Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An Invitation to Apply Step 1 of "Radical Acceptance"

Yesterday I posted a definition of Radical Acceptance and some suggested steps for how to do it. I think it would be great if we took one step at a time and shared thoughts and ideas (or examples) of how we are doing it, or trying to learn.

Here is Step 1:
Love and be gentle with yourself. Radical acceptance means treating yourself as you would treat someone that you truly love.

I, for one, really want to get these concepts into my brain. Let's get some ideas flowing.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Radical Acceptance

My counselor introduced the concept of "Radical Acceptance" to me today. It was a brief reference so I came home and Googled the term. I found a practical definition and instructions on . I think I'm going to post the steps in places I can see them. Here is the text with just a couple minor edits I made for myself:

Radical acceptance is the practice of accepting life on its own terms and finding effective strategies to cope with whatever is happening. It doesn't mean being passive, but accepting "what is" with the understanding that you have the power of choice. Practicing radical acceptance is a choice that can ease stress and depression and enhance your overall quality of life.

Step 1:

Love and be gentle with yourself. Radical acceptance means treating yourself as you would treat someone that you truly love.

Step 2:

Praise yourself. Tell yourself how well you are doing and stop criticizing yourself. Write down things you have done that make you feel proud and refer to it when you're experiencing feelings of self-doubt.

Step 3

Accept yourself. Don't listen to the little voice in your head that says you aren't good enough. Accept the way you are, right now, without judgment.

Step 4
Find ways to support yourself. Practice radical acceptance by reaching out to friends and loved ones and allowing them to support you.

Step 5

Forgive yourself. Have compassion for yourself and where you are in your life. Acknowledge any real or perceived wrongs that you may have perpetrated in the past. Apologize if you have wronged others, and then let it go.

Step 6

Lend a helping hand to others. Not only will it make a difference in their lives, but you will feel better and more positive about yourself.

Step 7

Take care of your body, and accept it lovingly. Learn about exercise and nutrition and get adequate rest. Nurture yourself and allow yourself to feel good.

taken from:  

I also found a Bible reference that helps me practice acceptance: Romans 8:28. I think I'll go to bed tonight and meditate on that passage. Good night.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stuck in the Blame Game

Many many thanks to all of you for sharing your insights with me on how to overcome the guilt and blame mind-game. Clearly, I've got some learning to do, and I have a good topic for my next counseling appointment. I'm attending Al-Anon and hopefully, some of that wisdom will start sinking in too. I don't know why this is so hard. My mind understands what everyone tells me but deep inside me I am low, still grieving, and finding my confidence as a mother under severe attack. I have always been confident in myself and in my parenting. I probably just need to learn a new way of mothering. New techniques for a new season.

Here is what I hope to remember (from what you all told me):
  • Ask myself if any of the "stupid" things I had done in my life could be blamed on my own mother. The answer is "No" (thanks "Mom trying to Detach with Love")
  • "If outcomes were dependent on Dad and Mom we would all have Einstein's...learn all you can handle about this disease. You do whatever you believe is right for yourself and your son. Every single day you cheer the successes and mourn the defeats. You never give up hope for yourself or your child."  (thanks, Ron)
  • "I wasn't a perfect mom, but I was a good one. I was there, I was affectionate, I loved and adored each of my kids, I did the absolute very best that I knew how to do. " (thanks Annette)
  • "You are a wonderful mother who loves her son with all her heart. Please don't blame yourself, it was nothing you did or didn't do - I promise! " (thanks Barbara)
  • "You can blame yourself for enabling, for not seeing the signs or ignoring them, for focusing on his addiction and not your own recovery. You can blame yourself for not understanding enough, caring too much, loving without action, detaching without conviction. But NEVER for the addiction."  (thanks Jan)
  • "...blaming keeps me stuck in a bad place and it isn't helpful to anyone. The past is over, it can't be redone. What I find most helpful is to concentrate on this day and what I can do to live it well." (thanks Syd) 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Insight Please!

To those of you who have some insight on the subject of blaming yourself for your child's addiction, would you share it with me?

