One Mother’s Journey of Letting Go

I am ashamed to admit that I knew Shane* was using drugs (he rarely drank) for years before I ever took any action or got honest with myself about his addiction to drugs.  I recall Shane smoking pot around 13 years old and I specifically remember telling myself that at least he is only smoking pot, which I convinced myself at the time was the LESSER OF THE EVILS.  It seemed to me that all young people were smoking pot, therefore I justified it in my mind that there was no harm in it, as long as it was pot and nothing else.

Within a short amount of time, I tripped over various drugs while playing housekeeper to Shane, cleaning his room.  Although I was clueless to what it was, I KNEW IT WAS DRUGS.  So…I confiscated everything I found and flushed it down the toilet or threw away the paraphernalia. This became my typical routine.  This was my way of managing Shane’s drug use.  He would bring his DRUGS into his room and I would be a good mom and CLEAN OUT HIS ROOM.  Of course I would ask him “ARE YOU USING DRUGS?” and of course he would reply “NO!”  I would continue to probe him and ask him whose drugs were they then?  He would have a multitude of excuses, including that they belonged to one of his friends or one of the boys that lived with us. Pathetically, I would buy into the bullshit he was selling and once again believe what he was saying, and once again I would TURN A BLIND EYE.

This became a vicious cycle for many years. I can recall Shane FLYING UNDER THE RADAR because my God Son was the focus of my attention and energy since he was in a bad way, spiraling out of control, plummeting to the ground.  Little did I know, although the facts were right in front of me, that my son was also spiraling out of control and well on his way to a deep dark black abyss filled with drug addiction and total despair.  There were so many signs which I should have paid attention to, but once again I turned a blind eye.  I WAS IN TOTAL DENIAL.

There were new kids in our home whom I had never heard of before or ever seen.  My son no longer had any of his TRUE friends over, nor did he keep in touch with them.  He was irritable, moody and melancholy.  He would rarely eat and when he did, he would binge eat everything in sight until he was sick to his stomach.  He would sleep all day and be up all night.  Of course I justified him being up all night because he took Adderall for ADD and had a sleeping disorder, or he was playing his music.

Then there was the multitude of commitments, obligations or family gatherings where he always seemed to have an excuse why it wasn’t going to work out or why he couldn’t be there.  So of course I would apologize for Shane, making a plethora of excuses for him and defending him relentlessly.  This would create total chaos and tension within our home with my other children and husband, but it didn’t matter because I was Shane’s advocate.  I would beg teachers to accept late work, make numerous idol threats to Shane, of course never enforcing what I would stipulate. I would pay the court fines as opposed to him going to juvenile hall. I would even go as far as to securing an attorney for him, after all, he was in hot water. I would pay for Shane’s tickets, car accidents and reimburse him the cash (that was stolen from his car or his wallet).

In short, I did whatever I could to make Shane’s life easier so he would not have to endure the hardships and consequences of being a teenager.  I had become the ULTIMATE CODEPENDANT MOTHER.  Truth be known, I was just as sick as my son.

I am eternally grateful for AA and Al Anon. Without either of them, neither Shane nor I would be where we are today in our recovery. I can honestly say that I am much better about not organizing other people’s lives, co-signing their chaos, cleaning up their messes, trying to control an outcome or interfere with their journey. I am learning that I cannot control people, places or things, that I can only control my thoughts and my actions.

I am so grateful to be able to share my experience regarding my son’s addiction.  By writing it down on paper, (which I have never done), it became much more real to me and has enabled me to see my part in Shane’s addiction as well as the complete insanity and dysfunction we were living in.  I had become so accustomed to this way of living that I was complacent and OKAY with the craziness and insanity.

*The names were changed to keep in alignment with the principle of anonymity.

10 responses to “One Mother’s Journey of Letting Go

  • M. Bailey

    7 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and for being so honest about yourself. As a mother of an addict, I relate to your story 100%. It becomes a full time job policing their lives and trying to control their actions. Thank God for AA and Al Anon, there really is help available for those willing to listen.

  • NewLife Dad

    7 years ago

    A great recap on how we parents with no experience in AA or Al Anon deal with our child’s addiction. Thankfully, after discovering New Life House and AA, we truly begin to understand that this is a “Family Disease” and we all are a part of it. By looking at ourselves and taking steps in our own personal recovery, we can begin to understand what our Son is going through and assist them in their journey, without enabling them, just as they assist us in our own recovery. For new parents, I strongly suggest to trust the House and its process, and begin your own personal recovery. The promises can and will happen for our children if we, the parents, step out of the way and let them.

  • New Life mom

    7 years ago

    Thanks for the great description of manipulating the results of substance abuse in order to deny the reality of the addiction. I did so many of those same desperate efforts. Staying with Alanon a little longer than I wanted to finally helped me understand my powerlessness and my own illness in my reactions to addiction and alcoholism. The meetings, the literature & my sponsor help me learn how to use the steps work on my own recovery. I also keep learning how to appropriately support my loved one with an addiction; how to detach with respect for them & myself–to love without interference. And when all that is hard to do, I can ask my higher power for help. I am so grateful (finally!) for Alanon–it’s a long learning curve for me because I’m a textbook codependent…

  • This is a very truthful article that touches the harsh reality of the parent/loved one dynamic system in an active drinking and using household. Once I got sober myself my mom was faced with the fact of having to look at her part and her side of the street. On my end I needed to take ownership of my selfishness, dishonesty, and manipulation but was thrown off when my mom began to express her side of the street of thinking she could control my addiction, cure me, and also shame of belief that her parenting was the cause of it. Alanon meetings allowed my mom to get the help and support she needed and begin to work on herself and get her life back rather than trying to clean up mine. Great article!

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  • Debbie O-A

    7 years ago

    Beautiful post. Denial is a powerful thing and we moms are able to look squarely at the dragon and convince ourselves its a dog! Because the alternative, having a son with an addiction, is much too painful to accept. But once we experience our spiritual awakening, as you did, we can begin to live in the here and now. Not in an altered reality. Letting go and getting out of our sons’ way…so hard to do, and yet the first step to everyone’s recovery! Thank you for your honesty and your share.

  • Pingback: A Mother Opens Up About the Role She Played in Her Sons Struggle with Substance Abuse. - TrendBear.com
  • Jan Reddy

    2 years ago

    Not everyone gets recovery no matter what u do or do not do. I did everything right and then everything wrong. My daughter just kept adopting to a lower level. So it is different for everyone. I know cause I have 40 yrs of continuous recovery . I have seen a lot . God bless all addicts and families. My daughter is 49 yrs old and panhandling on the streets of Chicago. Jan

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