Mom to Mom: Your Love is Not a Failure

YOUR LOVE IS NOT A FAILURE

An interview with The Addict’s Mom.

Join The Addict’s Mom’s very own Kim Palmer as she chats with TAM mom and author Sandy Swenson about how she’s shed the shame, blame and guilt of loving a child with addiction and is helping to change the dynamics of the place where love and addiction meet.

YOUR LOVE IS NOT A FAILURE

Your love is not a failure.

When I read ‘The Joey Song’ I didn’t even get through the prelude and I thought ‘this woman has been looking in my windows’…..seriously, I was crying.”

First she wrote ‘The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction’, followed by ‘Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mother’s with Addicted Children’, and the ‘Readings for Moms of Addicts’ app. Now, Sandy has launched her newest project with Hazelden/Betty Ford—her website: MomPower.org. “A mom-driven site created out of recognition that a healthy mom can change the dynamics of the place where love and addiction meet.”  

Your love is not a failure.

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Mom to Mom: Judge Not

Judge Not, Where Love and Addiction Meet

JUDGE NOT

by Sandy Swenson
July 1, 2019

From VOICES at MomPower.org.

The Ersatz Judge, the Critical Critic, the Know-It-All who thinks he knows better than everyone else: there seem to be three kinds of flamethrowers in the world of addiction, all self-appointed to their positions as self-righteous destroyers.

There are those who are hostile toward the addicts themselves, ignorant in their understanding about the disease of addiction. There are those who are hostile toward the people who love someone suffering with the disease, spouting off about something with which they have no experience and that they know nothing about. And there are those who do know something about the battle being waged, having lived with addiction in one way or another themselves, and yet are hostile toward anyone with a differing viewpoint. It’s possible for the first two groups to be softened by honest example and education. The other requires a long, hard look at who’s looking back in the mirror, followed by some of the introspective sort of reflection.

The truth is, the only enemy is the disease of addiction itself. Only the disease needs to be destroyed, not people, which, too often, is the result of harsh judgment.

The Ersatz Judge believes that addicts are bad people—a bunch of selfish partiers having way too much fun. But here are some truths the Ersatz Judge should know:

  • Once substance use becomes compulsion, all fun disappears.
  • The word addict is derived from the Latin word meaning slave. Think about that.
  • Medication prescribed for pain is a frequent cause of addiction.
  • Most addiction begins in adolescence. Immersed in a culture that glorifies substance use, our children are lured to drug and alcohol use since birth.
  • Addiction acts indiscriminately. No one thinks it will happen to them. No one chooses for it to happen to them. It can happen to anyone but doesn’t happen to everyone engaging in the exact same behaviors.
  • Addiction causes some pretty bad behaviors (and consequences) because addiction is a disease that changes the structure and function of the brain.
  • The brain that is sick is the same brain that needs to do the work to get better.
  • The person inside The Addict is diverted from living the life and becoming the person he was meant to. And he is someone whom someone else loves and misses very much.

Substance use may be a choice (or by doctor’s orders), but addiction is a disease. It has nothing to do with the quality of a person’s character or the strength of their will. Our support, built on fact-based critical thinking and compassion, is what addicts need in order to move forward—judgment serves no productive purpose.

The Critical Critic has words—lots of words—for those of us who love someone suffering with the disease of addiction, whether they know anything about addiction or not. They criticize us for helping, fixing, and pushing (or not helping, fixing, or pushing enough) these sick children of ours who won’t be helped or fixed or pushed—they criticize us for not being able to stop them or change them, as if anyone can ever make anyone else behave in a certain way with a snap. They criticize us for overreacting and under-reacting, for hanging on and for letting go, and for being in denial and clueless when they would have done things perfectly from the start. Most hurtful of all, all snug in their luckiness, the Critical Critic lets it be known that our children’s addiction is the result of our parental love somehow being flawed.

But, Critical Critic, this could have been (or might yet be) you. You could be the one stuck in a role you weren’t prepared for and certainly didn’t want. A role where no matter what you do (or don’t do) you are criticized and judged to be wrong. Where you are already beating yourself up with undue blame, shame and guilt. And you don’t need anyone else stepping up to pile more blame, shame and guilt on top.