A brief conversation with my son's counselor today, which included the comment, "Carolyn, it sounds like you're blaming yourself" sent me off to my lunch hour with the primary aim of regaining my composure so I could return to work for the afternoon.  What I really feel like doing is going home to cry, because he is right. Somehow, I feel responsible.

When people see 'successful' children, don't they often say, "they came from a good family"?

Don't we congratulate parents when their children graduate from college "Good job, Mom & Dad!"?

We are very quick to credit parents when children are doing well. I know, I received lots of kudos as I was raising Daniel.

Intellectually, I understand that Daniel made his choices, but emotionally, I am struggling with feeling like I must have done something wrong.

I could use a little help, here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I am Learning

Yesterday was Father's Day. I entered the day oblivious to the fact that a sizable emotional trigger lay ahead.

We went to church. I assumed it would be 'safe' with the focus being towards the men. Wrong.

The curve ball came at me right at the beginning of the sermon (titled "Compassion of a Father") when Pastor Randy began by describing the fierce, intense love a mother has her her child as illustrated in Isaiah 49:
"The LORD has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me."

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
(verses 14-15)

He continued to describe how a new mother's love is absolutely locked around her baby, that she would do anything, give anything, to ensure he was protected and had what he needed to survive and thrive.

There I was, sitting in the center of the second row in the largest church in our state listening to a perfect description of my heart towards my son. I could not hold back my tears and I wanted terribly to step quietly out of my seat, exit the sanctuary, and find a quiet corner where I could sob.

But with people seated on my left and my right; I was trapped in the second row; leaving inconspicuously was as impossible as leaving quietly.

So there I sat; and fought hard to keep back my tears. And then imagined what would happen if I could get out? I would have my crying-fest and then my day would be set on a course for sadness and emotional exhaustion (I know this routine). Is that the kind of day I wanted? On Father's Day?

This was my husband's day. He is an amazing father to his two adult-children and a more-than-I-could-ever-ask-for-amazing-stepfather to my Daniel. We did not have big plans for the day, but I did not want to ruin it.

I think this was the first time that I could look beyond my emotions and decide that, while I could not fully control them, I would not be ruled by them. Church ended and I forced myself to talk about something else.  We shopped for some cycling gear and then I prepared an authentic Chinese dinner, which Michael gobbled up! The evening went so well.

I think I am learning. My life does not have to be ruled by my grief. There is a time to cry and there is a time to cease from crying. There is a time to shop, cook, eat, and a time to celebrate! Lord, thank you for leading me one step closer to serenity. And thank you for a man that can be a good father for my son.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Heartfelt "Thanks" and My Tip for the Day

Many thanks to all of you who commented on my "How do I...." post. Conceptually, I understand that there can be a difference between caring and detaching with love  but applying that in my heart is wildly difficult. Your encouragement and words of wisdom truly helped. I will be re-reading that post many times in the days ahead in hopes that the truths you all shared with me start to sink in.

My Tip for the Day:
Do something physically exhausting - it will cause you to forget your troubles, help burn extra calories (which means you can afford an ice cream cone when you're done), help with stress management, cause you to come home and crave a nice hot bath, and help you sleep all the way through the night.

I cycled 62 miles today with my husband, climbing 1200ft in the first 15 miles. I am exhausted (because I'm not anything like the thunder-leg cyclists you see at these events). I feel a great sense of accomplishment and I feel a stong desire to go run that bath right now.

Good night, friends. -Carolyn

Friday, June 18, 2010

How do I...

"You can't control his drug use"
"You need to detach from him"
"If he is bent on going to prison, you cannot stop him"
"You have to take care of yourself"
"You have to learn to emotionally detach and not take the responsibility"
"You have to let go of the guilt"

How the hell am I supposed to do that????????

How do I not care if he goes to prison?
How do I not care if he continues to use?
How do I not care if he continues to deal?
How do I not care if he maintains connections?

How do I get rid of the sinking feeling in my gut?

This is my one and only son.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Whoo Hooo for Focus!

Feeling so much better today. The recovery from this weekend's Family Communications Workshop was an event itself. Today, I am back in the gym and back to work. I was even able to focus ~ whoo hoo for focusing abilities!

Slowly, I'm learning how to take care of myself.

