One of the best things the mother of an addict can hear her child say is, “Mom I’m going to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous),” even if he is in prison. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, according to the FreeDictionary.com means, “to wait for something bad to happen,” and I imagine my shoe as a steel toe boot.
When you get good news from your addicted child you are excited, but that quickly turns to an unease. When my son told me he went to AA, I was excited and hopeful, but then that dread of being hurt again crept in. What that means is, I am in a way, expecting him to fail. I am using that dread as a coping skill to prevent myself from getting hurt. If I expect the worse, maybe I will be prepared and not be disappointed when he does not really change.
“…parents with successful children were more likely to report higher life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression. But if parents had just one struggling child, the resulting distress tended to overshadow the well-being and happiness they derived from their other, more successful children–especially if the child’s problems were self-made rather than a case of misfortune.” Amanda Gardner, Health.com (cnn.com)
I am obviously not alone with these feelings; however, it makes it all about me. I am so focused on how “I” will feel when he fails and hurts me, that I quit thinking about him. I am doing exactly what I would coach clients NOT to do–worrying about something that may not even happen. This is stress that I am imposing on myself and I have control of that stress by changing the way I think about it. I am also preventing my son from ever making amends and succeeding. My expectation is that he will fail and not succeed at making positive changes. This in no way helps him.
So, what do I do? I realize my son is trying and taking small positive steps to change. I embrace that and support him 100%, however, I will maintain a sense of cautious optimism. Could he fail? Yes, but he could also succeed. Could I get hurt? Yes, but I could also find pride in the steps he takes leading to success. I have spoken to him about my fears and he admitted to me his fears. We are lovingly honest, but he knows I am his biggest fan. I work on my self-talk daily trying to take a more positive approach with my addicted child. We are not guaranteed anything in life, but I do have control over my thoughts and I can treasure the small successes.