Thursday, March 6, 2014

What We Can Learn From Alice Jardine and Rosebushes

One of my favorite scenes from Saving Private Ryan has Matt Damon's James Francis Ryan and Tom Hanks' Captain John H. Miller reminiscing about home. The interlude begins with Capt. Miller suggesting a way out of torment for the young Private.

"Well, when I think of home, I think of something specific. I think of my hammock in the backyard or my wife pruning the rosebushes in a pair of my old work gloves."

Ryan, having just been told of his three brothers' deaths in combat, two on the beachheads of Normandy and one in New Guinea uses this opportunity to feel the pain of loss for the first time. He relates the story of his two older brothers waking him up one night to bear witness to his oldest brother in the barn "with" Alice Jardine, a girl who, as he describes her, has taken "… a nosedive from the ugly tree and hit every branch coming down."

He is laughing as he finishes this story that had been buried deep probably since basic training. He takes a deep sigh after the cathartic soliloquy and breathes, "That was the last time the four of us were together. That was two years ago."

Ryan pauses, turns and invites Miller to share.

"Tell me about your wife and those rosebushes," he offers.

"No, no," Miller replies. "That one I save just for me."

As audience members, what we have witnessed is a powerful interchange between two men who have over the course of less than a year, witnessed too much of life and have chosen different paths to healing.

As parents of addicted children we'll often find ourselves at different stages on different paths to different destinations as we attempt to sort out what is happening with us on our personal recovery journeys. We too have witnessed too much of life. We can choose different paths to healing.

Our experiences affect us differently depending on who we are and how far we've ventured along our individual paths to our own inner peace. A lot can depend on whether or not we've made the leap of faith necessary to accept that the journey of our children may not be (and eventually, accept that it IS not) our journey. We may be ready to talk about our feelings, to share our pain and to let go of the pain or, we may not be ready to open up. The experiences of parents of addicted children are hauntingly similar but often (and usually) affect each parent completely differently.

Some may be ready to feel the feelings rush over and through their tortured psyches as witnessed by Matt Damon's portrayal of an emotionally destroyed Private Ryan. Others may need to keep it in, for now.

And that's ok.

Allowing ourselves to start the journey of recovery on our own terms is a first step in healing and dealing with the pain inherent with being the parent of a child struggling with any addiction.

This journey is a gentle journey - it needs to be and must be. We've been through enough. It's time to give ourselves a little slack.

… keep coming back