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A Mom’s Discovery and Recovery

Part 1 – We are not alone

I am the parent of a son who was diagnosed with alcoholism and drug addiction in December of 2011. I do not know how to convey to you how afraid I am sharing these words in a public setting, outside of a recovery support group. You might be wondering. “Why are you writing publicly about this personal part of your life?” The answer is quite simple. From a place of courage and compassion, I choose to connect to other parents who are suffering, possibly in silence and isolation. I choose to help parents live stronger lives. I choose to help as they seek and continually offer viable solutions and treatments for their hurting children. I choose to help other parents lovingly disconnect, when they deem it is appropriate, from enabling the alcohol or drug use and allow their sons and daughters the very real consequences that come from living in the active disease of addiction.

My purpose in sharing my story is to offer support and hope to other parents so they can actively help their children:  young men and women who desperately struggle before and after the diagnosis of alcoholism and/or drug addiction. If these parents are like me, they do not know what is wrong or what to do next. I hope and pray that my story brings hope and the light of courage, compassion, and connection to moms, dads, sons, and daughters who feel alone and scared in the same dark place as my son and I were.

My purpose in sharing my story is to perhaps save another parent’s life and another child’s life. I remember the times when I wanted to run away and the times when I wanted to die. At my absolute bottom, I had come to believe that someone needed to die – him or me – because the fear was unbearable – to suffer and watch my son suffer – at times feeling that there was nothing that I could do. But courage, connection, and compassion got me through the days when I needed to fight, the days when I needed to advocate, the days when I needed to learn to say no, and even the days when I needed to rest.

The fear.

Why are we afraid to share our stories about our beloved children?

  1. Stigma. There is a stigma associated with alcoholism and drug addiction. It is not a conversation starter. When I share with others in a general setting that I have a heart for helping the parents of kids who have alcohol or drug abuse and addiction issues, I usually feel their energy shift and their body language suggests a slight repulsion as they lean back or even take a step back away from me. I write this blog today knowing that I am not alone, and that when I share there is a strong possibility that there is a parent reading this who hears something familiar, knows what I am talking about, and has been silent, afraid to ask for help and support.
  2. Effects. Many people have been personally affected in a very negative way by someone’s abusive or alcoholic drinking. The very person who was the catalyst for giving me the evidence that I needed to confront my son with the truth of what my son was doing was killed in an alcohol related car accident months later. Just today, I heard a young man speak at a club meeting who had recovered from a brain injury due to a car accident caused by a drunk driver. And many people have been greatly hurt by family members due to alcoholism or drug addiction because the disease is an ugly one that leaves devastation in its wake.
  3. Misinformation.So many people still don’t understand alcoholism and drug addiction as the very real disease that it is. Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive, and potentially fatal disease. Drug addiction is a dangerous and potentially fatal disease. The solutions are not simple and require more than an individual’s willpower. It is important to note that we as parents did not cause our children’s alcoholism and/or drug addiction. Alcoholism and addiction are treatable.

Today, I want to share an overview of my story.

I watched, mothered, prayed, and advocated for my son as he grew up and developed symptoms of possible mental health issues which progressed into alcohol and drug use, and then to abuse of those substances, and then to full-fledged active addiction disease, and finally to a dual diagnosis (having an alcohol or drug problem together with a mental health disorder). I mothered and advocated for him through a very lengthy recovery period which included inpatient rehab, extended care, a couple psychiatric hospitalizations, and lengthy outpatient treatments. Often times, I was in the dark about what exactly was going on, but I had an inner knowing that something was off, and that my son was not OK. I knew when we needed help or more help or a different kind of help. The path of recovery was not a straight one, and it did not involve only one healthcare provider who knew the entire prescription for my son’s medical needs. The full treatment did not come from a one-stop shopping experience.

In 2008 at work after returning to my desk from the restroom, I wrote:

The Journey of the Mother (4/10/08)

 

I looked in the mirror just now and saw a woman looking back at me that I hardly recognize. Who is this woman with the look of strain and stress; worry and concern written on her drawn face? She is older than the last time I saw her. Her hair, face and eyes are flat and gray.

 

In loving her son, she gave until the time came that perhaps she gave in, once too often, or she gave too much…too often. The years of her small mistakes came boiling up as the rage of one very angry teenage boy who wants so much to be the person his father is not, yet finds himself somewhat like he is.

