Confessions of A Graduate Mom


To be honest, I dreaded the day that our son would graduate New Life.

In fact, if it had been up to me, Landon would go to college, start a career, get married and have children while still living within the structure, the sanity and the support of “The House.”

In the 18 months that he was there, the light came back into his eyes and the spirit into his heart. With every visit, more honesty, connection, responsibility and humility emerged.

It’s been a relief to see that the values that my husband Will and I planted in his childhood (and feared were gone forever) are growing and blossoming.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Landon’s transition out of New Life into Real Life, has been a bed of roses.

About a month after graduating, he got a crash course in dealing with “life on life’s terms.”

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, Landon lost his job. (Granted, it was a fairly mind-numbing, minimum wage job that none of us thought was right for him.) But it was a job. And he had rent and expenses now.

As if that wasn’t enough of a shake-up, around the same time, the first girl he dated in 18 months, broke off their relationship.

Though trying to be positive, I was gripped with fear, worried that the stress and trauma of this one-two punch would knock him down.

After all we’ve been through as parents of addicts, it’s hard not to get sucked back into the dark stories of the past. Or to project new ones into the future.

But here’s the good news.

Instead of getting lost in worst case scenarios, I was able to initiate an honest conversation with Landon and asked if these recent events made him thinking about using.

His response was refreshingly non-defensive and real:

 “Yeah. I think about it. It’s how I used to deal with stuff. But now I know it would only make things worse.”

He went on to remind me of all the tools that were now at his disposal: His sponsor. His mentors. His meetings. Meditation. Prayer. And a community of true brothers (especially meaningful for an only child.)

Fortunately, the tools he had learned at New Life were more powerful than my fears.

But I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not easy being the mother of a graduate even when there isn’t a crisis.

Addiction robbed us of so much “normal” connection with our son. And it’s not easy to know how to create a “new normal.”

I find myself wanting to make up for lost time and putting a lot of pressure on making the moments matter. And that just creates more stress.

When I think that I’m giving him a lot of space, he feels I’m hovering.

He wants to be his “own” man, but we are still helping him with his living expenses. So, it’s a complicated dance.

And half the time, I can’t tell if his monosyllabic phone conversations are those of a normal 21-year old guy. Or the warning lights of impending addictive behavior.

But I’m learning to breathe through the discomfort. And to trust that the universe is conspiring on our behalf. And most days, I believe it is.

Here are some things that have helped me. Maybe they’ll help you too.


Talking to other graduate parents.

Thanks to the New Life community, we are not alone. Even though we go to fewer parent meetings, we can still connect with graduate parents who have gone before us. I’ve found so much solace in sharing stories with such wise and supportive parents. (I hope I can be that kind of parent for any of you in the future.)

Checking in with The House.

Since Landon moved out, I’ve checked in with Sebastian and Ryan, (Director and House Manager of Reality House.) from time to time—especially after he lost his job. They’ve given him some extra mentoring and have let me know what’s “normal” at this stage of sobriety.

Doing my own work.

Since graduation, I’ve upped my therapy sessions from bi-monthly to weekly. Having a safe place to address my fears and anxieties, allows me to be more compassionate and detached toward my son. (The last thing he needs to deal with is my emotions with so many of his own swirling around.)

Gratitude for how far we’ve come.

Two years ago, right around Thanksgiving, we got a call from Landon at The Art of Institute of Chicago, literally crying out for help.

With fear and desperation, we got him to treatment in Connecticut, then Maine and finally, the right place: Torrance.

Now, exactly two years later, Landon has thankfully come full circle. He just landed a job, working at a recovery house much like New Life.

He’s excited to be able to share the gifts of his struggles and to be of service to other guys who are walking in the same shoes he has.

As Landon would say, it was a “God shot” that he lost that job.

I’m convinced that we and our sons are work-in-progress.

And while the work part often feels overwhelming, I’m making it my daily practice to celebrate the progress.

I believe that the more we see, the more there will be.

Wendi K.
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