The Only Other Person I Can Change...
Several weeks ago I received a phone call from a lady in Tennessee. Asking how I might be of service to her, she responded, "I'm sitting here looking at your picture." Unaccustomed as I am to being stalked, I pursued the nature of her call further. She said she was reading a past issue of The Florida Catholic and was reading SAM Scripts, having recently relocated to Tennessee from Florida. She needed someone to talk to about her adult son who had multiple treatments and incarcerations for various addiction related problems. She had attended Alanon regularly, but still needed someone to talk to about "letting go". She knew there was really nothing more she could do to help her son, but needed someone to confirm and affirm that decision; nothing more than pray and continue to attend Alanon.
I have had five phone calls this month from mothers of adult children who are in similar circumstances. A tragic aspect of these calls is that the "affected" parents do not recognize that they need help as does their "afflicted" child. Most often the recovery process begins not when the "afflicted" child gets help but when the "affected" parent gets assistance.
Back when I was in high school, I did volunteer work at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago. I attempted to teach catechism to teens who were detained there. I was given the responsibility by the chaplain, coincidentally my high school principal, to be Baptismal Godfather of one of the troubled young men. I experienced much frustration in that relationship. My dad, a wise man, told me that if I wanted help another person climb up out of his/her life of pain, I had to raise myself up a level. He added, "No one wants to be left too far behind. They'll follow."
In my 30-plus years of working with people touched by addictive disease, the greatest resistance I encounter is from the "affected" family members. Their thinking is that "if he or she stops drinking or using, everything will be fine." Another frequently heard response is, "I don't have a problem, he or she does." An all too frequent mistaken belief is, "Let me get my son or daughter out of that environment, and I'll change him or her."
The tragedy is that the only change that takes place is that everyone gets worse!
It is a pity that those "affected" by addictive disease are so unwilling to avail themselves of Alanon. Yes, it can be scary going to a meeting for that first time. But this ministry can link you up with men and women who are Alanon members who would be most happy to accompany you to some meetings. A miracle happens when you walk through the doors of an Alanon meeting for the first time. You are no longer alone! You will be with others who have and are still experiencing the powerlessness over their loved one "afflicted" by addictive disease. The sharing of mutual experience, strength, and hope signals that emergence from the shame, isolation, and alienation of addiction for the "affected". The great spiritual disconnect has suddenly become reconnected with self, loved ones, and God.
Several years ago I received a call from a 91 year old mother whose son, 70, had a severe drinking problem. When all avenues of help seemed exhausted, I suggested Alanon to her. She replied, "Oh, I've been attending meetings for the last year." How encouraging to hear that reply.
By the way, to complete the title of this column: THE ONLY OTHER PERSON YOU CAN CHANGE... IS A WET BABY!
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