Hi Everyone –
This is a message for all of you Moms and Dads out there who have just discovered that your son or daughter is an addict. I know – you are beyond scared; actually, terrified is a much more accurate word. I have been down the same road, for over five years now, that you are just beginning. I thought it might be comforting, and maybe helpful, to hear a little bit about my own experiences with addiction in the family. I also have just a few suggestions as you begin what will be, although you may not realize it yet, a life-long process, both for you and your beloved child. You can alleviate stress and get your family back from the grips of addiction.
The Mother of an Addicted Son
First, just a little bit about me. I have two of the best sons in the whole wide world. Really. My eldest, Sam, now age 25, is an addict who started using during his teen years, I suspect just like many of your children. He is an especially charming, exuberant, intelligent, loving kid. I love him beyond reason. You all know that feeling when they are first born, that feeling that you would do anything for them? That they are just so beautiful and special and perfect, and you are afraid from the minute they take that first breath that something might hurt them? Well, as you all know that feeling only grows with time, no matter how they behave, and no matter how big they get, and it certainly doesn’t stop when you find out your child is an addict. Anyway, we suspected something had gone very wrong with Sam for a long time, years in fact, before we knew – officially – that he was addicted to opiates. His behavior became increasingly erratic, and he began asking for money for all sorts of bizarre reasons. We took him from doctor, to therapist, to psychiatrist, not really knowing exactly what the problem was, although of course we already strongly suspected drugs were involved. Then, he stole, things he knew were terribly valuable, and which had sentimental value – from me and other family members, and I’m sure others, and ran away, only to return and finally admit he had a serious drug problem. And so our journey began.
We Took Addiction in the Family Seriously
We initially took him to a local hospital for detox, from which he tried to escape, and then finally arranged to send him to a drug rehab down in Florida. That is one of scariest things you can do as the parent of an addict – to send your child away, to people you don’t know, and maybe have never met, and to literally put your child’s life in their hands. Anyway, Sam went from that rehab, to a stint in homelessness, back to rehab, to sober living, to relapse, then on to an arrest, jail, more detox, a suicide threat, another drug rehab, and finally a year in sober living. Now the good news: he will be celebrating four years of being clean this April. I thank God every day, for helping him to maintain his sobriety. I am beyond proud of him – for his courage, and honesty, and strength and his continued efforts to maintain his sobriety and to help others with the same disease. And I am afraid, every day, that he might relapse again. And every time he calls me, even with good news, I still, just for a second, wonder: Is he okay? Does his voice sound different? Is he stressed? Is he maybe using again? Am I crazy to think these things?
You May Have a Similar Story…
I know my story sounds familiar – you have probably gone through many of the same horrific experiences that we did, or maybe even worse. And now you have discovered your child is an addict, and you don’t know what to do next. I don’t have all the answers, by any means, but here are a few thoughts on how to deal with addiction in the family:
- You are not alone – I know – it feels that way, especially right now. So first thing – join a support group. There are so many great ones out there. I attended AL anon meetings, and met many brave, loving parents. At those meetings I found myself surrounded with, and comforted by, others who were going through similar experiences, and many them knew about some tremendous resources out there. There are also many such groups on the Internet – The Addict’s Mom, addictsmom.com, is one great example.
- This is really important – In our experience, your addicted child will do best if he or she gets completely away from his or her current environment, at least for now. Do your homework, and find a good, reputable rehab facility, preferably in a location away from home. Amethyst Recovery is a great place to start looking.
- This is the hardest, most gut-wrenching thing of all – You cannot heal your beloved child from this horrific disease. You have absolutely no control over whether they use, or not. And if you love them, you may have to allow them to fail, to relapse, to risk death, without intervening. And you will not be able to do this alone, so please, please, get help from some of the reputable, experienced professionals out there.
- Be good to yourself – You are a good person and a good parent. You did not cause this disease, and you will need just as much help as your child in order to make it through this journey. You will experience heartache, and terror, and hope and joy and anxiety, of course all the while continuing to love beyond reason your beautiful child.
My thoughts and prayers are with each one of you as you start down this road.