You know all about it, right. Life is full of wonderful celebrations, holidays, and special events. You know what can go wrong. When a substances abuser with a lot of grudges and grievances is invited to the party. The question is should we risk the pain of potential sabotage? I get choked up just thinking about my daughter's graduation and the trouble some of her siblings could bring to her happy day.
As a widow and mother of five grown children who have all been affected by the disease of addiction, I am heartbroken every time I have to adapt special events around the addiction of my sons. Here are my tips for coping.
War Room Planning
It's not just a great time. We have to plan how to deal. While Marcy does not abuse substances, her older brothers do. Max is doing pretty well, but relapses often from his pain medicine addiction, Mitch drinks heavily everyday and is angry at everyone, and Marvin is struggling to find recovery from alcohol abuse in his teen years. That stacks the deck against a happy day any day. But this is Marcy's day and she should be able to enjoy it.
The War Room Team
I am one of the lucky ones and more confident about what to do because I found Al-Anon, a great sponsor, and a therapist who all help me understand what is really happening and what I can do to ease the stress. When I have tough decisions to make, I can sit down and talk real life with my support team. They've been there and know the pain that can accompany family get togethers. They don’t judge or think I am overreacting. They know the dangers of just being passive and “hoping it all turns out OK.”
Standards of behavior and caring that operate in families without addiction do not exist for us. Addiction is like an enemy sent to create chaos, so a strategy is needed to cope.
- Have no expectations for either a positive or a negative outcome
- Always have an escape route available. I drive myself always
- Take a friend along. Family members behave better when there is a witness
- Consider not going if you know you will be verbally abused, emotionally or physically harmed
- Talk to your Sponsor, therapist or outside help to gain clarity and support
- Talk honestly about how you feel around those suffering from addiction
- Decide what direct action to take if active abuse tries to disrupt the event
- Enjoy the event no matter what happens. If I am focused on the addiction, I still lose out on having my own life. Have a plan, but enjoying the event is the real goal here.
Marcy and I are planning a simple celebration. She did invite her brothers, but knows the day of the event they very likely may not show up. She knows it will sting her heart a bit, but it may also be God doing for her what she can’t do for herself and protecting her special day.
- If anyone shows up intoxicated to the graduation they will be not given a ticket to attend. This will be done in a public space with a male friend present. This will help protect my daughter and myself from any manipulation, yelling, or outright threats.
- We also decided to go to a restaurant instead of going back to her townhouse. This way we are in a public setting and neutral territory. And if we were at her house we couldn’t really leave if they began acting out. Also there is an additional option of having a restaurant manager or the police remove them.
- Since I am paying for the lunch, I let the server know privately that each person has to pay for his or her own bar tab. I do not pay for anyone’s alcoholic beverage. Having a husband who died from the disease, it is just too painful and sometimes helps slow the drinking down.
Recovery Is Accepting Reality
It is sad that while other Mothers and Daughters are worrying about what color dress to wear and what to serve at their graduation party we are focused on protecting ourselves and discussing how to seat people to protect her celebration. But recovery is understanding and accepting what is, and taking action to make the most of it.
Addiction is a baffling, cunning, and deadly disease. Many wonderful people have been killed by this disease, and millions of innocent children and family members are enduring addiction fueled rage and abuse. (Every day 3 women are killed by their partners. Call 1-800-799-7233 or click here if you feel unsafe in your relationship.) Unfortunately, there is too many tragic endings in the news to just hope for a good day. Those of us coping with active addiction are in what feels like a war.
Never Forget The Children Who Do Not Abuse Substances Or Alcohol
I am proud of Marcy's ability to speak honestly about her feelings and what she needs to do to protect herself. While families coping with addiction are not living the lives we want for ourselves, we are the best version of ourselves we can be today. And we are better than we were yesterday or last year. We do recover.
And at the end of the day, no matter how it goes and I have no idea of how it will turn out, I do know two things:
- I am proud and happy to see my daughter graduating from college
- She is proud and happy to be graduating from college
- We will enjoy and celebrate her day with everyone who know and love and support us.