A Visit to the Regret Farm

My youngest son got married last week. It was fun and beautiful and we are still riding the wave of wedding wonderfulness. We had the weather we prayed for and nearly everyone we love in one place.   barn

Because I can only stay in a blissful state for so long before I feel unworthy, it became time to visit the regret farm — the place behind me where I go to cultivate weeds of “should have,” “if only” and “why didn’t I?” When did I say my characteristic stupid thing and whose life is thus permanently altered? I should have made a toast at the rehearsal dinner, I shouldn’t have danced so much at the wedding, If only I paid more attention to that person, I didn’t tell the photographer to get so and so … blah, blah, blah.

This is my old behavior, what I did before I found recovery for myself. I used to need perfection and control the outcome of everything — or so I thought. When I relay my mistakes and the earth-shattering consequences I think they have, my 12-Step sponsor says to me tongue in cheek, “Wow. You have a lot of power.”

In some literature from Hazelden I pulled the quote, “Our desire for perfection is often the need we have to be beyond criticism.” Ouch.

We parents of children in addiction or recovery wish we had done all kinds of things differently. We blame ourselves for the way things went — how we enabled, denied or missed it completely. We think that what we say or don’t say will stop his or her drinking as if the addict will pause, jaw dropped and exclaim to us aghast, “THANK YOU! I never thought of it that way! I think I’ll stop using drugs now!”

My new behavior is to remember that I’m human and I make mistakes. Dancing a lot at the wedding might not be a mistake. So what if so and so isn’t in any pictures. How would I go about changing that? And how do I go about changing that we didn’t realize Ted’s problem until it was utterly out of control? “Even God can’t change the past,” someone said.  The point is that He uses it. It belongs to Him. It’s His story and I know better.