"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard everyone would do it. The hard … is what makes it great." ~ Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own
As parents sometimes good is good enough. As parents of addicts good isn't nearly enough. To be true parents to our addicted children while first taking care of ourselves takes greatness. We're in the Big Leagues now. This is "The Show."We cannot cruise anymore hoping for the best, trusting that we'll be OK along with our children, the groundwork laid at age 10 sustaining them through adulthood.
As parents of children struggling with addiction to be true to ourselves we've got to allow ourselves to be called up to the "Bigs." At some point the call to Greatness will come and we'll be required to answer that call.
And it is … hard.
It was Christmastime in 2012 …
My son appeared ready to turn his life around. He seemed to have stopped using saying he was tired of "the life" and was ready to do the things to right his ship. He was ready to take his GED exam to finally have that high school diploma in hand. He was ready to start down his road to sobriety.
He was honest with his mother and me about 12-Step meetings. He wasn't sure about the effectiveness. Rather than perceiving this as a red flag I remembered his journey would eventually lead him to meetings or not. This was NOT my journey.
Financially he was floundering. This 14-year-old trapped in a much older body due to the deleterious effects of chronic marijuana use on his adolescent brain chemistry left my son ill prepared for the real world.
Yet, he seemed ready, or at least willing, to turn his life around.
He was out of our home at the time. He had taken refuge from our rules months before to a rental home in a nearby county known for its trailer parks, meth labs and total disregard for zoning.
On the same page my wife and I agreed to give our son a "leg up" with ground rules, or as I referred to them, deal breakers:
No Pipes or other "accoutrements" on property
Begin GED studies
Take an active part in household activities and workload
We allowed our son to move back home.
His progress report for the "semester" ending in July resulted in respective grades of F, F, I, and D minus.
During July I began finding pipes indifferently hidden, or in some instances, left in plain sight. Seeing these I realized that once again, for so many reasons, our son could not stay - again.
My wife confided in me she had known months ago he had been using.
He caught a reprieve from his pending banishment via a story about a building his boss had just bought (true). The owner of the company was fixing up an upper room of the building for my son to live (unlikely).
"He says he'll be happy to have someone at the building 24/7," the disease within my son said, another untruth I would later learn.
When facing dire circumstances addiction will do its utmost to compel our children into survival mode. The disease will lie, cheat, steal and obstruct while at the same time slowly destroying its host from the inside out, body and soul.
July stretched into August. With no emotion one August evening I firmly told him, "You need to be out of the house by the end of September."
Two weeks prior to the deadline I reiterated, "Even if the apartment isn't ready you need to be out by next Monday. October 1st is a Tuesday."
"I KNOW Dad," was his response as he channelled Napoleon Dynamite.
That summer had been for me difficult if not debilitating both physically and emotionally. The experience had been exhausting. There wasn't a day during that summer when I felt one hundred percent. The "leg up" experiment into which I entered with the best of intentions and motives had instead become an exercise in enabling.
I was duped by a disease, again. I wanted to believe he was ready and he was being honest with me. Had I not immersed myself in a summer-long pursuit to examine and expand both my creativity and spirituality (thank you from the bottom of my heart Julia Cameron) I may have not survived.
Still, the finality of my son's eventual parting was weighing heavily on my mind, body and soul.
In the end I came to realize I was doing my son no favor by allowing him to remain at our home. I was also being an irresponsible parent to our younger son by allowing his older brother to sidestep rules and boundaries to which he as the son who did NOT bring me to this journey was held accountable. In acting as if everything was fine with the toxic situation I was interfering with my journey and dashing any hopes that my addicted son would embark on his.
This time, however, was different. I detached with my son this time around, with love. I came to understand the sad and pathetic life that his had become. His addiction, the disease that had brought him to this life-in-limbo would occasionally cause me to believe that it might be easier, for me, to hate both my son and the addiction.
Performing the dance in and out of the various stages of detachment proved to me that I did not hate my son. I had come to the realization that I loved my son and hated the disease that had taken him.
And this would make all the difference.
On September 12, 1962 at Rice University, President John F. Kennedy reminded the American people that, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
We had no business going to to moon in 1969 but beyond all logic, two human beings were able, with virtually no fuel remaining, to achieve a soft landing at Tranquility Base on July 16, 1969.
It can be so hard to do the "other things" we need to do for ourselves, perhaps knowing, but not necessarily believing these just may be the right things for our children. We have to proceed beyond all logic, our children's journeys as improbable as NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo progression to the greatness we as a nation experienced less than seven years after Kennedy's challenge.
Of the TRUST tripartite of Faith, Hope and Love, as our church's associate pastor once said, "Hope, is the crazy one." Hope requires the most perseverance, the most abandonment of our first trusted tendencies. But Hope can remain when all else has failed. Even after we have pushed Faith aside - Faith never leaves unilaterally - Hope can stand fast with us if we allow it in our lives. Strengthened by our growth and our self assurance that we are doing our part by living our lives to the fullest extent, Hope is a partner helping to carry us along our recovery journeys.
An angel gave me the words to say to my son the day he left our home. These words I remember every time I think of him and I even repeat bits and pieces of this goodbye in conversations I have with him:
"My son, I love you. You're going to be fine. You're going to get back on track. You just can't accomplish this here."As parents of addicts we all have decisions to make. What is right for us may be to separate our addicted children from our household as I did, or to allow them to remain with boundaries, to step back, or to engage and extend a necessary lifeline. These are personal decisions as we all proceed along our individual recovery pathways.
We can detach with love from our children and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. If we're persistent and with Hope as our partner (and Faith and Love not far behind), we can move along on our recovery journeys and possibly find, each of us, our personal Tranquility base.
"Leap and the net will appear." ~ Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity