Mom to Mom: The Ghost


There was a ghost living in our house when my youngest child was just a kid, hovering over every bit of his life as he was growing up. The ghost was a character in my youngest son’s story; it was just as real as his addicted brother—causing its own form of chaos—and was present even when his brother was not.

Everything that happened in our home and our family made an impression on my youngest child—twice. First, there was the all-too-real drama (and trauma); then there were the hauntings. An arrest here, an overdose there. A drunken car accident, a brother nearly killed. Handcuffs and jail cells, detox and court. Scary phone calls and scary strangers. Scary, out-of-control brother and scary crying mother. Lies, betrayals, and the loss of trust. Love and hate and twisted fate. Everything that happened—both good and bad-had a part in making my youngest son who he is now that he’s all grown up.

The ghost living in our house is something my youngest child probably got used to—after all, it was part of the only family he ever knew. The ghost is probably hovering somewhere nearby him, still.

“The ghost of my addicted child’s mistakes hovered over everything his younger sibling did (and didn’t do) . . . and so did his dad and I, skittish and fearful and trying to learn from our own mistakes.” ~Sandy Swenson

Today’s thought from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is from the book:

Tending Dandelions
by Sandra Swenson

Tending Dandelions by Sandra Swenson

The Dandelion Shop is a curated gallery of Dandelion Designs created in partnership with an array of ETSY artists especially for moms with addicted children.

Mom to Mom: A Dandelion Movement

 

FLOWER POWER

I am the mom of a child suffering with the disease of addiction.

And I am part of a movement — a movement of moms shedding their shame and scattering seeds of truth.

You see, I see a wish, not a weed, in my child.

So I’m helping to change this place where love and addition meet.

I AM A DANDELION.

I am part of the dandelion movement.

When addiction first takes root in our child, we may be completely unaware, but once we’ve heaved ourselves over the monstrous hurdle of realization, the recovery journey begins.

We learn, we grow. We cry, we wilt.

We learn the value of nurturing ourselves.

We find strength, we bloom.

And finally, like fields of frazzled flowers, we scatter seeds of truth and goodness, changing the dynamic of this place where love and addiction meet. One by one, and one after another, we are carried aloft by the hope, the help, and the beating hearts of other mothers who love a child suffering with addiction.

We may often feel fragile, but we are strong.

And we are many.

We have the power to overpower the destruction that addiction spreads.

No more shame, no more silence.

 


“As tired and tattered as we may be, like the deceptively delicate dandelion, we moms are made to persevere.” ~Sandy Swenson


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

The Dandelion Shop is a curated gallery of Dandelion Designs created in partnership with an array of ETSY artists especially for moms with addicted children.

                                                                           

 

Mom to Mom Blog: My Child’s Addiction Feels Like War


In the contours of his man-face, I still see my own son. The jaw, the nose, the spacing of his eyes. But I know not to be fooled by the familiar façade: I already know there’s somebody else who’s living inside. I’ve been doing battle with this invisible stranger, trying to fight the beast that has wriggled itself underneath my son’s skin, but I am so very weary because it often feels like I’m battling against him. And sometimes when looking into the face of my child, I’m swayed into feeling like I’m on the wrong side.

I want my son to know whom I’m fighting for.

I want my son to know whom I’m fighting against.

And I want my son to know why.

I want my son to know that I want him to win. I want him to live. I want him to come on home. I want my son to know that even though I’m so very weary from this fight, I won’t give up. For him.

Today’s thought from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is from the book:

Tending Dandelions
by Sandra Swenson

Mom to Mom Blog: Judged

My child became an addict in his teens, lured to drugs and alcohol by a culture that glorifies substance use–the same culture that now, so ignorantly and harshly, passes judgment on him. And me.

I am judged for helping, fixing, and pushing (or not helping, fixing, or pushing enough) this sick child of mine who won’t be helped or fixed or pushed. I am judged for over-reacting and under-reacting, enabling and letting go. Most hurtful of all, I am judged to be a mother whose love must be somehow flawed.

When my child became an addict, I became the mom of an addict–a role I wasn’t prepared for and certainly didn’t want. It’s a role the whole world seems to have an opinion about, whether they know anything about addiction or not. Whatever I do (or don’t do), I am judged to be wrong, but I no longer pay attention to that. I just keep doing what I’m doing, with love.

