“Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” ~ Yehuda Berg
Over the course of your addiction journey, you will have, or have had, many difficult and challenging conversations with your children. Whether it is in the heat of battle or in a tranquil time, the words you choose and the tone you use linger in ways you may not realize.
Several months ago, I gave a talk at a single mom’s recovery center. I took advantage of a question from the audience to share my perspective regarding two words that have more power than any other. At the end of my reflection, I was taken by their response and overwhelming affirmation to what I shared. I share this information with you today in the hopes that you will be mindful of what you say means a lot, even when our loved ones don’t seem to care or listen. They do and they are.
LOVE. Love is the most powerful word in any language. When you share with someone the gift of your unconditional love, you are committing that no matter what they’ve done, who they’ve become, or how they are living – you LOVE them. Love cannot be conditional. If we truly love someone, we cannot withhold it. Love is selfless, generous, kind, patient, understanding, eternal, and, most of all, it is unconditional.
I remember listening to the story of a woman, a good friend, who was in the middle of the worst aspects of her crystal meth addiction. Somehow her mom searched her out and found her in this wasteland of a hotel room. All her mom desired was to see her daughter. As she tells this story of this meeting with her mom, the only part she truly remembers is her mom saying to her, “I want you to know, I love you. I don’t love this (looking a the visual mess of her life) but I love you!” She was blown away. Despite all she had done, where she was, and what she was doing her mom simply looked at her and said, “I love you!” That was the day this woman began her road to recovery. She was moved by that powerful exchange, knowing her mom loved her no matter what!
DISAPPOINTMENT. If you are ever looking for a word to take out of your vocabulary, disappointment is the one, especially if your authentic power word is LOVE. Nobody ever wants to disappoint someone we love or who loves us. Telling a loved one they have disappointed them is more hurtful than a knife to the heart. A person battling an addiction is already struggling with an internal sense of failing, emptiness, guilt and loss. They do not enjoy being addicted, they constantly battle with their addiction, and it is difficult to find hope in the middle of their chaos. The last thing they need to hear from anyone is a hurtful reminder of how much they have failed those they love.
When I shared my philosophy on the adverse power of disappointment with the single mom’s recovery center, I had two women react immediately. One of them shared, “I know. I remember the day my dad said he was disappointed in me. It is fresh in my mind, as though it was yesterday. It hurt me more than anything.”
Addiction is frustrating. The choices, decisions, and outcomes destroy lives and dreams. Your child or loved one knows the loss they and you are already feeling. They do not need a reminder from you how disappointed you are in what they have done to their life or are doing to yours. If you are disappointed in their situation relative to your expectations for them it is best to keeps those thoughts to yourself.
I have been on my journey with my son’s addiction for nearly six years. While this may be short by many standards and long by others, I have appreciated the opportunity to learn. I would never have signed up for this educational journey; but, I am on it nonetheless.
I have been blessed with many lessons and continue to receive education, encouragement, and insights from this community of parents on their addiction journey. The one thing I have learned more than anything else is the only gift I can truly give my son at this point in his journey is the gift of unconditional love and unrelenting hope. As long as we are both alive, that will be my commitment to him. It is his addiction, his life, his choice, and his path. I am committed to never be disappointed in him. He has enough of a load on his shoulders fighting his battle, he doesn’t need to be carrying the weight of my expectations or my approval. Please keep this in mind next time you get into the word game with your addicted loved one. What you say makes a huge difference even if you don’t know it. Peace!