Some people–maybe even you–upon reading the title of this post might immediately retort something like, “Gifts? What do you mean mean gifts? My child’s addiction has been nothing but a horrendous burden for us.”
I understand your frustration. I really do. I have friends who have suffered tremendously in dealing with their children’s debilitating drug and alcohol addictions. Household theft, deceit, manipulation, and violence are not uncommon.
Most parents will do almost anything to keep their children off the streets, in school, and out of jail. When going through such hell, parents have difficulty conceiving that accepting their children’s addictions could be of any benefit.
My friend Mike, however, found unexpected gifts after finally accepting his son’s drug and alcohol addictions.
His youngest son, Justin, was addicted to drugs and alcohol since his early teens. Mike and his wife, Alison, constantly tried to help Justin overcome his addiction and stay out of trouble by enforcing strict discipline, hovering over him, pleading and trying to reason with him, and paying expensive legal fees. Nothing worked. Justin was in and out of rehab on multiple occasions before he turned twenty-one, all without success. After he came of age, he went to rehab three more times before he turned thirty years old, also without success.
Like most parents in such situations, Mike and Alison’s lives were governed by fear and extreme worry and anxiety. Their own relationship deteriorated as their lives spun more and more out of control. Mike shared with me, “It got so crazy that one time, I chased my son down the street at 4:00 a.m. in my underwear, screaming at him to get back in the house.”
Yet, if you saw Mike today, you would notice someone with a bright face and smile and a wonderful sense of humor.
“So what had changed?” I asked him.
Mike told me, “I finally realized—and accepted—that there was absolutely nothing I could do to control or cure Justin’s addiction. I knew it was simply beyond my power to do, and importantly, that my wife and I weren’t responsible for where he is at today in his life. The reality is that he is a very sick person suffering from a debilitating disease. All my efforts to help him were fruitless and likely made matters worse for him.
“I call Justin daily and let him know how much I love and care for him. But I also accept his addiction for what it is—a lascivious disease that only he has the power to overcome, God willing. As a result, a tremendous burden and extreme stress have been lifted from our shoulders.”
Mike’s story illustrates several important aspects of acceptance. One is that acceptance does not mean you excuse or condone someone’s behavior. Nor does it mean we have to negate our values and principles or not take care of ourselves.
It simply means that you accept the underlying reality of the situation or person without judgment or other negative feelings such as fear, anger, and resentment (or at least minimally so).
This even-keeled type of acceptance enables us to recognize the choices and opportunities that serve us best even in the most discouraging situations, such as dealing with our children’s addictions. Why? With acceptance, the focus changes from others to you—and what you can do to better serve your own needs.
Moreover, as in the case of Mike and Alison, accepting a child’s addiction as something that you are powerless over removes guilt and shame and brings greater serenity—no small gifts, to be sure.
Please Share Your Experiences and Knowledge about this important subject in the comment section below.
In the meantime, remember to
Let It Go–and Accept “What Is.”
….and Let’s Help Make Acceptance Go Viral!
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p.s. I am very grateful for the positive reviews The Gifts of Acceptance is receiving.
“Best-selling author Miller (Losing Control, Finding Serenity) learned the hard way that his control-driven lifestyle wasn’t working and that only by letting go of the reins would he find more tranquility . . . to accept life on life’s terms . . . to welcome what is instead of what one hopes the world to be. VERDICT: A solid reminder to enjoy the life we’ve been given. Highly recommended.”
–Starred Review, Library Journal
“The common challenges to acceptance, from one’s parents to setbacks and failure, are each profiled in chapters that use case histories and author experiences to illustrate the predicament and the contrast between controlling and accepting behavior patterns. The result is an informational title packed with strategies, tools, and tips for negotiating ups and downs with a new paradigm for living a better life.”
–D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review