Thursday, January 17, 2013

10 Years of Emotion

What's it like being the parent of an addict? I'm not talking about the day to day experience with a crisis and drama around every corner. I mean what is it like inside of a parent that has gone from discovery to recovery. When I inventory my emotional state at current it isn't fair to put aside all of those feelings over the last 10 years. Am I normal, a survivor, crazy as many believe, maybe just a composite of every experience in the last decade.

It's not hard for you to read back in the archives of this blog to see my emotional state at any one time, a range that is from despondent to overwhelmed with joy. I don't pay for a therapist to analyze me, there probably isn't enough money for that without adding another trillion dollars to the national debt and a therapist would probably run out the door with their hands in the air screaming. So I am left to myself to deliberate and draw my own conclusions and summaries.

After deliberation about the last 10 years this is my emotional inventory:

Hurt: Hurt is one of those emotions that never leaves me. I am able to put it aside and shield myself from it but at times it jumps out at me. I have never hurt like I did while suffering through my sons active addiction. It is a hurt that even overshadows the death of loved ones such as a parent. I spent a long time with this emotion. I took it personal. For many years I couldn't separate the disease in my son from him. It was a personal affront and I held it very deep. The pain from this emotion took me to places I wish I never would have seen. This was the most destructive emotion for me. It was the hardest for me to reconcile within myself. Hurt drove my life.

Anger: Anger was my defense mechanism against the hurt. Anger allowed me to do things I am not proud of as the parent of an addict. Scream and curse at my son. Scream and curse at my wonderful wife. Basically attack anyone that was within reach. Mostly, mine wasn't a physical anger, I sliced people to bits with words. My anger even drove me to my lowest point in life. I struck my son in anger. My son taught me a lesson, even high and addicted he did not strike back. His respect for me at that time was greater than my respect for him. I am ashamed. "You have a right to be angry", words that I have heard before but are empty, they accomplish nothing. Anger comes with the territory but our response to life with anger is something we must find a way to live with while not destroying ourselves.

Suspicion: I always thought of myself as a trusting person. My whole philosophy in life was that I am too lazy to not trust. Trusting is easy. To not trust requires a tremendous amount of work and energy. To become suspicious and distrustful is easy. It becomes easy to see the evil in a person. It is easy to forget that the symptoms of a disease can mask the reality of a situation. It is easy to allow suspicion to drive your life and behaviors. I'm not talking about the things the parent of an addict must do to protect themselves and the addict. I talking about learning to see evil in a person when evil is not the intent. That is a bad place to be as a person, the one that lives that way and the one on the receiving end of that suspicion.

Contempt: Contempt is the culmination of hurt, anger and suspicion. Contempt is a terrible thing for a parent to hold against their own child. Contempt can easily slide to a place their is no caring. I felt once that I was entering that place. I can't go there, that is a one way door. I did not go through that passage. It is a bad, bad place.

Joy: Joy is that emotion we all want. When I think of joy the picture of Snoopy dancing on top of his doghouse comes to mind. It is immediate and temporary. Joy comes from many places but it is an emotion same as a fart on a motorcycle, blown away very quickly. However joy is a fix I craved. I'd twist reality in order to experience that feeling. Too often my desire for joy allowed me to ignore realities to the detriment of myself and my son.

Hope: Hope was the most dangerous of positive emotions. Hope set me up for terrible lows. That's because I misunderstood hope for most of the time my son was using. Hope was an emotion that I transferred to others. My hope was based upon the actions or lack thereof by other people. I would pass out hope to others like business cards at a conference. I placed my hope in their hands, from my son to rehabs, meetings, counselors or anyone. I allowed others to build up my hope or dash it from underneath me. Hope is an emotion that must be internalized, it isn't a wish. Hope is an awareness of life and the tender nature of what impacted me. Where there is life there is hope; when I understood that simple phrase I understood what hope really is and not what I wanted it to be.

Happiness: Happiness is so much more than joy. Joy is fleeting, happiness is a state inside. Happiness can be found in all things. Happiness can be obvious, the birth of wonderful grandchildren, the sound of, "PaPa come here." But happiness can be born of heartache and pain as in the happiness I feel to have known my father for 27 years of my life. Happiness isn't the smile or grin you see on my face, it is the feeling inside. The smile is just a physical response.

Appreciation: Appreciation is the dominant feeling I have today. Appreciation isn't a "thank you" it is a recognition of what "is". Appreciation is taking in all, the good, bad and the ugly. The simple process of writing this post is a process of appreciation for me. The horrible emotions and actions I described above are just as valuable in shaping my well being as the wonderful feelings I experience today while my son is in recovery. Appreciation ALLOWS me to learn from what I have experienced over these past 10 years. If I choose not to learn then what has been the worth of a decade of my life? I wish that I had never experienced any of this and my son had never been an addict. I know inside me if there was a time machine I'd be on it right now to change it all, but that can't happen. Ignoring the bad and only recognizing the good discounts my life and make me less than. I want to be the best I can and learn from my terrible mistakes.

