Two months have passed since my oldest step daughter and her three children moved out. Here we are. Her dad set a boundary, reminded her of the boundary, enforced the boundary, and then she had to move out earlier than she might have. But our relationship with her was saved. She had made her choice(s) and she bore the consequences, like an adult, because she is an adult. She found a place to live. She found childcare and we have the peace that we know we did everything we could to help her make that transition. All’s well that ends well. Doesn’t that sound neat and tidy? Like a clean ending. That’s not exactly how it felt.
I was left with anger, resentment, emotional exhaustion and spiritual battle wounds. I actually had two leaders sit down and have that talk with me. You know the one. The one where they tell you how concerned they are for you. Questioning you on your balance. It turned into me crying and saying I wished I could have done a better job. I felt so much guilt for the days I seethed when she was home. For the days I lost my patience with the children. I had moments where I was telling myself, “How can you have all of this spiritual maturity and yet be reduced to yelling at the kids or bitterness with her? Has all of my recovery been a lie? ”
Two months later today, the truth is each of us made mistakes in the situation. We all intended to do everything right when we started. Our habits, hurts and hang ups sprouted up right in the middle of our well thought through agreement. We had consulted a family counselor who had experience with step family issues. She did a very good job. The bottom line is when one is tired, frustrated, disappointed, angry and scary feelings are escalating, the Conflict Resolution Plan that was given to us to follow as a couple flew out the window. (I did share that with our counselor and she smiled knowingly, not seemingly surprised.) Things culminated with me losing my patience with my adult step daughter and railing on her like she was a 16 year old who couldn’t follow house rules and her hanging her head knowing she couldn’t get a word in edgewise by that point in the “conversation” and I use that word loosely.
So now, it’s time for me to update my Celebrate Recovery testimony and I am committed to coming out of denial like I have never before. I have finished my 5th Step Study and Holy Spirit has allowed memories to surface of my surprising choices over my lifetime, some of them after I was in recovery and I was fully aware of how to avoid relapse as I had heard that lesson on more than one occasion and even taught it. When I had relapsed after my divorce, I just did what I had always done. I reached out to a relationship to solve my problems, make me feel better, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. It was dressed up so it looked much better but it was still a relapse. Most importantly, I hid it from my accountability partners and my sponsor.
So, why was I so surprised, hurt, offended, when my step daughter went back to her habit of trying to solve her own stresses with unhealthy choices? She didn’t have near the recovery experience I had when I relapsed that last time.
Our counselor had said that one of the reasons I was in the situation of helping my step daughter was because God wanted me to learn some things about myself.
Boy, oh, boy. I learned a lot about myself. But first, this experience of living together with an adult child who has a child or children, after they have lived on their own and are now back because of a type of failure or blow up, taught me how it must have felt for my own mom when I had done the same thing in my 20’s with my small son. Every day when I was grumbling in my head about her, I was thinking, “no wonder my mom always seemed mad at me!” She resented me, was frustrated with me, and didn’t know how to talk to me because those attempts at communication always turned out badly where at least one of us was crying. So, the attempts at communication stopped and the anger just got bigger and bigger. My parents had no skills or experience to deal with our situation and oh, I wish they had looking back. I desperately needed their help but was oblivious to how badly I needed their counsel. I couldn’t get past my defensiveness and I wonder if they weren’t just astounded and speechless by my lack of good judgment.
So, here we are, just having repeated the same scenario 35 years later. We are still speaking, but with caution. Sometimes my resentment still slips out as I haven’t gotten all of it cleaned out. I am continuing to pray and see my counselor. I ask Holy Spirit to keep me from causing more hurt from my hurt until I can process experience this further. I still can’t fix her. I can only work on my own recovery. Apparently, there is still a lot of work to do.