A couple of nights ago I attended a Newcomer’s meeting preceding an Al-Anon gathering in the area where I have recently moved and joined approximately 15 men and women around the table. Within ten minutes I realized that just about everyone assembled was the parent of an addict, and many were in active crisis.
One mother said her son was determined to take a leave from rehab in another state to come home for Christmas and see his girlfriend (not necessarily in that order). She expressed the peace she has felt with him away and in treatment, and the anxiety she has about him flying in to her life and her home. A woman asked her point blank, “Are YOU ready for him to come home?” Her answer was, “No.”
“He doesn’t have to,” the group member responded, and suddenly this mother had another way of looking at her reality beyond it being Christmas time when her son “oughta” be at home.
Shoulda. Oughta. Coulda. I begin Chapter 1 with this triumverate to acquaint parents with Planet Paradox, the world our addicted children usher us into where not only has life been turned upside down, but parenting no longer works the way it once did. We cannot control their behavior, we can’t fix the boo-boo, and we will be lucky, indeed, to even guide them into the vicinity of health and sanity. Addiction is their baby, Baby, and we as parents must get used to it. Welcome to Planet Paradox!
A mother sitting next to me said her son is incarcerated. Now I’ve spent more than one Christmas with my offspring in jail, and another one or two with no clue where my loved one was — safe or unsafe, fed or hungry. Warm? Clean? Sad? Longing for Christmases past? Angry? Then my thoughts flew to a member of my former group whom I mention at the beginning of Chapter 3 in the book who laughed about the relief of his son being in jail.
“The good news is that he has three square meals a day and a roof over his head. Makes you want to send out a Christmas letter,” he said, laughing.
This was no time for Al-Anon “black humor” (which sometimes gets us through!), and I told the woman next to me that I had been there and she would make it through Christmas, and, somehow, her son would, too.
Another mother’s son had just been seriously injured in a pedestrian accident, his grave injuries being treated peace meal from home has he has no insurance. “At least he wasn’t using when he was hit,” she said.
There is always an ounce of gratitude to be found, especially at an Al-Anon gathering, and I came away feeling uplifted. My offspring could be doing better — dry on again and off again, four months “looking” for work, so close yet so far from recovery… . But my loved one has a place to live that is warm with a caring partner, and related to me this week that all court feels have been paid. My adult child is not in jail or awaiting shock probation, the situation two years ago at this time.
My hope for we parents is for an “attitude of gratitude,” a shred of YES, a glimmer of possibility to infiltrate this Christmas Season and take us into a new year. Shakespeare’s Hamlet says it best, “… there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”