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A few days ago I learned from my once-husband that his brother’s 20-something grandson, who has suffered with addiction for several years, has been in the throes of heroin addiction. The boy’s father, when asked about him, said that his son is “safe.” Which translates: he is incarcerated, and has three square meals a day and a roof over his head.
Welcome to Chapter 3, “Who’da Thought?” of IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU — EXCEPT WHEN IT IS! Indeed, when parents have careened in the trenches with an addicted daughter/son, knowing that she or he has squares and a roof can be a reprieve. Temporary relief is but a band-aid, however, parents know it as anxiety simmers. My heart leaped for them, and I wanted to DO something. But what?
Questions arose. Divorced from my children’s father for sixteen years, do I remain an “aunt” to my once-brother-in-law’s sons, and “great-aunt” to their children? My heart says Yes, and my head says my children remain first cousins. Outsider or not, if I reach out am I being intrusive?
I ran my ruminations past my husband, who attended a 12-step meeting with me only a few days before, and his response was, “Really, if you consider what we heard the other night, is it any of your business? Well, technically, No. And no one has reached out to me for counsel or help. But…
BUT, indeed! I thought back to the theme of a 12-Step meeting I’d attended about a year ago that addressed “motives.” The gist was that sometimes we need to examine why we are thinking a certain way or considering a particular action before we take it. I had to admit I’d experienced a rush of the White Horse Syndrome, an adrenalin surge to swoop in with a solution or opinion to save the day! Boy, Howdy, have I got a book for you!!
My program must be having the desired effect, however, for I slipped into the mode of one of my favorite slogans, “Easy does it.” I pulled back to allow a little time for objectivity to settle into the passion for rescue. Too, I didn’t want the negative spin of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons to sabotage my actions. The Great White Horse went into his stall.
I slept on it, then allowed two more days of “Easy does it” to elapse. I thought about a couple of decades that are background for this book, and why I was led to write it: to offer a way through the overwhelming guilt and loneliness that is particular to parents with an addicted child, and the upside-down mode of parenting that we must adopt to move us away from our children’s addiction and consequences into what we need personally to survive. And I thought of the utter sadness and loss that a mother and father feel for the child that was, and the family that will never be the same… .
Then I thought of Chapter 2, “Your New Comrades,” the “fraternity” that parents enter which you can only appreciate if you’ve been there with those who ”get it” and are not judgmental or appalled by the vagaries of addictions.
I mailed the book. In a brief hand-written letter, I said that no response was required. I assured my nephew (Yes) and his wife that they had been good parents and had raised a good boy, and were not responsible for his addiction or his consequences. And I said I hoped they were taking good care of themselves and one other, allowing their son to do the same, that all the love and good intentions they have poured into him are there for him to draw upon.
I believe that I did the right thing for the right reasons. The White Horse Syndrome had been about me; the gesture I made was about them. Central Recovery Press made this connection possible by bringing my book to light.

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This blog was written by Barbara Victoria, author of the book, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, EXCEPT WHEN IT IS