Why is it that the that the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous maintained that the muscle and bones of their sobriety was one alcoholic helping another alcoholic? Because, they told each other’s story as no well-intentioned physician, spouse or counselor could do. The “I am different” alcoholic’s experience was confronted by the mirrored experience of another alcoholic. I am told that the identification of one to another is cathartic; different cast of characters but same obsession, self-loathing and desperation. The solution to the problem was better received from someone who had walked in those shoes.
So it was with me as a daughter of an alcoholic and a mother of a drug addict. My friends were the best, bar none, long- suffering with me and dishing out encouragement like it was their job. Still, I longed for a mom who knew what it was like to be me. The over-thinking and fears I thought were mine alone, weren’t. I just didn’t run in the right circles of wrong-going children.
Fortunately God knew full well what it was like to be me. He was enough but I still felt lonely. Often I marinated in my sadness, getting counseling for how to do a relationship with my mom and Ted, but not asking the right questions or maybe — yikes — not getting honest. Once Ted got into treatment I found out where my peer group was among the families. Turns out there are lots of me’s. I heard them tell what they thought, which was what I thought, and what they did (not always advisable) which was what I did. In their eyes I could see that they got it, even without a nod, and I knew they knew.
It is said, “You can die from terminal uniqueness.” Certainly that is true for addicts but it’s true for me too. To isolate is my choice. It is my stubborn belief that I am alone in this grief and I need to protect it. I’m comfortable in it. It’s perhaps my destiny. It wasn’t. God had other plans. Sometimes I’m still tempted to go into the iso-chamber with my nutty ruminations, but now I know I have choices. It’s not comfortable in there.
To get support alongside other parents who are or have been dealing with a child in the crisis of alcohol and other drugs, here are some resources: Al Anon Family Groups, Celebrate Recovery, and in metro Milwaukee, The C.J. Lomas Foundation parent support group.