When I was in so much pain from my 19-year-old daughter’s destructive behaviors, I thought I couldn’t bear it one more day. Death would have been easier — hers or mine. Being the mom of a child who was on the fast track to killing herself with alcohol, drugs and cutting (including other dangerous behaviors) I was overwhelmed with guilt and shame. Then I attended a conference for hurting parents where I heard three wonderful statements that would change my perspective and help me cope. They are known as ” The 3 C’s” from Al Anon:
1) You didn’t Cause it! It’s NOT your fault – unless you encouraged your child or aided them in their self-destruction.
2) You can’t Change it! Stop trying – you’ll just make yourself crazy and them, too. They don’t want to change – not yet.
3) You can’t Cure it! You can’t fix them. They have to want to get better. You can’t force it on them.
When I heard this it was like I had just put my feet in a cool mountain stream on an oppressively hot summer day. It was too good to be true and so freeing. I have repeated the 3 C’s to myself often in the past 8 years. They’ve helped me keep my feet on solid ground when overwhelming emotions tried to creep back in and pull me down.
They address the lies we parents tend to believe. I thought my daughter’s problems were somehow my fault – if I was a better parent this would never have happened; I should have done this or that – hog wash, as we say in the south. No parent is perfect. Our children have a free will to make their own choices. And if they’re struggling with mental illness, it’s still not our fault. Even if it is an inherited problem, we never set out to ruin their life. We need not accept all the blame. That won’t help them or us.
I also thought I could change her and make all her problems go away. I thought I had some control over her life. Then I realized that control is an illusion. We have none (of course we do have some if they’re under eighteen). We have to accept that we aren’t that powerful. We can’t change, fix or cure our children any more than we can change a daisy into a rose, or an apple into an orange. It’s not possible.
Once you begin to believe these three things are true, you’ll begin to relax and let go of guilty feelings. I did. Now I accept the fact that I’m not in control, but I believe I know Who is and it’s God. He has complete control over everyone an everything, therefore, I can trust Him with my daughter’s life. I can rest in His love for her and find the peace I was lacking.
Go to al-anon.alateen.org for more helpful information from this world-wide organization. Their principles can help with any problem you have no control over, not just someone’s alcohol problem. When you think about it the only thing we do have any control over is ourselves!
Heavenly Father, help us stop believing lies that only add to our feelings of guilt and shame. Instead, help us believe the truth that while we are powerless to change them or cure them, You can. Help us trust you to work in our child’s life where we cannot. Amen.