April 7, 2014

Controlling what can be controlled…

What you can control - 100PedalsIn my evolution as a man, a dad, and a human being in dealing with my son’s addiction, I developed a powerful perspective and insight for how I managed the daily battle in response to my his choices, behaviors, and outcomes.

What became one of the most powerful lessons learned and has now become an integral behavior in every aspect of my life is to focus on what I can control. This will be an oft shared mantra in my 100Pedals dialogue.  I repeat it often to myself and to others because this is one of the fundamental parental struggles in the addiction world.

As parents, we have become quite adept at solving and fixing our children’s problems. We have become conditioned to believe we can control or influence their behaviors.  It is only when we finally discover we have lost control is where the heartbreak, helplessness, and loss of hope settle in.  Until then, we parents make a deep dive to rescue, save, and solve the problems of our children.

When we finally realize we have no control is where we parents struggle with what to do about the situation. Here is how I learned to manage the process:

Step one, accept that you have no control and focus on what you can control.

Step two, never stop loving, encouraging, and hoping.  These are behaviors you have control over and they are very productive and effective.

Step three, understand the difference between controlling what you can and trying to control what you cannot.

Let’s focus on step three.

I recently posed a question on a LinkedIn Group,”Addiction and Recovery in Family Business” about the difference between enablement and support and received a wonderful answer from Master Addiction Counselor and Certified Clinical Supervisor Michael Horvath:

What is enabling and what is support?” The black and white answer is ‘doing something for someone that they can do for themselves.’ This is not the answer I give, but the one that the group members at the church came up with. The reality is that there is more gray area in each family’s scenario, than a definitive answer. “Love” and “worry” are emotions which cannot be controlled, while “nurturing” and “enabling” are actions that can.”

As a parent, only you know when you are attempting to control the uncontrollable or fix the unfix-able.  Your choices, actions, and behaviors are yours to choose and define. No one else can set the rules or define the parameters for you.

As you continue to evolve in your personal recovery program, regaining control of your life is a critical component. Regaining control is about learning to let go of what you cannot control.  As Horvath shares, there is a lot of gray in this area. Only you can define it.  It is natural to unconditionally love while worrying and fearing for the safety and well-being of your child.  You only lose control of your own life when your behaviors and decisions are defined by the actions of your child, especially when they are in a position to do it for themselves provided they wanted to or decided to.

Only you can define your limits or rules. When you attempt to control something beyond your control, you actually lose control of what you have control over — your own life.  The best place in which to solve a problem is from a position of control and influence.  I encourage you to find peace by focusing first on being in control of your life.  Make your decisions, choices, and actions from that place. Through this process, you empower your child to better manage their life and you maintain the path to your personal recovery from your child’s addiction.

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About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.