When a woman is pregnant, people often ask whether she thinks it’s a boy or a girl. I’ve noticed that most people expect the mom will answer that it doesn’t matter as long as the baby is happy and healthy. This dialogue is no different from asking, “How are you?” and responding, “Fine, and you?” The typical response is the expected one even if you are far from fine.
The same is true when it comes to talking about my son’s addiction and recovery. Everyone wants the happy story, the one where everything is working out and is moving toward happy and healthy.
That does happen, sometimes, but often after many ups and downs, twists and turns, ebbs and flows. It is, in fact, a life of first one thing and then another. Sometimes happy and healthy comes quickly, but more often than not, it takes time. After all, the addiction didn’t manifest itself overnight and it won’t be changed or helped overnight either. Recovery is not a straight line; it is anything but, because recovery is life and life is always evolving.
Similarly, for the addict’s family and friends, most notably the parents, we too experience these opposing adjectives. We might move from unaware to aware. From denial to acceptance. From confused to knowledgeable. From devastated to grateful. Any pairing of opposites applies.
When I first started noting my observations about my son and his use, the adjectives that I used were more negative, more sad. Today, these same adjectives have actually taken on more accepting and positive connotation, at least for me. And, the experience has taken on a far more meaningful and encouraging tone.
On Twitter earlier today, someone posted a quote about growing stronger as a result of our struggles. It is true. I am stronger today. I don’t wish this path on anyone, but I am not bitter or sad. I am engaged and empowered. I am committed to sharing my observations in hopes that it helps other adults who are concerned recognize signs of drug and alcohol use – the signs that go beyond the use to nuances in behavior, the ones that others might dismiss. I hope I role model that it’s OK to be sad, angry, discouraged, but that I can also live a happy and healthy life in spite of my son’s circumstances.
Long before drugs entered my son’s life, I realized that the true answer (for me) wasn’t about happy and healthy kids. It was about hoping they would have the skills, temperament and will to weather the inevitable ups and downs of life. After all, that’s what life is, a series of ups and downs, ebbs and flows, twists and turns.