More than a couple weeks ago I got an e-mail from a mother telling me about her son. Similar situations that we have all experienced. She had done this and done that trying to help. Now she was scared she was going to lose her son.
She ask me a simple question about what should she do now. She ask what do I wish I had done differently?
That is a tricky question. Or, some may even say it is a trick question. Looking for the silver bullet has been every parents quest that I have spoken too. It was my quest for several years.
That troubling question has caused me much thought since she wrote. I answer every e-mail I receive in some way or another. Many times I feel I just have no answer that is adequate but sometimes the answer that best fits is simply, "I understand, you are not alone."
"What do I wish I had done differently?" First thing I thought of was all of those little things and big things that I feel would have made a difference. Might even have prevented this nightmare. That was my first thought and I threw in some answers I hoped would help. But, my answers troubled me. After a few weeks of deliberation I am satisfied with a different answer.
I would have learned to listen. This is not an easy thing for a parent to do.
I've spent years chronicling our family experiences on this blog. Written about what I have learned and how we screwed up. There is nothing original, I just had to experience for myself and draw my own conclusions.
I would have learned to listen to my son. What does an addicted person really have to say worth listening too? All along through his words and actions he told me there was nothing I could do to fix him. Although, as a parent I knew it was my job to fix my son. That's what parents do, we fix things. Years of trying to fix him even through he was telling me not too try.
I would have learned to listen to counselors and parents. Listening is very different than searching for answers. Getting answers to questions or "what to do" solutions assume that there is a single answer or methodology that will awaken not just you but also your addicted loved one from this nightmare.
I would have learned to listen to my own internal struggles about what I am told. What have I heard, what do I feel, why am I scared? Emotional reactions was a result of unresolved internal struggles.
I would have learned to listen to my heart and my head. Most of the time one or the other would win out. Listening to my heart is what tells me where there is life there is hope. My heart allows me to love someone that by all accounts seems to be unloveable. In my head I know all of the realities of addiction. Heart and head is not a win/lose struggle. Hearts and head can actually work together. It is possible for your heart to accept that my son may die. It is also possible for the head to grasp that there may not be an answer for addiction and loving for just today is all you get.
Listening is hard. No one loves your child like you do. Since they were babies you fed them, changed them, raised them and provided for their every need. Listening to someone or anything is hard when loving and caring for them has always been instinct.
What do I wish I had done differently? I wish I had learned how to listen sooner in my life.