As I sit here and try to think of the best way to convey my question, my heart is in anguish with tears pouring down my face. About a year and half ago I became addicted to pain medication that I was prescribed for a back injury I sustained in a car accident. It spiraled out of control last February ending with a protective order being filed so I couldn’t contact my 12 year old son’s mother or him and I ended up choosing to go into a 9 month substance abuse program that helped veterans. This was clearly my fault. Up until this point in time his mother and I had never really disagreed on anything and we haven’t been together since he was 2. We had never been to court. We just agreed on visitation and child support. I paid her child support every week and I pretty much got him whenever I wanted. We were VERY close. I coached his little league teams from when he was 4 until he was 9. I was always very active in his life. Well, long story short I graduated the program and got a court order to get some visitation back. I have not been able to have any contact with him for a year now and have not been able to see him at all. My question is…I have supervised visitations starting next week and while I’m ecstatic that I am finally going to get to see him, I am very nervous and I don’t even know what to say to him. I know the number one thing is being honest. I just want to make sure I do everything right. I know it is going to take a lot of time and a lot of consistency to earn his trust and respect again. I’m just hoping you may have some helpful advice to give me going into this.
First of all, you have already done the hard work. You recognized that you chose a behavior that was not working for you and made the decision to change it. It doesn’t matter why or how, it only matters that you did. Blaming yourself for your wrong doings is only helpful to get you to the point where you are now…in the process of recognizing that change needs to take place in order to heal yourself. Its time to let the blame go. It no long serves any positive use in your life. You are where you are by choice and the more you choose forgiveness and acceptance for where you are now, the more you will heal, and the joy and purpose in your life will grow with you.
The changes that you have made and will continue to make will not only be the greatest gift to you, but also to your son. You are teaching him that even our heroes and the people we look up to make mistakes, that it’s okay to be human. But more importantly, you are teaching him that when you recognize you choose behaviors that don’t help you, you dig in and find the strength to change those behaviors into ones that DO work…there is no greater lesson than to teach by example. It is equally important for us to know what doesn’t work as it does to know what does so we know the difference. By choosing to change you are teaching him a lesson he wouldn’t learn anywhere else. What a true gift for you both!
From what you have described, you have built a foundation of love and respect with your son, followed by a painful period of transition. What is most important is that you built that foundation together and the love that you have for him and that he has for you still remains strong, it just needs to be revitalized…and it will be. It has already begun by you reaching out to him.
Of course there are mixed emotions between the two of you and you can speculate how he feels, but the bottom line is that people innately want to love and be loved and you both have that desire. He wants his father just as much as you want your son. If you both have the same goal, the obstacles between you will dissipate as your hearts reunite. Does this mean he won’t be hurt and angry still? Absolutely not. He needs to work through his own confusion, distrust and insecurity, but the more you prove to both of you that you are in this for the long haul, his feelings will slowly, but steadily change.
You mentioned that being honest is the best thing and that is true. It will be good to speak from the heart as much as you can, but that does not mean you have to use words to do this. Say what you feel you have to say, but only that. Your presence, the hug you give him, the look on your face, will be communication enough without the need to fill the space with words. When you speak from your heart, you will speak your truth and he will know that you mean it, in spite of any lingering discomfort he feels.