The Know-It-All has walked the walk of addiction recovery—as an addict or family member or professional—and vigorously preaches his beliefs or methods as the only right way, putting anyone with a different perspective in their place. But there is no one “right way” on this journey. What’s right for one person may be very wrong for someone else. Everyone carries a basket full of experiences and a perspective from which we can all learn, from which we can all take what we need—and quietly leave the rest. The path we’re all walking is hard enough without adding the weight of judgment to someone else’s load (and those of us who’ve spent any time walking this walk should know that better than anyone else).

Judgment is a roadblock to healing, for everyone involved.

So, judge not.


Sandra Swenson is the author of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction (Central Recovery Press 2014), Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children (Hazelden 2017), the Readings for Moms of Addicts app (Hazelden 2018), and her Dandelion Strong blog. Sandy also manages the MomPower.org website.

Dandelion STRONG. Where Love an d Addiction Meet.

“We may often feel fragile, but we are strong. And we are many.
We have the power to overpower the destruction that addiction spreads.”


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Let the Guilt Go—Find Your Mom Power

MomPower. Let the Guilt Go. Sandy Swenson

Let the Guilt Go—Find Your Mom Power

by Sandy Swenson
June 10, 2019

From VOICES at MomPower.org.

Oh, the guilt. It’s a terrible burden. All the could’ves and should’ves. All the what-ifs and what-if-nots. All the mistakes and missed clues and second-guesses piled like rubbish inside of our brains and our hearts. We do the best we can when raising our children, but when things go wrong, every single thing we’ve ever done—every word, every action, every thought, every look—becomes fodder for the fire of maternal guilt.

So when addiction grabs a child, it’s natural to inspect and evaluate our past behavior. It’s natural to start turning over every leaf. And we’ll probably uncover some things we deserve to feel guilty about—things for which we need to make amends and changes in our course. We’ll also uncover some things we might think we need to feel guilty about but, in fact, do not. Sometimes bad things just happen. And addiction is one of those things. Addiction is a disease; how and why it develops in one person and not another is out of our control—much like diabetes.

So let the guilt go.

As moms, we don’t have the power to cause addiction. 

Once we truly believe this—once we’ve heaved ourselves over this gigantic hurdle—everything changes.

Sure, we can annoy, embarrass, interfere with, and neglect our children in ways that could probably “drive them to drink,” so to speak. We can make them mad and sad and hurt their feelings (and sometimes do things that are even worse). Yes, we can push them to the point of seeking comfort in a bottle or bag in myriad ways. But addiction is what might or might not happen later, once a sip or sniff mysteriously goes rogue. Once choice becomes obsession. This is the point at which use becomes disease, but it doesn’t happen to everyone who sips or sniffs. And there’s nothing we as moms can do to push substance use over that edge; this is out of our control.

Even when we know this, understand this, we torture ourselves as we wonder: Maybe addiction would have left our child alone if only we hadn’t gotten divorced. Or had gotten divorced. Or hadn’t worked so much. Or hadn’t been unemployed. Maybe if we hadn’t enjoyed our evening cocktails so much. Or weren’t so strict. Or weren’t strict enough.

For the sake of our well-being and the well-being of our beloved addict and family, the self-flogging must end. We need to forgive ourselves for what we didn’t know before we knew it—or before we knew how to do it, or how to do it well, or how to recognize it, stop it, or change it. Only then are we empowered to move forward with healthy new resolve.

So let the guilt go.

Imperfect parenting does not cause children to become addicts. If that were so, every child in the world would grow up to be one. 

This job isn’t easy, so we mess up a lot, all of us, even when we’re trying not to. And some of those mess-ups are huge. But our mess-ups don’t cause addiction—if they did, not one of us would remain unscathed. 

Take a look around. Some children are lucky enough to be raised in the most wonderful of circumstances, surrounded by a loving family and attentive parents, living in a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood, with food on the table and a bed with clean sheets—but even drenched in advantage, some of those children will, for some reason, become addicted when exposed to alcohol or drugs (medically necessary or not).

