Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tempering Expectations

Can parents really ever reduce their expectations for their children? As I see my son trying work his sobriety I realize it is a day to day struggle for him. Sometimes I see comments on his facebook about how he feels that hurts me to the core. I think the comments are probably not any different than any other young adult feels and probably makes. In fact I can remember some of the same feelings when I was younger. There is a huge difference in the confidence level of a young man and a "seasoned veteran". ;-) The troubling aspect is not knowing how much of this can be attributed to the drugs and how much to just normal life experiences. The more important question is can he realize that these feelings afflict people without addiction issues too.

I know a big frustration for him and all of us is the job situation. The job outlook in the KC area is no different than anywhere else in the country, terrible. Realistically speaking I know every single day people get new jobs, there is someone hiring someplace. But is it a job you're qualified for? Is it a job that is realistic for your experience and knowledge? And finally do you have the wherewithal to actually get to and do the job? Add the extra weight of an employment gap of 3 years, a felony conviction for theft and a lack of a drivers license and transportation; what are realistic expectations? In all of my son's flaws being a hard worker and quick study is not one of his flaws. But that doesn't count until you get your foot in the door.

These are the immediate concerns. The important concerns are so much larger. I know this is outside the realm of dealing with a recovering addict but we still cannot let the urgent overshadow the important. We all could probably debate for pages on the actual meanings of important and urgent as it relates to an addict, and thinking through this post that would probably be a good idea. But for now the context of urgent and important is how it relates to dad's view of the world.

I've been unemployed before. What I would consider long term, 8 months. It is hard on your mental well being. Work and contribution is important to the human psyche. Do our leaders understand the impact this economy and their petty bickering is having on our our nations mental health? Dems and Repubs, pretend you are actually leaders and get your heads out of the snow in DC and grow up. Sorry, that's another post on another blog.

Patience with himself is not one of my son's virtues. It is difficult discussing patience and the economy with my son about jobs and independence and the need to keep his eye on the prize. All the while I know the real help for him in his recovery is a job.

Back to the title of this posting, tempering expectations. Is it possible for me to really change what I see in my son. Over twenty years of watching him grow, rocket through anything in school and seeing potential in him I could only dream of in myself. How do you let that go, or do you let it go or are you forced to let it go? For myself, I am not letting it go, it just has to stay inside for a bit longer. I just have to remember there are new dawns every day.

The down side, for every day there is a dawn, that bastard of addiction and those SOB's promoting it are prowling and destroying others. I'm taking another step front and center to fight the bastard. The second week of March I will be speaking to students and I hope parents will come too, at our local high school about the effect of addiction on a family.


LisaC said...

As I read your post, I was thinking about a comment my son made last night (he is scheduled to graduate in Mid-March from the narconon program he started at the end of October). Last night on the phone, I asked him if he was still planning on submitting an application to train and work at the facility; and he said, "Yes, in fact I'm likely to know this weekend that my application will be accepted." The point I want to make is that he also said, "It is so great to know I have something to go to. When I finished other programs, they say "Go out in the world and get a job. But is is a horrible feeling to not have anywhere to go." Your comments on the value of productive work for your son and other addicts is right on. And your comments about what our leaders are doing to help are also right on, regardless of your political bent.

Recognizing the difficulty of the "process" of getting a job and then keeping a job (as you know, I'm an HR professional), I would encourage your son to register with every temporary agency in town. He might find that as a way to get his foot in the door.

I also struggle with the issue of tempering expectations. Good luck with the speech at high school. My sadness is that most parents simply don't want to learn what to watch for because they can't believe their child will ever have this problem (a long time ago, I was one of those parents). You are doing great work, keep in up and I keep your family on my prayer list.

kristi said...

I worry for my nephew who will be released from prison in a couple of years. We are there to help anyway we can but I hope he is able to find a job soon after he is released. It will definitely help him get reacquainted with living.
Hope your son can find something soon.

Barbara aka Layla said...

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS THINKING ABOUT TODAY. I know the best possible thing for my son would be to get a job. He's been looking the last few weeks because that's the final phase of Phoenix House. He has no experience, no job history, no license, etc. etc. Very similar to your son. I know my son is very worried about his future, how to support himself, what to do for a career, etc. He hasn't even got a diploma from HS yet :( Its discouraging even for kids who don't have the additional burden of being an addict and/or having a record because of the addiction. Ugh.

I am glad you are speaking again. I think Lisa is right but hopefully more parents will open their eyes to the reality.

