I can’t change my son—only myself

Today is my birthday—and the only thing I want is to thank all of you for the blessings I have received from Al-Anon. All of you have shared and reached out to me in ways that have touched my heart. You helped me to believe that it is possible to endure the pain and accept that my son has a problem with drinking and using drugs.

My son is almost 20 years old. He has been walking down this destructive path for the past five years. There is nothing I can say or do to change the fact that he is driven to abuse his body. His actions threaten to destroy the very life he was given as a gift from God. He remains in denial that there is a problem at all.

I was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety because of unresolved feelings from my past. I grew up surrounded by alcoholism. My mother was an alcoholic. My parents divorced and my father left home when I was six years old. Any childhood I had experienced was buried along with my memories. I became a pseudo-adult and took care of my mother. I was the best little girl—so responsible and aware.

I spent all my summers with my maternal grandparents, where I learned how my loving and amazing grandmother handled my gruff and abusive alcoholic grandfather. I walked on eggshells, ready to adapt to his explosive outbursts.

Just when I thought I knew all I wanted to know about alcohol, my mother remarried, and my stepfather was an alcoholic. He yelled and hurt my younger brother and me. We would just hide from him. We never had friends over, and there were no family dinners.

I made a promise to myself that my children would never experience what I did, so I didn’t drink alcohol. I was going to be the best mom. However, behind my strong and independent exterior, I carried the affects of growing up as a frightened and confused young girl.

I have battled congestive heart disease for nearly 13 years. I escaped a marriage that was toxic to me. I was not safe and I couldn’t allow my boys to think that their father’s behavior was appropriate. I was forced to have my ex-husband and my beloved son leave our family home by court order—the rage and vile names were more than I could bear. I broke my promise to myself to give my son the family he deserved.

At one time, I believed I was to blame for my son’s drinking and drug use. Outpatient rehab had failed, and all my hopes for his recovery were shattered. A compassionate man saw me standing alone in the parking lot, unable to get in my car and drive home because I was so devastated. The tears wouldn’t stop falling. He encouraged me to go to an Al-Anon meeting for parents.

I found the courage to go to the Al-Anon meeting, and I kept coming back. I read the literature and worked the Twelve Steps. Gradually, I learned to accept that I was powerless over alcohol, and that the guilt, which consumed me until I didn’t want to live, was useless.

With hard work and faith, I came to believe that the only way I could help my son was to give him to God, and love him just the way he is with no conditions attached. I had to accept that I could lose him to the deadly disease of alcoholism. When I surrendered and let him go, a great burden was lifted off my shoulders, and I realized that I wasn’t responsible for my son’s choices.

I have learned in Al-Anon that the only person I can change is myself. I have my son to thank for that. When I was so desperate over his problems, I walked into the rooms of Al-Anon and out of denial. My obsession and the insanity were robbing me of whatever life I had left.

I can’t fix my son, because he has decided to continue to drink and use drugs. He can’t control it, and even with all the love I have in my heart for him, it is still impossible for me to cure him.

I am still learning to mind my own business, and to live my life without fear and regret, “One Day at a Time.” I will “Keep Coming Back

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By Sharon C., California
The Forum, June 2011

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