Having a child with addiction issues is frightening, painful and bewildering. I think I can speak for all parents who have found themselves in this situation, when we finally figure out what is going on with our child, we have no clue what to do about it or where or how to get help. Our first instinct is to keep giving our children what they ask for, hoping this will help change the situation. For example, if they run out of money, give them more money. If they can’t find a job, let’s call some friends to get any leads that may help them find one. My husband and I were such co-dependents at one point, we even paid off our son’s drug dealer because we feared for his life. One of the most difficult things as a parent of an addict is that you must do instead, is all of the things which are completely counter-intuitive to what you consider as being a good parent. This goes against our deepest instincts.
The worst thing you can do for your addicted child is to be a codependent. We did it over and over, and it never worked. Our son, Nick, would be the first to tell you that.
We have been dealing with Nick’s addition for almost 15 years now. We have had ups and downs and ridden a roller coaster ride that has been the most difficult ride of our lives. We have learned, after all we’ve been through, three main things:
- Never give up
- Do not be a co-dependent in any way
- Get your child into a good recovery community
Before we found New Life House, Nick had been in two other recovery “communities.” The first one was basic, and we needed something fast! The only aftercare they had was an AA meeting in the community that graduates could attend. We had no connection with the staff, and it was not a real community. Nick was there for three months, and relapsed after 2-3 years.
The next place we chose was more clinically oriented. It was completely different from the first place. There was no aftercare. Nick was supposed to have had lots of therapy and group sessions daily, but we felt like they were just in it for the money. It was VERY expensive. We were seduced by the services they claimed to provide, but in the end, just felt ripped off. Nick was there for four months, said he learned something, but relapsed soon after leaving.
These two experiences left us feeling disheartened and very scared. Nick was spiraling downward and we knew it. We had to get him help somewhere else, but how? It was daunting and we felt very alone. By chance, some very close friends of our told us about New Life House. Their son had been through the program, stayed in the program for 18 months, and was doing great. He had been in about six other places prior to New Life House. Our friends swore by the program and it sounded completely different than where Nick had been before. We were lucky to get Nick in, and it has been a completely different experience for us all.
Nick graduated from New Life House after a very rigorous, demanding, intense 14 months. Nick said it was the hardest thing he has ever done and the best thing we have ever done for him. We felt supported, heard, and understood, and guided every step of the way by the staff in the most loving, kind way imaginable. They have helped us understand addiction, helped us understand our son, helped us not be co-dependents, and enabled us to begin to become a family again. We have tried as much as possible (we don’t live in the area) to be part of the New Life community. We have loved meeting all of the guys and their families, going to barbecues and holiday events. It is the first time we have felt like part of a community of people who are all in the same situation. We don’t feel alone anymore, and neither does Nick.
New Life is a special place. When I describe it to people, the first thing I say is, “There are 26 guys sharing a house, and every time we visit it is spotless, neat as a pin and seemingly completely organized.” The guys are polite, shake your hand and look you in the eye. We do not know the extent of what Nick has learned at New Life, but we know he is a very different person than he was 14 months ago. He has tools now to find his way, and though there will be ups and downs, we are more confident he will be able to navigate them because of what he has experienced at New Life House. He now has the support of friends, connection to a whole staff of wonderful people, and people at his disposal he can always turn to for guidance… and so do we. I once said to the manager, Garrett Eamer, “This place is about love.” And he agreed.
• Julie & David B.