Barbara aka Layla said...

PS Its discouraging for me too! 0 months of unemployment! I do have a temp job for a few months working for a friend starting tomorrow.

Syd said...

I too am glad that you are speaking. Hopefully, a few will hear and understand. Denial is so strong--the truth is hard to face for so many people. As far as expectations, I have had to lower mine drastically. I don't think one ever totally gives them up, but I know that I am powerless over so many things, such as the state of the economy, that I simply don't expect much.

The Interventionist said...

Good for you, for speaking out and standing up. I have seen family members go through the pain of realizing that some of their dreams, abilities and potentials, may be gone. We of course, ache with them. My old mentor used to say, it isn't life that gets you. It's the damn expectations!

Heather's Mom said...

So much in this post, I'm not sure where to begin. I guess with awesome post! One thing to ask - when you go to the school - if it fits in with your talk AND if parents come (or maybe a later talk as I know you will have many more offers) - would you mention "the things to look for" (such as balled up tin foil, pens missing, straws. You never know, a brother or sister might notice. No pressure. But that is the greatest thing I wish I had known - b/c I saw all those things, but didn't know what they meant and we could've faced this battle sooner had we known. It's great you have this opportunity to speak, and the students and family members are fortunate to have you!

I know you said "another blog" but I wish the gov't etc DID see what the economy is doing mentally to our families. Right now my husband and I are fine. But at one point he was unemployed almost 2 years (was fired a week before 9/11). Talk about the Titanic sinking... He is forever changed from that time period. And I will never forget the despair.
This is what so many families, many close to me, are facing. It takes a toll on every aspect of your life and relationships.
And I can only imagine how much harder it is to be facing this workforce after a stint in rehab/incarceration.

It's also a question how to differentiate between "normal" growing pains, and those attributed to drugs - AND - dealing with the normal growing pains without a crutch. I have the same thing as you - where I now from birth Heather was given so much more natural ability than me. Will she ever achieve all I felt she was destined to? I don't know, but at this point I am learning so much and am willing to be proud of her no matter her future - I'm leaving it between her and God. But the thoughts still come at times.

This was a really helpful, insightful post. Thanks :)
I have to second what LisaC said - you are doing great work and I too keep you, Mom and Alex in my prayers.
God bless.

MEM said...

I know a few people who got jobs or job contacts through AA and NA fellowship. My partner was able to find some independent small businesses that didn't ask or didn't care about his felonious past, but any kind of chain or corporate place seems off limits to those with drugs or crime in their past. Several other clean & sober friends ended up starting their own businesses, many in creative fields. One photographer, a craft-fair jewelry maker, custom cabinetry, etc. I know it takes start-up money and a lot of self-confidence to do that stuff, but I've seen recovering addicts make it happen and become successful. I wish they'd go out and speak to young men like your son to show them what is possible. What's most important is to keep hoping and trying.

Bev said...

Many excellent points. I have to agree with Heather's Mom: when speaking with parents at school, be very specific. Give them the details. I, too, observed some of those telltale signs but had no knowledge or reason to believe (at the time) that they were related to drug abuse.

Fractalmom said...

hmmm. the thing is, and this is difficult, ex heroin addicts are not the only ones facing a bleak employment future. some totally straight, bright and motivated 24 year olds are also facing it.

i think, well, although what your son is facing is difficult, it is actually just part of NORMAL life, and something he will have to cope with along with the other aspects of his sobriety.

hard? definitely. but it kind of sounds like you are making excuses. which is a VERY dangerous road to go down.

Fractalmom said...

sorry. meant to add...

this is also one of the 'consequences' of using that we are not supposed to feel bad for the addict having to face. criminal records, no job history, missing pieces of their lives, these all are consequences. which they are supposed to face and deal with.

yes, it could send him back to using. that is part of recovery though.

Tonjia said...

Expectations are a heavy, heavy, burden we place upon our children. Our path is not their path. Our plan for their life, is not God's plan, and not their plan. We need to step out of the way and let them BE. We need to honor their plan, and their journey, for it is honorable. The best we can do is support their vision for themselves. Expectations send the message that our child never quite measures up. If we want our children to be well, we need to sacrifice our expectations, and love them where they are, and respect their journey.

Barbara aka Layla said...

Ron, I meant to say 9 months of unemployment, not zero

Bev said...

Quote from Caron Treatment Center daily text message: "Expectations are resentments in the making. Today I will have high hopes and low expectations, embracing life with gratitude."