Ian's Story

Crossing the River of Denial | A Mother’s Shift in Perspective

I’m blessed to have an amazing son. He hasn’t always been amazing though. Ian spent eight years using drugs – to the extent that everything in his life was compromised. The wreckage included family unity, personal relationships, academic and job performance, his health, integrity, and self-esteem.

Our family moved from the Bay Area to Montana the summer before Ian started high school. There were multiple reasons for the move. High on the list was our desire to separate him from his circle of influence in California, including his beautiful and troubled older cousin who ultimately died from an overdose.

The move made absolutely no difference. Ian managed to get three minor-in-possession (MIP) charges for pot during the first quarter of school. The third MIP prompted a transfer to a nearby alternative school. He did well there and graduated with flying colors while working a computer programming job.

My husband Jon and I were conflicted during those years. We were proud of Ian for being a good person, and concerned about his heavy pot use. We naively assured ourselves that he’d outgrow the “wake and bake” phase with maturity. No such luck. His pot use became compounded by frequent recreational drug use. He had an intense interest in the physiological effects of different substances. His body was a drug lab.

Despite our concerns, Jon and I cheerfully saw Ian off to Boulder for college. That was a full-blown disaster. He looked like hell the first visit home. Already slender, he had lost weight and become gaunt. His beautiful blue eyes were muddled and underlined with permanent dark circles. Shaken by his appearance, we tried to believe that the stress of adapting to college (with dorm food and lousy roommates) was the primary culprit.

We were wrong again. Ian was still smoking pot continuously. Unbeknownst to us, he’d also become addicted to several other drugs.  The second semester at Boulder was agonizing. We worried a lot and were eager to have him home for the summer. He returned with Xanax. Xanax is nasty. That summer was awful. There were many unsettling incidents and a few downright scary situations. It’s a miracle we made it through.

The inevitable happened by the end of that year. Ian was arrested and charged with felony drug possession. He was placed on probation for three years and tried to abstain from other drugs by using a substance called Kratom. Kratom is derived from ground up leaves of the kratom tree from Southeast Asia. It’s legal in the United States — and it’s highly addictive. We knew about the use but didn’t comprehend the addiction aspect. I remember being relieved that it was legal.

Within a few months, Ian fell off the probation wagon in a big way.  He enthusiastically embarked on another spree of free-base cocaine, heroin, Xanax, Molly and Adderall.  I previously thought he was using everything except meth during that time; the idea that he had a boundary was heartening. I just looked up Molly and discovered it often has meth in the mix!

That couldn’t last. He was arrested again and charged with another felony drug possession plus violation of probation. The first arrest was bad. The second arrest brought us to our knees – and our senses. Ian finally recognized that treatment was the only viable option.

He entered the Wilderness Treatment Center (WTC) in October 2015. High of course.  Jon and I felt melancholy but hopeful. He embraced the program and grew in many ways. Each visit revealed delightful changes. Going in, we thought that WTC would solve his drug problems, which in turn would solve his other problems, then he’d be “good to go”. WTC educated us about the complexity of addiction and advised a longer term sober living facility for the next step.

We chose New Life House because our daughter Haley was already in Southern California attending college. Best choice ever – about Haley and New Life House. She has been instrumental in supporting Ian’s recovery. We are proud and appreciative of her in every way.

Ian flew to Los Angeles to join New Life House in January 2016 – on his 21st birthday. After a stressful month of delay relating to his probation transfer, we were just relieved. Our New Life House expectation was that Ian would have more sober time under his belt before returning to the real world, which would decrease his chances of relapse. Luckily, our expectations were vastly short-sighted.

Ian’s time at New Life House has been mind-blowingly magical. He learned about the disease of addiction at WTC.  New Life House has enhanced his understanding of addiction and how it applies to his life. His stay there has been life school at its’ best. He’s learned about himself and how to live a sober life. He’s learned about putting in the time to get the results. He’s learned about setting his intent and following through. He’s learned about real relationships not tainted by a drug fog. He’s learned about self-respect, personal maintenance and life skills.

The breadth and depth of Ian’s sober living education at New Life House is huge. It has impacted every aspect of his life; his transformation has inspired our entire family. He’s growing into the capable man he was meant to be. We are deeply grateful to him for putting in the work to become a better person and to New Life House for absolutely everything.

Ian recently graduated and will be moving out of the House in June. His graduation speech was spot-on. It summed up the New Life House program by paying homage to the members and staff for their huge role in his recovery to date. Looking forward, he stated his intent to be an active member of the New Life House support group and utilize his newly learned skills to impact the world in a positive manner.

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