I wrote in my journal: So how do I feel? Like a failure of a mother. Everyone in the field of drug addiction says, “Don’t blame yourself. You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it; you didn’t make him a drug addict.” But look deeply into a mother’s eyes and tell her that her child is dying and it’s not her fault. Is it possible for a mother to do nothing to stop the pain, to alter its course?  Sure, it makes sense if the child is not your flesh and blood.

My Reflection: I felt I had failed my son. He was a drug addict and I couldn’t stop it. Mothers protect their children, right? I wanted to blame the addiction on anyone, even myself, but certainly not my first-born son.

In time, I learned that trying to assign blame didn’t help anyone: not me, not my son, not my family. I learned to have faith in the Al-Anon saying: “You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it, but you can contribute to it.” Wherever the addiction came from, I had to acknowledge it, accept it, and move forward in prayer and action. Feeling like a failure did no one any good.

Today’s Promise: I am not a failure as a mother. Addiction is a part of our lives. It is no one’s fault.

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    Pat N.

    October 4, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    Grieving the loss of the child of my dreams was the critical step in my recovery and learning “acceptance.”

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    Patti Herndon

    October 2, 2010 at 10:26 PM

    Mothers’Day…Acceptance Continuum. I don’t believe there is much, in terms of the scope of human experience, that levies greater up-hill challenge, or which poses as more of a potential emotional (physical and financial, apparent) resource drain, than in considering the sense of despair, fear, grief, anger, and loss of control that can be experienced in the soul of a mother answering the summons of an addiction and/or mental health-related disorder of a son or daughter.

    I’ve thought about this inimical reality to, what could be fairly described as, an obsessive degree in the past 15 years while parenting a dually diagnosed son. I use the, usually, negatively perceived word “obsessive” because its meaning is accurate, though, not at all negative in this circumstance of relating to, and expounding on a mothers heart. Clarifying, too, (I have gained a certainty at this current mile marker), that my “obsession” has,( at least, in my particular mothers’ journey), served, over the years, in the invariable cultivation of a kind of awareness that has grown, supported and nourished my ability to gain some ground, to make some “necessary-for- my son/my family/myself” positive change along the road that is addiction.

    Investments in recovery-purposed discovery: This obsession of mine, I believe, has paid off in a number of ways, benefitting not only my perspective about my family’s particular reality; but, it has also served in facilitating a solid, and growing, education with regard to the biopsychosocial reality of addiction and dual diagnosis. As important as those components have become in the way I cope daily, I am increasingly more and more aware of how vital it is that I am able to offer some amount of encouragement to others hearts traveling the hard, hard road of an addiction and/or a serious, chronic mental health disorder.

    I love your posts, Libby. They are consistently spot on -wisdom and comfort turned fuel for the road for the fortunate, ready, reader. I feel encouraged every time I read your posts. I printed this one and took it to my NAMI Family to Family class today, so that I could share it with other parent-warriors. This kind of support and encouragement helps me in my day to day journey. Thank you for that.

    This particular post of yours makes me think: Wow! The very component/essence of a mothers’ psyche/heart that innately predisposes her to, and empowers with the skill set to tirelessly champion in the cause of her child’s challenge, specific, in this application, to addiction and co-occurring disorders, also carries with it an equally dynamic “potential” risk of stall, with respect to developing and maintaining the kind of energy necessary for guarding and building maternal empowerments in “health” (body and mind). I’m referring, specifically, to the unique demands of an addiction and/or serious mental health disorder of a son or daughter, and its impact on a mother.

