If You Want Your Children to Change, Change Yourselves
She thanks the Lord not only for joys but also for sorrows. Anna has had more than her fair share of sorrows in the course of her life. Her oldest son Alexander fell prey to drug dependency… Today I talk with this outstanding woman who can honestly be called a warrior for Christ.
Anna, there is a stereotypical perception of drug addicts as children from dysfunctional families. If an individual starts to use illicit drugs, it invariably means that his or her parents “missed out”. Is this the case?
No-no-no! Guilt is the first feeling that a mother runs into, and it’s not quite right! Psychologists unanimously say that you mustn’t regard yourself, and yourself only, guilty of the problem. When I first came to a mutual-aid group, I saw that drug abuse impacts poor and affluent families equally. One’s status or level of education just doesn’t matter! Drugs don’t spare anyone. That is why you can’t say that a child decided to taste the forbidden fruit because he lacked something. I can say even more: this problem may hit a Christian home, too… Every teenager has his wishes and desires. Every teenager wants to achieve something and to stick out of the crowd.
However, I must admit that almost all co-dependent mothers look alike. We forced our children to run from home by terrorizing them with excessive care and total control. You know, when I came to mutual-aid group meetings, I saw my own reflection in other mothers. My life consisted of serving my child almost exclusively: I checked his school bag; I made sure that he returned home from school in time; I’d heat up the cooked meal and fetch it to his room, and then wash his dirty plate. My husband and I did everything on our own and didn’t entrust it to our children. We didn’t even teach them to spend money properly and sensibly.
Can you please tell us what your family lifestyle was like?
You know, it was the worst thing that can happen in a family: the loss of natural hierarchy. I mean, the husband must be the head under all circumstances! His wife must be his handmaid, and children must take up the third place. Nowadays, children are the centre of the world for most families. Even secular therapists notice that. Those who are familiar with Christianity must remember Apostle Paul’s words, I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God (1 Cor. 11:3).
If the atmosphere in your home is healthy, i.e., when the wife obeys her husband, respects and admires him, their children will internalise it. They will be able to avoid an immense lot of problems.
We’ve always had good relationship with my husband but children were the most important still.
I know that Alexander was 20 when you learned about the trouble that he found himself in and started visiting mutual-aid groups for co-dependent relatives. Was it hard to recognise and acknowledge your errors?
It’s always hard to own your errors. For me, the fact that I was intuitively drawn to God was really helpful. I had been to church before but as soon as I heard the horrible news, I made up my mind to change my life thoroughly. You know, I didn’t grudge against God, I mean, I didn’t ask him why it had happened to me. On the contrary, I felt such an urge to lead the life of spirituality, prayer, and church worship that I even wept in church. I was weeping and thanking God for calling me, even if it happened in these conditions… Nevertheless, I became closer to him.
Well, and of course, they explained to us during our meetings in the mutual-aid groups: if you want your children to change, you must change, too. It was difficult because we had always given the best to our sons but now we had to do otherwise! However, our effort yielded positive outcomes. I used to cry and yell at my son when he came home stoned… After I turned to God, I became calmer. I would cross him secretly, and then run to the church and pray because hysteria won’t solve anything, whereas prayer can work wonders.
That was how, step by step, everything started to change. My relationship with my husband changed drastically! It was almost as if we re-discovered one another… Of course, it is very difficult to be a decent wife and mother. It is hard to struggle with your pride and wilfulness. Anyway, you can’t change anything without effort!
Anna, your son served two jail terms for theft. By that time, you had already been a practising Christian. Did you feel upset or disappointed? It appeared as if God had stepped aside and stopped helping you, didn’t it?
Praise the Most High, I never harboured this kind of thoughts. Actually, it was in jail that my son took communion as an adult for the first time (I had taken him and his brother to church as kids, of course). He was serving his second time in jail at that moment. I saw the Mother of God in a dream that night. I saw her image, which covered the entire sky. I woke up and couldn’t figure out the meaning of that dream all morning. I felt that it was somehow related to my son. I couldn’t call him, but he called me during the day. They were allowed to make a phone call once a month. I told him about my dream and asked, “What happened, son?” He replied, “Yes, mum! I went to church and took communion today.”
I sent him letters with paper icons. I even sent him a photo of Father Andrew Lemeshonok and told him about the remarkable priest that we have in the Convent. My son later went to the Convent to talk with him.
You see, God was as close to us as always. Or maybe even closer than usual…
You were the first member of our family who became a practising Christian. How did your family react?
They were sceptical and scornful at first. Later, they got used to it, and then God’s grace touched their hearts, too. For instance, when I invited a priest to consecrate our flat, my older son wasn’t home. We told the priest about our tragedy, and he said that the son would feel better after the consecration. Indeed, we did not quarrel any longer. Our house became a peaceful place. I told Sasha about it later, and he responded, “Mum, you won’t believe me but when I came home on that day, I could clearly feel the new atmosphere of peace and grace!”
Generally speaking, spiritual effort is never in vain. During one of our meetings, a woman shared that while she was kneeling in front of an icon and praying, her son, who suffered from drug addiction, entered the room and asked angrily, “Are you praying again?!” She said that she was scared by that alien, non-human voice of his. It was full of hatred.
Anna, your son doesn’t do drugs for a year now but you continue to attend mutual-aid groups. Why do you feel that it’s necessary?
I see that I’m still co-dependent. Although Sasha is 29 already, I sometimes go too far with my micromanagement of his affairs, and he has to stop me. You just can’t imagine how terrible this illness is! There was a time when I was brought to the point of spending all nights walking around the neighbourhood looking for him. It was absolutely useless… I was wasting all the energy that I could have used to pray and create a warm atmosphere at home on anxiety and panic.
Dear mums, if you read this and these words sound familiar, this is my advice to you: start by changing yourselves until it’s too late! You can change a lot! May the Lord help us all!
Interview by Natallia Klimova
September 5, 2018