Did any of you have an “Aha!” moment in your recovery from addiction? I know my son Sam did, and I understand many other addicts do as well. But this article describes a different sort of “Aha!” moment, the one I had in my own experience as a mother of an addicted son.
For me, there was actually one single moment in time, when the light bulb went on. When I finally “got” all the messages I had heard, and wise words I had read, in support meetings. I finally realized how obsessed with, and how addicted to, my then-addicted older son I had become. I knew I had become just as sick, and needed just as much help to recover, as my son did.
When I Realized
It was back in the fall of 2010 – my older son Sam, then age 21, was down in Florida, where after a short stint in rehab he had relapsed, back into heroin use. He was homeless, and using, not willing to go back to rehab. Meanwhile, I got a 2:00 a.m. phone call (but surprisingly this one was not from or about Sam); it was from a hospital in North Carolina. My younger son, Peter, then a freshman in college, had been hit by a car as he was walking to the campus library. Peter had been medi-vacked to a hospital where he was in the ICU with a very serious brain injury, a shattered knee, femur, facial bones, broken nose, etc. His condition was critical.
So, like I think most mothers would, I jumped in the car and drove six hours in the middle of the night to be by Peter’s bedside. But as I was sitting there in the hospital with Peter, Sam continued to call and plead for money, and threaten various dark outcomes, including suicide, if I did not send it. And the really crazy thing is, I still considered wiring that money to him. I was still worrying about Sam, and enabling and obsessing over him and his addiction, while Peter was in front of me, delirious with pain and hooked up to monitors, in the ICU.
The “Aha!” Moment
And that was when my “Aha!” moment hit. I stared at Peter’s darkly bruised and swollen face, and suddenly realized I had become so fearful, so addicted to my addict son Sam, so insanely willing to do anything and everything to try and “save” Sam from his addiction, that I was actually not providing my younger son, who had life-threatening injuries, all of the attention and care he needed and deserved. And that was the moment when it finally dawned on me. I simply had to stop trying to control Sam’s addiction. Those three “C’s” they talk about in Nar Anon and Al Anon finally sank in – I did not CAUSE Sam’s addiction, nor could I CONTROL or CURE it. I had no choice but to step out of the way, and hand Sam over to his Higher Power. I needed allow Sam the respect he deserved, to find his own way out of his addiction, in his own time. Just as important, I desperately needed to begin to work on me. I wanted my son to seek recovery, but equally important, I also had to be willing to work toward my own.
Focusing On Me
What I now understand is that in focusing my own recovery, I was doing the best thing, the most loving thing, and really the only thing, I could do to help Sam. In fact, Sam has told me many times that it was only when I stopped enabling, and finally started setting boundaries and saying “no” to him, and instead working on myself, that he sincerely began his own journey toward sobriety.
Today I am very blessed and profoundly grateful. Both of my sons are now healthy and thriving. As some of you know, Sam just celebrated six years of recovery. There he and all the staff members are doing miraculous, life saving work with addicts and their families. Naturally I am beyond proud of him and his tireless drive to help other others. And my younger son Peter has recovered completely from his accident, graduated from college, and is in New York City, working and enjoying life.
But as the saying goes, today’s river is not the same as yesterday’s. Thus, just like Sam, I have to continue to work on my own recovery. Addiction is a lifelong disease, and recovery takes lifelong effort, for all of us, both addicts and family members alike. I have written several other blog articles for Amethyst, many of which describe my story with Sam in more detail. Including just how critical and important Nar Anon and Al Anon were, and still are, for me and my recovery.
My thoughts and best wishes go out to every addict, and every parent and family member. As you each navigate this difficult, life-long journey of addiction and recovery. My prayer and fervent wish, is that every one of you make the decision to find recovery for yourselves — that each of you have your own “Aha!” moment.