Another 60-mile bike ride this weekend. Time to focus on THAT!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Source of My Hope

I feel as if I am on my own path of recovery.
Recovery from deepest grief, disappointment, and the greatest sadness I have ever known

I didn't go to work today. I couldn't.
I knew if anyone simply said "hi" to me I would cry.
It was one of those days.

It is the day after Family Weekend at Daniel's rehab
I managed fine thoughout the program
Of course, there were tears at the time of reading each other letters, but I thought I managed fairly well.

Then I got home.
I could only sit
sitting turned to crying
And crying
And crying

It seems that recovery includes learning the truth and coming to terms with it
I am learning more truth that I want to know
Daniel is doing the harder thing: facing the realities of his father
These truths are a source of great pain
When he is in pain, I am in pain

Tomorrow he ends his residential inpatient program and begins an extended program of intensive therapy.
It will be 60 days.
Results of those who have completed it are astonishing.
I am tempted to hope
and I am afraid to hope

So I am reminded of a favorite passage in the Bible; one that I found when I was so low and without hope. It was after I learned of Daniel's drug addiction. I cried not for days but for weeks. Finally, I went to the beach by myself and cried out to my God asking him to give me hope. He led me to this verse and it dried my tears. I often begin my mornings reciting it:

"My endurance has perished;

so has my hope from the LORD."

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."
- Lamentations 3:18-24

- Carolyn

Monday, June 14, 2010

Looking for Daddy

Tears. They stream out of me. I cannot stop the flow.
I close my eyes and feel the ache

My baby boy, my man-son. He has his own ache. The ache for a daddy.

A hero, an idol, a big strong man to throw him in the air and safely catch him
A good man to show him how a good man lives
An honorable man to teach him, love his mom, and train him

Instead: a fantasy daddy. One he could only create in his mind because his real daddy was nowhere except a voice on a random phone call. No weekend visitations. No birthday celebrations. No Christmas holidays. No weekends of fun. No.

Because a “man” cannot be a daddy when he is in prison.
He cannot be a hero when he is a drug dealer and an addict
He cannot be an honorable man when he assaults men and women who make him angry
This man cannot be a daddy.

But young boys hope, dream, and believe in daddy’s even when they are MIA
In their minds, daddy is ready to welcome his boy home and show him a good time
Young boys are confused when mommy doesn’t let them see daddy. Why?

How can mommy ever answer in a language that little boys understand?
They can’t
They try. They try hard. They try to make up for a missing daddy.
But time eventually shows that mommies cannot be daddies.

My little guy, my man-son, went in search of his daddy. How I wish he never found him.
I don’t know if I will ever know of all the realities that shattered my baby’s dream-daddy
I just now guns were involved
Domestic violence
Drugs, using and selling
And a little boy, my little guy, led astray until he became lost.
And addicted.
So lost.

So off to rehab you go.
To learn that you have lost your way. That this life you are living is a lie
And to admit you are powerless

Daddy was not the one to follow. And now you have much work to do
To find yourself
To forgive yourself
To remake yourself
God will help you, but can you trust him? Can you trust a heavenly daddy when you only have scars to show from trusting an earthly one?

My baby, this daddy is different. Please believe me.

And when you find your way
Please come home, my little guy.
I will always be here
God, how I love you. I never knew how much I could love.
So much.
My arms stretched wide “this much”
Do you remember?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Relationships in Recovery

(I decided to remove the letter to Daniel I had initially included in this post. I decided that I wanted to keep its contents just among our family.)

I want to acknowledge that I have an incredible, incredible, husband. When we married, neither of us knew of Daniel's addiction. And yet, he has come alongside me and walked with me. I am not dragging him to family weekends, Al-Anon, or counseling appointments. He earnestly desires to support me, and learn how to help Daniel. His committmend to both of us was demonstrated once again on this "Family weekend" as he also wrote a letter to Daniel. It was heartfelt. It was brutally honest. It challenged Daniel, communicated committment, and hope. I love you, Michael. You are a priceless gift to me and to Daniel. You are amazing. You are the best husband I could hope for.

Many tears were shed today. I believe they were healing tears and hopefully the beginning of relationships in recovery.

