A clean slate that for all that is possible is a breathtaking prospect.
When I last wrote here, four days before Christmas, my attention was focused in the how-important-is-it of misplacing a well-intended “perfect” gift for my adult offspring in recovery. Two days later, said offspring went through a nasty relapse that was witnessed by three of my grandchildren during what might have been a Hallmark Card gathering.
The short version: while returning three grandchildren to my oldest offspring’s home, I began to realize that my youngest offspring, who was visiting there for the first time in half a dozen years, was not just a little inebriated. While three children slept in the back seat, I began to hear alcohol talking as the mood shifted from effusively outgoing and witty (for one who is normally shy and soft spoken), to moody. Then critical and angry began to emerge as a familiar litany rolled out.
Gripping the steering wheel, my mind raced. What do I have on my hands, and what am I going to do about it?
You and I may have things that we need to address, but we are not going to do it now with these children present, I said evenly.
They’re asleep, was the response.
No, this isn’t going to happen. Not now. I was unequivocal. For the rest of the two-hour drive I focused on diverting alcohol-talk while reining in my careening emotions.
The verbiage I was hearing was not new, and a voice inside my head began reminding me, Don’t take it personally! Easier said than done… until another voice piped in, Fake it ‘til you make it. OKAAAY, this I can do — pure Chapter 10 out of IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU — EXCEPT WHEN IT IS! Taking Care of Your Precious Self. This is not about me, no matter how it is coming across!
Focus. Focus. Focus. Which is what I did the rest of the evening, aborting the overnight Hallmark reunion for a return trip from whence we’d come. Over all, I was amazed with how well I held the situation together. I’d give myself a solid B+ that might have been an A- except for the aftermath.
The next morning, I could not step out from under the cloud that had descended, a pall of sadness, regret, and despair that accompanies the disease of alcoholism. I was working my program, but I needed more, and was able to find an Al-Anon meeting that evening, Christmas Eve, a men’s group of long standing that welcomed me. The question hanging in the air was whether or not to call my offspring whom I had invited to come for homemade Irish stew and Soda bread on Christmas day.
“You’ll know what to do tomorrow,” one of the men said after I briefly introduced the crisis that had brought me there. I calmed down. And, as usually happens at a 12-Step meeting, I heard “experience, strength and hope” that touched me right where I needed it. When I returned home, my husband had a fire going in the wood stove, and the rest of Christmas Eve was sweet.
But — there is that rascal — by Christmas morning I was on the verge of picking up the phone. Mom reaching out. Mom smoothing over. Mom making nice — after all, it was Christmas Day! But the demon disease with whom I had just been face to face held me at arm’s length. I could not put a red bow on it, no matter what day it was. I had to remain realistic, and decided, for a change, to trust my Higher Power and that of my adult child to allow the day to evolve as it would.
I was a little wobbly throughout the day, but held my ground. Then early in the afternoon the phone rang. My offspring, sounding sober and clear headed, apologized for what had happened, and asked if the invitation still stood. If you are sober, Yes. Could a friend come? Absolutely. I would love that. And the rest of Christmas Day was good.
The essential lessons of my holiday season were about setting boundaries, and embracing progress, if not perfection. Pure 12-Step work! The theme of 2013 was that recovery is not linear. If I am to remain in the life an adult child battling the disease of alcoholism, we both will live with the possibility of relapse. The dance is intricate, the footwork dicey, but it is a choice I make, the challenge I choose.
Where there is life, there is hope, Chapter 1 — with the good, the bad, the ugly and the miraculous. That is my gift to you for the New Year, dear parents, because It’s not about you — except when it is!