“Judge tenderly, if you must. There is usually a side you have not heard, a story you know nothing about, and a battle waged that you are not having to fight.” ~Traci Lea LaRussa

Today’s thought from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is from the book Tending Dandelions by Sandra Swenson.

Mom To Mom–Facing The Holidays When Your Child Is Addicted

“All I want for Christmas this year is my son back from the addict who stole him, but that’s not a gift I expect to find under the tree this year. Instead, I will wrap myself up in the peace of the season.”

It has been ten years now since my son even pretended he was coming home for the holidays. I’ve had time to adjust to the way it is and stop wishing for the way it should be, but time hasn’t taken away the hurt—or the hole where he should be. I suspect it never will. Instead, over time, I’ve grown stronger. Over time, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me to get through and even enjoy the holidays again.

Please join me this Friday…. Mom to mom.

Hazeldenbettyford.org/mom2mom (The webinar will be recorded and archived for future viewing at the same link.)

Mom to Mom: Stolen From Me

My child has been stolen from me. He’s even been stolen from himself —The Addict has whisked away my son’s very essence. I don’t know if I will ever get him back. I know what he’s like, the monstrous fiend who took my son away. The Abductor is evil, heartless, selfish, and abusive, with a reputation for spreading anarchy, bondage, devastation, and death.

Thinking about the torture my child must endure each and every minute of every day, with every passing year, is torture for me. I try not to allow the images to fill my mind (because they kill me) —but they do. Because they slip right on in with the thoughts of my child that fill my mind each and every minute of every day, with every passing year, too.

The Abductor needs my child, my child’s body, to survive and will fight to keep him all the way to the bitter end. There is no ransom I can pay. There’s no SWAT team on the job. No yellow ribbon tied around a tree.

My child has been stolen from me. There is no end to this hell.

“Imagine trying to live without air. Now imagine something worse.” ~Amy Reed

SAVE THE DATE! Free webinar:
Title: Mom to Mom: Facing the Holidays When Your Child Is Addicted
Date: Friday, December 15, 2017 (Will be recorded for future viewing. Registration required.)
Time: 10:00-11:00 AM Central Standard Time
Register HERE.

Today’s thought from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is from the book:

Tending Dandelions

Tending Dandelions by Sandra Swenson

Mom to Mom Blog: Just the Two of Us

Our wedding was beautiful and so were the vows. Till death do us part was our promise. But our child’s addiction is like a chainsaw, hacking away at our union–cutting apart a bond meant to last forever. It is destroying the foundation on which our family is built.

In the day-to-day survival-during the prolonged hideousness of this fight–we’ve lost sight of one other. We’ve lost sight of what matters. We no longer reach out to each other when we hurt. Instead, like wounded animals, we withdraw, trying to heal ourselves as we sit, alone, in dark corners. We snap and growl at each other like beasts. I don’t know what happened to the best friends we used to be.

But it is our child’s addiction we need to fight, not each other. So, like folding away the wings of a kite, I will tuck away the tension between us so it can’t catch the wind. No matter what happens during the day, I will say I love you when I say goodnight.

“May we shine with love, kindness, and encouragement toward ourselves and each other every day.” ~Lynn Dailey

SAVE THE DATE!

Free webinar:

Title: Mom to Mom: Facing the Holidays When Your Child Is Addicted

Date: Friday, December 15, 2017 (Will be recorded for future viewing. Registration required.)

Time: 10:00 AM Central Standard Time

Duration: 1 hour

Register HERE.

Today’s thought from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is from the book:

Tending Dandelions by Sandra Swenson

Mom to Mom: Thanksgiving–Filling Not Stuffing

When my boys were little, they hovered about the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning, eager to get started with stuffing the turkey. We tied on aprons, washed our hands, pushed step stools over to the kitchen counter, and discussed who, exactly, would need to touch the pale and pimply turkey flesh.

My oldest son dumped bread cubes into a large bowl and his brother stirred in the onions and sage; they took turns scooping stuffing into the hollow center of our holiday bird before it was slathered in oil and popped in the oven. Our home was full of pleasant aromas and anticipation and things to be thankful for.

Norman Rockwell picture-perfect.

But things changed once my oldest son became addicted.

Facing the Holidays When Your Child is Addicted

Thanksgiving became a day stuffed with unspoken disappointment, anger, and fear rather than too much pie and good cheer. His younger brother, dad and I would wait for my son to show up—or not show up at all—while our turkey and sweet potatoes shriveled away in the oven. Retreating to different parts of the house, we avoided the sad festivities and phony smiles until tradition beckoned us to sit down at the table across from my son’s very empty place. Thankful, I was not.

