Regret is about living in the past, worry about living in the future. The path to peace is about learning to live in the present, for that is all we ever have. (Guru du Jour)
Self-help can be so sappy…so zen…so darned ‘Hallmark.’ And recovery work loads us up with quick-grab cliches that can just as easily draw an eye-roll as a tear.
But before we throw the baby out with the bathwater ( damn it, there’s another one), let’s dig a little into the merit of the mantra. I have a reason for bringing up the need for living in ‘the now,’ and it has nothing to do with your zen garden or morning meditation.
I wonder, when people say they have no regrets in life, how many truly mean what they’re saying (or have really thought it through)…and how many (if any) have been through addiction recovery.
We don’t have to regret our life lessons in order to regret the choices that led to them. How can we ever make a sincere apology and request for forgiveness if we insist on being regret-free?
But choosing to live in regret instead of living the lessons learned from it is what robs us of both the present and the future.
Regardless of where you are in your recovery, you wouldn’t even be in recovery if you didn’t realize what a mess your life had become because of your addiction.
And if you are a parent, you have a mirror to that mess reflecting back to you every day in the form of your children. It’s the one relationship you can’t undo or replace. If you’re going to tango with regret, this is where the big dip will come in.
It’s only natural to want to “go back and fix things” — or to relive those precious months or years blacked out by your addiction. You may have a sense of a ‘black hole’ connecting your last sober memory of your children to your first sober experience of them.
The role of parenting will seem unscripted, unsteady, even unfamiliar now that both you and your children have changed. Everyone’s going to be confused and vulnerable.
Your addiction redefined things a long time ago; your recovery will redefine things again.
If you can draw some parallels between your work in recovery and the work that lies ahead, some basic truths not only will be easier to accept, they will now make sense.
Time marches on. Children grow up. Relationships have to evolve — and none more so than the one between a parent and a child.
For your child’s first ten years, your task is to provide safety and a strong foundation for his life. As he matures into adolescence and then adulthood, your role naturally has to become less directive and more supportive — more of a coaching role to draw out your child’s self-expression and support his self-actualization.
Struggles arise when parents cling to the directive role instead of allowing the relationship to evolve as the child grows. It’s difficult enough to make this transition without adding addiction to the dynamic; but if a parent has missed years of a child’s life due to addiction, the yearning to recapture what has already been forfeited can be especially strong.
Regardless of how old your kids are, you still can enjoy parenthood and time with them — yes, even if they are adults — if you will surrender and adapt to the natural and necessary maturation of children. Ultimately, this is the practice of healthy boundaries, and will allow you to step into and experience their world without stepping out of your own.
This kind of self-containment, employed selflessly and consistently, just might help to guarantee the success of the next generation in your family, as well, and allow you to experience those ‘years missed’ in a way you hadn’t considered.
This is the work of becoming ‘unstuck.’ It’s also the work of love. My friend PJ Dixon sums it up so well: “Love is the willingness to let go of oneself for oneness.”
I believe we all arrive at life with the seed of Infinite Wisdom firmly planted within us. It’s our natural state — even though we spend most of our lives seeking it outside ourselves. The goal of parenthood isn’t to shadow our children, but to teach them how to survive in their own bodies so that Infinite Wisdom can take them the rest of the way.
And if we have the courage to get out of the way at that point, we will likely find ourselves invited to the dance of their lives…and will come to remember that the seed of Infinite Wisdom lies within us, too.
Ahh, yes, another sappy truism….
You can do this!