no longer participated in his addiction he may still end up in jail or dead-but at least there was a chance he may end up in recovery. I’ll admit, some of these decisions came from self preservation. As my son spun further and further away from us I began to think about the actual possibility he may not survive this. And how could I ever go on if I felt I had contributed to his death in any way?
In place of mental health specialists with their Masters or PhDs, I turned over my faith and hope to men and women who had survived and thrived in this recovery process. While we were going through the registration process during my son’s intake at a treatment facility, my husband kept telling the staff mentor, ‘He’s really a good kid.’ She’d say ,’I know.’ After the third comment like this, she turned to us and said,’I’m a drug addict, I really understand what he is going through.’ And that was very comforting.
In the end, he did end up going to treatment, after 3 scary months of sleeping couch to couch. He did relapse and we began again, this time with a life changing Section 35. My son has 4 1/2 years of sobriety and is working at a recovery program. He recently went back to college. The ‘I love yous’ with concrete boundaries in place worked for us. Because I got out of the way and let him live his own life, for better or worse, and do the hard work of getting well. It worked for us to cheer him on from the sidelines, and support him in his recovery only. He has said to me that the first two years of his sobriety when he worked at a grocery store and walked everywhere in all weather was the hardest but happiest he can remember. He was able to get well without a car, an iPhone or $150 sneakers. It took him to go back to basics and simplicity to appreciate the things and people in his life. But that’s his story to tell.
Well then, how do we as parents get well? There are many options, and I can only speak for what worked for my family and me in our direct experience. It wasn’t just hard work for my son…my healing was hard work for me too and I needed to put in the effort and time to get the benefit. For me, a combination of an online support group and regular Alanon meetings while working with a sponsor helped. And it took me trying a few different meetings before I found the one that clicked for me. It was relieving to not feel alone and surround myself with people who had been or were walking where I was. It was freeing to come to realize that I could possibly be ok regardless of the outcome of my son’s illness. My son got his life back through AA and working with his sponsor and the Big Book. It’s ironic how well these programs worked for me. I am far from what I consider to be religious, and find my spirituality in nature rather than in churches. But I cannot doubt for one second the gifts these programs have given to me and mine and the peace they bring when I follow the program. Whatever you choose to do, understand that until you get out of the way, find peace and get healthy your child probably can’t. And no matter how you find it, I wish peace for all of us.