How is it for you?
The family systems illness of substance use disorder has a way of upendingThe Day.
That’s the insidious nature of this disease: it is an equal opportunity destroyer of self-esteem and happiness.
We can devolve into allowing the symptoms of the disease of addiction to be a weapon against our very selves. We can let blame, sadness, isolation, frustration and anger take over the true vision of our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
We need to take back the truth. That was the greatest gift I gave myself one Mother’s Day awhile back.
The night before that Mother’s Day began with Saturday night choices made by my (then-teenage) beloved son, JP, who was struggling in the grips of the illness. His choices and the disorderly conduct that followed threatened to rob me of peace of mind that Mother’s Day.
With God’s grace – fortunately- I found a way not to marinate in the bitter stew of everything that was going wrong from the disease in my son’s life, and my absolute belief that I was a complete failure as his mother.
Somehow – thanks to God- I was able to hit an override button to actually salvage Mother’s Day and fully enjoy a ballet recital our youngest, daughter Grace was performing in.
(If you can even call a bunch of 5-year-old girls having great fun giggling and twirling every which way around on a stage in sparkly pink tutus a “performance.”)
I wrote about that epiphany in the book I co-authored with JP, Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message.
There was nothing I could do to change what happened the night before. I decided to focus on the good, sweet, and lovely things the day offered, and I asked God to please help me do so. I thought of Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn and his mindfulness practices. He says that when we do any simple activity we should see it as a “ . . . a wondrous reality. I am completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”4
Most of the time when things went south with JP, I was a bottle slapped around by the waves. But that day I practiced the discipline of focusing on the “wondrous reality” of Grace’s ballerina glory as I applied bright red lipstick on her little bow lips, put her jumpy little feet—which are as wide as a box—into pink slippers, and gathered up her long, thick, black hair into a ballerina bun.
I was present for the gift of the present.
I wish I could say I was always able to shake off distraction, anger, and sadness. I lost a lot of time letting myself be pulled into the vortex of JP’s choices caused by the disease of addiction.Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message.
How do you stay present for the gift of the present?
What gift can you give yourself this Mother’s Day?
Please share here. We can all be inspired by our collective experience, strength and hope.
Nancy and her son, JP, are co-authors of Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message. Their book tells the true story of JP’s descent into opioid and alcohol addiction and homelessness to recovery to become co-founder of a treatment health care system.
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