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
I have met many inspiring parents over the years ago. I met Carrie at a parent support group I no longer belong to, but our friendship has continued. She has always been a strong advocate for recovery, and brings her point of view concisely. I respect her immensely. I consider her to be one of my “sponsors”.
￼It’s taken me a long time to reflect on what I could possibly say about being the parent of a child afflicted with the disease of addiction that hasn’t already been said. So, while talking to my son (who talks with lots of parents like us now as part of his job), I said the sentence, “In some respects, I became sicker than you.”
It’s true. I became so overly involved with my son’s illness that I was pretty damn close to being a walking definition of insanity. My anxiety level was so high I couldn’t sleep, I was trying to control every part of his recovery (or lack there of), and I constantly obsessed about him and what he was doing. It was like I was desperately hanging onto him by my fingernails while he was violently shaking me off. Getting him well was my only objective and I would move mountains to make that happen for him, even if the mental health professionals and rehab councilors didn’t understand him. Sound familiar? Of course it does…we all do it.
There is a saying that a parent is only as happy as their most unhappy child, and I believe that in most cases to be true. I too have compared addiction to cancer and other scary diseases that could kill our children and young adults. And while they are similar in some ways, addiction is a unique disease…with a unique path to wellness. It truly is a family disease.
Because addiction can be classified as a family disease, doesn’t it make sense that if all don’t work toward recovery, none will actually recover? (Or it will be a hell of a lot harder on the family members that do) Let me repeat. We all become just as ill as our kids are. It might not be a popular idea, but if you really look inside yourself you’ll know it’s true. (My insanity was affecting my daily functioning and I wasn’t even on any drugs!)
As frightening as it was (terrifying actually), once I let go of trying to manage my son’s disease and started focusing on getting myself healthy things started to change for the better a little at a time. I needed to get sick and tired of being sick and tired too. We, as parents, have our bottom also and only when we get there can our healing begin. (This is too true for our kids- we can help set the stage for recovery all we want, but they aren’t going to commit to getting healthy until they are ready.) Once I started becoming healthier, old behavior/ relationship patterns between my son and I couldn’t continue. I had started to change, therefore everything was affected by the change. Because of this he couldn’t interact with me the way he had been-he had to adapt and change too. I had often heard that ‘Change creates change’, and it’s very true. Nothing can stay the same when some sort of change is introduced, and my son wasn’t capable of being the change so it was up to me. I even came up with a script for those times when our phone calls spiraled down into anger and abusive comments. (Me: ‘I love you but this conversation isn’t good for either of us. Let’s try again tomorrow. Bye.’) My son wasn’t as able to lie or manipulate me any longer, because I was focusing on what was healthiest for me and our family. I was no longer going to participate in the insanity his addiction was creating. When you are at the carnival, you can’t be half in and half out of a ride while it is in motion. You are either on or off the ride. I got off the carnival ride.
When I say I wasn’t participating I really wasn’t. If he was using he wasn’t welcome to live in our home. His car was in our name and on our insurance, and we took that back that so he couldn’t kill someone in an accident. No money. I will forever remember the look of disbelief on my ￼husband’s face when I asked him to please arrange to have the locks changed the next day. (This was after my son refused to go to treatment and I told him he would have to live somewhere else.) Throughout all of these extremely hard choices, I kept telling my boy that ‘I love you and want you to get well.’ I also kept repeating that when he was ready to get into treatment we would help him. Inside my heart I was hoping, praying and waiting for him to get ready. To get sick and tired enough. I felt like I was gambling with something so precious but that I had no other options. If we continued on as we had been, there was a very likely chance he would end up in jail or dead. If I changed, and no longer participated in his addiction he may still end up in jail or dead-but at least there was a chance he may end up in recovery. I’ll admit, some of these decisions came from self preservation. As my son spun further and further away from us I began to think about the actual possibility he may not survive this. And how could I ever go on if I felt I had contributed to his death in any way?
In place of mental health specialists with their Masters or PhDs, I turned over my faith and hope to men and women who had survived and thrived in this recovery process. While we were going through the registration process during my son’s intake at a treatment facility, my husband kept telling the staff mentor, ‘He’s really a good kid.’ She’d say ,’I know.’ After the third comment like this, she turned to us and said,’I’m a drug addict, I really understand what he is going through.’ And that was very comforting.
