When Surrender is the Only Option.
At the height of our son’s active heroin addiction, that’s what my husband and I were down to.
One day at a time? I wish. It was too painful to contemplate an entire day, or a half day, or even an hour. We were plugging through fifteen minutes at a time, grateful if we made it through to the next fifteen. More grateful still if we made it through to night time without yet another major crisis, so we could close our eyes and get ready to attack the next day in more numbing fifteen minute bites.
I realized I was eternally thankful for sleep. Not since I’d had a squalling newborn was I so happy to close my eyes and drift away into unconsciousness.
Sleep was the only time I wasn’t terrified. Terrified of what the day would bring, terrified of David’s mood and condition that day, terrified of the effect on our daughters, terrified that we would lose our son to this insidious disease. Our nightmares were lived during our waking hours. God spared me during sleep, when I fell into blissful, numbing, unconscious slumber. So, yes, I was grateful for sleep.
I was grateful for my husband, for someone with whom to share my worries, even though I wouldn’t have wished our live action version of Hell on my worst enemy. There’s something about awful life experiences that either brings you together as a couple or tears you apart. We clung together, taking turns pulling each other back from the edge when either of us came too close to jumping (figuratively, at least most days).
Of course, we tried everything to fix David, but anyone who knows addiction knows there is no fixing someone else. But try we did, from arguing, to talking, to crying, to counseling, to ultimatums, and finally to watching as we all became collateral damage in the war that he was waging within himself.
And then, we turned to trust.
Trust is a funny thing. It’s a beacon for the faithful and desperate alike. We were both. When you finally realize you have nothing left — no resources, no options and certainly no answers — your only choice is to give it up. Not give up, give it up. Two totally different concepts.
So we gave it, and our son, up to God. We decided to trust, which was equal parts terrifying and liberating. Terrifying because you have no control, which, upon inspection, you realize you never had in the first place. Liberating because, well, you have no control.
Raised as a good Catholic girl, I was always instructed that “God helps those who help themselves.” But the nuns left a part out. Because God really stepped in when, after doing everything we could possibly think of to help our son, we gave it, and him, over to God, trusting that, while we had no idea of the outcome, our Higher Power was in charge.
We told David that we loved him and would continue to love him, but we wouldn’t follow him over the edge. Nor would we allow him to take his sisters, or anyone else, with him. If he chose to continue his lifestyle, he’d do it on his own. Then we prayed, and trusted, and continued to love — from a distance this time.
I’ll admit, we’re some of the lucky ones. David made a decision to trust himself to his Higher Power and did the work to reinvent himself and his life. He’s doing remarkably well and works in the recovery field helping others to find their way back to life. He works at his own health every single day, and I’m so proud.
As for me and the rest of my family, we are grateful for every moment that we have David with us. We’re grateful for every fifteen minute segment of time that’s not fraught with worry. I’m still grateful for sleep, although now, it’s more likely to be a lovely nap on the beach that thrills me than an exhausted escape from fear.
Mostly, I’m grateful that I’ve learned to trust. Sure, I still have neurotic moments (shy of a lobotomy, that’s not going to change), but learning to say, “I’ve done what I can, Lord. Now it’s up to you,” is humbling, freeing and exhilarating.
My son’s addiction has been a life-changer in many ways. It’s also been an opportunity for ever-present growth and reflection — both for him and the rest of us. That’s a beautiful thing, despite, or maybe because of, the seed that inspired it.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on January 24, 2017.
Originally published at medium.com