Addiction is a journey that is full of hills with a lot of hairpin turns, tunnels, bad weather conditions, breakdowns, flat tires, and few downhills and straightaways. It is anything but a planned trip with no delays and smooth sailing. The hardest thing I found as a parent is to close the door or detach myself from my son and admit it is his problem and that I am powerless to change it. It can feel callous to shut the door but the consequences are for the best.
Detaching With Love
I have closed the door multiple times on my son in the last ten years, and it has never felt good. My son always minimized his addiction and hid his underground life from me. As his addiction worsened and his life spun out of control, he could not hide from me anymore. He had arrests both in California, other states, and across the border in Mexico. I bailed him out the first time but never after that. I never saw him in the penitentiary in Tijuana, but I did schedule once a month visit when he was in a locked rehab center there. It was a full day trip to cross the border, meet with him, and brave the traffic going back across the border. I did visit him once a week during incarcerations in jail and sent him books to read and food packages but on my schedule.
My son was hospitalized twice, once with an arm abscess that required surgery and once for a severe bacterial infection in his heart and lungs called endocarditis. The first hospitalization I dropped him off at the door to the emergency room and didn’t see him for a few days. He would not show me his arm. I did speak with the surgeon and the doctor in charge of his case and arranged detox and rehab on discharge which he was not ready for. The second hospitalization, he called me with a very high temperature and difficulty breathing and pleaded with me to meet him in the emergency room in the wee hours of the morning. I elected to see him the next day when he was admitted to an isolation room.
Letting Others Voluntarily Evolve (LOVE)
I put him on a train once to Oregon and he ended up in Washington State, and I have kicked him out multiple times from my home and often did not know where he was for weeks on end. I worked during the day and could not keep myself or my home safe with the people that my son allowed into my house. This was obviously very stressful, but I needed to do this to protect myself and to eventually allow my son to heal himself.
I always loved and continue to love my son. I always remained hopeful. I saw a part of my deceased husband in him which made detaching with love and closing the door all the more difficult. He also has many of the personality traits that my mother had, and she succumbed to her alcohol addiction with liver cancer. There are multiple generations of addicts in my family.
Attitude of Gratitude
As a physician with many friends and patients struggling with addiction in some manner, I find that sharing my experiences has helped them and me. I feel gratitude for every day I have my sober son in my life, and I am so proud of the work he has done in Miracle House. I, unfortunately, have attended too many funerals of those who have not been as fortunate.
New Life’s program entered into my son’s life through a serendipitous colliding of timing and voices from the past. It has changed my son’s life in more ways than I can tell you and opened a door to healing for him, myself, and his sister. Through the closing of multiple doors, one large door to recovery opened and that feels good. The geographic distance has helped my son solve his own problems and meaningfully change his life trajectory. I now know I can support him in his sobriety and it is his life journey under his control.