Sidelined and Sad
Let me start by saying I am always excited and filled with joy to watch my friend’s children succeed. I do not feel envy or jealousy. However, I feel sadness as my friends become the empty nesters I thought I’d be by now. It is a tough road of loneliness while not being alone, and it is often hard to express.
After spending a few years confined to not leaving my state, we spent this summer visiting family and even took a vacation. I have guardianship of my grandkids, and the rules are don’t leave the state. So last time in court, I asked for the prohibitive measure to be removed. At least we had a terrific summer. We love being with our grandkids and are blessed. But, beyond that, there is a loss we feel in our lives being ‘our’ lives.
Addiction has left us temporarily parenting after a tumultuous time of parenting. We are tired from the stress of watching our adult children struggle with the symptoms and make the devastating choices that lead to inconceivable self-repudiation. Yet, over the last year, I learned that I have no control, and in accepting that truth, I have experienced freedom. So then, why do I still feel imprisoned?
I watch as friends send their kids off to college, and I cheer. But, as young adults around me begin to make plans for their future, I wonder why my kids never believed they should do the same. We are told not to ask, but I can’t let go of the questions, “What did I do wrong?.. Could I have done more to help them?.. Didn’t I teach them confidence?” I could go on. What happened here?
As I sit along the sidelines, I wonder, will I ever play again?
Of course, then I have to shift to my other mom’s side. I have two other children living a blessed and beautiful life. One with a wife and two children, the other about to be a new dad! I am simultaneously living the regular and un-normal in this crazy journey. My son, in recovery, was baptized this past weekend. So I do have experiences that show signs of life going well around me.
There is the shadow that looms above us. We are coming through a dangerous relapse. My daughter has to heal through her pain and trauma, and I have to recover from mine. There is a deep wound left every time she disappears. The choice to take off has become a norm since last year. I receive texts that say, “I’m safe.” As though that should mend the broken and weary heart of a mother hurting.
I’m Not Like You.
That is where the difference in parenting stands out to me. Other people are not going through these scenarios. Other parents don’t live between two worlds of hesitancy and joy. I often feel I have no choice but to wear a mask—one for life in addiction and one for life without substance issues. Parading between the two creates confusion in my identity and loss in myself.
I have to press harder into God for the daily reminders of who I am. Whether stifled by the weight of bad choices around me or flying high on the joy of new life and happy memories, I get lost. When I laugh and smile, I feel guilt at times. When I travel and enjoy moments in my life, I know I have a child fighting to live. So how do we move on with so much pulling us back?
Many in the support arena use the phrase, “Let go and let God.” At times this is easy; other times, not so much. But, for those in faith like me, we understand letting go and surrendering to God on a whole life scale, not just with our children. So this is not a holding on to something we can’t control issue.
The challenge to live life while living through addiction is overwhelming. The hurt doesn’t evaporate because we let go. The worry never stops. The fear becomes a basic feeling we tolerate and live through. Though there shouldn’t be a shame, we swim in it. Guilt, too. There are many things we shouldn’t do or feel as parents of those battling substance use; I’ve learned over a decade now that we still do.
People can tell me not to feel a certain way and ‘let go,’ but our reality is we will hold on until the day our kids are living well. That is what parents do. You do it in the good, and we sit and do it in the bad. Holding on to hope looks different, but we still cling to something that will come along and be more significant than the addiction that has hold of our kids. We have to because the reality is their life could end at any moment, and hope would no longer matter.
That is the only way to keep living forward and get back in the game.
You are not alone! If you are challenged in the substance abuse epidemic, reach out, seek counseling, email me. We will get through this together!