And, sadly, some children are raised in the most horrendous of circumstances, abandoned and abused, passed from home to home where they’re not always wanted, and without the benefit of positive influences, regular meals, good health, and financial security. Seemingly doomed by the weight of their tough lives, some of these children will engage in substance use similar to that of their better-off peers, but for some reason they won’t become addicted—because addiction is not a reflection of bad parenting, just as being an addict isn’t a reflection of being a bad person. No, something else is going on.

We’ve been held in the clutches of guilt—misplaced guilt—for too long. Just as with shame and blame, this emotion is poison, and it keeps us from dealing with addiction like the disease that it is.

So let the guilt go.


Find your Mom Power at MomPower.org

MomPower is dedicated to educating, enveloping and empowering moms with addicted children. We’re here to connect you with everything you might need to find strength, wisdom, perspective, sanity and hope during a most confusing and scary time. We’re here to help you come to understand addiction as a disease, not a moral or parental failure. Not a disgrace. Helping you to put the stigma, shame, blame, guilt and silence behind you so that healing may begin. 

One by one and one after another, we’re helping moms with addicted children to change the way addiction is perceived—in our homes, in our communities, and in the reflection our beloved children see in our eyes. Together we are changing the dynamic of the place where love and addiction meet. Together we are stronger.

By moms and for moms, MomPower.org is the place for moms with addicted children to turn when love and addiction meet. A place where empowerment blooms from helplessness and pain.

MomPower.org is unaffiliated with any recovery-based organization and is solely responsible for the site content. MomPower.org is grateful for the generous support of Hazelden Publishing which underwrote the development of this website. MomPower.org is mom-driven and created out of recognition that a healthy mom can change the dynamics of the place where love and addiction meet.


Sandra Swenson is the author of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction (Central Recovery Press 2014), Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children (Hazelden 2017), the Readings for Moms of Addicts app (Hazelden 2018), and her Dandelion Strong blog. Sandy also manages the MomPower.org website.

Dandelion Strong, Sandy Swenson, Where Love and Addiction Meet

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Where Love and Addiction Meet–Find YOUR Mom Power

Where Love and Addiction Meet. MomPower.org.

Where Love and Addiction Meet —From VOICES at MomPower.org

When a child is born, so is a parent. Full of love and good intentions, we do our best (and hope for the best), believing that things will somehow turn out okay. We teach our children right from wrong and prepare them to manage life on their own one day, which is the whole purpose of our job. But when addiction grabs a child, everything changes. The lines between letting go and hanging on, and between helping and hurting, become blurred. And hope starts to hurt.

Suddenly, we’re facing a disease that not even the professionals have completely figured out yet, but we’re trying to figure it out while in a blind panic, running through the fires of hell with fears and dreams and maternal instincts tripping us up.

This is the place where love and addiction meet. A place where our child and his worst enemy share the same body. A place where it’s no longer clear how we’re supposed to do our most important job.

Addiction looks different when viewed from the other side of the looking glass.

 Now that we’re living it up close and personal—now that we’re living in a funhouse mirror (that’s not so fun)—shallow, old judgments and assumptions about how addicts and the people who love them behave seem callous and naive. Because we now know that when addiction invades the place where love meets life, reality becomes distorted—which is why everything that everyone does looks crazy: for a while, at least, it actually is. Addiction confuses and abuses our natural instincts. Perspective, rational thought, and clarity become warped in this horrible new dimension.

When addiction appears, we’re often unaware of the scary new world we’ve been thrust into and know nothing about—it’s easy not to see what we don’t want to see. When we are blinded by confusion, denial, trust, and lies, it’s easy for something so horrible to hide right before our eyes. When addiction appears, so does a stranger (or two . . . our own words and behaviors become so contorted that we also become strangers, to others and to ourselves). We’re often not sure if we’re talking to our child or The Addict. We’re not sure which one we’re helping (or hurting). And we’re not sure whose eyes we’re looking into or whose are looking back. Actually, we’re not sure of anything at all, but we’re especially not sure if anything we’re doing, or not doing, is right. When addiction appears, things aren’t what they appear to be from the outside looking in—or even the inside looking in.