Love: Love is so much more than what we whisper at night before falling asleep. Love is a life preserver in a storm, it is a foundation that holds you up, it is something that makes you more than you can be alone. I learned more about love in the last 10 years than I had learned all my life before. Love comes not just from those close but from those people that have enough in their life that they wish to share. All you have to do is ACCEPT it.

In conclusion, as the parent of an addict we are not perfect. In fact we shouldn't even strive for perfection. Trying to be perfect causes terrible control issues. (speaking from experience here) It's a hard lesson but we all must do what we are capable of doing at any one time. Self assessment and learning isn't something we do, it is a process we work.

I wish that forward in my life I am able to live mostly or all in the positive emotions. But, I know that hurt, anger and suspicion will at some time again enter my life. That's the way life is but as I grow and learn I believe I will be much better from this experience.

I don't know if any of you that read this blog have experienced these same emotions but if you have, it is worth the reflection to examine what being the parent of an addict has done for you as much as it has done to you.

Maybe I'm normal, or maybe not. But no matter, quoting an old wise philosopher, Popeye the Sailor Man:

"I yam wot I yam. And that's all wot I yam......"


beachteacher said...

omg - you have totally nailed it,..SO true are your descriptions of the emotions I've experienced( and often continue to experience) as the mother of my addict son. oh- where do I begin on this ? The one that hit me in the gut was the hurt one- you are so right,..I have never hurt the way I have during my son's addiction -and I have had significant hurt in my life..but not to the level of this. Is it telling that you listed that one first ? The contempt is something I've felt too- and makes me sad to have had it happen- but it's very true..and not just some isolated incident or time- multiple, multiple feelings of contempt toward D,..truth be told. At the same time- feeling absolutely desperate that he "just be ok" - ALL I really would hope/pray/yearn for.
ANGER - wow- we've gone through a TON of that here at our house- both my hubby and me,..toward D,..even when, much of the time, D didn't even know it. AND at times(many)- the anger toward S,(the hubs) and his toward me - ALL a direct byproduct of D's addiction. Fortunately the bond between S and me has survived, in the face of, and in revolt of D's addiction - while we both love him so much and just want his recovery and health and happiness.
Suspicion -...aagh- it's a tough one -something I still struggle with regarding my son - and hate to experience,...still working on that one, very much.
Joy, hope, happiness and love have been a part of this journey too. Joy has been fleeting and far between -but when it's happened - been one of the most intense of joys I've ever experienced...reminds me of when our children were born. The first time was when our son came out of his first rehab and was home with us for a weekend- will never forget that beautiful time
HOPE is what I continue to have - and what has truely sustained me in this journey.
Appreciation is a true and lasting feeling - for all I've learned - for the strides my son has made,...for those who have supported my own journey through this-many of you on these blogs in particular - as well as the ever present knowledge that it could have been so much worse (bad as it's been) for our son and ourselves.
LOVE is over all of these others listed above, and STRONGER than everything else - has to be. I've learned how much a parent can unconditionally love their child - and will continue to. I know that my son being able to love himself will be his healing.
Sorry for this very long response- but your post is so precisely on target with the emotions we've faced - and my reply is in response to your wonderful description of it all.

Addiction Treatment said...

Actually life is full of emotions and you have highlighted every part of it very wonderfully.

Syd said...

Great post, Ron. I think that I have come through many of these with my love for various alcoholics. And yes, I have even felt contempt at times. But I'm lucky to have moved back to love, hope, and appreciation. I would add compassion to the list also.

Val Paulson said...

As I am doing my grocery shopping my cell phone rings. It is my son calling from prison with a 1 minute courtesy call. I take the call and of course inquire about his well being. As I start to tell him I love him the line goes dead. The minute is up . My eyes immediately well up with tears and I have a lump in my throat the size of a golf ball. I pull myself together the best I can flashing smiles at people and continue my shopping. I am so heavyhearted I feel like "how can people not see how much I am hurting right now".

Once my day settles into night I find myself reading this post.
The flood gates open and I allow myself the good cry I was denied earlier in the day.
I can associate with the emotional tolls addiction has aflicted on my entire family.
As a family I am angered that my other children and husband had to deal with this hurt.
As a mother I deal with the conflict of wanting to protect my family from further hurt by shutting the addict out of our lives.
Yet.. he is my son and I love him and SO want him to be part of our family.

