Arrested development is a sad relative that accompanies the already nasty beast that is addiction. Which means: the emotional development of an addict becomes arrested at the time, stage-in-life, level of maturity, that addiction began (Chapter 6, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU — EXCEPT WHEN IT IS).
A parent can watch a daughter or son begin to emerge recovery, gladdened as the one they have raised begins to become recognizable again. What joy! He or she is coming back!!!
Well, not exactly… Recovery is not the kick-start of a new life, but a process. The addict who chooses recovery gets to pick up where he or she left off before substance abuse took over body, mind and spirit. For parents, the blessing is mixed. Yes, their loved one may be gradually emerging, but reclaiming ground that has been lost over years, perhaps decades, requires real work and perseverance. And patience, all around.
A young person who was drawn into addictive behavior as a teen or pre-teen years has been developmentally stunted. They cannot have developed a mature, disciplined work ethic to hop back into in her or his twenties or thirties, hustling out to land a job as the doors of rehab swing shut. Moreover, there may have been legal consequences that make employability dicey if felony charges were leveled for any reason during active addiction.
There is no quick fix here. The good news is that people DO survive the roller coaster of addictive behavior to hold down jobs, live independently, and form nurturing relationships in productive lives that might be laughingly referred to as “normal.” An employer willing to give an addict in recovery a chance may rewarded with grateful, disciplined employee, a pure joy for her or his parents. May any parent reading these words be so fortunate.
May this mother be so fortunate! While watching my adult offspring in recovery struggle with an already challenging workplace, I have to remember how far the road to recovery has been, that it is not the shortest distance between two points, and that it is not up to me to hope for, let alone expect, a time table performance.
I work my own 12-Step program, practice an “Attitude of Gratitude,” and wear a ring with the Serenity Prayer inscribed inside whenever I need it, which has been every day for some time. I am grateful when my loved one is sober and can share a meal, watch a movie, spend the night. I try to catch myself from worrying about when “real progress” (by my definition!) will begin, when my no-longer-young offspring can be truly self-sufficient, maintain a loving and stable relationship with the opposite sex, gain a toe hold for a future with some kind of stability.
This has been a rough week. One of my favorite actors, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, lost his battle with heroin addiction, leaving behind a long-term relationship with the mother of his three children, all under the age of 11. Revered by all his colleagues in theater and film, he thanked his mother for taking him to his first play when he received the Oscar for Best Actor in 2005.
My apprehensions are nothing next to the loss of his loved ones this day.
An attitude of gratitude — bring it on! May Phillip Seymour Hoffman bestow a final gift with a wake-up for the deadly disease that addiction remains. May he not be blamed, but understood, so that those who survive may live our lives in relationship to our addicted loved ones removed from the problem as we work our own solutions by taking care of ourselves.
May Phillip Seymour Hoffman rest peacefully. May his family find peace.