Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Child Sightings

"The humble heart is protagonist to the critical heart and must always prevail." ~ Patrick Benjamin
It is one of the cruelest burdens we bear as parents of habitual substance abusers and addicts. Sometimes the addiction will allow us a brief glimpse of our sons and daughters as they were, prior to the change.

It is as if the addiction is taunting us, screaming, "See what I've taken from you!"

It is at these times, during these surprise attacks on our souls, when our journeys are tested, our progress at risk. We can revert to the comfortable, we can return to the swamp, the harsh canopy, the darkness and dampness of the rainforest, the inescapable hedgerow. We can tell our addicts everything we've not been able to communicate during substance-driven stupors. We can cajole, lecture, attempt to control. This may be the perfect opportunity to apply a fix, to impart the single lesson that might just turn them around. This is our chance to jump in and talk some sense into our children, right?

Wrong!

This, rather, is a chance to sit back, listen, converse and simply revisit if just for a short time the beauty that is our children who have been taken from us.

How long it has been since our last child sighting is often concomitant with the deepness of our childrens' spiral into addiction. As hard as this may sound, our childrens' addictions will tempt interactions meant to harm, coerce, influence, mislead, misdirect, cast blame and deceive. The days, weeks, months or even years since our last child sightings we've held fast to our recovery journey. We have continued. We've held the line. We've not lectured nor raged, or reverted to the old behaviors, or offered pat solutions to obstacles not under our control.

We can think of the child sighting as our reward for doing for ourselves and our children by doing nothing to fix the addiction. All the time spent keeping our egos in check, staying the course of our recovery journeys, humbly trusting that some Higher Power is at work creating a future we could not create or even conceive has paid off.

My first child sighting came early on in my recovery and is indelibly and forever etched into my memory. It was at an off-site lunch break during a parents' weekend at the therapeutic boarding school we had placed our son to provide him tools for his eventual recovery …

My son ordered nothing. He was angry, still, that we had sent him for eight weeks to the high desert of Utah, then to finish his junior year of high school in western Montana. He used the twenty minutes spent at the local diner to remind me how pointless sending him away had been and what a load of crap we had been handed by the school counseling staff during our parent sessions (the boys had not been there). He peppered his twenty-minute diatribe with enough F-bombs to rival Nixon's 12-day Christmas air assault on North Vietnam in 1972.

I sat there and said nothing. We parents had been prepared for this. So early on in my recovery I was barely able to hold it together.

But I did.

After my quick lunch the two of us piled silently into my rental car for our return to the retreat house. As I prepared to turn the ignition my son turned to me and without any preamble simply said, "Dad, I was really good at football, wasn't I?"

"Sweetheart, you were even better at baseball," was my response. 

We drove to the house without another word.

That was my first child sighting.

Child sightings give us hope that is neither unrealistic nor unfounded.

Child sightings help us love the addict while hating the addiction.

Child sightings are a minor victory over the addiction. Relish this victory. We've earned it.

But do not become complacent.

Our personal recovery pathway is long and fraught with dangers and detours, uncertainty and confusion. We can remember that wherever we are along our journeys the child sightings provide bright sunshiny days and clear vision of what may lie ahead if we persevere. Child sightings give us validation that we just might be on the right path and in doing the BEST WE CAN for ourselves, we're doing the right thing for our children.

This is our opportunity to let our children know they are loved and appreciated for who they are. It is not a time to jump in to fix the unfixable, control the uncontrollable, to cure the incurable or to take ownership of what we did not cause. This would transform time with our children, however brief, into a victory for the addiction.

Cherish these moments. Bask in the sunlight of our childrens' souls. These child sightings are our opportunity to Breathe, Trust, Laugh, Seek, Hope, Love and See, all in an instant.

Silently cry if you need to.

Gently accept these unexpected gifts from the Universe, God, the Great Creator. There's a new-found spring in our step. We are on the right pathway. Look up. There are possibilities ahead we can't even imagine!

… keep coming back

"In the darkest hour the soul is replenished and given strength to continue and endure."   ~ H.W. Chosa