When listening is enough

When listening is enough

Recently I overheard a young man in recovery talking by phone to his mother.  A distance of several states separated them.

But it sounded like the distance was far greater.

The man – barely out of adolescence – was downloading details about an incident at his job site.  By his raised voice and staccato phrases, I could tell this was an episode that had upset him.

Emotions can sometimes run high in young people.  But this is even more true for those recovering from addiction.  Often, it’s the first time in a long time they even feel those emotions.

From the one-sided conversation, I could tell his mother was reacting and responding to her son’s anguish.  Most likely, she was trying to help him, perhaps suggesting what he might say or do to resolve the situation.  Like any loving mom, she wanted to make everyone feel better, and especially her child.

Then I heard the son say, his voice with that exasperation that comes from a perceived lack of understanding, “Mom I don’t want you to fix it. You can’t. I just want you to listen.”

How often I wish I’d just listened when Jacob was downloading with me, spewing out words of worry or fright, whether it was something about school or his job, or just fears about his future.

Sure, I listened,  But always with an ear on how I could “fix” the situation, or fix him. Like the good mom I thought I was, I went quickly to how I could make it better for him, to make his pain go away, to “right” his life again. Rarely was I calm enough or distanced enough or mature enough in my own recovery to offer what he needed most:  just to listen.

Sometimes that’s all that he needed.  Sometimes it still is.



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