Farewell, for now, dear readers. This series—sadly and happily—comes to an end.

Sadly, because doing this writing therapy along with all your encouragement and sharing has helped buoy me during the darkest and most difficult hours. I will miss the camaraderie.

And happily, because where I stand now, I can see things through a much healthier lens than when I began the series.

Thankfully, a few sober homes later, our daughter remains sober and continues to do the “next right thing.” She is settled in an apartment with a few friends, gainfully employed, and happier and more stable than she has ever really been. She sees her doctors regularly, does her step work,1 works with her sponsor,2 and all the other things that are needed to stay stable and sober. Some days are better than others—for her and for us—but we have many more tools now to journey together safely, and when boundaries are needed, with space between us. She visits our home regularly, for holidays, Shabbats, and more or less whenever she wants.

We have joined the Al-Anon3 bandwagon and do our own step work, exploring the complex balance of unconditional pride and healthy boundary-setting. We are not perfect, but except for G‑d, no one is. Many old wounds are healing, others need more time. But overall, we are in a much better place.

I want to share some of the lessons that I’ve learned along this journey.

1. Pass it Along

Our daughter grows every day, surprising us with her newfound selflessness. She has learned, and taught us, that the 12th step is the most important one for staying sober and staying happy:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

In the program they say, “You gotta give it to keep it.” It has multiple meanings, but fundamentally it means that if you want to keep your sobriety or your sanity, you need to pay it forward and help others with their sobriety and sanity. This is true for the recovering addict, as well as those with mental health challenges, and for the family and friends.

2. Fill Your Own Tank First

If you want to be there for your loved one, you must take care of yourself. As they say in every airline safety demonstration, first put on your own mask and then help your child. It seems selfish at first, but when it comes down to it, if you don't put on your mask and you become impaired, you cannot save the next person.

What does this mean?

  1. Self-care is essential. If you are depleted you are of no use to others. Whether it’s a manicure or a day of golf or whatever your kosher vice is, you must fill up your emotional gas tank to be able to help others.
  2. You must do your own step work. Whether it’s Al-Anon, SMART Recovery, or another system you find that helps you maintain your sanity, it’s vital to have support. This is not a journey you can do alone.

3. There is No One Way to Get Better

Even within the AA/Al-Anon system that we’ve gravitated towards, there are the hardcore Big Book thumpers, who employ a no-nonsense, military-esque beat-down-the-client approach, with extreme boundaries. There are also the radical-love folks, who are all about hugs, unconditional acceptance, and endless patience.

Ultimately, I’ve found that a balance of the two is the best way for me, and most in-line with Torah thinking (although I prefer to err on the side of too much love and acceptance).

4. We Are All Created In the Image of G‑d

Remember, each human is: “The work of My hands in which I will glory.”4

This means that a person—even a struggling child who may have completely upended your life and home—is fundamentally and essentially good. It’s not about what they do, but who they are: an individually created work of G‑d, made personally by His hand.

To that end, if we change our perspective and view the child as a precious stone that we are honored to tend to, rather than a disappointment that we must endure for some Divine reason, we can approach them from a place of honor and humility, realizing that we’ve been entrusted, nay, hand-picked, by G‑d Himself to nurture this sensitive and beautiful soul.

5. Discomfort is where the growth happens

Hindsight is 20/20, they say. If we’d known what we know now when we started out, the stress and struggle would not have been less, but the suffering would have been. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. Sometimes, I’d venture, you can only learn that the suffering is optional after you’ve endured it.

Why? Why can’t we be wisened up before all that struggle? I propose that discomfort is where growth happens. If we found a way to avoid the pain, we’d also be avoiding the gain.

The gain is the gift of growth. Growth as a parent. Growth as a human being. Growth as a community activist. Growth as a resource for friends, family, and colleagues in the arena of mental health and addiction. Is it the growth I asked for? Certainly not. Is it growth I can honestly say I’m grateful for? Definitely.

So, dear readers, thank you for holding us during these challenging times, which, while not yet over, are now relatively stable. I pray for you and for myself and my family that we reach the era when “tears will be wiped off our faces forever,”5 with the coming of Moshiach, may it be speedily in our days.

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