A new year. Happy? Unhappy? In recovery? In relapse?
Me, I haven’t heard from my in-relapse offspring for the last week, so I don’t really have an answer beyond, “Yep, I need a meeting.” Christmas week was crazy — good crazy with family and cooking and making up beds and corralling the belongings for several visiting “grands.” But the New Year came and went without me hearing from the one offspring whom I really need to hear from or reach out to, or whatever is appropriate for a 38-year-old at this time.
Hmmmm… . The essential challenge of this New Year for me — post-moving, post-losing a family member, post-Holidays — is this:
How does a parent talk with an actively using offspring? What do you say? What do you not say? What do you touch on without landing with both feet? What do you set aside? What do you bookmark for later, hoping there is a “later” that will be appropriate?
I ran this conundrum by a trusted Al-Anon comrade from my former family group, a woman I have referenced, albeit indirectly, in Chapter 8 regarding, Oh-my-favorite-subject, Detachment. Living amidst an alcoholic mother, and alcoholic and paraplegic sister, and assorted addicted relatives of assorted generations, this woman knows detachment. She is also a recovering alcoholic with 12 years sobriety.
“It seems to me that it is all about being non-judgmental,” she began. “At times, when I am in the groove and I have enough time to remind myself WHY I shouldn’t judge her… she will often tone down her behavior, and, if I’m really lucky, her drinking as well.
“For me, it comes back to that over and over,” she continued, “me sitting in judgment of her actions when they are not in the least rational to me.”
NOT IN THE LEAST RATIONAL — key words! How many times have I told my husband, a retired sheriff, or my offspring’s father, addiction has no brain? I have another way of referring to it that isn’t appropriate here, but you get the drift: no conscience, no empathy, no sympathy, no power of reason what-so-ever — NADA, NYET, NO WAY, JOSE´!
Which, according to my friend, comes down to this, “When I am doing well and trying hard not to judge her, it’s still a strain, and after a while I lose contact with the reason that I’m not supposed to react to her actions.”
Boy, Howdy! The pay-off at this point is realizing that the more reactive we become the worse the addictive behavior becomes, and then working it! Cha-ching!
I am convinced that to handle an actively using addict and DO NO HARM to us or to them is to achieve Ph.D. status in the art and science of detachment. This is the big leagues, folks, the make-it-or-break-it realm where relationship can be achieved or sacrificed at any moment. This is where our recovery work needs to rock!
The crux of relationship with an active addict is right communication — what, where and when — which certainly deserves a new chapter in IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU EXCEPT WHEN IT IS. Or maybe it’s another book. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
Right now I am still stepping gingerly with Baby New Year into what is for me virgin territory, testing the ground under my feet, watching for sinkholes and soft spots and sticks and stones that can send me reeling into darkness. My friend’s words are my North Star: stay out of judgment. Not only will this ground me on my path, I will be best equipped to meet my loved one fairly and squarely with right words for the right reasons, which generates into right timing.
Happy New Year, All! I’m off to the Thursday group!