Parenting a young addict is exhausting – emotionally and physically. Serenity is the solution, but achieving that takes some effort. Midwestern Mama shares a summer approach to finding serenity amid chaos.
Summer conjures up leisure time and taking a break from routine.
A few summers back, I was exhausted. The past few years had been a whirlwind with our teenage son’s addiction.
There had been broken curfews and late nights trying to figure out where he was (which was never where he said he’d be). There had been sleepless nights when he didn’t return at all. There had been morning alarm clocks that reminded us that we still had a younger son to wake up for school and for us to get ready for work. There had been unexpected but no longer surprising phone calls from the high school telling us our son had skipped classes and that he was at risk for not graduating –and a last-ditch (and successful) effort that allowed him to graduate.
As the chaos continued and the drug problem prevailed, there was more arguing and even more energy-draining efforts to convince him he needed help.
He finally decided to go to college in January that year to escape the stupid rules at home, which included being drug free and not bringing drugs or paraphernalia into the house. The very first weekend at college, he took pills, smoked weed and drank alcohol to the extent that he passed out in the snow. This landed him in the ER and detox. Everything spiraled from here and we were at our wits end.
It’s not that we couldn’t keep on doing what we’d been doing – it’s that we declared that we wouldn’t keep on doing it. I had been holding it all together trying to address the problem while trying to fulfill my other obligations. It was time to get some help – for me, and in turn for the rest of the family.
In searching a database of therapists on Psychology Today, I found an exceptionally good fit – someone who had experienced addiction and recovery first hand. Through conversations, some of which offered guidance on how to help my son and many of which focused on how to help myself, I started on a path to find and practice serenity.
One of things I did was find an Al-Anon group. Mine happened to be called Steps to Serenity. Each meeting, along with readings and a member-led discussion, we also said the Serenity Prayer. Although I was familiar with the verses, I had never really applied it to my life or thought about its meaning.
The Serenity Prayer in and of itself became a calming mantra, and I repeated it with heart and soul many times throughout the days and nights ahead. In many ways, it prompted me to embrace spirituality in new ways.
Additionally, I began studying the basics of meditation and the writings of Buddha. Both brought me a sense of peace amid chaos.
During summer 2011, I was searching for meaning and purpose in order to make sense of our son’s addiction and of my life at that point, which until then I considered just fine. It was difficult to think straight and I was beginning to stress with what my goal really was –I had always led a goal-centered life.
Then it hit me! My goal was to have no goal – at least for the summer. It took all the pressure off me to put things into perspective.
Here’s what I did: I blocked off each Friday afternoon for the entire summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day. From 1 p.m. until whenever, I sat outside. With a journal and a stack of books. These were everything from philosophy and poetry to religion. I would read a bit, write a bit, and just sit.
In quieting my mind, a sense of calmness returned. It was entirely different from the calm, cool-headedness that I had before when trying to manage our son’s addiction. Instead, this was serenity.
From there, all manner of new ideas surfaced. I seemed to have a better sense of what to do, what to say, what not to do, what not to say, when to act and when to wait. It was amazing and transformative.
Through this renewal, I felt inspired – even compelled – to begin writing about our experience of parenting a young addict. And, I felt like reaching out to other parents to share experiences, resources and hopes.
The outreach spawned a community of parents and professionals manifesting as Our Young Addicts. Today, I am awed by the power of quieting one’s mind in order to find a better way forward. I am grateful for that summer of serenity.
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