Sometimes I am overcome with sadness. The one I raised is disappearing into a stranger. I don’t know how to live with this loss day after day, night after night. I am lost as well. — BV
So begins Chapter 5 of IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU — EXCEPT WHEN IT IS! The losses wrought by addiction are legion. There are general losses that cannot be retrieved or recreated in tact such as time, innocence, youth, and opportunity. And there are specific losses that are individual: jobs, family relationships, friends, possessions… .
The loss of relationships may be the most poignant and nuanced for parents to assimilate.
The relationship with a daughter or son pristine from childhood can be shattered by the chaos and consequences of addiction. A parent is assaulted head on with the first call from jail following an arrest for DUI, or watching their daughter or son led handcuffed in an orange suit into a court room to stand before a judge, or talking with their offspring on a hand receiver looking through a Plexiglas window. These are rude awakenings laced with incomprehensible loss.
Parenting that worked in the past is no longer relevant or wise, and is more than likely detrimental to the “new normal” within the upside down reality that I call Planet Paradox. The addict must come to terms with substance abuse and its accompanying consequences as life unravels. Which can be done — it happens every day — but energy that could be invested in growth must be expended on fixing, the prerequisite before life can to be rejuvenated and rebuilt. Consider it regrouping after loss.
Relationships can be lost with extended family — parents, siblings, and extended family including grandparents, aunts and uncles; cousins who have been alienated by behaviors and consequences they cannot comprehend. The bizarreness is more than most people can get their heads around, though parents will attempt to so as not lose their child entirely.
And there is loss of relationships for our daughters and sons. There is not a parent on earth who does not want their offspring to love and be loved. When you watch them fall in love for the first time your heart leaps with possibility for them. Maybe part of you falls in love with your daughter or son’s partner, the rightness of a particular person for her or him, and the resonance you may feel with someone who is blessing all your lives with happiness and hope. But the vagaries of addiction can become more than a romantic partner or a marriage can sustain.
Watching a genuinely good relationship slip away or become shattered can be a wrenching loss for Mom or Dad whether or not a marriage or children are involved. Suddenly your offspring is utterly alone. Again. Possibility and hope have, for the time being, been lost. The heartache can be unbearable if you have lived through this with an adult child more than once. How do you shake your sadness and theirs?
You focus on taking care of yourself one step, one day at a time, which I introduce in Chapter 5, The Abyss. You can be swallowed up by grief; you can become paralyzed with inertia. Or you can do the next thing that lies before you as though your heart has not been freshly broken: tackle an unfinished job you have been procrastinating against; pull weeds in the yard or garden; wash and wax your car; clean out the garage; wash windows; cull your belongings with one rule: if you haven’t used it or worn it for a year, give it to an agency who connects things with people who need them, or hold a yard sale.
Work on your Attitude of Gratitude list. Add to it several times a day, and I guarantee it will dislodge the blues and avert your attention from that which you cannot control. And work The Serenity Prayer!
Remember, if life can go straight to Hell in a moment, it can also soar to the Heavens. The only certainty we have is change. Loss can turn into Found, so work it, Baby!