After growing up in an alcoholic home and then coping with my own children’s addiction issues, often tolerating the intolerable, I became so disconnected to my own feelings that I didn’t even feel how the life force was being sucked out of me. I kept smiling, kept working, and kept rescuing until I eventually realized that I wasn’t living my own life anymore. I felt like Rip Van Winkle who awakes after being asleep 20 years and discovers shocking changes. I knew I needed help and my daughter, along with my closest friend, both who have been in recovery for a few years, finally persuaded me to join an Al-Anon group.
What I Do for Support
Attending Al-Anon meetings as well as belonging to a weekly online support group has allowed me to meet lots of fellow parents, mostly mothers, whose kids are also addicts/alcoholics. All of us as family members of addicts have experienced disbelief, sadness, confusion, frustration, exhaustion, anger, hopelessness, fear, and of course, enormous amounts of GUILT.
The Al-Anon Group Process
A few weeks ago during my support group session, one of the mothers shared that her son had just died from an overdose the day before. Every parents’ worst nightmare had come true for her and all of the session participants were unexpectedly confronted with a grieving mother who was still reeling in shock. At first I couldn’t believe she had mustered the courage to join our session, especially after she said that she didn’t know how she could go on living. And then I realized that the shared support and understanding we had learned to count on within our group was the very thing she needed in that moment. Not that any of us felt that we knew the right thing to say to offer her comfort or words of wisdom. I, for one, was imagining myself in her shoes, curled up in a ball unable to talk to anybody. Even though no one else in our group had experienced the death of a child from an overdose, we all had, in varying degrees, lost the beautiful children we loved to the ravages of addiction. Children who have become unrecognizable – sick, homeless, prostituting, dealing drugs, or in jail. But as this grieving mother reminded us, unlike her son, at least our kids are still alive which means there is hope of their recovery, something she no longer has. The support group has allowed us to not only offer our empathy and compassion in this tragic situation, but has enabled each of us to be vulnerable in revealing some of our deepest fears and darkest experiences within the safety of our group.
Moving Forward with Hope
For myself, talking to people who’ve been there and who really get it, has been very different than talking to just a therapist and has been profoundly healing. When I opened up about the guilt I feel over my mother’s death from an overdose, I knew that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. When I talk about my regret over the mistakes I’ve made as a parent, everyone else can relate and when I’m honest about how hard it is at times to move forward in my life, the words of encouragement can propel me through the rest of the week. When sharing about my daughter’s successful recovery, I am also sharing my optimism and my hope.
Because of this incredible support, I am in the process of making my life my own again and to trust that no matter what chaos might be happening all around me, I will be okay. For that, I am deeply grateful.