The place where love and addiction meet is confusing, terrifying, and exhausting. And the heartache is crushing.

Addiction breaks hearts and bonds and all the rules. 

An extraordinarily cruel disease—and unlike any other—addiction relentlessly breaks promises, shatters dreams, and tarnishes memories. Addiction destroys relationships and families, pitting everyone against everyone else and manipulating and twisting love into knots. Addiction does whatever it takes to survive.

The Addict pushes us away, so we don’t get to sit with our sick child, giving comfort while battling his deadly disease together. We’re no longer able to do the things that we used to do to show our love. Instead, we’re left to wallow alone in our unearned guilt, feeling badly for being unable to fix or protect him. And, since addiction is too often looked upon as a choice or a crime, there’s not much comfort to be found.

Too many people see The Addict as bad, as a criminal or loser—not as our child, who still exists within. Not as someone who is sick and needs help (or whose family needs help). Rarely do people ask how our child is doing or mention his name, because, with all the stigma and trauma and drama, they’re more comfortable that way. But we act strong for the sake of anyone who might happen to notice and for our own sake, too.

When a child is born, so is a parent. Full of love and good intentions, we do our best (and hope for the best), believing that things will somehow turn out okay. We teach our children right from wrong and prepare them to manage life on their own one day, which is the whole purpose of our job. But when addiction grabs a child, everything changes. Suddenly, we must figure out how to be the parent of an addict—we must figure out how to love our children without helping to hurt them, how to grieve the loss of our children (who are still alive), and how to trade shame and blame for strength.

This is the place where love and addiction meet . . . but we’re not alone.

And together we are stronger.

“We may often feel fragile, but we are strong. And we are many.
We have the power to overpower the destruction that addiction spreads.”


Find your Mom Power at MomPower.org

MomPower is dedicated to educating, enveloping and empowering moms with addicted children. We’re here to connect you with everything you might need to find strength, wisdom, perspective, sanity and hope during a most confusing and scary time. We’re here to help you come to understand addiction as a disease, not a moral or parental failure. Not a disgrace. Helping you to put the stigma, shame, blame, guilt and silence behind you so that healing may begin. 

One by one and one after another, we’re helping moms with addicted children to change the way addiction is perceived—in our homes, in our communities, and in the reflection our beloved children see in our eyes. Together we are changing the dynamic of the place where love and addiction meet. Together we are stronger.

By moms and for moms, MomPower.org is the place for moms with addicted children to turn when love and addiction meet. A place where empowerment blooms from helplessness and pain.

MomPower.org is unaffiliated with any recovery-based organization and is solely responsible for the site content. MomPower.org is grateful for the generous support of Hazelden Publishing which underwrote the development of this website. MomPower.org is mom-driven and created out of recognition that a healthy mom can change the dynamics of the place where love and addiction meet.


Sandra Swenson is the author of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction (Central Recovery Press 2014), Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children (Hazelden 2017), the Readings for Moms of Addicts app (Hazelden 2018), and her Dandelion Strong blog. Sandy also manages the MomPower.org website.

Dandelion Strong, Sandy Swenson, Where Love and Addiction Meet

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It’s Here! MomPower.org: Where Love and Addiction Meet

mompower.org, moms with addicted children, empowerment
MomPower.org

MomPower.org….We are a sisterhood. A club. A flock. We are moms who love a child suffering with the disease of addiction, and together we are a mighty force. We belong to a group no one would ever want to be a part of, but once we discover the love and support of other moms on the same journey, we find the power of Mom Power, a power we cannot imagine being without. Attached in spirit, we are carried forward, onward, and upward on the winds of one another’s strengths.

By moms and for moms, MomPower.org is a place for moms with addicted children to turn when love and addiction meet. A place where empowerment blooms from helplessness and pain. A place to connect with everything you might need to find strength, wisdom, perspective, sanity and hope during a most confusing and scary time. A place created out of recognition that a healthy mom can change the dynamics of the place where love and addiction meet.

MomPower.org will help you to put the stigma, shame, blame, guilt and silence behind you so that healing may begin.