In the end, he did end up going to treatment, after 3 scary months of sleeping couch to couch. He did relapse and we began again, this time with a life changing Section 35. My son has 4 1/2 years of sobriety and is working at a recovery program. He recently went back to college. The ‘I love yous’ with concrete boundaries in place worked for us. Because I got out of the way and let him live his own life, for better or worse, and do the hard work of getting well. It worked for us to cheer him on from the sidelines, and support him in his recovery only. He has said to me that the first two years of his sobriety when he worked at a grocery store and walked everywhere in all weather was the hardest but happiest he can remember. He was able to get well without a car, an iPhone or $150 sneakers. It took him to go back to basics and simplicity to appreciate the things and people in his life. But that’s his story to tell.
Well then, how do we as parents get well? There are many options, and I can only speak for what worked for my family and me in our direct experience. It wasn’t just hard work for my son…my healing was hard work for me too and I needed to put in the effort and time to get the benefit. For me, a combination of an online support group and regular Alanon meetings while working with a sponsor helped. And it took me trying a few different meetings before I found the one that clicked for me. It was relieving to not feel alone and surround myself with people who had been or were walking where I was. It was freeing to come to realize that I could possibly be ok regardless of the outcome of my son’s illness. My son got his life back through AA and working with his sponsor and the Big Book. It’s ironic how well these programs worked for me. I am far from what I consider to be religious, and find my spirituality in nature rather than in churches. But I cannot doubt for one second the gifts these programs have given to me and mine and the peace they bring when I follow the program. Whatever you choose to do, understand that until you get out of the way, find peace and get healthy your child probably can’t. And no matter how you find it, I wish peace for all of us.
“There will be ongoing events If you can not make an event and would like participate in any capacity you can please watch the page for upcoming events, donations needed and resources provided.” We are all in this together and together we will hand deliver hope into the hearts of our homeless, addicted sons and daughters.”
Interested parties can email firstname.lastname@example.org
From their mission:
Our goal is to put hope in the hearts of 50 homeless sons or daughters in and around The Boston Common, give them a warm blanket/outerwear and a meal. We hope that we have left overs but with Massachusetts having the 5th highest rate of homelessness in the United States of America
Lynnel Silva Cox
Hand Delivered Hope
P.O. Box 189
East Bridgewater, MA 02333
As a father of a son who died two years ago, I still spend considerable time looking back at our behavior and feelings when we were trying to figure out if our son Chris was using and our actions when we had definitive proof.
Over the time span from 1996 when we began suspecting drug use to Chris’s death in 2012, my feelings changed from puzzlement to despair to finally numbness even with his death. Although much of that time period is a blur, I kept a daily journal of what was happening in our lives and the destructive impact that addiction had on our entire family.
The initial harrowing experience with addiction was when we had definitive proof of his drug usage after 3 years of disturbing behavior that piqued our belief that drugs could be involved.
At the time, we were going for counselling to address our issues in dealing with Chris when during the session, I couldn’t hold back my suspicions any longer and accused him of using. He immediately jumped out of his seat and angrily got in my face, saying: “You’re not going to live through the night.” The counsellor chalked the whole thing up to typical teenage behavior. Of course I was flabbergasted by my son’s words and even more so by the counsellor’s response.
After this incident, we drove home barely speaking to each other. Later that night, after telling my wife that he was going out and hugging her, she felt bags in his jacket which turned out to be marijuana. We now had the proof that we were looking for which justified our suspicions over the years. It became a very tense scene, the most frightening that I had ever encountered up to that point in my entire life. Standing in the kitchen at opposite sides of the counter that separated us and after accusing him of being involved with drugs, he became very agitated, holding a knife with both hands to his gut threatening to kill himself. I took this threat very seriously and believed he would either do it, as he already had one suicide attempt, or try to kill me. Our attempt to calm him down wasn’t working at all. As I kept talking to him and vainly attempting to work my way around to where he was standing, trying to convince him not to do anything, my wife was able to leave the room and call the police. She did this for two reasons. First we feared for his life and really had no control of what was going on. Secondly, we wanted him arrested. Our goal was to try and nip this in the bud by scaring him with the police. We were also able to get our 11 year old daughter out of the house so that she wouldn’t be any more traumatized than she already had been.
