Our son is wired differently. And, since we loved him so much, we got caught up in a confusing world of trying to love and parent someone who has addiction issues. In loving him, we didn’t initially understand the need to do things differently.
We have traveled a long road, watching with wide-eyed fear, as he progressed to making one bad choice after another, each getting progressively more out of character or dangerous than the one before. Until we began to understand our role in his downward spiral, our pain, anger, fear and confusion not only continued, but also progressed, just like his substance use. Our son is wired differently and so we’ve had to change our coping tools.
Before we learned our own lessons, we only focused on what needed to be fixed in our son. While a bubbly, social toddler, we observed that he frequently did things “the hard way,” as a school-age youngster he was a good student who was under the watchful eye of his involved parents but as he gained independence, his own choices drew negative attention and lots of lectures. By the end of high school, as he pulled away and tuned us out, he became resistant to our feedback, angry, sullen and isolated because of choices he made.
Substances became important to him before we even knew he’d started using them. His time in college further highlighted his downward spiral. He was clearly not proving to be a kid who would rise to the occasion and embrace opportunities to grow. He no longer seemed interested in having any kind of relationship with us or with his sister. We were scared about how out-of-control his life had become.
In desperation, we reached out for help. When we finally began seeking help from professionals who had expertise in working with substance abuse, our thinking slowly began to change. We began to understand our son was wired differently. Our processing gradually shifted from what our son needed to do, to what we, as the parents of an addict, needed to do differently. We stopped blaming ourselves as we accepted his disease, understanding we didn’t cause any of this and that we, his family, had a responsibility to not contribute to his problem. We began to understand that we couldn’t control him or his addiction. We gave ourselves permission to stop trying to outthink him.
Our exposure to other addicts/alcoholics and people with varied time in recovery revealed the important, but overlooked, notion that we had responsibility to ourselves and needed to get out of the way of our son’s own possibility for recovery. We began to embrace the words we’d already heard, processing them at a deeper level, that we couldn’t cure our son. Our tools for surviving this life began to change and we committed to continue to apply those tools to our own lives.
Our journey over the past 3 years has been far more painful and frightening than can be expressed in this entry. But those parents or family members who have experienced the horror of a loved ones’ fall into addiction, or who are going through it now, certainly know this pain and fear. Through fellowship with those who love and care for alcoholics/addicts, we began to hear about others’ experiences, we gained strength to do what was right for our own sake and we began to feel hope.
Our son will always be wired differently. It is up to us, the family that loves him so deeply, to apply what we have learned and continue to embrace the changes we have made in our own attitudes and behaviors. We only have control over our own lives. It is worth every effort to take care of us and get out of the way of our son and his journey in recovery.