Please click here to read Part I of Raw, Heartbreaking and Real: Our Stories if you have not already read it.
Addiction does not write stories of laughter, beauty or romance. It does not craft stories of heroism, honor or success. Rather, it develops stories around themes of fear, loss, defeat, heartache and failure. Stories with addiction as the main character are dark and humorless.
This dark and humorless narrative was too much for me, yet it invaded every part of my being. I was living in a nightmare, battling my daughter's addiction and my uncontrollable fear. I could not find my way out of the nightmare alone. I needed to connect with other people who shared a similar story. I needed to hear that it was not just me, not just my child and not my fault. I needed to learn that while I am responsible “to” others that I am in relationship with, I am only responsible “for” me. I am responsible “to” others to be kind, loving and generous. It is my responsibility to listen, to share my stories—whether joyous or sorrowful, to be of service in authentic and honest ways, to recognize the rights of others and to allow others to pursue their own lives, whether it is in accordance with what I want, need or believe or not. I am also responsible “for” me: my attitudes, my actions, my behaviors, my happiness, my joy, my reactions and my responses.
As my journey into wholeness and healing has developed these last eight years, I have chosen to write recovery into my story. That may be your story, or it may not. Either way, our stories are entwined. We share the story of having a loved one who suffers from substance use disorder (SUD).
Philosopher and psychologist William James translated the German word "Zerrissenheit" to mean “torn-to-pieces-hood.” This is the most adequate description of how I felt after learning of my daughter’s addiction. The mental, emotional, physical and spiritual pieces of my personhood were strewn about the landscape of my life. I lacked the ability to collect, sort, and restore these pieces of myself.
My life would remain scattered, torn and broken for a long time. Eventually, through the comfort, beauty, strength and power of story, I was able to begin the process of collecting various pieces and parts of myself. Today, I am in the process of sorting and restoring that which addiction tore from me. And, I am counting on the stories of my fellow travelers to continue to return, restore and replenish that which I have lost, hidden or misplaced along the way.
Part of my restoration/recovery story is accepting that I am powerless over the condition of addiction and that my life, my story, my daughter’s story and our family’s story cannot be managed, manipulated, cajoled or forced back into the original script I had written for us and for me.
I have suffered through the immense anxiety of powerlessness—of fear of a God that I could no longer reconcile myself to and, ultimately, the loss of faith in that God. I also battled against the angst of having to look inward in a searching and fearless inventory of myself and the soul-numbing pain necessary to get where I could accept that addiction may not be eradicated from my life—that it may remain a part of my life’s story.
Once I was able to accept these realities as facts, I set about to follow the advice of Brene Brown. I walked into my story and I began to own it. I stopped hustling to find the ANSWER, the SOLUTION, the WAY OUT. Doing so had drained me of my worthiness as a parent, a person, a spouse, a woman and a human.
I was yet to learn that my worth would not be found in hustling, looking for or seeking certain things. Nor would my worth be found in trying to create another ending to my story. My worth would, instead, be found in MY ACCEPTANCE of POWERLESSNESS and WILLINGNESS to accept my story.
I would eventually cultivate the willingness to learn to ask the right questions rather than seeking to find the right answer. I would come to accept my story—my life—just as it is. A willingness to ask myself hard questions—questions that would and do cultivate my capacity to live with the uncertainty that accompanies addiction—would help me accept the fact that my life and/or my daughter’s life may not have a fairy tale ending. My daughter may never seek, want or find recovery.
Other questions I had to consider as I begin rewriting my story are:
Am I willing to accept that, try as I might, that I am unable to change other people, places or things?
Am I willing to change what I can? My attitudes, my expectations, my actions, my thinking?
Am I willing to have boundaries with people (including my daughter) who are not safe, healthy or reliable?
Am I willing to risk other people’s disapproval (even my daughter’s) in order to gain my own?
Can I learn to let others live their lives without forcing my opinions, beliefs, wants, wishes, hopes and dreams on them? Especially when they’re not living the life I want for them or when the stories they are writing for THEMSELVES cause ME pain, fear, grief or loss?
What have I gained by asking myself these questions and sharing my story?
I now have the ability to see beyond the pain, heartache,nightmare, fear and loss of addiction. Hearing others’ stories allows me to know that I am not alone. I know that I am not the only one experiencing these feelings and fighting this fight. Hearing the stories of others and sharing my own story connects me to my fellow travelers; eliminates my loneliness, isolation and solitude ;and strengthens me as I work to restore the parts of my personhood that were “torn to pieces” by addiction.
Don’t be ashamed of your story. It will inspire others.
– Author Unknown
Additional benefits of storytelling—as listener or teller:
* The capacity to truly experience the deep loss and disappointment that comes
from loving and/or living with an addict.
* The gift of authentic fellowship with others who know and share the depth of
my despair, fear and shame.
* A respect and appreciation for human resiliency and perseverance after devastating
loss and tragedy.
* Feeling linked to fellow humankind by inherent imperfections.
* Knowing that we are not unique, exceptional or defective.
* Understanding that fear keeps most people from learning how to live into the paradoxes and mysteries of life.
*Feeling empowered by the insights, experience, strength and hope of others.
Stories are healing because:
* They are how we, as humans, communicate and connect to one another.
* They convey our passions, joys, sadness and hardships.
* We are wired to share and receive life’s meaning and purpose.
* They allow us to understand ourselves better by way of another.
* They break down barriers and help us overcome differences by revealing common ground, creating spaces of vulnerability, comfort, accessibility and willingness.
*They create genuine emotion by forcing us to think and speak about things we would rather not.
I sincerely hope and pray that you will remain on this journey with me and continue to share your stories along the way.