    We can at times, during the journey, as moms (as CSO’s “concerned significant others”) become paralyzed by the same intensity and type of primal energy intended and designed for our utilization in the removal of our offspring (and ourselves, too, ) from harm’s way. This energy, by the way, this measure of ”intensity” or emotional focus is, in and of itself, beneficial . I think that’s because the energy’s sum and potential power is designed to equal, thus diminish, the tangible threat of imminent danger/potential harm posed by a substance use disorder (or any other tangible threat). In other words, there is a valid reason we often “feel” so “heightened” as the mothers of addiction-challenged children. That’s the nature of “a state of ready”. Consequently, moms would be adding to their arsenal in becoming cautiously aware of those stigma-inducing views, judgments, opinions, commentaries, (some of which will surface in the form of truly well intended advisements), that would have us confused and doubting our primal instincts regarding our specific son or daughter, and the specific set of circumstances we face.

    The mother of all energies, “protection and survival” is brimming over in wisdom. It’s automatic. It kicks in without prompting. So, trust your instincts, mom. And guard your perspective. If something you read or hear hits your mother’s radar as judgment and critique, rather than as an information source intended for renewed focus and encouragement, then chances are that particular bit of information/advising is not meritable, at least in terms of the goal of acquiring necessary personal peace…acceptance being that precursor to peace. Remember, you have highly specialized instincts, highly effective energies put in place by a greater wisdom than collective society will ever fully achieve. Learn all you can about addiction. Know your son or daughters heart. Engage recovery-purposed actions and communications. Trust your instincts.

    So now what? Well, the focus of challenge, the goal, when these energies have gone “off-road” causing a stall of hopelessness and despair and guilt…shame etc., then becomes the redirection/refocus and channeling of the sum of that intensity back to recovery-purposed perspectives and investments – A return to balance serving our particular circumstances, our particular reality concerning addiction.
    The emotional drain that is delivered on the backs of an ineffective, self-injurious, self-defeating and, certainly not to our addicted child’s advantage, kind of energy – I’m referring to extended bouts of responses to addiction that take the form of shame, blame, guilt, regrets…. the “coulda shoulda woulda” kind of energy that turns potential health serving amp-age into ineffective, going nowhere, spinning of the wheels, internal dialogue. By the way…Been there, done that, over and over and over. This” kind of energy is often, unwittingly, receiving it’s nourishment from our collective societies’ all you can eat buffet of “some “thing” and/or some one has just gotta’ be blamed for the presence of the condition of addiction, first and foremost”. Wrong.

    We can set a healthy table that includes a menu of options to pull our chairs up to in the effort to nourish recovery-purposed eneries. We can get better and better at avoiding the all to common diet of “it’s all my fault, it’s his fault, it’s her fault, if I only I had known _____. I wish I had ___ The same energy that is weighing down your spirit and blocking your sense of confidence in engaging your innate maternal skill set to problem solve for your circumstances is the very same energy lying in wait, eager to be transformed and to assume it’s originally intended purpose as the mother of all threats (both defense and offense) to addiction. This “threat” serves the prevention, intervention and treatment of addiction, as well as serving in the discovery and treatment of the broad spectrum of mental health disorders. That’s the journey. This energy, this life-force, exists to facilitate delivery of problem solving energy on behalf of the instinctive desire, and the ever- extending reach for increasing well-being for ourselves and our addicted child. This comes to pass in honor of the survival and increasing health of the family system. No two systems/dynamics are the same, either. And, “family system” for these purposes is being defined, in this application, as two or more individuals that care about the well-being of one another; even if we don’t always say and do the right thing…’Cause let’s get “realer”…Nobody can live up to that kind of expectation in the relational dynamic…especially not those individuals in the active throws of an addiction or mental health crisis; be it the addiction-challenged, or the CSO.

