~ 2012 Form ~
"What mirroring feelings means to a parent is that I see a person is angry and I say to them (if they are my child or a safe person in my life), ‘I see that you are angry. Would you like to talk about it?’ Taking time with our sons and daughters is one of the blessing of recovery. This was especially helpful when my children were going through something. I would say to one of my sons, ‘I see that you are frustrated.’ And this helped them put a word to what they were feeling, so that they would understand, identify and possibly verbalize it for them selves as they grew older. Also, I would say, ‘Would you like Daddy to hold you while you are frustrated?’ And they would inevitably say yes, and this taught them that these feelings can be processed and contained safely with a safe person. Sometimes, I would make them sad by hurting their feelings through some sort of correction, and I would still say, ‘I see that you are sad, and I am sorry that I hurt your feelings. Would you like me to hold you while you are sad?’ And, most often they would still seek the safety of my arms, process their feelings, and move on. Often, my oldest boy would act out through one inappropriate behavior or another, and I knew from my own past, that he just needed my attention, so I would say, ‘So, you are behaving inappropriately. Do you need my attention? Would you like me to hold you or talk to you?’ And, nine times out of ten, he would just be trying to get my attention, and what he learned was not just that he could get my attention, but that I knew what he was doing, and he could just ask for me rather than act out in the future.
"Mirroring feelings is having empathy. I cannot identify what I do not recognize; therefore, I would intuitively know what he was feeling and would help him identify it, which is exercising empathy. The feeling is understood, and, all behavior aside, is accepted and affirmed and therein lies compassion. So, to mirror feelings for another, or to have empathy for another, I must exercise patience, tolerance, acceptance, discernment, understanding, compassion and even forgiveness, all under the umbrella of love. Love is an action: ‘Lots Of Voluntary Effort.’ Program love isn't easy, but it is priceless. Contrast all this to the smack up side the head I got when I acted out!"
- From George P., June 30, 2008
Parenting as an addict is an exercise in compromise, growth and fear. Foster parenting the children of addicts is often like being on a trampoline that has barbed wire covered with electric fence wiring, and you feel like everyone is watching and laughing.
As an addict in recovery, foster parenting, every day, is an act of blind faith. You must believe that if you try to control the system you work with, the child in your home who is acting out on what was learned while living with an active addict, if you try to control the recovery of the parent who lost the child you are caring for, your life will become unmanageable. Since I am unable to control it, I must believe that my Higher Power, who I choose to call Creator, will watch our for those children until they can find a Higher Power of their own. I must make a decision, daily, to turn my will and my life, and their will and life, over to the power greater than us all, and trust that blind faith will prevail.
I am an addict, my name is Gail G. and at this writing I have just over twenty years clean and have been a foster parent to fifty-seeven children over the past five years. I can not think of a single child who I have live with me that did not come from, directly or indirectly, a family like we came from. From the youngest to the oldest, they showed their addictive behaviors, their people pleasing skills, their ability to manipulate every situation, their need for creative venues in order to survive, and their elasticity in showing that they could take a beating, often not just figuratively, and bounce back. Once again proving that addicts are strong, versatile and hard to kill or keep down.
As a foster parent, I am dealing with the system (Child Protection Service and the Courts), the children, their doctors and therapists, their psychiatrists and support councilors, their teachers and mentors, their biological parents, previous and future foster parents, and their past, present and future. And all this, without directions.
If I could convey any message I wanted to the biological addict parent who lost their child along the way, it would be this. While you may never be able to atone for what was done, or not done, in some cases, while you can never have a magic ‘do over,’ while it may be the hardest items you put down on your forth and eighth Steps, you will eventually forgive yourself. I tell my kids that their parents are addicts; they suffer from the disease of addiction for which there is no know cure. It can however, be arrested at some point and there is always hope that the parent will find love, surrender and guidance in the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous.
I have never been a biological parent; a situation I blamed God for quite often. When I found a loving power greater than myself, Creator, I came to believe that just as I lived through my addiction to help another addict, I had not had children of my own so I could be there to help the kids caught in the cross fire – yours. From teaching these kids daily grooming and hygiene habits, to homework, dating, nightmares and bathroom accidents, I have loved each and every one, each and every step. And with each, I plant a seed - a seed of love, hope, nourishment, cherishment, delight, wonder, self-esteem, hope, a future and the possibility of life without drugs.
I plant these seeds, and I water them with hugs and kisses. I nourish them with action, with direction, with purpose. And I never see them bloom. On the rare occasions, I see them take root, start to grow and then the child moves on. I am often blessed with having that adult child contact me again, once the system is not controlling Life, and that child contacts me, and I see that my seed did sprout, into a beautiful and wonderful adult.
But I must express, while I have the voice and the audience, that this is truly the hardest job I have ever undertaken in my life, either when using or clean. To love someone so unconditionally, to open my heart so completely, to welcome and crave the unconditional love from that child, is truly a gift from Creator. As is the pain that comes when it feels my heart is being ripped from my chest with each and every child that leaves. I act brave, and say all the right things for the system. I use the Steps, and I am direct and honest, except when to do so will injure them or others, and so I say what must be said and what I hope, in blind faith, will come to be true, and I let that spirit and little body go, back to the system. Then I wonder, once again, why I open myself up for this heart wrenching, gut twisting, soul crushing pain.
And then I see the smile in my mind’s eye, I feel the little hand holding mine, I remember the warmth of a good night embrace and that sweet little kiss on my cheek and I remember. I did this for the child. For the wonderful person they will someday be. I did this for their parents, who are trying to find recovery and who may or may not make it, I do i for my fellow addict. Mostly, I do this for me. Balance, that is what I have been taught on my spiritual path following Creator - balance. To know the love, I must walk through the pain. To know the truth, I must wade through the lies. To be warmed by the sunlight of recovery, I must remember the darkness of my disease.
I really don’t like feeling the bad parts, but I would not trade them for anything if it meant loosing those hugs, that love and the wondrous gift that Creator has bestowed upon me, the ability to Let Go and Let God do his job.
Mitakuye Oyasin - All my relations - I ask that Creator watch over you, that your children find someone who understand recovery and will love your child, then let them go as their path decrees. I have survived another day, I have lived today without using, even though my heart hurts deeply right now, for I have just experienced again that true and trusting love, and another child has left my home, but never my heart.
Grateful to be in recovery today, a loving addict. - Gayle G. March 2006
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