Friday, January 8, 2010

Walking on Eggs

This situation of Alex living at home while in recovery and not using takes the balance and finesse of a ballet dancer, my style is more like a bull in a china shop with 10 red capes being waved at each corner. I am sure it is tough on both of us.

Last night we had a discussion about our expectations. It was a good discussion and I felt it more age appropriate than a standard parent/child talk. Moving forward in baby steps I guess. We are always guarded in everything we say and do. It is uncomfortable at times but it is something Mom and I feel we have to do. I'm sure he feels the same way. Complete openness hurts, it is early.

I tried to be a better listener. I tried to ask questions instead of make make blanket statements. But on reflection I know I did make a lot of statements. The real world is stark at times and just because he is in recovery he cannot be sheltered too much or he will not grow.

Our son said when he is with a big group in the family, we are a large close family, he feels a tremendous amount of stress. He said he is on guard with everything he does. He said he is constantly watching what he is saying. And he said he is wondering what people are thinking about him. Dad and Mom responded with a simple suggestion but probably the hardest thing to do. Be the old Alex, be the pre-drug Alex. This is a person everyone loved. This Alex was witty, entertaining and an excellent conversationalist. I see it is hard for him to realize that his family is probably the one of the most forgiving families out there, but we all have our defenses up too.

I visualize this situation as an old medieval army. There is one outcast warrior standing alone on the field of battle. The whole army is standing in a line begging this one lonesome warrior to re-join the troupe. However the offers to re-join are coming from an army with their shields still raised and weapons at hand. Just eyes peeking over the shields but their smiles about his return are still hidden behind the shields. What is hard for Dad and Mom is seeing the shields still raised but when we look in the mirror we realize we still have our shields in our hands too.

I have come to realize this healing process is not just a process of love, it is also a process of time.


Fractalmom said...

maybe in your family the shields will come down with time. in ours, not so much, but ours has been an 11 year battle, so their is lots of baggage for family members to shield against.

yes, a process of a long time.

Mom of Opiate Addict said...

Oh and how the time seems to just slide by so quickly, yet feels like an eternity.

clean and crazy said...

i love the warrior analogy. remember to be patient with yourself. you talked about making 'blanket statements' that is who you are and how your rational mind works. you are aware of this, so be ok with it. you are trying to reach him at his level and this is such progress.

one thing my therapist told me the other day to try when Wes and i are arguing is if i feel like i am getting angry to ask him, 'do you love me?' this is to try to get positive reinforcement, to bring the conversation back into reality for me. because for me i can take the argument all over the map and bring in things from everywhere. like we can be discussing a menu plan and i can take it to i am leaving because he doesn't understand me. that is my inner addict going into fight or flee mode. F.E.A.R. or "F@## Everything And Run. We addicts are always looking for an escape.
i hope this helps to keep in mind when talking with him, just remind him you love him and are proud he is trying. maybe his guard will come down a bit too and he won't feel so stressed around you. he has a lot of work ahead of him and having you for his support is going to be a huge strength for him
you are doing amazing and you guys are in my prayers

Kim A. said...

What really was a humbling and growing lesson was when I realized and accepted that I was 50% of the problem in my relationship with my son. His problems are easy to point out due to the effects of drug and alcohol use. My disease was much more insidious. It was hard for me to start keeping to my side of the street. But in the end, my son deserves to be treated with dignity, whether he is using or not. Good stuff today!


