THANKSGIVING, CHRISTMAS, EASTER, BIRTHDAYS, MOTHER'S DAY AND FATHER'S DAY are days most of us looked forward to in the past with great anticipation. We knew that we would join together with friends and family and celebrate our lives. We'd spend a day reminiscing about the past and looking forward to the future.
BUT For families whose lives have been affected by substance abuse all that is different. We no longer look forward to those special days with joyous anticipation we frankly just wish they would hurry and pass. We count the days until we can just get through THAT day and move on with our lives.
When families are affected by Substance Abuse there is an EMPTY CHAIR in the room. YOU feel it most on these days that were previously days of celebration but most families don't talk about it. It's a little like the proverbial "Elephant in the Room". Weather we have lost a loved one to death or to addiction, the lack of their presence is felt by all who love them. Our hearts are broken and our friends and family want to help but they are at a loss to know what to do. They fear if they bring up the obvious fact that someone is missing they will upset us. So no one says a thing. We go about the day pretending we are fine, trying to enjoy the party and inside just praying it will all be over soon.
It took me many years of recovery before I learned to let go of expectations of what the upcoming holiday would bring and to find joy in each day regardless of what my addicted son was doing. I missed him terribly but after years of being hurt from broken promises or unfullfilled expectations I let go of what I wished it could be like and accepted what was.
It wasn't easy. I missed my son, I wanted him with us. I wanted our family to be complete. I wanted my children happy again. However, all the wishing didn't change a thing. Don't get me wrong, I never stopped praying and I always held on to the HOPE that things would be that way again someday for our family. I learned that if I stayed in that place of desperately waiting for his return I missed out on the life that I had. Yes, HIS chair was empty at the time but the room was filled with people who loved me and who needed me to be emotionally present for them. As I learned to accept this I was able to find happiness again.
This Mother's Day I didn't have expectations of what my children would do to honor me. The day before Mother's Day I joined a group of my women friends in recovery to celebrate our lives as mothers. We joined together in celebration of what we have been through. We all started this journey from the moment they placed our babies in our arms filled with a deep, intense love for this little soul that we instantly felt responsible for. We paced the floors at night with sick infants just praying that we could find a way to offer them some peace from whatever was causing them distress. We felt the tear at our hearts when we sent them off to kindergarten. We felt the pain of watching them struggling to find their way as a adolescent in a world filled with challenges. NONE of us thought our journey down the road of MOTHERHOOD would take us to where we are today. When I sat in that room with 30 other mothers whose lives have been affected by addiction I was moved. I felt the love, strength of the women in that room. I saw women who had made a conscious decision to HOLD ON while they watched their precious child falling into the deep hole of addiction. No matter what, they never gave up. I felt an incredible love for these women. This certainly is not the life I had expected for our family but it is the life we have. I am so grateful for the women who have been by my side when I felt I didn't have the strength to face another day.
This Mother's Day was different. My son is sober so we were able to spend the day the way I had dreamed it would one day be. It was a wonderful gift and I was filled with gratitude that our family is healing but I really had no expectations for how the day would unfold. Recovery has taught me that I am responsible for my own happiness. Letting go of expectations freed me from my own personal prison of saddness. It has taught me to find joy in the little miracles that happen each day in my life.
Today is Father's Day. We didn't make big plans. Our daughter lives 8 hours away and our son although he is sober has a busy life. However as I type this my adult son is sleeping in the next room. That's enough for me. He set aside his busy life to spend the day with his dad. I know my husband feels the same way I do. There is no greater gift then tosee our son sober. I missed him when his addiction took him away from us. Last night my son, my husband and I took a train ride to go out to dinner. My son was showing us some funny things on his phone on the train ride home and we laughed and laughed. It was one of the hundreds of moments we have had in the last 8 months when I have wanted to freeze frame and save the moment. It has been a long time since we all laughed together. Addiction took us to some pretty dark places. I don't know if we'll go there again, to that dark abyss that threatens to rob our family of the joy we experienced last night. I do know that if I spend time worrying that all these little miracles will go away I will miss them. So for today, I am filled with gratitude that my son is sleeping soundly in the other room and when he wakes he will join his father and I to celebrate Father's Day.