A Parent's Perspective
Life with my son as he grew older was like watching a car destined to crash in slow motion. I felt frustrated, helpless and unable to stop it and as my son's addiction grew worse, my co-dependence followed. I soon developed justifications and excuses that continued to feed my son's addictions: "he's not high" (but he's drunk); "he's not on Heroin so it's OK" (but he's taking sedatives); "That's his prescription from a doctor" (but he's taking 4x the dose); "As long as he keeps working he will pay me back” (but he didn’t). Sound familiar?
I received disapproving looks and sometimes even a verbal (unwanted) opinion whenever I contributed to the car wreck so I would respond by asking, "why are they judging me, I'm not the addict?” Oh, but I was. My own actions allowed my son to continue using drugs. I tried to protect him from harsh consequences and by doing so my son knew if things got bad enough he could come back home; I would take care of him. Ironically, it didn't matter how much I tried to help my son, my codependency was taking him down the same road anyway, just a little slower.
"My advice, love them with a warm shoulder and stay strong. It's one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. The consequences of your son or daughter's behaviors are not yours unless you adopt them."
What did it take for my son to finally find peace + balance = recovery? Maybe it was a good lawyer, a rehab of free choice, and extended follow-up with a sober living home outside of our immediate area. Some would say I was still enabling him and maybe I was, but I also gave him a stop sign, sometimes referred to it as a "warm shoulder". It started with no more getting up in the middle of the night because of a pseudo (or real) emergency, no more letting him stay with us, no more bailing out, no more . . . When my son was incarcerated the last time, I didn't answer his calls for over a week. I knew he was dying and I was relieved he had a safe place to stay. Isn't that pathetic - a jail is safe?
When I looked into my son's drug induced dull eyes and I saw his tattered dirty clothes, I finally came to terms I couldn't fix it. I gave up and I believe it saved his life. I think it was the stop sign that started the recovery process, but I don’t believe there is a quick fix or a simple answer to the problem; it’s a culmination of factors tailored to the individual. The addiction needs to be stopped and the internal demons must be replaced. Yelling, threatening, bribing and pleading doesn't work; the addiction is stronger than our voices. They have a disease and we can't cure it, but we can offer them options for treatment. The hard part is walking away if they continue to make unhealthy choices. Don't get me wrong, even though I stopped trying to fix my son, I still continued to offer him the healthy support and love he needed. My hand was always reaching out to him with love and guidance.
I wasn’t a bad parent, but I used good intentions with bad results. It’s not my fault my son is a drug addict; it is, nonetheless, my fault I was an enabler. I didn’t realize I had so much power and resources for parents were scarce. My intention is not to lecture or pass judgement onto others. After all, I have been a part of that car crash and I still don't have all of the answers. I'm just sharing my experience and sadly, the reality of this may be in vain. I always live with the fear I will lose my son (again). He has a disease and it has been treated, but not cured. In the meantime, I embrace the time I have with him. He has taught me how fragile and precious life really is.
Parent of a Recovered Addict