“Chaos”…When I try to describe to others what our lives have been like there are so many words, emotions and feelings that come into my head. The one word that sticks with me is chaos. Webster’s dictionary defines chaos as “complete disorder and confusion”. That pretty much describes in one word how much our lives have been affected by our son’s drug addiction overs the last 8 years.
Chaos was normal for us. Chaos was just how we learned to live. Although I could also describe it as survival of the fittest, not feeling fit at all. Within this last year the chaos had come to a head and we are now beginning to learn how to live without chaos in our lives.
After a failed intervention and 90 days in rehab followed by 2 years of individual and family therapy we made a decision that we couldn’t continue to live in the chaos any longer. As our son’s drug use escalated his behavior, attitude and life felt as if it was finishing off ours. The final thread was coming undone and our once very loving, close, affectionate family was at the edge of falling apart. To be honest it had been happening for years. To outsiders we looked like we had it all, and had it all together. We were the picture perfect family on the outside as chaos ruled on the inside.
The last year came to a head and the volcano that had been brewing for years finally couldn’t hold itself together any longer and erupted with such force that I never thought we as a family would ever recover. The pain and damage that our son’s addiction and behavior caused us was ultimately what was going to tear us apart.
A little over a year ago our son was asked to leave our home. His living here was tearing us apart. I felt as if I was loosing my marriage, my family, my friends and myself. I was the mother of a drug addict and there is no more lonelier, isolating and scarier feeling that I have ever felt. As our son isolated himself and dove deeper into his addiction and depression, so did we as a family, hand in hand with him. I hate to admit it, but I breathed a sigh of relief as I thought the cloud of chaos would be lifted when he moved out. Was I ever wrong! At least with him living at home we knew that he was alive. We knew he wasn’t in jail. We knew he had a bed to sleep in and food to eat. With him gone it was a constant guessing and worrying game
We were relieved and anguished and right back into the chaos whenever we heard from him. He didn’t care about anyone or anything but himself and his drugs. When we did hear from him it was only for what he could get from us to help feed his addiction. The reasons were a result of his lack of money due to his addiction and they were all fabricated; from car problems, to not having any food or being able to make rent. Our love and concern for our son’s welfare outweighed our common sense and we always caved. Otherwise he would find a way to bring the chaos back into our world. He ruled our lives and emotions even from afar.
We had not seen much of him in the last year and when we did see him we began to notice new changes in his weight, health and attitude. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was changing. He had lost 25-30lbs and complained that he couldn’t eat. He hated his job and complained that the world and everyone around him was against him and out to get him.
August 1, 2015 will forever be etched in my memory as a pivotal point for our son and family. My son finally let his guard down and made himself vulnerable to the family. As he sat across from his dad, sister and I, he did something he hadn’t done since he was a young child. He asked for help. He said he didn’t feel like he could continue to live his life any longer with his depression and addiction out of control. He realized that he couldn’t live with the chaos any longer. It was a night so full of emotions. Love, hope, fear, happiness, sadness and uncertainty.
Our son chose to attend a wilderness program in Oregon called New Visions. He wanted time to get his affairs in some kind of order before he left, so he chose an admission date of August 31, 2015. The month of August had many highs and way too many lows. His mood swings were dramatic and erratic. He totaled his car. His drug use was at an all time high and we weren’t sure he was going to survive until August 31st.
As we walked him to security at LAX packed only with a small duffle bag that was stuffed with underwear and Nicorette, we said our good-byes and sent him off into the wilderness. I held my breath praying he would make his connection and get there. 2 hours later he called to say he had missed his connection and was once again full of excuses as to why. He promised he would make the next flight and I worried he would just disappear for good. There was an audible sigh of relief in our home when I received the call that he had been picked up at the Redmond, OR airport and was on his way to the wilderness program.
Within 3 days we received a call stating that he was a flight risk and we were told the real truth behind his rapid downward spiral. He had started using meth and had come close to completing suicide 3 times in the last year. We had no idea how bad it had gotten. He spoke with his dad and demanded to come home, saying we had promised he could if he didn’t like where he was. His dad very calmly explained that he was an adult and that yes he could leave the program if he wanted to. His dad hung up the phone not knowing if our son was going to a homeless shelter, the streets, or if he was going to choose to stay and work the program. His dad broke down and cried the hardest tears I had ever seen him cry. The chaos was still consuming us.
Our son chose to stay. His father and I began attending Nar Anon support groups and we all began to heal. We did not see our son for 52 days. In those 52 days we tried to come to grips with the reality of our situation. We began to understand how all this chaos had consumed our lives and taken control. With the help of an addiction therapist, weekly meetings with our son’s wilderness therapist, many hours of assignments and written work given to us by the therapist, and with the help of Nar Anon, we began to realize WE were helping to feed that chaos.
While he was in wilderness we attended to the wake of the chaos he had left behind. We had to deal with squatters in his apartment where he had left all his items having refused to move them out. His identity had been stolen by these people along with all of his valuables. Although I guess you can’t truly consider them stolen if he intentionally left them behind. We had to deal with an eviction, creditors and the bank. It truly was a financial nightmare he had left us to deal with.
Addiction is a family disease. It has tentacles that reach far into you and those you love and wraps you up in it’s chaos with a smothering grasp that won’t let go. With the help of Nar Anon and therapy I have begun to discover the real truth behind Caleb’s addiction and the chaos that ensued…I didn’t CAUSE it, I can’t CONTROL it and I can’t CURE it. I needed to give myself permission to release myself from this chaos and allow my son to take control of his own life instead of trying to control it for him.
We were advised to hire an educational consultant to help us plan out our son’s next steps. We all knew (including our son) that he was not ready to come home. He still had much work to do. If he returned to our home, the concern was that the chaos would return and all the work he had done in wilderness would have been for nothing. This was a very helpful process and it led us to New Life House. After having visited 3 different places, we provided our son and his therapist with the information and he made the decision that he would begin his next step in life at New Life House.
He graduated from wilderness 71 days after he began, by completing a 3 day solo where he spent 3 days and nights alone in the wilderness. The next day he was on a plane and was greeted by New Life House at the same airport where we sent him off to begin what we hoped would be the start of a new life.
New Visions is where this new adventure and healing began and New Life House is where he is becoming his own new man. I have gone from living in the constant grip of chaos to a PEACE that is calming yet confusing. Chaos had become my new normal, and had been that way for 8 years. Learning how not to live in chaos has been difficult. I know where my son is. I know he has a roof over his head and food on his table. I know he is surrounded by the support he needs and that he is safe. It’s a conflicting feeling and I am learning to give my son and his life over to him. I am learning to live with my NEW normal and it has allowed me to truly love my son for the man he is becoming. He is now in control of his life and destiny and I am allowed to watch him grow and learn and this is how it should be.