Nathan's Blog- you are responsible for your own wellness
It’s five am and I can’t sleep. What makes it doubly frustrating is that I was so close to falling asleep earlier. I’d been drifting in that most wonderful of weightless environments, right on the cusp of leaving the last glimmer of consciousness behind, when a sudden sense of dread hijacked the process and wrenched me back to full wakefulness. Now I’ve been lying awake for hours while the fear gnaws away inside. What started as an ill-defined uneasy feeling has manifested itself into my becoming convinced my teenage son is in some kind of imminent danger. I’d try calling him except he never answers his phone to me these days, stuck as we are as bit actors in a conflict fuelled, pre-ordained script. I play the authoritarian lecturer, he plays the recalcitrant teen, and both of us seem incapable of escaping these roles. It wasn’t always this way and in my weaker moments I’m quite convinced that the appearance of this secretive, angry, and emotionally withdrawn boy must lie entirely in my parenting faults. This self-inflicted burden of culpability and the guilt and shame that accompany it, makes me extremely reluctant to talk to others about the emotional toll my son’s alcohol and drug use is having on me. When I do decide to open up, I find people often feel the need to hand out what I’m sure to them is simple, practical, and logical advice. Such advice always seems to start with, ‘Why don’t you do…, (insert a scenario you’ve already thought of a thousand times and probably tried futilely at least a hundred times of your choosing)…, that’ll help.’ This supposedly ‘simple’ advice is always centred in the idea of me doing some magical thing that will fix the situation. I find myself wanting to say, ‘wait, I don’t think you understand, there’s nothing I can do,’ before a horrible feeling of abashment washes over me for daring to think thoughts excusing myself of the responsibility for my son’s using. But that’s actually the point here. I’m not responsible for his alcohol and drug use! And, as much as I pander to these askew ideas that somehow it’s my responsibility to care-take, manage, and control my son, the only truly solid ground I can stand on is the ground where I take responsibility for my own health and well-being. Staying awake at night fretting about things I can’t control doesn’t help me, and it doesn’t ultimately result in any noticeable change in my son’s behaviour. In fact the more I allow my fears to rule me, the more prone I am to being completely stuck in the role of what my son sees as the fun police and my tendencies towards controlling him only end in my placing our already adversarial relationship under further strain. So what am I so afraid of? I guess I’m haunted by the negative impact addiction has had on multiple generations of my family. There’s the ghost of my dead mother, an addict whose life was needlessly cut short at thirty one to serve as a constant reminder of potentially tragic outcomes. There’s also my own chequered history of substance abuse and the vivid recollections of near misses during a misspent youth. And, today, there’s my self-destructing teen on hand to provide me with ample evidence that addiction is in fact, a family disease. Chances are if you’re dealing with addiction in your family, there is probably more than one generation involved. Perhaps you grew up with an alcoholic or addict parent, have married an alcoholic or addict, or you’re witnessing addiction rearing its ugly head in your children. My hope is that the Kina Trust website, (which myself and some other good people have spent the last year working to create), will provide you with an encouraging and supportive environment and equip you with the information and advice you need to stay sane. Help is out there and available. It’s ok to give yourself a break, start caring for yourself, and ask for help. There is a way to cope with the heart wrenching despair of these painful family dynamics we often feel we have to hide from the world. The Journey through the darkness begins with you taking responsibility for your own wellness.