When I began my recovery, my children were all in elementary school. Our home had an atmosphere of tension and insecurity.I was bound and determined to be the perfect mother—loving, compassionate, understanding—but I really did not know how to manifest those qualities in a balanced way. I sometimes went to extremes in caring for my children. There was a constant feeling of impending disaster and if someone made a mistake (and there were plenty!), I reacted in extreme ways. I neglected the children emotionally, obsessing about my husband when he was acting out and worrying about the “next time” when he was not. I lived my life through my kids because I didn’t even realize at that time that I had my own separate life. If they passed a science test, I felt I was a success. If they got a low grade, I was a failure as a mom. Their grades were my grades and their emotions became my emotions.
Today, after several years in S-Anon, my children know that when I go to a meeting, make a telephone call, or receive a telephone call from a program friend, I am trying to stay balanced. I don’t force heavy conversation with my children, but I try to be aware of any opportunity where I might be able to share my recovery with them, and be emotionally available in that moment. I have told them that there are certain groups and people whom God has given to both their dad and me to help us learn how to truly love ourselves and others. I talk with them about being aware of feelings and learning to express feelings honestly in appropriate ways. I talk with them about the need for each of us to have boundaries, how we need to learn to “mind our own business” in a loving manner, and how I am not going to get this all perfect for probably a very long time — if ever! Above all, I try to make amends where needed as quickly as possible, and stay current with any issue needing our attention. I have not disclosed the details of their dad’s addiction. I feel that is his responsibility when he feels the time is appropriate. Now, if I get off track, usually one of the children will bring it to my attention, and I again have the opportunity to put the program into practice! I cannot count the number of times my 13-year old has said to me in so many words “Mom, you are starting to get into other people’s ‘stuff’!” but if I am working the program on a daily basis, they will see it, feel it, and I can share what I have learned in S-Anon with my children at their level.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, pages 88-89.