Brother Frankie said...


remember, i am an addict..

i understand that i have created this line that is drawn that causes the shields. i understand the pain, the mistrust, the financial hardships, the hurts and wounds i have caused and pounded salt in them too...

in my addict mind, after many years of doing the right thing, not using, treatment, counseling, preaching, serving, 12 steps, sponsors, being everything i was told i should be and do...

sigh how can i put this...


i get angry and want to leave the house, to lets say walk the dog, and my loved ones, wife... whoever say..

leave your wallet and give me the bank card...

thats after 5 years of sobriety, 10 years or twenty...

bammm, what a hit in the gut,,,

makes me want to use..

see where me and your kid are at. it does not matter the length of sobriety, WE (the addict) think everything will be ok cause we are doing everything we were asked and then some..

i am a minister.. i help people..

i am Reverend Frankie and i am allowed to marry people in three states.

but i still must leave my wallet and bank card home if i am angry.

ya know why? i am still an addict...

nothing will ever, ever change that. until maybe the second coming and i live in glory with my Lord Jesus Christ..

so yeah, those shields are going to be there. there will always be work for both you and your son. expectations met and unmet. still more tears and hurts. anger and disappointments.

they negative gets less and the positive gets more.

you cant change him and he cant change you and mom..

start to live. don't hide. grab a good man (sponsor) friend, and unload. Blog, write, &unload. but dont dump it on the addict. the same goes for the addict... and he knows he cant dump it on you and mom.. but he wants to.

you are loved
Brother Frankie
A Man who loves..

Garnet said...

What a beautiful & painful image you paint of the lone soldier surrounded by his old troupe, shields raised and helmets lowered, prepared for battle. I can tell you can empathize with his position. Thanks for sharing that. It helps me to think of my addicts this way. :)

Heather's Mom said...

That's a great analogy but more so it's honest b/c it shows your humility with your part of the situation. I hope Alex sees your humility and love for him. I'd let him know that you're going to stand by who he is TODAY (not using).

Midnitefyrfly said...

I agree that this is a great post and an even better analogy. It helps give perspective. I think there is going to have to be some acceptance on both sides of the fence.

You and Mom are never going to be the same pre-addiction Dad and Mom, and so it is unrealistic to expect that he could be the pre-addict Alex. Wanting him to act like it might be a painful expectation for him, just as it would be painful if he expected you to act as if the past had never happened.

I like the analogy that Lisa at "Loving an Addict" used, regarding learning a new dance. The steps are never going to be the same as the old dance, but the fact that you all want to be able to dance as a family again, means that there is the opportunity to learn new steps. As you get to know Alex's new dance, you may realize you can appreciate a whole different kind of music, different from the dance of expectation that existed pre-addiction.

Debby of Oxycontin and Opiate Addiction: A Mother's Story said...

I love this post. I move with guarded hope with my son's progress. I haven't been online for a while.
Glad to read that Alex is hanging in there.

Barbara aka Layla said...

I think it says a lot that Alex was able to express to you how he's feeling around the family, a using addict doesn't even care what anyone thinks, he's come a long way. Your analogy is SO GOOD. I will keep it in mind for when Keven gets home. And yes, he will be coming home because that's been the plan all along but I will have firm boundaries which involve calling his Probation Officer if necessary. I know he gets defensive when we "act like we don't trust him" but we don't! Like you takes time.

Its sounds like both sides are walking on eggshells. I have a question: what was your relationship with him like prior to drugs? In other words, how much of the tension between you and Alex would exist if he had never touched any drugs?

Syd said...

I hope that Alex can return to the pre-using son. But I sometimes wonder about the discomfort in the personality that might have been behind what precipitated his drug usage. I think that there is drug and alcohol usage is symptomatic of deeper issues.

Joan W. Page said...

I am glad I found you here today. I have read some good books: MOMENT of CLARITY and BEAUTIFUL BOY, as I volunteer at a nearby women's recovery center. Your wife may enjoy reading my blog. She can find it at

Cheri said...

Dad, you said: "I have come to realize this healing process is not just a process of love, it is also a process of time."

This is so true. Our son is sober four years in June, and I find that I can still grow suspicious of him at times. Or I expect him to be the old "C," the one he was when he was using, while in reality he really is a different person now.

The thing that helps most is free communication, both ways. It can hurt. It is hard. But it is so eye-opening.

Praying for Alex and you and mom.