Not Sure I'm Ready for This

This is Day 2 of our second "Family Weekend" at my son's rehab. It is going to be an emotional one, as we will exchange letters (read aloud to one another) in front of a group; focus is on how his addiction has affected our relationship, what I want him to do, dont want him to do, and what I will do to support his recovery. Just writing it I cried. I don't know how I will ever get thru reading it aloud. But I'm sure I will. I'm glad to do it actually because it allows me to say some important things.

Yesterday (day 1) went well. After hearing from other families and how their son/daughter cannot wait to get out of rehab and are pressuring everyone to let them out early - Michael and I were so grateful that Daniel is a strong contrast. While he will readily admit to not wanting to be there, he is fully ready to move onto the next extended-stay program and do whatever it takes. His 'preview' of the new program was rigorous and intense (as it is designed to be),. His evaluation was "They said everything I said is bullshit....they were right. This will be so hard. I know it will be good".

We are so thankful for his willingness at this critical stage. For the first time, we think we may be seeing the fruit of leaving him so long in Virginia (2 years) to face his own consequences of his decisions and to demonstrate to us that he is serious about working a recovery program (he worked with a counselor and reduced his methadone dose from 125 to 25 mg/day), attended meetings, etc.. It was far from a perfect demonstration, but with the help of some insightful counselors, we could see he demonstrated a genuine desire to recover.

Time is short, gotta go. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Good Sign. I Think.

Daniel called me tonight.
He told me about his "evaluation" with the counselors (not knowing I had already talked with them)
He said it was grueling, much more difficult than he expected.

He went on to tell me they analyzed every word he said and told him it was all *BS*. Surprisingly, he commented, "They were right". He described himself as pretty shaken up when he left but relfected "This is going to be good".

I think this is a good sign.  I hope I am right.
Today, he is willing.
God, help us both.

I Asked

My head is spinning.
I am at work and just got off the phone with a counselor at the rehab clinic.
My son completed a behavioral assessment to determine if he's ready for an intensive long-term treatment program. I asked for an update after the assessment.
I asked.
Maybe I shouldn't have.
Nothing all too surprising, I suppose, but it still felt like a slap in the face after the conversation sunk in.
He seems to be an expert con artist, manipulator, with multiple modes of denial in full-force operation. A camelion that changes his colors depending upon who he's with. A young man that judges himself by his intentions and his own thoughts rather than his behavior. A young man with anger and rage.
I got a long list of examples but I cannot seem to remember any of them.
Hmm, my own denial must be alive and well.

Where did he learn this?

My son is broken. BROKEN. In spite of a good home. In spite of a loving mom, doing well in school, well in sports, lots of friends. In spite of all the @$%#$)*#)@$ effort I put into doing the very best I could.
How does this happen? I still don't get it. I cannot find the rationale, the reason, the explanation for how a happy, healthy boy turns into a man that cannot be trusted. My mind cannot wrap around it.
Oh God, please help me walk through this.
Help me do my job, it is so hard to focus.
Please fix him.

Back to work...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Talked About You

Step 6: Defects. This was the topic of the Al-Anon meeting (for parents) I attended last night. It goes something like Were entirely ready to have God remove all my defects of character.

I listened for a long time, hearing others speak of their stumbling blocks, shortcomings, assets-taken-to-an-extreme and how they grapple with them, face them, and repeatedly attempt to overcome or replace them. All the while I am thinking "this is good information, just what my son needs to hear..." but in the back of my mind I know: this insight is for my son's mother.

I looked for an opening; and near the end of the meeting I tentatively stepped up to meet the momentary silence:

"My name is Carolyn"

(hi Carolyn)

"My defect stands 6 foot 1 inches tall. He is 24 years old. He is handsome and charming and I love him with all that is in me" (unplanned cracking in my voice works its way inbetween my words)...

"I have turned him over to a higher power: he is in Rehab" (tears now leak into the scene).

I go on to explain how thankful I am that I am not chronically depressed, but have many good days, even feel happy and energetic at times. But then there are other days when my emotions drop so low, I "fall off the charts".

But I want to share something; I have made a breakthrough. I continued...

