Tag Archives: Mental health

SUFFERING

I know about suffering. As the mother of an addict, I’ve lain awake on a cold winter night knowing my son was homeless. I’ve seen him skeletal and pockmarked from Meth but unwilling to stop or seek help. I’ve listened to my phone ring and ring, unwilling to answer it because of the abuse and anger I knew I’d receive. I knew suffering before that. My parents were killed in an accident with a drunk driver when I was nineteen years old. I lost years to that grief.After my parent’s death, I desperately wanted to have a baby, because I had lost my family. My brother and sister were minors and sent to live with family members far from me. I was young (19) but married, and that was my plan to handle my grief. When I tried to get pregnant, I found I was infertile. Eventually, we adopted a child and that child grew up to be an addict. It felt like life was completely unfair. How could one person have such a tortured life?When I began counseling to deal with my son’s addiction, I was told to accept that I could not control another person, to accept that I could not save my son. I had to realize that it was something he must do for himself. I was also told to accept the fact that he could die. It was necessary to accept this fact because otherwise, I would spend the rest of my life held hostage by this fear. Every time he needed me to enable him, he could call up my greatest fear and I would give in to his demands.Having already lost my parents, accepting that I might lose my son was brutal. Life just continued to run me over. Why should I have so much suffering?To get on with life and step out of feeling like a victim, I had to accept that life is painful and totally unfair. It never feels fair to have to endure hardship. But nothing ever truly feels like hardship until we endure it ourselves. Maybe that’s why life feels so unfair, we are never as fully aware of another’s suffering as we are our own.Accepting that life is painful for everyone was important to my giving up the feeling that I was unfairly afflicted. Everyone has pain in their lives.Then I found the saying “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” I realized that I chose to deal with the pain I experience would determine how much I suffered.When I fought against the truth and demanded that life should be different, I suffered much more than when I accepted my life – no longer bemoaning my fate but looking hard truths squarely in the eye and figuring out how to deal with them. This was the first step in my recovery from suffering.Once I quit thinking life should be different, I could focus on handling my life exactly as it was. I was unwilling to be a victim of my own life. As long as was fighting reality and demanding that it shouldn’t be this way, I was not dealing with my life.Facing it fully and truthfully was essential. My son was an addict and I was the mother of an addict and we both would be for the rest of our lives. It was imperative that I learn to live with this fact. After I accepted this, I could begin to gather the tools I needed to live this life. 12-step programs, co-dependence education, detachment, support groups, a whole library of books as well as therapy, and antidepressants. These things all became part of my acceptance of my life and my recovery.I have learned to deal with the horrible, drama-filled days when my son is using and not let it destroy me and I have learned to enjoy his cheeky personality when he is sober, without being derailed by the fear that it won’t last.One day at a time is much more than a catchy phrase, it’s essential. Letting go of the hurts from my past, no longer imagining all that might go wrong in the future, and just dealing with the moment. My relationship with my son is directly related to his sobriety and will probably continue to be so, but my happiness with MY life is not tied to his sobriety. We are separate people, and I will not tie my outcomes in my life to his life decisions.So, I’ve experienced pain and suffering, but I am trying to reduce the amount of suffering I must endure. As I’ve emerged from the darkness of my suffering, I’ve begun to realize how much pain and suffering there is in the world, and that it was self-indulgent to think my suffering was worse than anyone else’s.In just the last few months I have a friend whose eight-year-old grandson is dying of cancer. Doctors have given them no hope and he has only months to live. Four weeks ago my sixteen-year-old nephew had a horrific car wreck and is in an unresponsive coma, with his family praying for a miracle. When I thought that was enough to deal with, another friend has just discovered a mass on her ten-year-old daughter’s kidney. She will require surgery, radiation and her prognosis is uncertain. There is so much pain in the world and life is unfair. We can’t escape this truth.I used to believe every problem should have a solution and every hardship could be overcome. I had been taught that positive thinking is the solution to everything. If things weren’t improving, then I wasn’t being positive enough. This created a horrible cognitive dissonance because my brain understood how difficult my life had been, but my heart refuses to acknowledge that I couldn’t control it. But denying the truth didn’t create positive outcomes, it just denied me the chance to face the difficulty head-on. Accepting hard truths was the only way to avoid suffering and deal with my problems realistically.Finding joy in the midst of my pain was the only way to ensure that I found joy in my life because there is always pain and the possibility of pain. But with acceptance of truth and acknowledgment that pain is a part of life, I can reduce my suffering. No longer fighting reality, but accepting it, was the greatest gift I ever gave myself.I am the mother of an addict, and I always will be, but I am also a grandmother, an artist, a writer, a wife, a cook, and a friend and I find joy in those things, even in the midst of difficulty. Living fully in each moment, being honest with myself, I find I have more happy moments than painful ones. The painful ones pass quickly if I don’t ruminate and argue with the universe about whether I deserve it or not. I try to face it head-on, deal with it as best I can, and look for the next moment of joy.Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.