Courage, Change and Acceptance

We’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention and that change emerges when you can’t keep doing something the same way.  Mental balance is sometimes that necessity.  Positive change and acceptance are more than just talking and coping.  It’s not necessarily as complicated as it sounds.  Change in context to acceptance is powerful and it takes courage to break through the destructive patterns that are in the way.  Change is born of courage.  Acceptance is what we give something we know we are powerless with.  Wisdom is knowing that difference.  In a nut shell, that’s the serenity prayer.  It has served those impacted by the actions of an addict as much as it has any addict.

In a 2007 film about addiction, Things We Lost in The Fire, Benicio Del Toro plays a heroin addict so convincingly you might think you’re right there feeling acceptance and compassion for his struggle.  It works both ways.  The film shows an innocent side to addiction as a disease and the miracle of compassion that is attracted when courage and acceptance meet.  After years of shooting heroin, Jerry (Del Toro) endures a brutal detox in the home of his best friend’s widow, Audrey (Halle Berry).  What you see, is how much courage and acceptance it takes for an addict and those around him to see life as it is and contrast it to what it can be.  The message flows in all directions.  Acceptance is the key to making a choice to change because, in the face of many of the things we would like to transform, we find that that we are powerless.  It is like the want of a quick cure in context to the difficult struggle to save a young addict or resuming a “normal” life.   Acceptance gets us out of the way of opportunity so a clearing for action is possible.  It is not giving up.  Acceptance is a baseline for clear mindedness in the wake of discovering a family member suffering from drug addiction. Regardless of what our actions were, most of us knew then as we know now, that reactive and destructive patterns made a problem worse.  

Wisdom and introspection can clear up where we have power and where we don’t.   Change becomes a possibility when a clearing is seen through the barriers of our destructive patterns.  Many American families face the long road of living with the impact of addiction.  They know great losses, deaths and tough recoveries.  Yet, we can be resolved with all of it.  No one helps anyone, including themselves, without remaining balanced. For me change is partly acceptance and partly the courage to keep moving away from old patterns.  By sharing the experience of parenting a loved one who fell into the abyss of addiction, I can make a difference to someone struggling to transform coping and anguish into acceptance and action.  Co-dependence and addiction is like quicksand.  Without courage and some outside help it easily sucks you in deeper.  Out of our listening emerges compassion, which is the glue of recovery. Compassion is what comes when one accepts the struggles of another as part of a larger picture in which we all belong.  Compassion is ultimately what will make the biggest difference in addressing America’s dark nightmare with drugs.

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    January 18, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    My husband and I started the turmoil in 2010 when we found out that our child was addicted to drugs. He was 20 and had a bright future but thanks to the Oxycontin and Opiana as well as heroin. He has led us down a path that neither one of us ever thought we would have to take. We are both educated have great jobs, live in a nice neighborhood in a new house. He ran with great kids and had a promising future until he went to that ONE PARTY! There was a kid around his age that invited him in on a groups secret and guess what he began his journey as a drug addict! He thought it would be cool to get a bigger fix than just being drunk but little did he know that addiction has ran in previous generations of our family. He had a grandfather whom he never met that was an alcholic and a uncle on his mother’s side of the family that had drug addiction. He just thought he was going to have a little fun and go to work and college the next day. Instead he spiralled out of control. He cannot do drugs and carry on daily life. It turned him into a liar, thief and cheat. We have encouraged him, took him to AA meetings, and sent him to Detox. Then we moved on to rehabiliation and half-way houses. Everytime we thought he was over it……within weeks he was lying, cheating, stealing and doing drugs again! We have finally let him go with love and pray to GOd daily that he will cure our son of this mental illness that has robbed him! We hope that he gets surrounded by people that he can listen to and they will encourage him so that he listens. I find it very hard to like him at this point in my life. I have another child that we do not want her to see what we have had to deal with. We worry that we did something wrong in raising him but after reading statistics I find that we are in the top 5 states for prescription drug use and at least 1 in 3 kids try drugs. If they are not susceptible to addiction they are fine but 1 child is one to many for this to happen too.

    I hope one day I can forgive him for all of the grief he has caused. I realize now he with either end up dead, incarcerated or rehabilated. But him and only him can make that decision!

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    Patti Herndon

    August 27, 2010 at 8:35 PM

    Susan’s shared reflection triggered my own. I recall the conversation as if it were yesterday,(15 years being the actual span, now), since my son came to me to tell me about what his choices in substance use had been.

    He was a freshman in high school. In that, beyond surreal, moment, it felt as if I had floated outside of my body…like I was processing my sons’ words from “some where else”. I saw myself sitting cross legged on the floor in front of his bed in that moment, staring forward, with my eyes becoming more and more fixed with every subsequent word he struggled to utter after the words, “Mom. I need to tell you something”. Simultaneously, this, “hum” crescendoed into a roar that competed with that sweet, frightened kid’s voice –the roar that signaled our lives had, in that very moment, experienced a cataclysmic shift. In that moment, our family, our world ( at least, as I had held it in my mind and heart), had disappeared in a flash and alchemized into “something else”.

