by Kathryn E.
If someone told me ten years ago that I was going to be a mom, I would have laughed in their face. As much as I loved children, I never longed to take on any maternal responsibility, or have little rug rats as part of my goal to dodge conventional reality. I wanted to remain a free agent, like in baseball. Keep my options open. After all, we addicts and alcoholics are quintessential escape artists at heart. It’s part of our illness, this relentless need to live “two feet above reality.” I guess you can say that we suffer from what is clinically known as the “Peter Pan Syndrome.” It is marked by our resolute commitment to never grow up, to never want the party to end. Instead, we simply break free from the norm and fly, fly away to that infamous address in the sky: second star to the right and straight on till morning.
A chemically-induced Neverland fly away experience is exactly the destination I chose to travel on as a young, impressionable girl. If I’m really honest with myself, I think what I really craved back then was a slice of heaven. But praying for it proved far too slow. However, unbeknownst to me, I was destined to enter a treatment centre for alcohol and drug addiction at the ripe old age of 19. “Not a chance!” I thought to myself. I was in my substance abuse prime or what society would call my “rite of passage” phase. That blow out period of chaotic bliss was marked by constant highs and lows, benders and blackouts followed by the recyclable 3 Rs: remorse, remission and relapse. I had no plan to quit or slow down my consumption. That is, until I was forced into a residential treatment program through the Alcoholism Foundation in Winnipeg by my parents – a strategic move on their part. Checkmate.
Fast forward my life to the present. Who would have thought that I would be working in the addiction and mental health field as a professional support group facilitator for people living with concurrent disorders? God sure does have a sense of humour. More importantly, He has a plan and a purpose for my life: a plan that involves living for more than just me or my cravings, but the care of my precious seven-year-old son.
One thing parenting in recovery has taught me is that it is a gift, and that like a garden, needs consistent tending. Recovery is a kind of tightrope walk which means that I need to approach the way I parent the same way I do my sobriety – with care and caution. If I don’t pay attention to how I live my life, and forget to make a conscious daily effort to implement clean & sober principles and practices, I will lose my balance and take a tragic tumble off the tightrope. Of course, recovery is not an exact science. But neither is parenting. So I just do the best I can with the resources I’ve been given.
I try not to forecast too much into the future these days with my own worrisome brand of “what if” scenarios regarding my own adopted son’s prenatal history. Given his genetic predisposition to addiction as well, I do sometimes fret over whether he too will be able to steer clear of the pitfalls of the so-called “party world” or cave into that insidious, superficial lifestyle.
But I have to keep reminding myself that was then and this is now. The fact that my son is being raised in a sober, loving and stable home should count for something in terms of the environmental influence that recovery has over this pervasive family disease. So despite the hypersensitivity I have accumulated over the years being personally and professionally exposed to both heroic and horrific stories poured out by other struggling addicts/alcoholics, I no longer believe that to die addicted would be an awfully big adventure. To me, living and parenting clean and sober – with my eyes clear and my heart wide open – is the new normal. And I like it.