I pray for my son and I find myself praying for all the families and loved ones of addicts in these blogs.
This is a horrible journey for all of us.
How I wish love was the "cure all" because I am sure our loved ones would be whole and healthy.

Lu Ann said...

Wow, Ron. It is going to take me a while to process this post. My life over the last few years has been swirling with emotion, so much so that I haven't even been able to sort them all out. Thanks for this thought provoking and heartfelt post.

Anonymous said...

I had a moment in the car the other day that opened up the hurt and anger at the same time .... I don't think I will ever dance with my son to a mother/son dance at his wedding!..Wow...the things that others get to experience with their sons will not be mine. I was pissed and sad and just soooooo hurt. It's the things we don't think about when we choose not to 'go there'. Life's moments we don't hope for because we are too busy hurting in the moment of things we never thought we could ever be dealing with. I cried. And then I pulled myself together and decided to give hope a chance. It's something I can dream of and hope for and hold on to in order to put one foot in front of the other each day. I decided to look at it this way...we all don't know what tomorrow holds. It's like Garth Brooks and The Dance....what he is saying is if we knew what was to come we wouldn't have done it all in the first place. So lets remember the joy and happiness of their births, the home runs, the great report cards, or just the wonder of what they have been at some point in the past. And who knows...they might get sober like Alex...they might not...they might and then get hit by a bus? The future is something I am choosing to prepare for as a time of great things to come. If I don't, it will kill me.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy for you and your family. I have never posted anything...ever. I wanted you to know that I spent the last full day reading your posts, from the beginning. So much hit home. My 24 y/o daughter is home with us tonite. She called last night and asked me to drive her to detox, and is then hoping for inpatient. We have lived this life with our addict for the last 4 years. What I really wanted to say is that I took so much of your message to heart, and I feel so much calmer. I was able to pick my addict up and not engage in the roller coaster of ranting, raving, know the deal. We told her how much we loved her and that we believed she could do this. We always did, but i guess the hurt and anger always got in the way. Thank you so much for reminding parents that we need to express love and hope for our children.

Emelyn said...

We are working hard to keep young people off drugs and offer hope for drug and alcohol addicts.

Please review and share with others.

Thank you in advance.
Stuart Films, LLC

Emelyn said...

We are working hard to keep young people off drugs and offer hope for drug and alcohol addicts.

Please review and share with others.

Thank you in advance.
Stuart Films, LLC

Hattie Heaton (Mom of an Addict) said...

Best post, yet. All true. All bravely honest...a moral inventory to be sure or confession....I've done the same many times over in my mind and on my knees. Addiction has taught me (like it or not) a lot about myself. A great post for others to see more of what it's like from a loved ones perspective.

Pearly Craig said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dad and Mom said...

If you leave a comment just so you can link and advertise another business you should expect for your comment to be deleted. Thanks, Ron

Anonymous said...

I read this post and cannot stop crying! Our 17 year old son is an addict. I, as a mother, have felt every emotion through contempt during his ongoing active addiction. I have yet to move forward. I feel blank most of the time, angry the rest. My sons addiction is destroying our family. He chose the addiction, which as you know, isn't just their addiction. It ends up being a family disease. Something we had no choice in, he made it for us. I feel I am in mourning. I hope I can move forward and our baby will find his way. We have did rehab, therapy, and he is now out of the house, kicked out. Pray for us. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the emotional roller coaster we go on mostly without even realizing it. My son is currently in prison for burglery sentenced for 2.5 years. He is 6 months into his sentence. Heroin is what ultimately sent him away. There were other drugs of course. His girl is currently "running" as she has a year sentence for a dui. She did not show up for her sentence. I believe she is stripping somewhere for a job. Their son , my precious grandson, is temporarily with my ex. He is in elemtary school suffering right along with the rest of us, although he has never known a "normal", if that is even possible, life. It is difficult if not impossible to find someone who give parents of addicts "permission" to feel their heartbreak. Makes people too uncomfortable. Words like, "you have to move on", "this is not your addiction" "get healthy" come to mind. Speaking for myself, I then feel guilt on top of the already horrible pain for even feeling the pain. Make sense to anyone out there? Maybe I am crazy after all.

Dad and Mom said...


You are not crazy. All of us have experienced the same feelings that you are experiencing. It isn't about moving on or getting over it. It is about learning the accept the change and living your life the way you wish to live regardless of what your friends and family think or believe. But also living your life regardless of the addiction too.

Where there is life there is hope.

SOBERBOOK said... is a safe, anonymous place where ALL people can tell their stories without having to attach a name or face to the words. It is here that you will see chapters about finding recovery, overcoming obstacles, mending relationships, achieving happiness, following dreams, and much more. The goal for is to create a community of support, camaraderie, and hope for the future.