My Child is an Addict: Through a Mother’s Eyes
Here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center (MARC) we believe that addiction is a family disease and therefore the most effective way to treat addiction and offer the best chance at long-term recovery is to also treat the family. Treatment for the family, family education, family counseling and other family-focused programs are vital to not only help the patient recover but to also aid the family on their own recovery path to ensure the family can recover with or without the patient. Family members impacted by addiction often feel terrified, alone, ashamed and have a difficult time reaching out for help. We believe it is vitally important for families that have entered recovery to speak out about their experiences with a child or spouse suffering from addiction so that those family members still suffering can find hope through their experiences.
Here is one parent’s story:
“Late last night, the phone rang. My heart was in my throat, my husband dashed out of the shower. Does this feeling ever go away? What drama now? Another crisis on the horizon?
My 14 year (and counting) journey is like so many others. My fun loving, happy son survived ADHD and mildly struggled thru school. After high school he couldn’t find his niche. Low self-esteem kicked into overdrive. I provided spotty education, a car to get to a job, a place to live.
After he was in a car accident and prescriptions for pain pills abounded, our world began to unravel slowly and morphed into money missing, credit card/bank account theft, routine police/traffic issues, disappearing for days, car wrecks, hospital visits. We left no stone unturned – therapists, counselors, psychiatrists accompanied by diagnoses of bi-polar, narcissistic, split personality, depression, anxiety. Medical professionals threw more pills at the problem.
An intervention (year 5) led to a 28 day rehab and right back to the streets. Subsequent years included our son being on life support for 5 days after literally dying from an overdose on the plane ride to his brother’s wedding in California, breaking into cars for cash, numerous violations of probation, incarceration, being followed by the FBI, drug dealing, 5 cars totaled, a million dollar lawsuit, disastrous Suboxone and Methadone programs. I remember coming home one night and he was sprawled over his bed with his head in a bowl of ice cream. I methodically pulled him off the bed, changed the sheets, cleaned him up (as he slept) and was insanely content that he was not dead or on the street. Who was more sick – me or him?
Family Education Programs are what ultimately saved our family. Terms like “detach with love”, “tough love”, “NO is a complete sentence”……do work when practiced. Nothing is going to change, if nothing changes. My son was going to die in our house, so we made him box up all his belongings and leave. He knew we were done “contributing”. Our role in this insanity was over. I NEVER STOPPED TELLING HIM I LOVED HIM. Hate the disease; love the addict.
As a last ditch manipulative effort, he asked to return to rehab (year 10). I asked if it was because he was homeless or wanted to get well. Surprisingly, he answered “because I am homeless”. To some that may seem to be the wrong response….to me, it was the first time he had been honest in 10 years! Our agreement was to fund recovery for one year, but he had to follow the recommendations of the counselors. He did 6 weeks in rehab, 5 months in a halfway house and 6 months in a sober living house. He NEVER moved back home or to Maryland.
Once he was gone, I got stronger. I attended Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings. I built a network for myself. I educated myself about addiction. My husband and I got on the same page. I turned my phone off at night – any issue could be handled in the morning. I finally understood I could only work on ME. He also worked hard. His recovery had NOTHING to do with ANYTHING that I did.
Attending meetings gives me perspective. I am not alone. When the addict makes a demand I have the right to say “Let me get back to you on that.” I can make a phone call to someone who can help me wrap my head around possible responses avoiding reacting and/or over reacting.
I didn’t count sheep to sleep…I kept reciting the Serenity Prayer. I believed in the professionals and their recommendations. I could not change anything that my son was doing in active addiction. I only could change my actions and reactions. As much as I loved my addict, I had to love myself more. I had worth. I had other family members counting on me and I was neglecting everyone else in my life. I owed it to them, and myself, to find happiness.
For the past 4 years, my son has been in recovery. I talk to him occasionally. He is on absolutely no medications. Addiction was his only disease that manifested with all the dual diagnosis issues.
After 3 years of struggling with minimum wage jobs, establishing a recovery network of sponsor/friends and embracing humility, he recently got a job as a Counselor’s Assistant at the recovery center that saved his life. He just passed his 6 month probation period. He is now eligible for continuing education in the recovery field. He got engaged at Christmas to someone who embraces recovery also. He is 34. He has reinvented himself. I have reinvented myself.
And that phone call last night? The caller ID read a hospital in PA. As my heart sank and I heard my son’s voice, he was quick to say everything was o.k. One of the guys he was working with overdosed and he was assigned to go to the hospital with him. He had to call the parents, he had to process the paperwork, he had to sit by the addict’s side until he could be processed, treated and released. In the silence in that hospital room he became acutely overwhelmed with the thought of what he had put us through for that 10 years of active addiction. He wanted to tell me how sorry he was.
“No apology necessary…..just keep living One Day at a Time”, I said.
To all those out there….I am here for you and I am here to help. You are not alone.
My name is Sharon O. and here is my contact information:
410-893- 1661 (home)
410-459- 9017 (cell)
If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.