There is a phrase used in the recovery community: “closing the door.” It means making it very clear to your addicted son that coming home is not an option for him.
I had a really hard time embracing this philosophy in the early days of New Life House.
For most people, strong sentimentality is associated with the idea of home. Home is family, safety, food, love and comfort. But, the idea of a home is very different than the reality of a home where an addict lives.
Tormented relationships turned our small, sweet home into an awful place. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to come home because I knew what would be in store when I got there. A garage full of people I didn’t know (or if I did know them, they couldn’t be trusted), new messes to clean up, the never-ending requests for money – always accompanied by a plausible but obvious lie about what it was for. It was impossible to get a full night of sleep. Even our neighbors were scared. It beat me down just to walk in the front door. All of us were tired and damaged and worn thin. The messes, the noise, the drugs, the stealing and, above all, the total lack of respect our son showed for our house, our family and himself — THAT was the reality of having our son live at home.
It’s traumatic to tell your son he can’t come home, but if you push past the pain of drawing this line, you see that home is the worst place he can be. Instead of protecting him, you’ll probably be helping him fail.
In the seven months he’s been at New Life House, our son has learned more and accomplished more than in the previous seven years at home. This is because long-term, complete immersion in a recovery community can help him a lot more than two defeated parents and a frustrated sister. Its highly-structured environment, supported and enforced by his peers, is much more effective than being at home. The program is so powerful because it is driven by strong leaders that have overcome the exact struggles our sons are dealing with.
Parents need recovery, too. Even if it’s not your thing, Al Anon and parent support groups can really help navigate the hardest parts of recovery. At every gathering, someone will say something that clarifies an issue for me in a new way. Last week, one of our dads said, “Al Anon doesn’t try to teach us to detach from our kid, it tries to teach us to get out of the way.” This made sense to me — I wasn’t closing the door on my son, I was making sure to get everything out of his way so that he could see his own life and make his own choices — and that’s the only way he will ever recover.