One day last week I changed the signature on both of my personal e-mail accounts to a quote from Anne Lamott's book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers:
"If we stay where we are, where we're stuck, where we're comfortable and safe, we die there. We become like mushrooms, living in the dark, with poop up to our chins. If you want to know only what you already know, you're dying. You're saying: Leave me alone; I don't mind this little rathole. It's warm and dry. Really, it's fine."
I added that quote as my e-mail signature because it spoke to me. For much of my life, I was a person who hated any kind of change and was afraid to take any risks. I was, as a dear friend of mine would say, a "settler," as opposed to a "pioneer."
Doing what was safe and the "sure thing" was nice and comfortable for me. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? I was a full-blown cheerleader for the status quo.
My son's addiction and depression changed me, though. When you discover that you're the parent of an addict, the status quo gets dumped in a blender and pureed like the squash soup I make every Thanksgiving.
When you're the parent of an addict, pretty much everything that was "normal" isn't anymore. And you realize you have to adapt and change; not just the way you live and the things you do, but the way you think, too. You have to step outside of your comfort zone, be willing to try new things, listen to advice from others, admit and accept that things you thought in the past might be totally wrong, and roll the dice once in a while. Goodbye, "settler." Hello, "pioneer."
Yes, I have been changed by my son's issues. But, believe it or not--as I've written before--it's been a change for the better. I am no longer "stuck" and am no longer a "victim" of comfort and safety. I can accept change, and little things that used to bother me so much--e.g., Is the air pressure in my car's four tires equal? Is the little scratch on that new CD I just bought going to make it skip someday?--don't bother me at all. (If you think those examples are ridiculous, I invite you to ask my wife how much I used to totally obsess over them.)
My son is 15-1/2 months clean and sober. It's been a long, difficult road; not only for him, but for me, my wife, and our younger son, too. But I am a better person because of my son's depression and addiction. I'm no longer a mushroom, living in the dark, with poop up to my chin.
By the way, a couple of days after I added that Anne Lamott quote to my e-mail signature, my amazing mother called me to talk about it. She said she had opened up her copy of Help, Thanks, Wow that morning and happened to turn to the exact page on which that quote appeared. She reminded me what the quote continued on to say:
"When nothing new can get in, that's death. When oxygen can't find a way in, you die. But new is scary, and new can be disappointing, and confusing--we had this all figured out, and now we don't.
"New is life."
Eight years ago, before my son's journey began, I would've read that entire quote and been so scared I probably would've run and hidden under my bed. But today? Those words--especially "New is life"--give me courage that I've never had before.
(Note: Anne Lamott quotes are Copyright © 2012 by Anne Lamott.)