It was on one such day (when my son returned home from 2-years living in another state and we discovered that he was in a much worse state that we expected). I went online desperate for some help or encouragement.

I googled "mothers of addicts" and I found an incredible community: YOU. Within moments and within days I would find other moms that understand my pain. I didn't have to pretend "everything's fine" like I do in the rest of my life; wondering in whom can I confide? In this community of grieving mamas, the understanding, the encouragement, the wisdom, was tangible. I could be anonymous and yet connect on a deeper level more than I could with my closest friends. I called it "magic".

There is a similar magic in Al-Anon. I am discovering that nuggets of truth and wisdom can be found there. In a parent-focused meeting, it is especially rich.

So to you, my new online comrades, all the mothers who take time to pour your heart out though a keyboard the fathers who register their experiences and insights

Thank you. You have made a significant difference in this mama's journey through the wilderness.

-Carolyn (CC is a nickname)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Visiting Day

The doors swing open today for family and friends of patients at my son's rehab center. Why is it that I don't want to go? Is it because my parents are visiting and that helps me feel off the hook? Is it because the drive is 2-hours one way?

Part of me wants to see him. And part of me is still angry. And part of me fears getting too hopeful. And then there is the sad thruth that I just don't enjoy his company right now.

Am I withholding support by not going? Am I sending him a negative message? Will he think I don't care? I really don't know. What I do know is that I don't feel like going. And I am glad that when I saw him last, he told me I don't have to come (since Grams and Gramps were coming).

Still, I feel sorta bad for not going. I feel bad that I don't want to go. I feel bad that I longed for two years for my son to move back to his home state/town and now that he has, I'm so shocked and grieved to see his life up close.

Intuitively, I think I'm on course for this "new normal". I think other moms will understand.

I hope one day it will be different. In the meantime, part of me looks forward to next weekend when I see him during the second Family Weekend. Strange - all these conflicting feelings. I'm not even trying to sort them all out anymore.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Learning to Live

After 1.5 weeks in rehab, Daniel is doing as expected. Maybe better.

A couple days ago he called from the clinic and declaired "I think I know what my problem is", to which I replied "Really?"

He went on to say that he realizes that he thought he could control his use of drugs (as he did in the beginning) but now he knows he cannot. And he realizes that while he has made other attempts to get sober, he has never worked a 12-step program. I asked "Are you ready now?", to which he replied, "Yes - my way doesn't work."

I hope he means it. I think, for today, he does. So I am cautiously encouraged. But I am learning that his words are not always trustworthy - not that I don't believe he is sincere - but that beating this addiction is going to take more than words. But I am happy that he is starting to recognize his powerlessness and considers the 12-step progam the path he needs to take. This is progress.

Meanwhile, Michael and I are learning to live our lives. Tomorrow we are going cycling on our new road bikes. In preparation for an upcoming 60-mile ride, we're going to cycle around Hagg Lake; a mere 10-miles, but some good rolling hills on which we will test our legs (and endurance).  Forecast is low-70s so it should be a fun and beautiful day. I'm finding more and more that physical exertion is highly theraputic for this mom who is otherwise, still too preoccupied with her beautiful boy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Song for my Friends

I found this song by Josh Wilson a few weeks ago and I cannot stop playing it. Even the album title, "Life is not a snapshot" is something we would do well to ponder awhile.

I hope it will be an encouragement, especially to my Jesus-loving friends.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Good Read: Twilight

Loved the "Twilight" post by There is No Hero in Heroin" and would encourage others to read it too.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I recently added "Mumsicles" to my "CC" profilename /identity. For those who may be scratching their head over that one, it's one of the many nicknames my son has given me (Mumsicles I suppose is a play on 'Popsicles').

Since he learned to speak, he has given me various nicknames. They are ever-changing and one of the things I will always treasure between us. As a single mom, I raised Daniel alone. I guess this is evidence of the closeness we developed. Here are some of my other nicknames:

Bee-sa-goo (my first nickname. don't ask me what it means; he called me that for years starting a two yrs old)
My Sweetness
Co-Co Puffs

I'm including a photo of a time I foldly remember. We were both much younger :)

What precious memory do you hold of your son/daughter from their childhood?