It has been ten years now since my son even pretended he was coming home for Thanksgiving dinner. (I don’t know where he has turkey. Or if he has turkey.) I’ve had time to adjust to Thanksgiving the way it is and stop wishing for the way it should be, but time hasn’t taken away the hurt—or the hole where he should be. I suspect it never will. Instead, over time, I’ve grown stronger. Over time, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me to get through and even enjoy the holidays again.

1. Make room for your feelings and let go of old expectations.

I’m now strong enough to face the hurt rather than stuff it away (more often than not), and I’m strong enough to fill the holes in my life and my heart with things that make the day better, not worse. That means facing reality, not trying to re-create what can’t be re-created, starting new traditions, and spending quality time with some happy old memories.

There’s a lot wrapped up in this big day that rolls around one short day a year. A lot of hopeful hopes, fears, disappointments, and stress—when holiday tradition and expectation meet addiction it can be madness. But it’s possible to look at things differently, to do things differently,especially if the whole family is recruited to open their eyes and minds. And when the spirit of things leading up to the big day is giving thanks, that spirit is contagious.

Thanksgiving is meant to be a day for gathering together with loved ones and having fun. So simple—and beautiful—if left simple. A performance, it is not. And living up to unrealistic expectations, I will not.

I no longer spend the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving trying to pretend that everything is fine, that addiction hasn’t consumed my son (and therefore my whole family), and that we can still pull off a pretend-perfect performance.

I no longer stuff down my sadness, putting on the dressing of normal life in the same way I shove myself into my jeans after a big meal—by taking a deep breath, swallowing the pain, and pasting on a smile.

Instead, I plan ahead. I take the time to face my feelings—I take the time to grieve and cry for what was and what isn’t—and then, acknowledging the pitfalls I don’t want to fall into, I figure out ways to make the holiday work. And one of those ways is to ask for help—from friends, family, a therapist or counselor or any of the hundreds of support groups, like Al-Anon, Families Anonymous, or The Addict’s Mom.

2. Celebrate those who are at the table and let go of perfection.

I have Let Go of thinking that I’m the only one who can make the day (any day, actually) perfect, for anyone. Or that I can please everyone. Thanksgiving is made all the better with family participation—which means asking for everyone’s hands and hearts to be in the right place at the right time. Together we can prepare and adapt to the fact that our addicted loved one might not show up (or worse).

But, who is not at the table shouldn’t take up more space than the people who are.

There is no end to the room I have at my table. And in my heart. But both my heart and home have rules. Before the big day, I set my boundaries (and set up escape hatches), knowing that it’s possible that not everyone who shows up is going to behave. I can’t control the actions of anyone else, but what I can control is me (and even that is no easy task.). By facing reality, my actions don’t need to be reactions. My boundaries don’t need to be rough, they just need to be strong.

3. Try something different; open your heart to something new.

When the holiday hurts, maybe it’s time to try something different—something smaller, or bigger, or somewhere new. The meal, the menu, an old family recipe, the way (or the place) that we’ve always celebrated Thanksgiving…. the little traditions mean nothing compared to the meaning of the big tradition itself. There was a time when I would spend weeks shopping and chopping, mixing and rolling, cleaning and decorating, for a meal that, for all of its hype, actually took less than thirty minutes to eat (not counting the time spent talking). But I enjoyed all the creative chaos. Until things changed. And then I didn’t. I felt a bit guilty at first, serving store-bought pie or stuffing from the deli, but the reality is, that isn’t what matters. And no one ever noticed—or if they did, they didn’t care.

4. Share your gratitude and give back.

Who is at the table is more important than what is on the table (or where the table is). In the holiday hubbub, it’s easy to forget what the holiday is really about.

Giving thanks.

So I’ve learned, having grown in my own recovery, to make every effort to live in the moment. To give thanks for the moment. To give thanks for those around me—those people who matter, and who deserve to feel like they matter, no matter what else is going on. I take the time to soak in and appreciate everything I have to be grateful for. Of which there is a lot.

My need to fill the hole that addiction has left in both my heart and life is big. And I’ve found that helping others keeps me moving forward. It may be overwhelming to add one more expectation to a day already laden with so much, but giving thanks by showing thanks doesn’t have to fall on one particular day in the fall. I’ve got 364 other days of the year in which to do what my heart needs to do. It helps me to help kids whose moms, for whatever reason, are unable to do mom stuff for them right now. And maybe someday someone will do the same thing for my son.

