Have you ever looked back at something you said or did, and thought, “OMG, that was SO stupid?!?!” I know I have, too many times to count. And sometimes the “stupid move” was not something you did that was bad, it could also be something you did naively- like thanking someone who did something you thought was awesome and selfless, only to find out later they had ulterior motives and it wasn’t a kind act at all.
I don’t know why this came up in my memory today, but it did. Today I clearly remembered my tear-filled words of gratitude to someone I thought had helped my son move from addiction to recovery, only to find out they really hadn’t. They looked like they were helping, but they enabled. They looked like they were helping, but they provided opportunity. And as I shed tears of gratitude, they eagerly assumed the “hero cape”, when knowingly or unknowingly, they were a villain attacking my son’s recovery.
How stupid was I to leave my tears on their shoulder and words of gratitude in their ear? It turns out, not all that stupid. Just human.
When we express emotions we are feeling in a moment, we often do so with accelerated adrenaline. We want to believe people. We want to trust them. And then we want to thank them. It’s very human and humane of us to do so. And we should never feel stupid for having done so.
Unfortunately part of being human and humane is also that other side, the person who takes credit when it’s undeserved, the person who pretends to be helping when they are actually harming, the person who doesn’t get it, but acts like they do. This other side of humanity makes us feel stupid when we believe in them and trust them and thank them.
But I’ll take this “How stupid am I” feeling over the “I am a jerk” feeling that other side of humanity falls asleep with.
Addiction, substance use disorder, depression, mental illness, these diseases require a sensitivity from the rest of us, an understanding that we DON’T know what’s really happening, and a willingness to love but not enable.
No one “saves an addict”. Only the individual battling this disease can do that, and it takes hard work, invested time, appropriate support, intensive counseling, and a daily choice to be a better person.
So when someone somehow helps your loved one, thank them with a smile. Drowning tears and excessive words of gratitude really aren’t appropriate or deserved.
At 10,000 Beds, we award scholarships for addiction treatment. Some people rave about us (thank you, but not necessary) and how we “saved” their loved one, but we did not save their loved one. We provided an opportunity for them to save themselves. And most of our scholarship recipients do the work and save themselves. Now THAT is worth shedding tears over.
We are grateful when we see the willingness to dig deep and find recovery. It’s not easy. And yes, there will be people along the way who do help, but they are not the reason someone is clean and sober. And they most certainly do not deserve the credit and should not take the credit for someone’s recovery.
So, how stupid was I? Only as stupid as the next grateful Mom with a child in recovery. But today, a lot wiser than the Mom who slobbered all over someone and cried tears of joy as if they were the reason behind my child’s choice to stay clean.
How stupid am I? Not so stupid any more. And I can hardly wait to shed tears of joy on my son’s shoulder when he returns home, clean, sober and happy. I will praise him for doing the work and putting in the time. And I will be grateful for anyone who touched his life in a positive way along his path to recovery. But I will not be sewing “hero capes” or giving credit where credit is not due.
Your happiness, your recovery is something you can’t hand off. It’s totally up to you. And once achieved, you deserve the hero cape!
An unintentional leader, influencer, and socialpreneur, Jean Krisle intentionally founded and continues to lead 10,000 Beds, a 501c3 nonprofit organization now in its 7th year of operation. Building from a desire to support the many individuals without resources seeking help for a substance use disorder, Jean built 10,000 Beds from a simple idea to a nationwide, life-changing and inspirational force in the addiction & recovery community with more than $10,000,000 in addiction treatment scholarships awarded nationwide.
As an admired speaker, coach, and consultant, Jean speaks from decades of personal experience on the critical strengths of courage, hope, and resilience in business and personal lives. Jean motivates us to face each day with courage, tenacity, hope, and resiliency. She inspires all of us to recognize the strengths we’ve gained through the challenges we’ve faced.
Jean passionately reminds us that we are all in recovery from something and that recovery from anything- loss, failure, disappointment, addictions, etc. – is something we should build on and be proud of! And she teaches us how to do it! For more information about Jean’s availability please contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.