When I first read that letter written by a mom trying to make sense of her addicted son's behaviors I was uncomfortable. In fact I just kind of scanned it, but something pulled me back, and again and again I read it and finally after about the fifth time the light came on for me. This make believe letter written by this mom is five years of my life dealing with my son. She nailed it all. She put into words what I was experiencing, the disconnect between what I wanted to believe and what was really happening.
I am going to try and explain how I got to this and maybe what has guided me to this point.
In my career I was once a internal and an external consultant on work system design. Designing how people work together and the systems that enable people to work.
Pause for a joke: Do you know what a pigeon and a consultant have in common? They both fly in, eat your food, shit all over you and then fly away.
Back to my point when I would begin a project I would usually get the management team together and ask, "Why are you doing this?" Invariably someone would get around to saying, "It's their attitude!" Speaking of plant workers. Then I would meet with the union reps and plant workers, the funny thing is the answers were the same, "It's the way they treat us and their attitude."
My response was always. Attitudes are problems you have with yourself. I can't deal with attitudes. If you expect me to change attitudes I QUIT. I only deal in observable behaviors. Give me observable behaviors and we can work on the conditions that create those behaviors but attitudes and beliefs belong to YOU not someone else.
The mom that wrote the make believe letter from her son to herself was dealing in observable behaviors and using her experiences to make sense of illogical behaviors in an illogical world. To not be an enabling parent you must deal with observable behaviors not "attitudes" and "why's". I spent many years trying to figure out the "why" of my son's addiction because I knew if I understood the why I could fix the problem. All the time I was enabling and working on the wrong thing, hell I wasn't even playing in the same park so how could I fix it.
When I read that letter I began to connect five years of my son's addiction and my enabling to exactly what she wrote.
My son would tell us how bad he wanted to stop using but within an hour his druggie buddies would show up at our door and he would leave with them.
We got our son checked into a rehab 40 miles from our home. On his fifth morning there we got a call from his counselor telling us he was getting kicked out for using. He had friends bring him oxycontin to him in the rehab. He was kicked out, but before the sun set that evening we had him in another rehab facility 350 miles away from our home. Our son met people in rehab and NA meetings that he eventually wound up doing drugs with and buying drugs from them.
We didn't kick him out because it was cold outside, even though we had threatened too.
He didn't work, couldn't get a job because he failed drug tests. So he did just stay at home and slept all day and used all night. We were afraid to go to bed with him up.
Mom told me several times she was afraid of our son and his friends. She was afraid he or his friends may hurt us if we got between his drugs and him.
There is a hole in the wall in the stairwell going down to the basement. Our son did not punch that hole in the wall, I did. I was so angry because I had just discovered he had stolen several of my woodworking tools to sell and pawn to buy drugs. I have NOT patched that hole even though I could do it in 30 minutes. This hole is a physical reminder to ME that I must be in control of ME. However, there are spoon soot stains on the carpet and walls of his old bedroom that we tried our damnest to get rid of every time we found them.
Despite all of these observable behaviors we continued to work on the wrong thing, him. Despite all of my training and consulting I enabled and tried to fix his attitude and worried about the why.
The mom that wrote that letter from her son's perspective found a way to look at the observable behaviors and then she is able to deal with the real problem. For me her method was genius. Harsh but genius.
Finally, to the addicts and alcoholics that commented about she was so wrong in what she said the addict thinks. I respect your comments, I believe you still love your parents all through your using and do not think of them as suckers. There is nothing more important than hearing from those that are able to articulate what it is like suffering from the disease. But just as we struggle with you and the effects of your dependency on drugs or alcohol you need to look at the effect your disease has on us parents. It's called unconditional love and with that sometimes we suffer incalculable pain. This is a mom releasing some of the pain.
Especially to the addicts and alcoholics that suffer with this disease and exhibit the behaviors that cause us parents to get to the point of writing something like this make believe letter. We do love you. We will always love you, you don't have to worry about that. That love is what ensures the survival of our species and of us personally. The thing you must worry the most about is when your parents stop believing in you.