Swenson’s second book, “Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers With AddictedChildren,” (Hazelden Meditations, 2017), grew out of that realization. It’s a support book for mothers struggling to maintain relationships with their addicted children, but it’s more than that: It’s also an acknowledgement of the innate power of mothers — even in situations that make them feel powerless.
It wasn’t an easy book to write, Swenson said.
“The first book was about Joey’s struggles, about my coming to terms with and even understanding that he had struggles at all. This book is focused on my part of the journey. As a mother, it’s hard to shift the attention back to yourself, but it’s what I had to do to maintain my sanity.”
Remember that isolation that so many mothers of addicted children retreat into? Swenson hopes that her books help them find a community of support that will help them navigate the torturous twists and turns of loving a child who struggles with substance use.
That’s where the title “Tending Dandelions” comes from.
“I feel like we moms are those deceptively delicate dandelions,” Swenson said. “We feel fragile, but together we’re strong and we’re many. We’re a movement now. We are starting to stand up and talk about this disease. Things have changed: I feel no shame about this disease whatsoever anymore.”
It helped Swenson to attend support groups like Al-Anon — and to meet people who had read her books. Finding a community helped her feel stronger and less ashamed. She wants the same thing for her readers.
“When I started to speak up about addiction I realized that I’m telling the addiction, ‘I’m fighting you for the sake of my son,’ ” Swenson said. Speaking up is noisy, she said, but that’s part of the deal. “We can’t fight addiction, we can’t break down stereotypes, if we’re quiet. The world is not going to believe addiction is a disease if we moms treat it like it is a disgrace.”
This summer, Swenson will be in Minnesota June 22-24 to lead a two-day workshop called “Mom to Mom: Where Love and Addiction Meet” at Hazelden’s Dan Anderson Renewal Center.
At the workshop, Swenson said, attendees will discuss “the struggle and the horrors of this thing called addiction, and how as mothers we can come to terms with the fact that we cannot do this for our children.”
Swenson said that she wants to show that letting go is not a sign of weakness.
“We have a lot of power as moms to overpower the destruction that the disease of addiction spreads. At the workshop, we will work on finding that power within ourselves by shedding the shame and the guilt and turning it into something that can actually do good. We want to change the way our community perceives addiction and make it an easier journey for our children.”
This will be the first workshop that Swenson has led. She can’t wait to get big group of mothers together in the same room — the energy they create has the potential to be unstoppable.
“I’m very excited,” Swenson said. “It’s going to be a wonderful weekend. I feel so connected to moms who are on the same journey as I am, moms who are trying to understand that sometimes help enables and hope hurts: We feel so helpless in the face of this disease, but together we are strong.”
Registration for “Mom to Mom: Where Love and Addiction Meet” is available online.
“There was a time when I would know exactly how he was doing in his addiction journey,” she said. “Now we don’t talk about it. We spend the time that we do have together making new pleasant memories so that we have something healthy left over when hopefully he does find recovery.” ~Sandra Swenson