Wednesday, July 09, 2008

If They're Broke, You Can't Fix Them

My parents divorced when I was 10.

I hesitated on that first sentence for a few seconds, because I have a difficult time referring to my initial father figure as my "parent." I'm pretty sure he fed me and clothed me and loved me to the best of his ability, but his best just didn't hold up. As a matter of fact, he ran dry on parenthood after twelve years or so.

He probably should have just adopted a dog.

My mom and I often discussed her first marriage as I was growing up. She had moved home right after nursing school because she had no money. Without money, she was without a car--and therefore a job. Without a job, she couldn't afford a down payment for an apartment, so she married her high school sweetheart. She knew he wasn't the right guy, but she felt like it was her only option.

My mom's greatest wish for me was to grow up and gain the skills to be independent. She wanted me to fall in love, she wanted me to get married, she wanted me to have children, but not because I had no other choice.

The constant refrain when it came to dating or marriage was: Never commit to someone you want to change, because they never will.

When it comes to your children though things are different. You can't walk away when your child makes awful decisions. You must try, as you have from the time they were small, to teach them the skills to make good choices.

But what if they never learn?

My sister's battle with addiction began when she was an early teen. More than twenty years later, it's still a constant battle. My parents (my whole family) went through all the stages--some taking much longer than others--denial, embarrassment, guilt, enabling, anger, support, grief and begrudgingly after many years and much heartache--acceptance.

There was nothing we could do to change my sister.

We couldn't "fix" her no matter how badly we wanted to.

The choice to get better or let addiction claim her life was hers to make. All we could do was love her. We didn't have to like who she was when she was using, all we could do was love the girl behind the addict.

So how do I reconcile these two messages about relationships? Honestly, until I started writing this post, I had never thought about the ways they contradict each other. Don't love someone you want to change, yet you can still love someone even though you know you have no power to change them.

I guess I'm going to choose to focus on the central theme: love.

It would be tempting to ration the love I'm willing to share knowing how little control I have over the people I choose to give it to, but that's not me. I just have to remember to give it freely --never with any strings attached--because they may just drag me places I don't want to go.


This post was inspired by Julie's Hump Day Hmmm. Check them out.

24 Deserve Mamma's Love:

Nancy said...

"I just have to remember to give it freely --never with any strings attached--because they may just drag me places I don't want to go."

Powerful ... I hope you don't mind, I printed this last line and I'm going to tape it to my bathroom mirror to read every morning.

Thanks for this post =)
It hit home on a freaky level!

Kristen said...

I can't imagine you ever withholding your love. Your heart is too big.

Julie Pippert said...

"Don't love someone you want to change, yet you can still love someone even though you know you have no power to change them."

What a concept...and to give love freely.

I wish...there are so many people I wish I could send this post to, and yet, no, can't. I guess I love them anyway.

Glad you used your words. :)

flutter said...

this is incredible.

Patty said...

Wow. That's putting yourself out there. I totally get it. My sister (family) has been dealing with depression since she was a teenager. It puts a strain on everyone. She tried to kill herself this Spring. I was unbelievably angry. It caused a fight (wordless) with me and my mother. Mom had been the enabler for years and my sister had been working her. The rest of the family could see it, but Mom didn't want to. Fortunately, she was put in a one year non-voluntary treatment program. (Mom was ready to bring her back home thinking she could fix it.) She seems to be doing better, but who knows? It's sucks, huh?

Assertagirl said...

I think that learning to love others unconditionally is one of the great lessons we all need to learn in this life. It's a tough one for me, but I like to think I'm making progress.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I think that is all you can do. A dear friend of mine is struggling through this with her brother and it seems terribly difficult!

As long as you don't enable...all you can do is love!

I love that big ole' heart of yours! :)

amy turn sharp of doobleh-vay said...

yr beautiful.
are you coming to blogher? I am crossing fingers and toes
email me!

Gwen said...

This really got me, for some reason, right in the chest, because one of my daughters is going through this thing that is making me so scared for her future. I am trying desperately to "fix" her now, even though I know so much of what is going to happen is out of my control. I really hope that love is all we need.

truly said...

you are beautiful - inside and out.

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Beautiful and poignant.

Your heart is so deep.

slackermommy said...

"I just have to remember to give it freely --never with any strings attached--because they may just drag me places I don't want to go."

That seriously rocks. I'm writing that down and posting it on the wall behind my computer so that I'm reminded to do just that every day.

Redneck Mommy said...

This post touched a nerve. A close friend is an addict and we struggle with remembering to love the person, hate their actions.

This was a good reminder. Thanks.

Lawyer Mama said...

Fantastic post, babe. That last line something for all of us to keep in mind.

See you on THURSDAY! SQUEAL!

Paige Jennifer said...

I think what you walked away with was perfect. Thanks for sharing.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I miss you MAMMA....I just thought you should know! :)


Hope you are having fun at BlogHer!

Tash said...

"I just have to remember to give it freely --never with any strings attached--because they may just drag me places I don't want to go."

Clearly this has hit home with many people.

Angela at mommy bytes said...

Very moving, the power of love is incredible. This reminds me of a NPR This I Believe story about a mother's love for her addicted daughter that you should check out:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7293598

I’m a week late for the Hmm, but check out my post here:

http://www.mommybytes.com/2008/07/autism-revealed.html

lildb said...

though my brother isn't an addict (i don't think?), rather, he's mentally ill, and homeless, all of this piece strikes a major chord.

because, tho i wasn't aware, i've felt very similarly.

thank you so much for sharing this, A.

((((you))))

Mocha said...

Powerfully written and beautiful. Great lesson: never withhold love. It's never worth it.

xoxo

Liberal Lurker said...

I like your new picture!

queenoftheclick said...

What an amazing and very real post!

Thanks for sharing your story. It makes me think of the way that I have enabled, tried to control and love certain people in my life.

Jen M. said...

I love this post - powerful.

restaurantrefugee said...

Wow did this resonate for me. My father ran out of parental steam around 15 years after my birth. And in truth, he probably was only running on 50% power most of that time. Thank you for writing this.

By the by, I wandered over from Paige Jennifer's place and am very glad to have found this joint.