“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”C.S. Lewis
Over the years I have spoken with many parents about the impact of addiction on their families and the heartbreak of regrets was one of the biggest shared themes.
So many parents feel an overwhelming sense of regret in their relationship with their adult child suffering from this family systems disease for things done, not done or undone.
A terrible burden.
I felt this burden for a long time and wrote about it in the book I co-authored with my son, JP, Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message.
I have replayed—far too many times—my role in what went wrong. It was a negative loop of sounds and images that wore a deep rut in my brain. At my worst, I thought of myself as an oven with a broken thermostat: there were many times in situations with JP that I did not hit the correct emotional temperature. I was lenient when I should have been tougher. I was tough about things I should have been easier about. I was inconsistent in situations requiring steadiness. And I was insistent about things that should have been shelved.
At times I sent out the wrong messages and signals to my son, and the scrambled form of communication left him without clear boundaries and a firm foundation upon which to formulate his own inner compass. And there were times I was angry and mouthy when things were going wrong. I carry deep regrets for all of it.Excerpt from Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message.
Many regrets haunted my heart. So, I sought help from a variety of sources. Thankfully, through those efforts and the grace of God, I have been healed of that haunting.
When my son experienced his gift of desperation – AKA GOD – we were able to talk about all of it – from both of our perspectives. That was a great place of healing for us both.
While JP was in Florida, we spoke often on the phone. During one conversation, I told him how badly I felt about everything that had taken place during those years.
“I can’t stand that it all happened the way it did, JP. I wish it could have been easier. I wish it hadn’t been so painful and difficult. It was so grimy at times. Why couldn’t it have just been simple?”
“Mom, I’ve thought about that a lot and I realized it took what it took. This was what I had to go through to be where I am today. All of it had to happen, just the way it happened. And if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be the person I am now, doing what I do now.
“It was part of God’s plan that way, Mom. It was what I had to go through.”
That day, JP’s words penetrated my heart. For the first time, it made sense. The Secret Belief was no longer a secret. That day I realized I needed to stop living as if I was wearing a big scarlet letter S for shame on my shirt, mourning the way things went into a crash-and-burn and the fact that my cherished plans for how my teenage son’s life would unfold blew up in my face.
It happened as it was supposed to happen to bring us all to a place of greater understanding with a tremendous fund of shared love and commitment to service.
A year later, JP accepted an offer to open and co-own a new treatment facility in Massachusetts. The location of the new job meant he would be living an easy drive from our home and we could get together more often without the hassle of plane trips.Excerpt from Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message.
Regrets are a corrosive symptom of this terrible family systems illness. Seek the help you need to put them in the rearview mirror.
How do you handle regrets in your life?
What has helped you heal from your regrets?
Please share here. We can all be inspired by our shared experience, strength and hope.