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Seeking absolution

Seeking absolution

When a child falls prey to addiction, when does a parent stop asking, what did I do wrong?  What did I do, or not do, to cause this? 

When does self-incrimination end and absolution begin?

Maybe it takes years.  Or maybe, never.

Recently, Jacob was invited to address a large AA meeting in south Florida.  Through the cellphone he connected his father and me in Maryland so we could listen to his talk.

Time stopped.  Within the quiet Saturday evening of our home, my ear hugged his voice coming through the phone.

Jacob began with humor, then told his story of growing up in a middle-class family, comfortable, with all his needs met.  Somewhere in early high school he felt different, out of touch with the rest of the world,    Alcohol was the solution to a problem he didn’t know he had.  It wasn’t until three treatment centers later, a move to Florida, finding AA, and two sponsors that he found himself again.

What was I listening for?  References to “my parents” or “my mom.” Maybe hearing his story told to an audience we couldn’t see might reveal new truths.  Maybe now I might learn about the mistakes or missteps I’d made, what I should have done, what I could have done, how I could have prevented my boy from so many years of misery.

He barely mentioned us.  The story wasn’t about us.  It was about him.

It struck me, again, how we need to let our children go, to find their own path, to solve their own problems – especially in addiction.  The story is not about us.

He referenced us only twice: the ultimatum we’d given him to accept inpatient treatment and that “my parents were going to Al-Anon and getting a lot stronger.”

I was glad he mentioned Al-Anon.  But, again, this was his story.  It had nothing to do with us.

Maybe absolution for mistakes made or imagined will never come.   But hearing my son tell his story in his words, sure helps.

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