The Addiction Journal is seeking parents who may wish to contribute their thoughts, experiences, or ideas regarding being in a relationship with an addict child or loved one. Sharing helps other parents understand that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings.
Credit can be full name / first name or posts can remain anonymous. Please indicate your preference when submitting.
(The blog has opted not to post articles on behalf of any organization or treatment center.)
Please submit your articles or ideas via email to: addictionjournal@ gmail.com
Hello Mommy! It is so nice to meet you. Merry Xmas! I am a “mean one” and far worse than your Grinch. I will use your precious holiday season to maintain or regain the grasp I have upon your child’s very soul. Your child is the puppet and I control the strings!
I will make my little puppet talk. Your child will speak the words that will keep me in their lives:
“Come on Mommy! I love you mommy ! Where is your Christmas spirit?“ I will use these words to weaken you. I want your child wrapped in my warm embrace. If you allow it, I will use your undying love for your child as part of my most insidious plan.
“Come on Mommy! What the Hell? It’s Christmas. Let me come by for dinner.“ More words from my little puppet’s lips designed only to again swaddle your child within my addiction wrappings. Please Mommy, let them in, your child is hungry. I promise I will bring a dessert that will turn your world upside down!
“You can trust me Mommy. I’ll be a good girl for Christmas!” Not if I am pulling your child’s addiction puppeteer strings. You will listen to these words, and by the end of Christmas, I will smile, as my puppet sells your gift cards to feed me! I am her master!
“Mommy please remember the days of Christmas past when I was a little toddler.” Your old parental memories of holidays past are some of the sharpest tools in my addiction tool box. I will carve a place in your heart and never leave. Think back to when your child was a baby…please? He was so damn cute.
Oh how rude of me, I forgot to tell you my name. My name is Addiction and feeding my insatiable appetite is my only goal!
I don’t give a damn about your precious holiday season other than to use it as a tool to pull your “baby” even deeper into my parasitic grip.
Tread carefully Mommy, as I will make Scrooge seem like a dear Christmas friend. At the end of my story, there will be no awakening or rebirth. I have no remorse! I am addiction!
There will be nothing but a victim that I can sink my hooks into. Jails, institutions, and death rest under my Christmas tree.
Can I be beaten? Yes! But that is for you to figure out. Remember I can be dethroned and your children can have their lives back. Talk to those who have escaped my grips, as they hold the key.
Some may believe it started with the car that drove into our house (on purpose), but a few years ago I would have said it was when my daughter overdosed on my husband’s birthday (was that on purpose?). Alternatively there are those that believe it starts in the womb. Who is to say? These are thoughts for another day. First I want to get to the root of why I am writing.
I wish there was a precise moment in time where I could look back and say, ‘Yes, that’s when it all became very real.’ For me, it just did not happen that way. It is a matter of dealing with each crisis as it arises and then the emotional aftermath.
Just as there was no defining moment for me, there also seemed to be no such moment for Sarah. People talk about having to hit rock bottom before there is a change, but what constitutes the bottom? She did not hit bottom when she died and was brought back to life. Nor when friend after friend died from overdoses and car accidents. My life lesson was that there is only today. While Sarah had always been good about being in the moment and not planning for her future, I just started learning that it was important for both her and me to not plan; just be. If she is telling me the truth in this moment then I can silently celebrate, but I do not expect our next conversation to automatically contain the same honesty. Every day creates a new history on how much I can believe in and from her.
One of the most interesting and seemingly universal aspects about family enablers is how wrapped up we are in the life of the addict. Nothing outside of the addict’s life was really worth thinking or talking about because there was a crisis to solve, a betrayal to deal with or some other monumental event. It struck me how similar the group members of NarAnon and Alanon were in this regard. These groups were very helpful in teaching me what the addict needs to work on and showing me some truths about myself I had never seen. If I am truly going to give up control to Sarah for her to guide her own life, then I cannot be putting her thoughts and feelings ahead of my own. As I worked on this process I realized how obsessed I had really become in the last 5 years. It was difficult to stop those “what if” thoughts of her potential failure. It all boils down to what we had to do and say (and mean). We told Sarah:
We are providing a safe place for you to seek recovery. It is up to you to decide if you want it. We will not give any rewards for what you do. You have to make the decision and it has to be what you decide every day. If you decide you don’t want it enough to succeed, then we have given you the tools you needed, but you decided not to take them. There is no other option with us – we had to set limits and make sure we follow through. Sarah is an adult and needs to get healthy enough to get a job to support herself. This was not the beginning – it took a long time for all of us to get here (including Sarah.)
