A Parent’s Guide to Recovery

A Parent’s Guide to Recovery

Addiction is insidious. It likes to hide. It doesn’t want to be seen. If it’s called out into the light it is much more difficult for it to exist. If someone says, “I see you” then it has been acknowledged and can no longer be unseen. But then what do you do??

Once you see addiction you can no longer un-see it as much as you might like to go on denying and hoping it wasn’t there or possibly not that bad. Don’t be fooled. Know where and when to get help. Don’t go it alone. You will want to isolate and circle the wagons and try to keep it hush, hush. This is natural. We want to protect our kids. We don’t want them to get a bad reputation or be judged or have them carry the consequences of adolescent mistakes with them into adulthood. We can handle this in-house, you say.

When I first realized my son was using heroin the sheer panic that I felt was something I had never felt before. Something akin to the first time your child gets lost in the department store and is gone just long enough to make you believe he is gone forever but much worse because they are lost right in front of you, within arms-reach.

The instinct to do everything possible to save your kid from becoming the junkie in the gutter is absolutely the most caring, loving thing you can do. Until it isn’t. Of course, you are going to do everything you can to save your kid. Until you’ve already done everything. Then what?

I’ll give you some examples of what I did to try to help my son with his drug abuse.

First, I scoured the internet for everything I could find out about heroin use and/or every other drug, that I didn’t want to know about in the first place. Oh yeah, my kid drank a little or maybe it was a lot … but wasn’t that normal experimenting for a teenager? So I thought at the time.

Second, (still on the internet) I searched what are the… signs to look for, ways to treat, treatment centers, how to help them detox, books to read on addiction, natural remedies, doctors and everything else that I thought I must find out about now in order to save my son.

Then I asked him all the questions… How did this happen? What are we going to do now? Who did this to you? Where did you get it? When did this start? WHY?

Then the feelings of anger and sadness, guilt and disbelief and fear welled up in me. My fear was overwhelming. The fear made me crazy. The fear kept me up all night, waiting for him to text me that he was ok so I could go to bed. I’d go through his room, his backpack, his coat pockets, his car. I’d lend him money when I knew I shouldn’t have. I’d call him out sick from work. I’d bail him out of jail. I thought I was doing the right thing at the time.

Things got worse. He got in a car accident. He stole money and medication out of my purse. (Which I suspected, but ignored because I didn’t want to confront him.) Then he stole from his little brother and pawned his Christmas gifts and his PlayStation. Not to mention, the first rehab and then the second (because 30 days is not enough time for anyone to get well) but that’s where we all start.

Then they might relapse (this can be part of recovery) or overdose and if they survive you think they’re so lucky and now they will stop for sure and agree to go back to rehab. Go back to the AA meetings. Get a sponsor. Pray. Not sell their suboxone on the street.

Had enough?  Are you totally exhausted at your wits end?  Are you done saving your kid yet? Of course, you’re exhausted but you’re NOT done saving your kid yet!! Good! Right? Well, sort of.

You may have heard the term enabling and possibly the term co-dependency. Has anyone suggested you go to an Al- Anon or Nar-Anon meeting?

I had heard of these but wasn’t convinced I needed them at first since because who had the time?! I’m dealing with my addicted kid and driving him around going to outpatient programs, and therapists and doctors and lawyers appointments and AA meetings and when I’m not doing that then I’m watching him like a hawk to make sure he doesn’t OD in the bathroom.

We’ve all heard about letting someone hit their bottom. But how do you do that as a mother as a parent when it’s your job to protect your kids and keep them safe? How do you stand by and let your kid fall? Especially when falling could mean ultimately death. You’re the one holding it all together for them, you’re the one doing damage control while trying not to lose complete control over your kid, yourself, your marriage, your finances, your job. At least that’s what you think initially until you actually go to an Al-Anon meeting, or a Nar-Anon or a Family Anonymous meeting.

Then you think…. who are all these people? Why aren’t they DOING anything?? Why aren’t we talking about how to get my kid back into rehab again? Why aren’t they telling me what I should do to make him stop using? This isn’t help.

But you hang in there cause there was this one story and even though you didn’t share your story this time you finally don’t feel quite so alone.  So, you go back. And then you find out it’s about you…really? Am I the problem?  I thought the drugs were the problem, my kid’s friends were the problem, the cell phone was the problem. Have you smashed one of those yet? I did.

Ok, maybe I’m part of the problem.  Maybe I have a problem, or maybe I don’t. I don’t know yet. But maybe if I stick with this and say this serenity prayer I can be part of the solution. Maybe I can incorporate some of these steps and change a few of my own behaviors.

Step One: I needed to admit I was powerless over the addict- that our lives had become unmanageable.

Ok, yes. I definitely agreed with that one. Our life had become unmanageable and nothing I did seemed to work so far, and it possibly made things worse.  Maybe I’ll follow some of these Do’s and Don’ts as while I am at it:

  • Do always encourage attempts to seek help
  • Do remember the good in others and yourself
  • Do allow other people to accept their own responsibilities
  • Don’t forget addiction is an illness, not a moral issue
  • Don’t overprotect, cover up or rescue from the consequences
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of release with love
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of release with love.

Release with love? Hmm.. my kid can still be in active addiction and I can still love him. Maybe I can’t help him, but I can still love him. Maybe I can only help myself and pray and encourage him to seek help, and let him know I’ll be there to support him when he asks for real help. Maybe I can already have that help lined up for him when he asks for it. Now, how do I hold on until he asks for it?

How do you hold on until their ready?  Go to Al-Anon.  Or any of the support groups. Go now.  Undoubtedly there is a meeting going on right now or in an hour, or tonight close to where you live. Go on your lunch break. Get up and go. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your kid.

You can’t unsee addiction. It’s insidious. Don’t ignore it or try to fight it alone. Get help and support for yourself and your family. Also, I would recommend two books that helped me understand my son’s struggle and what I could actually do to help. No More Letting Go by Debra Jay and Love First A Family’s Guide to Intervention by Jeff & Debra Jay.

My son Adam through many tries at sobriety became successful at a wonderful wilderness program and now New Life House and has remained sober for 21 months. He has worked incredibly hard and has had enormous amounts of help, structure and caring instruction on how to live his new sober life for which I am so grateful.

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