One by one and one after another, MomPower.org is helping moms with addicted children to change the way addiction is perceived—in our homes, in our communities, and in the reflection our beloved children see in our eyes. 

Together, uplifted by one another, we moms can change the dynamics of the place where love and addiction meet.

And together we are stronger.




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Announcing MomPower.org: Where Love and Addiction Meet

For Moms with Addicted Children

moms with addicted children

Launching on Mother’s Day!

By moms and for moms, MomPower.org is the place for moms with addicted children to turn when love and addiction meet. A place where empowerment blooms from helplessness and pain. 

MomPower.org is dedicated to educating, enveloping and empowering moms with addicted children. Our goal is to connect you with everything you might need to find strength, wisdom, perspective, sanity and hope during a most confusing and scary time. 

MomPower.org is mom-driven and created out of recognition that a healthy mom can change the dynamic of the place where love and addiction meet.

By providing myriad support and educational resources, we will help you come to understand addiction as a disease, not a moral or parental failure. Not a disgrace. Helping you to put the stigma, shame, blame, guilt and silence behind you so that healing may begin.

One by one and one after another, we’re helping moms with addicted children to change the way addiction is perceived—in our homes, in our communities, and in the reflection our beloved children see in our eyes. 

Together we are changing the dynamic of the place where love and addiction meet.

And together we are stronger.

moms with addicted children

Our MomPower Mom Team:

About Us: (link to bios on website)

Together We Are Stronger

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Mom to Mom: Finding Peace


Dandelion Strong Blog

Help and Hope for Moms with Addicted Children

Mom to Mom: Finding Peace. Moms with addicted children

Dandelion Strong–Help and Hope for Moms with Addicted Children


Mom to Mom: Finding Peace

“It is what it is.” I feel like this is something people say when they want to give me a bit of comfort but don’t want to get involved. When I hear these words, I feel like a door has been slammed shut (by someone who has no idea what my ‘it’ really is and who doesn’t really want to know).“It is what it is” sounds so trite. A callous and crisp cliché. But . . . . “it is what it is”, truthfully, is the truth. (Although, it’s not the warmest way to say it.)


My son is an addict. Addiction has cheated us out of a relationship, and it may very well kill him. I must live with the fears and heartaches of this, whether I want to or not. ‘It is what it is.’ I can either plod through my remaining years as a miserable mess, or I can move forward with some sense of serenity. I can quiet the noise in my heart and my head. Really. I can face what is head on (instead of looking back at what isn’t).


I can only find inner peace by first acknowledging reality.


©‘Readings for Moms of Addicts’ app by Sandra Swenson [Hazelden 2018]


Launching on Mother’s Day!

MomPower.org: Where Love and Addiction Meet.

By moms and for moms, MomPower.org is the place for moms with addicted children to turn when life and love meet addiction. A place where empowerment blooms from helplessness and pain. TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER!



Sandra Swenson is the author of ‘The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction’ [Central Recovery Press 2014], ‘Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children’ [Hazelden 2017], and ‘Readings for Moms of Addicts’ App [Hazelden 2018].


Moms with addicted children


Together We Are Stronger

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Mom to Mom: The Hole In My Life Where My Child Should Be

The hole in my life

Melancolie–created by Albert György

 

The Hole In My Life Where My Child Should Be

 

I have the power.

The power to change the way I react to the disease of addiction.

The power to stop its destructive spread.

For too many years I was consumed by the poison my son was consuming. I snarled and yelled and argued and begged and cried; I re-negotiated the non-negotiable; I rationally discussed the irrational; and, at night, I either paced the house―holding vigil for my child’s life―or dreamed of growing octopus arms to squash down all his problems.

There was no room in my head for anyone but my addicted son; that’s just what happens once an addict starts wearing a beloved child’s face.

So, while my son was the one consuming the poison, the poison seeping into our household was passing directly through me, sneaking in on the umbilical connection. I was a carrier―the Typhoid Mary of addiction―spreading misery and destruction through our family. Helping the disease to do what it does best.

You see, for too many years, I was trying to change something that wasn’t mine to change: my son.

The truth is, the only thing I can change is me.