    This particular energy that serves balance is comprised of an undeniable brand of kick ass mother force not to be trifled with. This is a kind of energy that, when in its original state of active growth and protection, rather than its counterpart of suppression, has the innate tendency to replicate itself over and over for the specific purpose of serving “what is the next best thing I can do for my kids’ well-being in these particular circumstances” on this particular day, in this moment with regard to my available resources. This energy makes no guarantee of being capable of removing the tangible threat to life or health that addiction poses. It’s objective is to up the odds of creating or restoring balance. This kind of energy craves information and never limits itself to one source of it in the pursuit of its obsession… “well-being”. It’s open-minded, creative, non-judging. It devours all available data on addiction and mental health conditions as it becomes increasingly equipped to process it, bit by bit, step by step; off-loading what will not serve its obsession, and storing the rest for the inevitable storms that come in the journey. It’s a process. This energy has primed itself beyond the reach of starvation, so it’s always in a perpetual state of growth, never runs out of fuel because it has learned, through trial by fire and plenty of error, to create recovery-purposed fuel out of every experience, every encounter…no matter what. It is perpetually in search of a better way, a more efficient way to protect and serve the health and life of those it is designed to benefit to the very best of its ability. This cultivated energy, this “spirit” infuses a confidence, a peace, a knowing regarding how it has gone about and will go about problem solving in its particular circumstances – A product of an acceptance that it has done, is doing, and will do the best it can for the circumstances…even when the outcome has been anything but what it desired – A kind of enduring faith that the total sum of its nature is enough no matter what the details may have been, or will become –It’s an energy that exists in a responsive state of “more than adequate”, no matter what happens along the journey.

    It’s a beyond difficult challenge for all moms facing the substance use disorder of their son or daughter. And, it takes a long time, in most all cases, at least as far as I have observed in my own journey and the journeys of other mothers, to build up and to learn to rely on that source of innate energy that we all possess. The energy designed to consistently support a reach for increasing well-being in the journey that is addiction.

    Further, it’s very important to the spirit of healthy navigation, and to the avoidance of negative, energy-draining, stigmatizing perspectives to become equipped at distinguishing helpful information from what is, in essence, attractively packaged garbage that our culture routinely throws out there, sometimes in the form of buzz words and/or judgments,that can potentially increase our sense of “it’s all my fault” thinking. It’s important to flesh-out in our own circumstances, as separate individuals traveling a similar, but, not, identical path, those resources that will serve our particular kids addiction journey.

    It’s critical to know our kids heart intrinsically to make the best use of our innate, well-being serving, balancing mechanism. We need to become equipped to invest at that level, to that degree in order to encourage our addiction-challenged kid to discover and implement their own brand of recovery purposed initiatives, even if we don’t always agree with their approach. That is what will, ultimately, serve their self-efficacy, their healthy self-differentiation, and their coping abilities. There is coping aptitude, there. Even if it is not evident, it absolutely exists. The goal, our objective, as CSO’s is to help our son or daughter discover what it is that helps “ them” to discover, or re-discover, and then access their own personal problem-solving skill set. Little by little, step by step. This is assistance with a broad scope, it serves the short and long term. This approach ups their odds for better daily life-management functioning.

    It’s a “good news/bad news” kind of thing, I suppose….Like pretty much everything else. It seems logical though, too. Borrowing from Newton’s Law of Inertia, and probably insulting it’s frame of simplicity in order to make a well intended, hopefully, inspiring point: The more bulk of despair and shame and guilt we take on as “storage” in our response to the addiction challenge of our child, the less likely it is that we will be ready and equipped to gain momentum and force a change in direction toward that of acceptance, peace and well being. That same intensity of desire to remove our child from harms’ way can, if we are not diligent, morph into a potential receptacle for negative “trash talk” that can dominate our thinking. This kind of internal dialogue with oneself creates stall. We need to remind ourselves to guard our innate energy supplying spirit, and role…The role of “mom”. Mom has an especially unique ability to influence the entire family system, (two or more), to reach for balance, and to develop and sustain the belief in successes that come in recovery-purposed communication and actions -The reality, at least, for the vast majority of circumstances concerning addiction and mental health disorders, and those mothers sharing in that journey. We are not alone…

    Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

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    Susan Lea

    September 30, 2010 at 7:08 PM

    Oh how I wish I believed that.

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