    I would never be able to plop myself down into the middle of his bedroom floor for a chat, a laugh, a catch up on the days/weeks details in the same unsuspecting frame of mind and spirit that had accompanied our communications and interactions before. Everything changed in that moment, on that day.

    Yes. It all changed. He disburdened his troubled conscience and worried mind…With this plea for help; him having no clue what he had chosen to unleash, the world began wobbling around on it’s axis. He explained his, unimaginably, impulsive decision to follow the urging of a school friend determined to experience a no-cost, short-lived, altered consciousness by way of inhalant -My sons’, his “friends” judgment, and their reasoning skill set, obviously, horrifically underdeveloped. I can still recall that conversations’ full physical essence…the sensations, the color and sound of it all.. exactly as it occured.

    I get the full weight of the “glued to my memory” description. I relate. And, as a parent, it’s hard to push beyond that full-on assault of recall sometimes, especially early on in the process. It’s like, remembering that moment, and other ones like it that come with addiction, can knock us over, keeping us traumatized, anxiety disposed. But, it makes sense that it could have that kind of power –that kind of impact. Why wouldn’t it? It’s traumatizing news to many parents. And just as a side… Contrary to popular belief associated with some of the ill informed, incorrect notions about what “denial” really is; it is, absolutely, possible for a parent not to know there kid is using. And when a parent does not suspect, the realization, in form of a confession, brings with it a red hot lightening bolt of shock.

    In reflecting on that trauma, that shock, we can become vulnerable if we don’t develop a coping mechanism to, somewhat, disconnect the emotion from the event as we reflect on it. That feeling of helplessness and disbelief can remain lurking in our psyches waitng to strike. That sense of recalled despair can slow our pace in the battle for balance and sustainable wellbeing.

    It’s like that activating event is being experienced all over again. It’s important to vent and it’s important to connect with another’s pain as long as we don’t get bogged down in it.

    It’s taken a lot of years to develop my own brand of “solvent” that would free me from the change-stalling anxiety I seemed to get stuck in those times I found myself reflecting on the traumas we’ve experienced at the hands of major depressive disorder and addiction. My sons’ confession was just the first of many traumas I have experienced… endured and grown from as a result of his co-occuring disorder. All the while I’ve worked to maintain balance, my perspective and expectations have changed. I truly realized the power in empowering interactions and communications. I realized that I did have the power to impact my son’s perspective…Not his choice to use…That’s his accountability…But, rather, I could impact his spirit and his sense of self-reliance in reaching further and further for recovery. I could, most definitely, impact, for better or worse, his mindset in the moment. And all those moments matter and add up to the what it is we will, ultimately, decide upon when it comes to recovery.

    By doing a lot of reading about family systems, and the family roles that are established within all families, I learned that it mattered very much how I chose to communicate; and even more critical was the way I chose to listen. The things we choose to say to one another, in the stress of any moment, matters…And the reality is that we all have a choice in that. It’s sometimes feels impossible to locate, in our brains/heart what would be the best response in the chaos. And, many times we just don’t find it until the moment is gone. But, our drug addicted kids don’t make us say the things we do, and usually, immediately, regret…. Anymore than we make them put a needle in their arm or a pill on their tongue.

    From the way we view the process of addiction, to our sense of family unity and balance; Communications impact the spirit of the traveling. Those interactions are the fuel, or lack of,that govern the pace of recovery, to a lare degree.

    Words/interactions will stick like glue in our memories, too. Encouragements, and even appropriate silence, can lift and help calm our hearts and springboard us onto hope…if only for that moment or day. I’ll take what I can get in terms of hope. I save those pennies…they add up. And, there are those words we utter that cut all the way to the soul. I realized, as I learned about family dynamics, that I had uttered a lot of both of those kinds of words. And they all have mattered.

    I realized that I could harness empowerment for recovery purposed communicating, and that I could impact the journey for the better…mine, my sons…my whole family’s. I don’t get it right every day. The challenges are great. I am only human. But, WOW at the difference in the traveling as I learned how to facilitate good vibrations through better consistant healthy communicating. I had to take care of myself to do that, though.

    As I tackled my paralyzing fear about whether my child would survive his choices, his chronic condition; slowly, step by step, I began to notice better coping even in the face of many scary events –the common, and maybe not so common, traumas that exist in dual diagnosis. As I make my way, my communications and my bond with my son, and my family system, all continue to strengthen.

    My family members -my beautiful boys- would, all, agree that we are, as a family and as individuals, being made more resilient with an amplified appreciation for the moments we are blessed to share and live. I can say, that I’ve accepted and embraced that our “continuing” journey was always to be…just as it is.

    Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

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