(And that has real power.)

Addiction is horrible enough without me making it worse, so I’m done with that. There will be no more ripping apart of hearts and lives―not by my actions (or my neglect). Not by my words, thrown around like poison darts. I will not blame or argue. I will not get sucked into dramas or force issues that don’t belong to me. I will protect my boundaries, making room in my head for all the people I love. I will be calm not crazed. I will be positive. I will have reasonable expectations. I will change the tune and change the dance; I will change my family’s chance.

This doesn’t mean I don’t care. Or don’t hurt. Or won’t cry.

It just means I will fill the hole in my life where my child should be with goodness, not badness.

Kindness, not madness.

I will honor my son with my words and my actions―not the addict.

The destructive spread of the disease of addiction stops with me.

 

© Sandra Swenson 2014. Author of ‘Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children’, ‘Readings for Moms of Addicts’ App [Hazelden], and ‘The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction’.

 

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Mom to Mom: Thanksgiving (when your child is addicted)—Filling Not Stuffing

 

Mom to Mom: Thanksgiving (when your child is addicted)—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.

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 year I will visit my 91 year old mom in Memory Care, then my dad and I will have our Thanksgiving dinner at the home of friend I grew up with and her parents, people we’ve known for about 55 years. Friends like family–I’m immensely grateful for that.

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.

 

© Sandra Swenson 2015. Author of ‘The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction’, ‘Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children’, and ‘Readings for Moms of Addicts’ App [Hazelden]

 

 

Dandelion Shop for Moms with Addicted Children, 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.

 

Facebook, Sandy Swenson

 

 

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Staying Dandelion Strong. ‘Readings for Moms of Addicts’. A New App.

Exciting News!

Readings for Moms of Addicts App

READINGS FOR MOMS OF ADDICTS

 Now available in Apple and Google/Android app stores!

As moms with addicted children, we may often feel fragile, but we are strong. And we are many.

To every mother living with the complicated reality of loving a child with an addiction, Sandra Swenson has been where you are today. As a follow-up to her beloved meditation book Tending Dandelions, Sandy has written brand new honest readings for mothers living in the place where love and addiction meet. With the Readings for Moms of Addicts app, you can carry these new meaningful readings with you wherever you go. Sandy honestly addresses codependency, shame, grief, stigma, and how she came to realize that letting go is not the same as giving up. Wherever you and your child are in your unique recovery journeys, these readings will remind you that you are not alone.

This app contains 146 new readings that are different from, yet complementary to, the readings in the book Tending Dandelions published by Hazelden Publishing. This convenient and searchable app format provides the perfect tool for use in support groups–such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon Family Groups, or Families Anonymous–or at any time you need connection and motivation.

🌻🦁❤️

Excerpt:

Love (Unconditional)

Addiction has changed my understanding of love.

Before my first child was even born, back when he was just a bun in the oven—before I even knew that such a love came baked-in to motherhood—I already knew a love that was pure and beautiful, unconditional and without end. But in time, beaten down by The Addict’s cruel lashes, I’ve come to know a love that is painfully less than that.

And more than that.

Never could I have imagined that my child would use and manipulate me and my love, even while starting out on the road to recovery. Never could I have imagined that I would need to protect my heart and soul from the child I love, or that the field in which my love was meant to grow would be so harsh.

My love now has boundaries. It has to. But still, it is a love unconditional and without end.

Maybe it’s even stronger than it would have been, because it’s been growing, and adapting, in a storm.

A tattered, yet enduring, dandelion.

“If you let us, I promise you, with every fiber in my being, that we will rip your heart out and suck you dry until you are bleeding out—a ravaged, withering carcass left out in the cold. I’m not saying that we want to do that to you, but I’m saying that we will because we are insane addicts whose addiction comes first before anything and anyone.” —Charles A. Peabody

Quoted from the app Readings for Moms of Addicts available in the App Store or Google Play. (c) Sandra Swenson.

http://bit.ly/DandelionStrongAppleApp

http://bit.ly/DandelionStrongAndroidApp

Staying Dandelion Strong

Other books by Sandy Swenson

Tending Dandelions

The Joey Song

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