How do you turn anger into forgiveness?

So many times I’ve been angry at my children. First of all, why is it that I’ve gone through this with two of them? When Laura went through rehab I was so thankful for the life change, so thankful I had my daughter back. I feared relapse but never considered that I’d go through it again with another one of my children. It took me years to forgive Laura for the things she took from me. I had to do some real soul searching to get there. Today I’m so angry at Matt and wondering how I’m going to reach that point of forgiveness again.

First of all, I need to remind myself that anger is a natural response. Being angry with my child has no bearing on the love I feel for them. In fact, it’s because I love them and don’t feel that love being reciprocated that my anger begins to take hold.

A few years ago I was taught a method of forgiveness that worked for me. I sat down and thought about specifically WHY I was angry with Laura. What did I think she took from me? The list was long. Beyond the things she physically took from me like money, clothes, jewelry, a ring my father had given me, Sarah’s money, Sarah’s Wii games, etc, she took so much more. She took my serenity, my time, my sleep. She took opportunities, memory making moments like prom, high school graduation, college and wedding. She took my pride. While other parents were showing off their kid’s senior pictures and talking about college plans, I was searching for rehab facilities and therapists and apologizing to friends and family for her behavior. Imagine my embarrassment the day I was talking to a police officer and he said “Oh… Laura Wilson is your daughter??” The local police officers knew her by name! I was mortified. To find forgiveness for all of that, I first had to recognize it all. I had to sit down, think about it, really disect it. The next step was to ask myself why I thought she owed me any of those things. Her life is hers to live. Her choices are here to make and the consequences of those choices are here to suffer. After that I had to tell myself that I was cancelling all of the debt I felt like she owed me. I had to accept that I would never get those things back and tell myself that Laura owed me nothing. From that point forward, I was able to forgive. I was able to celebrate in her sobriety and start rebuilding trust. I was able to take joy in giving gifts to her again.

Today I find myself so angry at Matt. Maybe I shouldn’t be but it seems to be my natural response. He’s been in jail for the last several weeks. He’s been calling us a couple of times a week. Usually he wants money for bail or his commissary account. We’ve told him we will not bail him out. We have sent him books to read and put a few dollars in his account for him. I’ve felt like he calls us because we are his best potential resource. He doesn’t want to lose touch with the parents who love him and might be there for him when he needs something. We have not heard from him in over a week. Sarah saw him post on Snapchat last night. Apparently he got someone to bail him out. I realize that drug addiction leaves one incapable of loving others the way they should but it still hurts. It hurts when you love someone and pray for them and you talk about ways to help them and you spend so much of your day thinking about them and then you get reminded that you are nothing but a potential financial resource to them. All the addict wants is to feed their addiction. I suspect we won’t hear from Matt for a while… Not until he is down and out again and needs help.

Somehow I’m going to have to find a way to write the list again. What do I feel like Matt owes me? He took away our family dynamic. It used to be really great with family dinners full of conversation and laughter, family game night, bike rides and vacations. We didn’t get to see him graduate. In fact, he spent most of high school in alternative school. He won’t go to college, not anytime soon anyway. The road he’s currently on is scary. He’s a lot different than Laura was and more resistant to rehab. I fear he’s going to let heroin (or whatever other drug he can get his hands on) steal the life of the boy I love away from us. I want the chance to get him into rehab. I want the chance to help him get through this. Right now I’m still angry.

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