Parenting is the most terrifying, untrained position I’ve ever taken on. At the same time, it is the most emotionally rewarding and exciting challenge. After more than 20 years I still question my decisions and appreciate all that I get to learn from this very important person in my life. The bottom line is that I’m still “working at it” and truly understand the pain, the joy, and the confusion that comes from loving someone who is searching to become their own person – not my expectation of them. My biggest job seems to be to find compassion for both of us–the parent and the child. If I can remember that my “good advice” is meant only as a place to bounce off of than I’m less likely to confine either of us or to be disappointed or disappointing.
So what does that mean for parents of children who are in recovery from addictions? Similar to the early years of raising our children (such as teaching how to ride a bike), it is not always easy to know when to guide, when to let go, when to celebrate, and when to worry. Obviously, parents often suffered along the side of their child during the active addiction stage and had to learn when to hold on and when to let go. Having survived this frightening time, many parents are now discovering what it looks like to balance out these two roles again. While sometimes fearful of relinquishing their intense engagement, they also know that it is critical to give this newly emerging person room to grow and find their own potential.
Ahhhh. If the exact amount of holding on and letting go could be prescribed! Yet, as you’ve already learned, what worked for your child may have been very different from what worked for someone else’s. Trust the knowledge you’ve already gained. But most important, listen to what they tell you and what you observe. Recovery is filled with a conscious effort to discover, grow, and find healing. Listen to what they are discovering AND listen to your own growth. Many of your answers are sitting right there in the hope and reality of recovery. As you listen and experience, remember: we are all “in process” of learning how to be the best that we can be. Be as kind to yourselves as you have decided to be with others. We are all growing and learning—so, let’s do it together.