Growing up in a family affected by addiction, I learned early on that it’s not only okay but usually necessary to keep secrets from the rest of the world. If I told other people about what was going on in my house, we would never know how it could backfire on one of us. Keeping secrets became second nature for me. So when I realized that my son was using and selling drugs, it was easy and natural to keep all of that a secret from everyone, including his dad. I knew that his selling was related to his addiction, so it wasn’t like he was a real drug dealer, right?
It seemed natural to keep the secret, but then things just got crazy. There were people coming to our house looking for him, and then detectives started showing up. When he realized that I lied to the police, he was so grateful and thanked me so much for protecting him. All I wanted to do was keep him from getting arrested, but then one day, when I confided in a friend, she asked me if I realized that I was harboring a fugitive and that I could get arrested too!
In recovery, I have come to recognize that keeping secrets for my son isn’t helping him and may be hurting me. I still don’t want him to get arrested, but if he does, I know that I have to tell the truth and fight my old instincts to keep secrets. In 12-step programs, they say, “we’re only as sick as our secrets.” It means that keeping secrets is one of the symptoms of my co-dependency and, in order for me to get well, I have to start getting honest, stop telling lies to protect my son from getting in trouble, and stop letting him believe that he can count on me to cover for him.
Like all new things, I know that I will just have to start with baby steps and work up to the harder ones. I can tell uncomfortable truths to strangers about things that don’t matter. And I can begin confiding in other parents about the harder secrets. But the first big truth I need to tell is to my son’s dad. And I need to commit to him that I’ll not leave him in the dark again – about the big stuff or the little stuff.
Today’s Reminder: Starting today, I will try to tell the truth to the grocery store clerk who asks if I’m having a good day when my head hurts by replying, “Well, not really. I have a headache today” or by confiding an uncomfortable truth in another parent whose life is affected by their child’s addiction. I will reflect on both the discomfort and the relief of telling the truth and share that with my son – at the same time I let him know that, as much as I love him and don’t want him to get into trouble, I am committed to getting out of the secret-keeping business for good. I will take comfort in knowing that I am modeling for him an important discipline of good recovery. I doubt I’ll ever feel comfortable telling the truth when I know it will result in my son getting in trouble. But perhaps that could create just enough pain for him to begin his own journey of recovery because I was finally healthy enough to tell the truth even when it hurt.
You can listen to an audio of this devotional at our podcast A Dose of Hope.
You do not have to walk this path alone. Parenting Through Addiction offers courses to teach you about what YOU can do to help your child as they begin their own path to recovery. We also offer various membership options so you can connect with other parents who are on their own journey to find serenity in the face of their child’s addiction. To learn more click here!