 

This woman, whose face looks less familiar than the one whom I was looking for, has loved this boy since before he was ever in this world. She prayed for his very existence for years and her love for him was mightily present when two wet specks of creation, much too tiny to ever see, united deep within her and her prayers were answered in one small precious moment. Life began and then he grew.

 

She has the look of sick and tired because she thinks she has to save him. She has fear that he is not alright, but what can she do? What will she do to save him? She will do whatever it takes, whatever is asked. Her passion to see this almost-man grow into a gentle-man who knows how to love ingenuously is perhaps larger than anything she could ever hold or fathom.

 

She is a courageous warrior; she is a mother. She is a mother who is not afraid of fighting —- if she just knew who or what to fight. The fear of not knowing: where to turn, where to go, what is truth, what might be known. There are tangles and knots; twists and dark hallways; slippery slopes and murky waters; ice cold snow and howling north winds. At times she walks the path without coat or shoes; without a compass; even without hope. Just one foot in front of the other facing only the next step, and nothing further.

 

She is strong. She is I. And she is not alone.

Today, I am the Mom of a son who lives his life in recovery. My son has three plus years of sobriety. He lives his life one day at a time practicing all he has learned. He depends on the loving support of the recovery community and his new friends who also live sober lives. His work is in recovery helping other young men who are struggling to be OK sober. It is not easy work. He has lost many friends from the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction.

Today, I am a woman who practices her own recovery from co-dependency, blaming, and enabling. I tell my story with my son’s blessing in hopes it connects with another Mom or Dad living a similar story. I hope my story helps parents see that they are not alone.

I remember feeling so alone and scared as I journeyed through the raw discovery of the extent of my son’s disease. I felt alone and scared as I poured over the internet researching the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and solutions for alcoholism, addiction, and other mental health issues. I considered myself alone through the intervention following Christmas, 2011. And I felt alone as I traveled to family week at rehab and to various appointments across the country with case workers, therapists, and doctors looking for the next treatment, the next thing to try, the next thing that would bring full recovery to my son’s body, mind, and spirit.

Blessedly, I was not alone. All along the way, I had Divine intervention and leadership. I had miraculous experiences that involved many helpful people along the way. Gratefully, so did my son. Divine presence, comfort, counsel, and provision were ever present even when I felt completely alone in the fight. At those times, people showed up to help me, support me, provide for me, and love on me. Today, I give back.

There is hope. I know that there is much that we can do to help our children who show signs of alcohol abuse or drug use. My son received another chance at life because I offered him recovery over and over and over until he finally felt enough pain from the ravages of alcoholism and drug addiction that he accepted the help. My son received another chance at life because I researched treatments when he was too sick to do it himself. I showed up at meetings with therapists, rehabs, doctors, case managers, and family support groups. I stopped being my son’s enabler and became my son’s advocate. It was not easy, but it was the brave thing for me to do.

I am also very much aware, that my son might not have made it to recovery even with all my offerings and dedication to him getting better. I don’t know why some survive and some do not. The disease is cunning and baffling. It is a disease of the brain and each young person is unique and has his or her individual needs for recovery. This disease kills our young people each and every day. I belong to a group of Moms who share daily about their children’s active addiction. Everyday there is another story of drug-induced coma, death, jail, prison. Everyday these women come together online to support one another. There is hope. There is love. There is compassion.

I am also very aware, that even with three years of recovery, the disease can still convince my son to drink or use. Because of this awareness, I practice gratefulness of what is true today. I practice radical self-care to stay strong and spiritually fit. I enjoy every moment of his phone calls telling me about regular life: volley ball, dinner, budgets, what he did at work that day, his future plan. All the work was worth him having this normal life…if only for a day. And I help others. I give back.

Please leave your comments in the box below and I will personally answer you. If you would like to speak confidentially, please email me at judye.life.coach

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Stay tuned for Part 2 as I continue to share my story with you.

1 Comment

  1. Erin Smith

    This is heartbreaking and inspiring and I feel like a horrible friend for not being there for you. You have never let me down and you needed me, I’m sorry. I hope you know this has got to have helped someone and you should finish it. Love you

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