It’s not what you think! Midwestern Mama hit on a “PC” approach to parenting a young addict. It’s highlighted in a column from a few years back when her son was really struggling.
Midwestern Mama shares three great sayings that put arguments in perspective.
Bloggers are not just blog writers. We are blog readers, too. One of the blogs I read regularly is written by a mom whose son is eight months sober – you can see why I find this one of interest.
In her last post, she shared an argument that happened over the holidays. It was eating her up as she wondered about the impact of this on her relationship with her son and, of course, on his recovery. She had hesitated to blog about it, but then found value in processing her feelings and gathering input from her readers.
It got me thinking about this blog and our vision to provide honest, real-time posts about our sons, their journeys, and our parenting experiences. Aside from maintaining appropriate anonymity, I hold back nothing; at the same time, I try not to bore you with all the details. If anything, I hope you see us as real people dealing with addiction and recovery in a real way – not always perfect, but always with good intentions, and always willing to share what worked and what didn’t.
We, too, had an argument with our son recently. It scared me. It scared him. Fortunately, it was short-lived and we weathered it. In fact, I think it actually strengthened things. A year ago, I doubt this would have been the case.
This argument was about a laptop computer. It’s been a recurring topic in parenting our young addict.
When my son graduated from high school, we were paying his tuition (minus a wonderful scholarship he’d received) and he was supposed to use some of the money he earned from a part-time job plus graduation-gift money to pay for his college laptop and textbooks. Seemed like a fair deal.
Well, of course, he spent all his money on drugs before classes ever started. Because we desperately wanted him to go to college and hoped that he’d rise to the occasion of a clean start, we bought him a laptop. Within a few weeks of drug-related trouble at college, he sold the laptop. For drugs.
Two years ago, my son won a $1,000 raffle. He immediately went out to purchase a laptop with it. He relished in being able to play online games again instead of being limited to the family computer or the computers at the library. A few months later, I noticed the laptop was missing. He sold it. For drugs.
Now this fall, out of treatment and working on recovery, he took action to return to a local college. Certainly, he would need a laptop computer for homework. With a part-time job, he wanted to buy a laptop. Props to him for wanting to buy a laptop himself and for sharing this decision with us.
The laptop he selected was quite expensive – because it was primarily a gaming computer, one that had more bells and whistles than he legitimately would need for school. And, because his bank account is set up to prevent him from making purchases over $300 due to a history of bad checks and debt, he would need his dad or me to pay for the laptop and then he planned to reimburse us.
That’s where the argument ensued. We had concerns about the amount he was spending when a more affordable laptop would meet his school needs. We had concerns about him spending too much time gaming – contributing to staying up late, engaging in another form of addictive behavior, etc., etc. We also had concerns about him putting this purchase ahead of other debt he needed to pay off and expenses that we are covering while he’s getting his life back together.
Black Friday and Cyber Saturday were feeding his impulsiveness and obsession. He needed this computer and he needed it right now. He felt the deals would never be better. That he had to buy the laptop NOW! We felt he could wait until after the holidays, earn a bit more money. Do a bit more research on which laptop to buy.
He kept pushing the conversation. Kept asking if we’d put it on our credit card. Kept saying he’d pay us back.
I tried to explain our concerns. He did listen, but he had a comeback for each one. Finally, my husband entered the conversation and in his direct, to-the-point style, he asked some hard questions of our son, and laid out our concerns in no uncertain terms. When my son started to explain, my husband interrupted him, and then my son interrupted him, and then each one raised his voice, and then each one started saying what they felt. It was getting ugly.
By this time, my son stood up, grabbed his coat and said he wouldn’t continue the conversation. He was leaving. This is a behavior we’ve witnessed many times in the past, and it never led anywhere good. It was always a setback. He’d always go running to his drug-using buddies. This scared me.
We gave him some time. About an hour. Finally, we exchanged a few text messages. I think I started it with, “The mudroom door is unlocked when you’re ready to come home” He asked if Dad had unlocked the door or if I had. This mattered a lot to him. I lied and said Dad had unlocked the door. About an hour later he came back.
The next day he was scheduled to see his therapist, and following that, he suggested a compromise – he’d look for a less expensive laptop AND he would write a note to Dad explaining that “walking out” was his way of cooling down.
A few days later, he wrote the note, he apologized for raising his voice first and for using expletives. He was sorry and he wanted to move forward. And so we have.
My son found a less expensive computer that met his school needs and would accommodate gaming. He pledged to limit his time on the computer, keep good sleep habits and to be open to feedback from us if we observed otherwise. He says he’ll share his grades with us on a regular basis. He’s going to let his behaviors build trust.
To make things even better, he went to his bank and explained the situation and was able to work out a way to pay for the computer directly from his account. The banker listened as he explained going back to school, working part time and being committed to recovery. They let him make the one-time larger purchase, but have kept the spending limit in place until he reaches and maintains an established minimum balance. That my son did this on his own is incredible. We did not enable, and he empowered himself!
We all learned some things from this argument, and it reminded me of many of the things I’ve learned as a result of our son’s addiction and recovery about relationships and communication.
Support groups are full of good sayings. Sometimes these seem trite but more often than not, these are great reminders of the good old Golden Rule. Who can argue with that? I can think of at least three sayings that resonate with me on the topic of arguments.
One is from my Al-anon group, one is through an online group where Mid Atlantic Mom and I met, and one is a quote from Steven Covey that my son embraced during his treatment program.
“Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.”
“From chaos comes clarity.”
“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviors.”
What can I say? Arguments happen and those three sayings are as great guides for these, sometimes unavoidable, exchanges.