It’s the beginning of Advent. For many parents hearts are heavy, smiles are forced, there will be no “merry” in their holiday season. Is that you? Do you ache over your son or daughter’s hurts, habits and hang-ups? Do their destructive behaviors and choices destroy your peace of mind, sapping you of any “joy to the world”? Are you distracted, burdened and confused? Does it seem like there’s less and less hope to hold onto?
If you answered in the affirmative to any of these questions you’re not alone.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. It’s the official start of the holiday season. It can be a brutal time of year for parents whose children are ruining their lives with drugs or alcohol, suffer with a mental illness, self-injure, have an eating disorder, struggle with their sexual orientation, are in trouble with the law or are in prison, and on and on. You may be dreading this day – and the Christmas season altogether.
I remember when my daughter was young and innocent. She’d be excited to watch the Thanksgiving parade curled up on my lap, giddy with anticipation. Happy sounds filled the house. After our big meal she would eagerly pull on the turkey’s wishbone with a sibling or other relative, smiling and laughing, hoping her wish would come true.When she was in full-blown addiction the holidays only brought increased pain and sadness. Regret. Longing. Tears.
What about you? Do you find yourself yearning for your wish come true; for your child’s health and well-being to be restored? Would you be giddy with excitement just to have them back, fully restored? I wish it was as easy as pulling on a turkey bone.
Being the parent of a wayward child who struggles with an addiction, is incarcerated, self-injures, is in a same-sex relationship, suffers with a brain disorder or a host of other issues, makes this a most difficult time of year. Giving thanks is so hard – downright torturous – when your heart is heavy and broken; when you don’t see any answers to your prayers; when you have no idea what the future holds, but it doesn’t look good. It can feel impossible.
I remember a time like this in my own life when I was thought, “How in the world can I be thankful? It’s too hard. I don’t know how. I can’t.”
So, how can you express gratitude in the midst of this trial with your child?
I am the mother of Renee Yohe. Who is she? She’s the troubled young woman whose story became a phenomenon when it birthed a global, non-profit movement called To Write Love on Her Arms (twloha.com; also on Facebook). They bring help and hope to those who struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. Their website describes their purpose: “To encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.”
These are the issues my daughter has struggled with for years. She nearly lost her life more than once. My journey as her mom has been, by far, the most difficult experience of my life, yet the most transforming. And now her story has been transforming the lives of thousands, if not millions, around the world. We marvel over it.
A little over three years ago another amazing thing happened. A movie was made about Renee’s story and the five life-changing days that snowballed into what we know today as twloha.
Have you ever found yourself in a place where you didn’t know your way around? You had no map to help you get your bearings or direct you to where you needed to go. You were lost. And on top of that you were alone. There was no one to ask for help. Or maybe you were in a foreign country and everyone spoke another language. So they couldn’t help you.
It’s frightening and unsettling. This describes how I felt when I first learned my daughter had a serious problem with alcohol and drugs. Lost and disoriented I had no clue where to find help. At the time no one I knew had faced this with any of their children.
I’ve been on this path for a little over ten years now. It hasn’t been easy to find resources and learn about this strange, foreign world I found myself in the middle of. Today I’m going to share with you a few of my favorite books for parents of addicts. Each one has helped me regain my bearings.