I will never forget the feelings of worry and fear that consumed me during the early years of my journey with my sons. Over time, I learned from my PAL facilitator and fellow PAL members that if I allowed those feelings to consume me, it would ultimately stand in the way of finding my own happiness and peace of mind.

In all honesty, back then I didn’t care about my own happiness and peace of mind. I was willing to forfeit all of it and be “all in” with my sons. I bought into the idea that I had no right to be happy or peaceful or even physically well if they were in distress of any kind. I had stopped doing anything to take care of my own wants and needs. I didn’t exercise. My weight skyrocketed. I stopped seeing friends. To top it off, I had early onset symptoms of being postmenopausal. Sleep was elusive. I was a mess.

I had cared for my sons their entire lives. I mistakenly looked at them as “my life’s work” and had somehow failed. Now I was being asked to accept that my role was changing. I was told that their best chance of survival would be impacted by the “changes” that I made. This got my attention. At this point, I had very little hope that either of my sons would survive this disease. My husband and I agreed that we had tried everything to “help” with no success. Our efforts actually seemed to be making matters worse. We were in a good position to swing the spotlight around and take a hard look at ourselves.

As I began the process of educating myself, I learned some things that I hope you might find helpful as you embark on the new year. After all, what better time to take a look at ourselves as we start a new chapter in our own story.

It was suggested that even though my help would begin to look different, I would always be a role model and source of influence to my adult sons. I became convinced that I could play a valuable role in encouraging them to be the best version of themselves if I was willing to work on my own issues first. I didn’t want them to look at me and say, “I would never want to grow up and be miserable like mom.” I wanted to exemplify what a healthy adult looks like. I wanted them to believe the truth that I had learned. They were never responsible for my happiness. Only I could be responsible for that.

I began by addressing the physical health issues that I was having. I also made an appointment with a good counselor who was trained in the field of substance use disorder. I started thinking about what hobbies and passions I would like to focus on. I embraced the idea that self-care was just as important as supporting my sons’ recovery. I began to participate in activities that brought joy and spent time with positive influences. At that point in time, I attended two PAL meetings per week. My support meetings allowed me to engage with other parents and learn strategies for healthier ways to communicate with my sons and for finding joy. I realized that I was running a parallel healing process that was not that different than what my sons’ recovery would ultimately look like.

Here are a few of the questions that helped me get started on the road to practicing healthy self-care. Take a moment and grab a notebook and see if you can get started answering a few of these questions*:

  • What would you like to see happen in your life in 2023?
  • Where would you like to go or visit?
  • What would you like to see happen with your career?
  • Where could you volunteer to help others?
  • What areas of your life would you like to experience personal growth?
  • What is something new that you would like to learn to do?
  • What would you like to buy or attain?
  • What problems would you like to see solved?

I hope that you will use this exercise as a tool to set the stage for what you would like to have happen in your life this year. There will always be things that come along that are out of our control but maybe if we identified some things, we would like to see happen we can help to write the story!

Blessings to you in 2023!!


*Questions are loosely adapted from The Language of Letting Go, Melody Beattie.

Our regular counselor blogger Josh Acevedo is on break so we are bringing you perspectives from a PAL Facilitator.