Now that we have been doing this for a few years, it becomes easier to see when she is reverting back to old habits. On the other hand I found out that I have to be careful about placing these judgments because a situation can look one way yet be another. Each time there is a new fiasco I have to consider is Sarah manipulating or is her life really so full of bad luck? Maybe a little of both. After all Sarah lives all day, every day, in a house full of addicts who thrive on the drama and need to create it if none exists. I cannot for one minute forget that Sarah falls into that same category (whether purposeful or not.) After all that, I keep reminding myself to not place any importance on what she does and says – meaning that her thoughts and actions will have no impact on how I am living my life. Maybe I should say that again because it might be one of the most important thoughts of this writing: her thoughts and actions will have no impact on how I am living my life. It becomes a mantra that I chant from time to time (but not too often because then she is changing how I live.)
I am writing this blog as a chart of progress – mine and Sarah’s. Years ago I know that I was lost when I looked for resources for parents and found none. Most all that has been written and documented to help the addicts are from their perspectives. Parents cannot operate from the same viewpoint. Even the “professionals” who run the halfway houses and treatment centers are former addicts. They many times cannot understand a parent’s perspective and use the word “enabling” as a cop out to sometimes (and only sometimes) place blame when they cannot provide badly needed guidance. Hopefully this will help someone else.
I haven’t written in a bit, not for any other reason than just my inability to say that I am disappointed in my son’s choices and I have been deeply afraid that his choices are going to bring us back down that BLACK road. My son brought his son’s mom into his apartment with all three of her children. My son also has a daughter by his childhood sweetheart, who he takes care of part time as well. That is four children under the age of 5! A few weeks ago I started to worry about my son because he was looking tired all of the time, and wasn’t taking care of himself as he normally would. Instantly I began to suspect that he was using again. He wasn’t asking for money, he didn’t have black marks on his face, and he was eating…. But he looked defeated, lost, and stressed out. I noticed this for a few days, but decided it could not go on. I had to know, because now I was driving myself crazy. The cycle was starting but I had said I would not do this again with him.
I showed up one day at his apartment, and told him to get in the truck. He did so without an argument. I took him to get drug tested right then and there. I told him that was where we were going and he started to cry. I thought for sure he was using; however, when I asked why he was crying he said he did not know how to handle the stress that is overtaking him. I asked him to explain, and he told me that he is trying to take care of all 4 kids by himself.
He swore to me he was clean, but I did not fully believe him. He took the test, and I am proud to say he was telling the truth.
We went to a Denny’s and sat and talked for hours. I asked him to explain what is going on. The long and short of it is that he is stressed out. The son’s mom is not helping him either financially nor physically take care of any of the four children. He is falling behind on bills and not living up to his responsibilities to anyone and this is bothering him very bad. He has no idea how he is going to give the four children Christmas. He really broke down to me. He told me that he had the tray in hand and straw in place a few times, but he decided on those black moments that his children mean more to him than using. He did admit that it was the hardest thing to not do, and he is not sure if he was put in that position much more if he could fight through it. He finally just exclaimed to me “I’m Losing my fight mom, she is just as bad for me as Black!!” He is keeping 3 of the four kids in diapers, 1 gallon of milk every day, and everything else for the day to day living. I told him that if she is not willing to help him, then he needs to cut her free. He is afraid of losing his son again. He is not sure what to do, and I hate seeing him so twisted.
Now it is my time to break. As POA’s we all know it is a slippery slope to go back to using in the best of situations. He openly admitting to me that he was tempted scares the living daylights out of me. I know I have to let him live his life and make his choices, but I pray each night that he finds the way.
One of my favorite movies is the Somethings Gotta Give movie w/ Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. In the movie “Harry” is admitted to a hospital and has a classic scene dressed in only a hospital johnny.
My son was admitted to a hospital in the early morning hours as his disease had kicked into full throttle. I visited him after work and saw him dressed in his own johnny, strapped to an IV pole. It’s a sad sight no matter how many years a parent deals with their child’s addiction. I reflected on how nothing I have done has really modified his path. I understand it’s not my “fault” but it is still a tough disease to watch affect a family member. I looked around a packed emergency room with many other 20-something men being admitted for addiction.
During my visit, my son and I talked about life, about using, about recovery. I calmly (not my strong suite, but something I have worked on in my journey) discussed the one constant when his life goes to SHIT. His using drugs! Drugs have constantly taken his life to some terrible places. His choice to pickup turns him into a “Dancing Henry”.