5. Accept what is, one day at a time.

Yes, I’m finally strong enough to fill the hole in my life where my son should be with things that make the holiday better, not worse. I’m strong enough to face reality—to accept what is—to start new traditions, and to spend time with some happy old memories; those are mine to keep and enjoy, forever.

Old memories still have the power to bring tears to my eyes, but I’m finally able to treasure my memories for what they are: gifts. I am blessed to have had so many years of such happiness, and not even addiction can take that away. After everything that has happened, I still have my sons’ smiles, the sounds of their voices, and the feel of their hugs, no matter how far away they may be. So, in giving thanks, I take the time to remember what was before embracing, fully, what is. I laugh, I cry. I allow the movies in my mind to fill my soul.

This Thanksgiving I will travel from Texas to New York City to spend the holiday with my youngest son who is now twenty-seven. We will have our feast in a restaurant, for the first time ever—and I won’t have to wash any dishes, also for the first time ever. We will spend several days together, and I will get a glimpse of his new grown up life in action.

Many years ago my oldest son sent me this message:

“Happy Thanksgiving, Mom. Hopefully, someday I’ll give you a reason to be thankful for me. I love you. Thank you for still loving me.”

No matter what, I have always been thankful for both of my boys. And I’m thankful for what I have now. And I’m thankful that they both know how much they are loved.

This is me filling, not stuffing.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with things to be thankful for, too.


SAVE THE DATE!

Free webinar:

Title: Mom to Mom: Facing the Holidays When Your Child Is Addicted

Date: Friday, December 15, 2017

Time: 10:00 AM Central Standard Time

Duration: 1 hour

Register HERE.

Tending Dandelions by Sandra Swenson

About the author
Sandra Swenson is the mother of two sons—one of whom struggles with addiction. A voice for the loved ones of addicts, she first documented her experiences with her son’s addiction in the critically-acclaimed book The Joey Song. Her most recently published title, a Hazelden-publishing meditation book, Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children, was released in 2017. An advocate for acceptance, education, healing, and recovery, Sandra can frequently be found sharing her story.

Mom to Mom: I’m Not Ashamed

My child dreamed of becoming a firefighter, a fisherman, and a marine biologist when he grew up. Becoming an addict was not on his list. I know the child who dreamed those dreams and he is a child to be proud of. Tender and thoughtful and smart, he should be living his dreams. But my child isn’t here-an addict has taken his place. Someone who looks like my child is hooked to the strings of an evil puppeteer and living a tortured life. Instead of fighting fires, my child is fighting demons. Instead of tying flies, he’s flying high. Instead of reaching for the stars, he’s reaching for a bottle. A life full of promise lost to a jug full of lies. Addiction took my child’s dreams, chewed them up, and spat out a nightmare.

No, my child didn’t dream of becoming an addict, and it certainly wasn’t what I dreamed for him either. But I’m not ashamed my child is an addict. I’m sad he’s an addict. By shining the light on addiction, I might just get him back.

“Shame is a soul-eating emotion.” ~Carl Jung

Today’s thought from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is from the book:

Tending Dandelions by Sandra Swenson

Mom to Mom: Where Love and Addiction Meet

The first time my child reached his dimpled little hand out for mine, I was there. And I’ve tried to be there every time he’s reached out to me–and even when he hasn’t–ever since. Until, that is, my child became an addict. Addiction has made such a mess of things that I’m no longer sure if I should be within range when he reaches out (or even when he doesn’t).

I don’t know if my help is hurting this child of mine. I don’t know if I should stay silent or speak up. I’m not sure how to love without doing the things that seem loving, or where to put the dreams and conversations and hugs that have gone unused and are piling up. I don’t know how to fill my empty arms, or where to put my love for this child who says he hates me. My heart doesn’t understand this place where love and addiction meet–it’s all confused about what it means to be my son’s mom.

I cannot be there for my child in the way life intended, but my love will always be there whenever he reaches out–and even when he doesn’t.

“I mean, it is the most impossible love . . . it’s absolutely fine for me to teach you how to walk and talk, and then you grow up and head off in the wrong direction toward a cliff. And I’m supposed to just stand there and wave.” ~Because I Said So

Today’s thought from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is from the book:

Tending Dandelions by Sandra Swenson

sandyswenson.com subscribers