Monday, January 28, 2008

Prodigal Sons & Daughters

The worst thing about having grown children become addicts is listening to other people brag about the accomplishments of their kids who are the same age. There were times when I felt like every UU kid, and especially every minster's kid, was either going to Yale on a full scholarship, traveling the world doing humanitarian projects, or making independent films about marginalized people.
Of course, listening to those stories isn't really worse than the sleepless nights worrying that your child will die, or, worse by far, that he or she will cause the death of someone innocent. When you are relieved that your kid has lost their license, or is in jail, because you know they and those around them are safe... that's bad. I guess that even though UUs are tolerant, accepting, and totally affirming, there are still some things (besides money) we can't talk about without fear of judgement. I was so grateful when Bill Sinkford told the story about his son's problems. I knew then that I was not a bad mother, bad person, etc. The greatest remorse is the belief that having gone into the ministry, moving away, being unavailable at times, contributed to your child's addiction.
I know that people need to believe that if kids go terribly wrong, there must be some logical explanation, because otherwise it could happen to their kids. I know it because I used to judge parents of addicts that way myself. Truth is, a large part of addiction is hereditary, and you can spend a lifetime trying to avoid this heartache for your children, only to see it manifest. Even worse, family systems tells us that the anxious focus those of us who grew up with addiction project on our offspring might actually contribute to their becoming symptomatic.
The day my son went, voluntarily, to 30 day rehab, I wanted to get a T shirt and a bumper sticker that read: "Your kid went to Harvard? That's nothing! Mine graduated rehab!" Finally, I learned not to mention it very much at all, because it is only those who have been there who truly understand.
Rehab is not the end... of course. When they say "relapse is a part of recovery," it applies to you, too. A year after rehab, my son went with us to Transylvania for 2 weeks, where I saw his face light up with joy and heard him laugh freely for the first time in many, many years. At 25, it was his first time outside the United States. When you are wrapped up in drugs and alcohol, you don't do the things other young people do. You don't have the money or the courage.
After we came back, he relapsed and lost a great job, a wonderful woman, and his driver's license. We waited until the fallout was over, and then we invited him to live with us. It's only been a week, but we have a contract, he's in recovery, he's clean, and last night our whole family had a meal and watched TV together for the first time in a long time. I have hopes.. of course.. but no expectations. We'll just have to live one moment at a time, which is, of course, always a good way to live. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Luke 15:24.