Chris was brought to the state police barracks, booked and released. His court case went relatively well and he was released with several conditions. One was that he had to go for treatment and secondly he was assigned a probation officer who would test him to make certain he was clean. If he succeeded with these, the arrest would be wiped off his record especially since he was under the age of 16. We found a drug rehab program that was good with minors, 2 hours from our house. This was his new home for the first 2 months of his senior year in high school. His treatment included family night every Monday which all of us including our 11 year old attended. Little did we know that this was the first of many rehab programs that he would attend and lead to an uncountable number of ER visits as he sank deeper into his addiction.
as requested a post from a mom who loves her child…
If you choose to post this, please make it anonymous. I respect my son’s desire for privacy.
It’s been a year and a half since I wrote this letter. I “re-gave” it to him a few months ago after a slide.
The black and white approach wasn’t working well for my son (for sure) or for me. I now look at relapses in order of degree: slip, slide or relapse, depending on drug and length of time until he stopped using again. I have been on this journey with my son for three years, which includes all drugs, particularly opiates, arrest, 3 months inpatient rehab and now his current status. The word navigation aptly describes my method of dealing with this. I respect different and tougher approaches. I admire how others choose to help their addict. I have to make my own choices and hope for the best. This is war and war is hell.
He has had only slips and slides since rehab, according to my definitions, and these have been very short-lived and less and less frequent. I visualize a big man-made hole in the ground that he is now getting out of by pulling himself out, slowly. slipping a little occasionally, grasping at the ropes. He will, I hope, haul himself over the edge, lay there exhausted but wiser and never look back into that pit again.
On the plus side, throughout this drug train trip, he has continued to go to school full time (now college and doing pretty well) and work part-time at the same place (owners are angels) with a nice bunch of young people to work with (I think.) He has a nice girlfriend now (I think) and has just recently broken away from most of his pals that shared in the same drug game (I think.) His moods are less erratic and he treats me with respect and kindness. He tells me when he’ll be home and for the most part, answers my texts and calls. He is paying us back for past damage done to his car.
On the not plus side, he doesn’t go to AA or any meetings. He tests positive for THC, which he is open about. (I don’t condone it. I don’t kick him out, either.)
I really don’t want to hear negative responses to my way of navigating this war, but I understand why I would get many. We all want to believe our way works and share it with others dealing with this. All I know is: for the last several months, I have seen progress. He is responsible, less moody and healthier. His way of getting out of drug addiction might not work. My current navigating and compromise may not work. But it might.
I hope all parents and addicts navigating this dirty road find a path that works.
The letter :
May 20, 2014
I hope that when you read this your head is clear and you can
understand how I feel. I will always, always love you and yearn
for you to be happy and healthy, just the way you were…
I am trying to navigate the waters of helping you stay away
from the hell that is drugs and find that I am unable to keep
you from sliding back into the ugly black water. I would do
anything to keep you safe, healthy and happy. But I can’t . I am
finally realizing that I have absolutely no power to change
things or even help you to stop. I can’t imagine my life without
my sober Nolan and don’t want accept Nolan on drugs as a
Using marijuana to stay off heroin probably won’t work for
you. I can see signs that it is becoming compelling and am so
afraid it is leading you right down the path. It is terrifying to
think that this is what your life might be, a constant desire and
search for a something that controls you. Something that
changes you, sickens you and makes you have to lie and sell to
get it. I know in my heart that you don’t want that life.
Hope. There’s always hope. Where there’s breath there’s hope.
I keep saying that to myself. I believe it.
I have always loved you and will always love you. You can’t
even fathom the love that a mom (or dad) has for their child.
It’s what makes you want to exist and brings such unbelievable
joy! That doesn’t mean, however, that I can watch you hurt
yourself and even help you by standing by in fear.
When I am ready, I will stop. And I hope that when you are
ready, you will stop, too. It’ll be hard for both of us and we will
need to reach out to others for their support. Strangers, even.
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
― Alexander Pope
When my son was using Heroin I would think ” he will recover and things will be unicorns and rainbows”.
I figured he would visit for coffee or check-in daily. The things that he did before he got clean.
Unfortunately he does not keep close contact with us and I am struggling a bit with that. I do get an occasional text and a rare visit, but it’s not what I “EXPECTED”
Overtime I have learned that my expectations are worthless. It was a hard lesson for me to grasp. It’s his life and I am sure I was not checking in with my Dad when I was in my early twenties and living on my own.
Sobriety is different than I thought it would be. But it beats the alternative…