Hovering. Mothers do this from day one with their newborns. We search their body language, their cries, their coos, and their giggles to ascertain what they are telling us about their needs, their wants, what is working and what is not in their brand new lives. Our radar becomes laser tuned to react when needed, and linger when something special is unfolding. This kind of hovering is a good thing.
As our children mature, hovering becomes “momming.” We are still attuned to our children, but we give them room to develop their own personalities and interests, likes and dislikes as their individuality develops. We want this for them. “Momming” is good.
As children mature and leave home, the “momming” tether lengthens. We give them up to lives of their own and learn to respect their choices, even if we do not always agree with them. We accept a present and future that is in their hands. “Momming” becomes long distance whether they live across town or several states away, and this is good. For mothers of children who are prey to addiction, however, “momming” becomes distorted and prolonged.
Now I’ve been in 12-Step recovery long enough to know that I didn’t cause my offspring’s addiction, I cannot control it, and I cannot cure it — not original with me (Chapter 1, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU — EXCEPT WHEN IT IS!). In fact, I came into the program slammed with the three “Cs.” I was out of rabbits to pull out of the hat and had nowhere to turn where I hadn’t already met a dead end. While I have grown beyond fixing and directing guiding addictive behavior, my offspring’s relapse two days before Christmas opened my eyes to the extent I that I have been hovering and “momming.” Which amounts to trading short-term warm fuzzies for long-term drama and pain.
Nearly two weeks have elapsed since my husband and I welcomed the New Year with my relapsed one whom we assumed was dry but was, in fact, still slightly under the influence. Feeling a bit duped, I backed off afterwards. We have had no communication after the gracious Thank You we received for the dinner and evening. I’ve resisted the urge to call, send messages or even the occasional XOXO — hardly characteristic behavior for me. How?
After the aborted Hallmark gathering, I reached out for 12-Step connections. I attended meetings, read, and I dove into Step 10 for a hard look at my own behavior. During the week before Christmas I had failed to pay attention to my offspring’s reticence. Something was not right, but I sailed past my fluttering misgivings and forced something that wasn’t ready to come together. Had I been honest with myself, the aborted trip would not have happened. I needed to stop “momming.”
Secondly, I came to terms with the extent that I’ve been hovering. I am solicitous to the adult child who is vulnerable to relapse, being there to help. I want to “be there” for my oldest child as well, but my stance is more even, Let me know what you need and I’ll do what I can. This form of “being there” is not laced with apprehension, but is extended as a gift. I was not giving my children the same kind of attention (the Prologue). Both are sensitive and intelligent people, and my demeanor was not lost on either of them. While one was relegated to the margins of my attention, the other was being handled with kid gloves. If one was feeling dismissed, the other was weighed down by fear that I was generating.
My “momming” needed to be adjusted, and that is what I have been working on since the Hallmark Relapse. My challenge for the New Year is to be real with both my smart, capable adult children and treat them more evenly.
The disease of addiction cannot be cured, but it can be managed — which is not my job! My job is to stay on my side of the street, pull my little red wagon (Prologue), and be there for both of my adult children while working my 12-Step program!
Walking the path of recovery will never be linear for me or for my family, but that is what our12-Step programs are for, to grow with the “experience, strength and hope” we receive from others walking with us.