He will rejoin society today. Time will tell. I pray for my son and all the other children that our the “Dancing Henrys” in Emergency rooms all over this country. It’s a sad dance.
* my appreciation for the kind words from my friends and the support of the people in my son’s life that truly care about and love him.
I don’t see my son as much as I used to. He is living on his own. I have seen him merely two times in the past month.
The first time I saw him I remarked to my wife how good he looked. Amazingly good, but that didn’t last.
Last week he came in to grab some stuff from our basement. After this many years in the recovery/relapse dance,I knew immediately. I told him he looked lousy. He denied. There was no fighting. I no longer debate sobriety, as it is pointless. No scream fest, no blaming, no drama has ever changed the course of a child’s addiction. Doing the same thing over and over is the definition of ….?
For the remainder of the week I heard nothing from him. Gone are the days where I would call repeatedly if I didn’t hear from him within a few hours. Our communication fell silent.
Finally I called yesterday. His phone went straight to voicemail, which is always a tell tale sign.
Part of recovery is relapse. I dust myself off and move forward again.
Steven Adler : Guns and Roses
I tried to contact him for the remainder of the day with no success. So what did I do? I went to dinner with my wife. Carrying on in life as your child is using heroin is a skill that must be developed, as it does not come naturally. Over time I have learned there is no amount of parental manipulation, control, badgering, or conversation that will change my son’s path. It is up to him.
As dinner ended and my fears were confirmed as it was one of his friends calling me. I listened to the confirmation of my son’s usage with far less emotion than I did years ago. Sure I am upset, disappointed, and worried. But I’m in the acceptance stage of his usage. I accept that this is his issue to conquer or not.
Finally my son called me last night and basically sounded like “shit”. I listened and simply told him I love him and that he deserves a better life than the one that Lady Heroin offers. He listened and told me he loves me too. It is a sad dance.
Last night I met with some old girlfriends whom I hadn’t seen in years. They both had moved away with their families years ago, had just returned (kids now in their 20’s), and wanted to reconnect. I was dreading this get together a bit, actually. While they are truly lovely women, I was becoming anxious thinking of how I would answer “And how are your kids doing?” or “What’s (insert name) up to now?”
I thought about whether I would share the events of the past few years (one addicted to prescription drugs and heroin, the other struggling with alcoholism and bulimia) or not. I was pretty sure that their kids hadn’t experienced such problems and while the other moms might not be judgmental, they might not understand. I also have my own issue of having both my kids struggling with addiction and other things. The ‘guilt’ seems even harder to reconcile when dealing with more than one child.
Anyway, one of the responses I thought I’d humorously say was, “ Well my daughter now is head of her own law firm and my son is currently on Shark Tank.” Or, realistically, “Well, my kids are plodding along, learning about life as they go. They tend to learn the hard way, much like me.” That’s a lot of words that really say nothing, but implies they aren’t doing anything worth sharing and that since I’m okay, they will be too, which I believe is true.
So, when we went around the table to catch up on everyone’s family status, I simply shared that they were still in school and working. The fact of the matter is, however, one is not in school currently, having just finished three months in treatment and is now in sober living. The other does work and goes to school, but still does some drugs after several months in rehab. Yep! I sorta didn’t exactly lie, but neither did I answer with complete accuracy. A few more questions came after about college, and I handled with, “They are trying to figure out what they want to do.” There was nothing much to extrapolate and it seemed to suffice the need for an update.
Upon reflection, I’m glad I didn’t share with them the stories of my kids’ struggles with addiction and recovery. It would have colored the pleasant reunion, opened up a conversation about things that they may not have wanted to talk about, and it was not the place, nor the time. I was truly happy for the successes that their children have had, and shared in their moms’ pride. And, (true confession,) a while ago, I would have been jealous and resentful that my kids weren’t thriving like theirs.
Now this is the interesting part: I am really proud of my kids, too! I am happy for what my kids have learned and continue to learn about themselves, about relationships, and about being human. I believe they are learning skills that spill onto many other aspects of their lives and will be better for it. I hate that they were, and perhaps still are “overtaken” by self -destructive addiction demons. I wouldn’t ever have wanted that to happen. But it did. And together, we walked down that road and are wiser and more compassionate. We have learned to love each other deeper and accept our weaknesses better. I know now that I can’t fix them. I believe that they are learning that they can fix themselves.