I am excited to share today’s Caregivers in the Spotlight guest post written by the other half of the amazing Klein duo, Barb Klein. Barb and I have this fantastic story of how our lives have criss-crossed over and over again since the time we first met when her husband Tom coached my older son’s little league team. It is no surprise that we continue to not only walk similar paths but that we have chosen to use our “bumps in the road” to fuel our passion for the work we do. I am grateful and honored to share Barb’s story with you all.
Loving and Living
Addiction joined our household unbidden and unwelcome several years ago. It wreaked havoc far and wide and left no one untouched. I felt my world was falling apart. I had no idea what the future would hold. Would my marriage last? Could I continue working? Our world as I had known it ended abruptly in a terrifying and confusing way. I felt the walls caving in around me.
For the first time we didn’t feel we could confide in the supports we had always relied on in the past. What would family, friends, and colleagues think? What would educators do if they knew?
This was bigger than any of us, though at first we had no idea how big and powerful this monster was. With the imagined judgment and stigma associated with drug use, I couldn’t imagine sharing with anyone. I began to lose myself to my son’s needs. I believed that everything had to be thrown aside so that I could care for him. My emotions depended on how he was doing. I toyed with the idea of taking him away for 3 months to get him clean, thinking I could do this for him.
I had no idea I was entering a world where I couldn’t care for him. That, ultimately, there was nothing I could do to help him. We threw counseling, and programs at him to try to help. None of it would matter until he was ready to get help. That didn’t stop us from desperately trying every avenue we could think of, encountering a profound lack of resources and support and many roadblocks to getting any real help.
The alone-ness in the face of so much chaos and confusion was oppressive. The fear was overwhelming on so many fronts. Not knowing where to turn for help and not even finding books that dealt with our situation… most of what I found was about heroin addicts, kids who were dead or in prison – this was not our reality.
We learned how “tough” tough love really is. We learned how critical self-care is and how essential it is to nurture our marriage. We learned that we had to live our own lives no matter what was going on with our son.
This does not come naturally, and it’s not easy. I had a very strong sense of what a mom is supposed to be, what a parent is supposed to do, and the bottom line is you’re supposed to take care of your kid. They’re not supposed to hurt. And, when they do, you’re supposed to make it better.
There is no worse feeling than realizing you can’t help your own child, and having to admit that this journey is his to walk, not yours. I can’t imagine anything harder. This challenged every image I had of mothering – not being able to fix things, not being able to heal the wounds, and not being able to stop the destructive path. Standing by, giving love unconditionally, and hoping it would be enough, always believing that one day he and we would be ok. Being there but feeling powerless, feeling unable to make a difference, feeling like our efforts didn’t even matter.
I lost myself for many months until I began to find myself and realize that it was ok to dream, to have my own desires. It was ok to have joy, even as he was suffering, even as he sunk lower and lower.
Going down with him would serve no one. Self-care became critical so that I could support him and be a better me in all of my roles. You don’t sacrifice yourself for anyone else, no matter how much you love them. It just doesn’t work. You can’t sacrifice your spirit for somebody else’s journey, even when it’s your child. This is one of the hardest lessons for sure.
That and learning to let go and let him walk his own path, while loving him along the way. It has been an enlightening journey, for sure. I am reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s words in The Prophet:
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams…”
There have been gifts that came out of all of this. I’ve learned how to love even when I wouldn’t have imagined it possible to love because of the hurt. I’ve learned to stand by my son as he self-destructed, yet hold myself up.
I’ve learned to find myself in the midst of my child’s chaos, someone who’s so much a part of me and whom I love with all my heart. I’ve had my heart broken as I watched his life break, and I’ve put the pieces of my heart back together again so I can live my life.
These are the gifts – knowing somehow we’ll all come through this stronger and better than if we hadn’t had this totally unexpected journey. You don’t want to hear that when it’s happening – it’s a simple, empty platitude that doesn’t bear fruit in the moment.
Yet, it’s true. We are stronger for this. I’m grateful I’ve been able to find the silver lining amongst the scary days. I’m grateful we’ve somehow stayed connected in love and so very grateful we are coming out the other side.
I’ve always held on to hope and yet have been cautiously guarded to not hope too much… not wanting to be foolish enough to believe we’re out of the woods. I hope we will be one day soon. I hope that my son can give his gifts to the world, for he is incredibly wise, loving, kind, and sensitive. He has clearly been kept alive for some reason.
The road to recovery is not a smooth one. There are far too many twists, turns, plummets, and accelerations for my liking. There is no fast pass to the end. But loving and living have helped us to still be standing today, to be connected as a family, and to move toward a new day with hope and optimism.
Featured photo provided by the Author
This post was originally published on March 15, 2015 on Wonders and Mysteries
A life coach, teacher and writer from western New York, Barb Klein is passionate about helping people create the lives they desire, while honoring and caring for themselves – living life fully even when it’s really hard. Her work has in part been guided by her own personal journey to finding and creating joy in the midst of family pain. Following her own passion, she founded Inspired Solutions in 2013. She facilitates workshops on life transition and retreats on self-renewal in addition to coaching, speaking and writing. Barb is married to her college sweetheart, Tom, and mom to two very special young men. You can read her blog at Wonders and Mysteries and find out more about her services and events at www.barbklein.org and at Facebook: Barb Klein Inspired Solutions
What an honor to read Barb’s story. Her strength is inspiring to say the least. She truly is courageous and generous for sharing her story.
Thank you very much, Joan. I appreciate that… it did take courage to push through and get this out, and I did it because it felt so important. Hoping it will help someone!
Jen Dietrich says
Beautiful, heartfelt and needed article. Thank you, Barb, for sharing your feelings and insights with the world so that we all might come together and heal a little more.
Thanks, Jen. It is an honor to be able to share in the intention of healing.
Shannon Dew says
What a beautiful beautiful essay on surviving and thriving. Barb, you write so well that I couldn’t stop reading and when I got to the end I wanted to read more. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story.
Thank you so much, Shannon! There’s a book in the works… it’s been sleeping for a few years, but one day it will be ready. I am grateful for your reading and your response!
Brave, honest, and scary. Thank you for sharing the other side, Barb.