One skill that would define a successful trapeze artist would be their ability to let go and trust that they’ll make it to the next bar. Even if they fall they know the net below will catch them, only to get back up and do it again. The alternative would be to swing back and forth over and over again, same bar, same routine. What would the point of being a trapeze artist be if this were the case?
For years I’ve heard “Let go and Let God” doled out as advice, in what seems to have become automatic pilot from many well meaning “advisors” to those parents who find themselves in the early stages of this tug-of-war of the heart. When I first joined the ranks of parents raising children with addiction, I too, was told to “Let go, and let God”. However they failed to tell me how to do that.
My sons, now 21 and 24, have been in and out of jail, admitted to the ICU with a diagnosis of Methamphetamine Schizophrenia, this is when doing too much Crystal Meth, he had been up for 8 days, begins to mimic Schizophrenia, in addition to the excessive Cocaine use resulting in the thickening of the valves in his heart. They found every drug in his system from those 8 days, except alcohol. His hallucinogenic state made it necessary for him to be handcuffed to the bed for everyones protection, his, mine and the staffs. This is how he celebrated his 19th birthday. While his brother stood by watching, unbeknownst to me, drunk and high.
They’ve both gone missing for days on end doing Heroin, Cocaine and Crystal Meth in shady rent by the hour motels.They have lied, covered for each other, bought drugs for one another, done excessive amounts of drugs together, protected their brotherly bond with a fierce loyalty from anyone who threatens it’s existence. Their all time classic move was to attend to AA meetings high.
They have been in and out of treatment, sober living homes, detoxes, wilderness programs, long term treatment (15 months) and been homeless. All the while I have had to learn to be an expert trapeze artist, or surrender to a life worthy of being institutionalized, while they proceed full steam ahead without mercy.
Having figuratively swung from that trapeze bar for 10+ years, wondering when to release the death grip that felt like I was clinging for every breath, while my chest was in a vice. I feel I have finally achieved the delicate balance and the Art of Letting Go.
So what do I know now that I wish I knew then, in the beginning when I was told to, “Let go and let God”. What has all of this experience taught me that I can now pass the baton on to those coming up the track behind me.
I know now that letting go is a process of many steps, not one. No one told me it would take time. This new task became a heavy burden in my heart. I had to get it right and get it right fast. Because now every move, every decision felt like Russian Roulette with their lives. And if I made a mistake, then what, as if there isn’t already enough guilt or fear packed in a 24 hour day! Now I’m angry, and feeling resentful towards those who keep yacking away about letting go and letting God, full of smiles…blah, blah, blah.
Letting go for me has meant learning to “step aside” and allow my sons to experience the consequences of their choices. I no longer feel the heavy burden in my heart or assume responsibility for their lives and how they choose to live them. My life and my state of mind and my ability to cope improved with every step I allowed them to experience and own.
This should be a normal rite of passage in raising our children, however when we watch our most precious gifts engage in self destructive, life-threatening behavior, our instinct to protect kicks into high gear. What we must overcome as parents to get to the point of being able to let go is nothing short of being gutted from the inside out. Kind of like being skinned alive.
Without realizing it the words “letting go” can create more fear on a sub-conscious level. We’re trying to hang on, not let go! I’m here to tell you that letting go does not mean walking away and abandoning our children. Even though my sons claim they have been abandoned and neglected. As one son so eloquently stated after a phone call that ended with his being angry at me, I am the reason he now needed to go smoke pot again.
Seriously, can you imagine if I had that effect on everyone?
My letting go meant letting go of the NEED to control outcomes. I have learned to redefine “love” and parent from strength and courage, not fear and guilt, nor do I allow the judgment of others to shame me into silence. My deepest hearts wish for all parents on this journey is to be patient and kind to yourselves. Understanding that the love we have for our children must also find it’s way back home to our hearts, to self-love and self-care. How can we give what we do not have. I believe in our capacity to change and grow, just like our children. And that the power of love and respect is not reserved for only those who do admirable things but to those who step into this arena and fight the good fight everyday.
In addition to being the mother of two drug addicts Leyla Fatima is also the President and Founder of ParentingtheAddictChild.com, a community for parents like herself. Leyla’s advice has been featured in the Orange County Register‘s column “Parenting From The Foxhole” which was the inspiration behind her nationally syndicated radio show on Los Angeles based 97.1 FM-KLSX.