My dad overdosed on heroin a couple years ago.
And a mixture of paramedic power, Narcan, and, most importantly, the will of a Higher Power brought him around and kept him on this planet. 🌍
And since bad news seems to travel faster than germs in a daycare center, I heard about the overdose pretty quickly. I wasn’t shocked. And I wasn’t hysterical or angry or anything like that. But I did realize that I would’ve had regrets if my Dad had died that day. And that got me thinking:
The regrets wouldn’t have been about how I’d failed to “save” him or about any of the life choices that he had the right to make for himself. I had already made my amends to my Dad. I had already realized that everyone trying to clean up his messes was hurting him and not helping him. My regrets at this time would’ve been about about how I was handling my 50% of our relationship. Basically, I realized that I was doing a crappy job at “keeping my side of the street clean.”
“Keeping your side of the street clean” is a helpful metaphor I picked up in Al-Anon meetings which gives an analogy about how to keep your relationships healthy. And it goes a little something like this:
You’re living in a neighborhood (you’re in relationship with other people) and you’re responsible for taking care of just your own house and your own yard (yourself and your behaviors). 🏡
If everyone in the neighborhood is following this simple rule, then everyone is keeping their side of the street clean and that’s awesome!!! Neighborhood of the Year! Bust out the hot dogs – it’s a Block Party!
However, if some neighbors choose to… I don’t know…rip out their landscaping, bash in their mailboxes, and leave trash all over their lawns, that sucks…but you can’t run over there and fix it! Because that’s not your house and that’s not your yard! And spoiler: no amount of shaming them, screaming at them, petitioning them, etc. is going to make those neighbors change anything unless they want to change it. In fact, you’ll probably just make them mad and end up with gaudy flamingos and fun signs with some choice words posted in their yards for all of your effort. Yikes!
You’re only responsible for keeping your side of the street clean – no matter what the neighbors do on their side of the street. And you don’t get a free pass to act like a jerk because of it either! Letting the trash pile up in your own lawn (being resentful, nasty, bitter, playing the victim, etc.) is a bad move. And here’s why: it only makes you suffer. Please don’t live in your own garbage heap – it’s not helping the neighbors and it’s certainly not helping you. You gotta keep that trash off your lawn!
So after my Dad’s overdose, I made a plan. I didn’t feel physically or emotionally safe visiting my Dad’s place so this is what I decided to do to keep my side of the street clean:
- I would call my Dad once or twice a month to say hello ☎️
- I’d leave a voicemail if he didn’t answer
- If it had been a couple months since I’d been able to reach him on the phone, I would send a card in the mail to let him know I was thinking of him
- And I’d try to call again in another few weeks
And you know what? This plan really worked for me. I was keeping my side of the street clean, expressing my love for my Dad, and also respecting myself and keeping myself safe. How cool is that?
If I’m being really honest, I thought this plan of mine would be the extent of my relationship with my Dad until he overdosed again or died in some other way most likely related to his addictions.
And then things started to change. You know, the way things do just when you feel like you have something figured out…
I’ll tell you all about it another time.
P.S. If you want to make sure you don’t miss a post, click here and I’ll let you know when new ones are published!
And if you know what it’s like to let your own house and lawn fall apart because you’re so crazy about making the neighbors fix THEIR stuff, tell me about it below and please share this post with anyone who can also relate.