"Every time you are tempted to react in the same way, ask if you want to be prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future." ~ Deepak ChopraWhen our children began their spiral into addiction we did everything we could to stop the decline. We enabled, we passively aggressively ignored, we had so many plates spinning we had no time for our lives. Certainly some of us had to step in to save a life, literally, that selfless act of a parent costing tens of thousands of dollars in many cases, just to get our son clean, to give our daughter a few tools we would hope would serve her well in a sorely anticipated recovery. Our children emerged from inpatient or outpatient treatment, wilderness camp, therapeutic boarding school or other recovery programs cleansed perhaps, but in many cases not sober . Many would soon regress into lives of addiction.
We were told the words we did not want to hear, "Relapse is part of recovery." The tools provided to our children would be ignored and we, as parents (read caretakers, fixers) once again would embrace the role of enabler.
We repeated the ultimate insult of doing for our children what they could, should and MUST do for themselves. We stole their consequences, challenges, failures and victories.
This is the consummate tragedy of the enabling parent. We become collaborators with The Addiction.
When we pay bills, make excuses, allow ourselves to be doormats to our addict's addiction-driven abusive behaviors, set higher standards for other family members than we have for the addict and tacitly endorse destructive behaviors we're doing our children no favors. We are playing the game masterfully laid out by The Addiction. We become conspirators in maintaining our children's lifestyle of self destruction contributing to each setback in equal measure with our efforts to assist.
Our lives once again revolve around the addict. We stop living. We fixate. In many cases we become physically sick. We are no good for anyone. We become angry, once again, with our children and miss the point, totally:
They are no more a willing participant in the addiction that has engulfed their existence than a cancer patient riddled with uncontrollable cell growth.One day we look around and find ourselves in a pit, deep in a dark and dangerous rain forest mired with our children and their addiction.
That's when it hits us.
"What the hell?"
We survey where we are, what we have become. Why have I hit bottom and realize this and my son doesn't have a clue? How could my daughter not see what I see?
What we see is The Addiction leering down at us, its malevolent smile betraying its true intent of bringing every family member down with the addict like a house of cards. What our children see is comfort and stability, a benevolent benefactor of pleasure and predictability.
The Addiction is asking our children daily, "You don't want to give this up, do you?"
We, conversely, realize something at some point, perhaps after three or four nosedives into the shit with our children. We are beaten. We find the courage to say these words:
"OK Addiction, I give. You win. I'm done fighting you."This is NOT what The Addiction wants to hear.
We step aside and begin to find toeholds out of the morass. Miraculously, we emerge.
We get out. We get out of the way.
Years ago I fashioned a tactic for myself for deflecting the clutches of angry people, those folks who live for the thrill of the confrontation, the competition sport of bringing everyone down with them into their personal pit of crap or dark lair of despair.
I would picture the venom of anger coming at me as if launched off a tennis racket, the 150 mile per hour serve of rage sizzling over the net to my awaiting forehand. I would imagine the ball whooshing past me without lifting my racket. I would refuse to play that game. I would get out of the way. (It works, try it using your own visualization.)
We can employ the same tactic with The Addiction.
We can get out of the way, refuse to engage. The Amazing might just happen. We live, take walks in the park, exercise and explore talents and pursuits previously obscured by our childrens' struggle with addiction.
As we begin to love and explore ourselves we can cherish our children once again. Our hearts soften, we can see our childrens' dependence on the lure of the comfort and security of the addicted life. We lose the bitterness inherent with living in the stink and goo of the mire and find the way to separating our children from The Addiction.
It, The Addiction will lash out in the only way it can, through our children. The services will come fast and furiously with the thump-thump-thump of a tennis ball machine.
It's hard to refuse the service.
This is the secret. The Addiction will NEVER tire of the game. Our children, just might.
This is one of the many counterintuitively magic moments we may encounter along our recovery journeys. If we just get out of the way the beautiful horizons, magnificent vistas and sunrises the Universe has created for us suddenly become visible. We no longer waste time fighting a battle we cannot win, an adversary we cannot overcome. This foe wants us down, but not out.
No longer a willing play toy for The Addiction we emerge into the sunlight to the warmth of our possibilities.
Our children will notice though they may not let on. The life they have tumbled into is not a life they would ever have consciously chosen. They may begin to tire of the muck. Epiphanies may emerge. Bottoms may be reached. They may begin to want to SEE, to SEEK. They may even begin to imagine a way out.
And this, my fellow travellers, is a beginning.
"Although we have been made to believe that if we let go we will end up with nothing, life reveals just the opposite: that letting go is the real path to freedom." ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, "Glimpse After Glimpse"