“… eight, nine, ten. Ready or not, here I come!” My kids always delighted in the thrill of playing Hide and Seek. They welcomed the anticipation as well as the unexpected nature of the game, and it always concluded with giggles and hugs.
The same cannot be said for the “hide and seek” and “ready or not” aspects of substance use disorder, and yet these are very present throughout each twist and turn of addiction. It’s a game that none of us is prepared to play and that none of us ever wins, but the parallel to a childhood game are helpful in understanding the ever-present unexpected aspects of being on the sidelines of addiction.
I’ll share a few insight from our family’s experience. Perhaps these will seem familiar to what you’re finding in your own family, and hopefully, these will give you insights in how to find your way forward.
Hide and Seek
Although my high school son had been smoking marijuana for quite a few months before we discovered his use, he wasn’t necessarily hiding it. Instead, we just didn’t see it nor were we looking for it.
What we did see were changes in his attitude, mood and behavior. These three clues would guide us on a a hide-and-seek experience that we never anticipated and one that lasted much longer than we expected
Once we found evidence in his car and laid it out on the kitchen counter following senior prom night, there was no more hiding. It prompted us to start a concerted effort to seek out whether there was more going on. There was. And, once we started seeking truth, it was, unfortunately, too easy to see.
The truth was there. Our kid was using drugs and his use was more than casual and experimental. In the weeks, months and years ahead, substance use disorder was part of our life. Addiction thinks it can hide, but it’s never really out of sight – like the young child who thinks they are hiding but are easily spotted behind a chair or under a bed because there is always something in plain view.
Ready or Not
Without hesitation, I can say we were never ready for our son’s addiction. No one is ready for the havoc it creates. No one is ready for the sleepless nights. No one is ready for the worry. No one is ready for the devastation that it brings.
As we would learn, substance use disorders play on all members of the family most especially our loved one. He never meant to go from a first toke to using opioids. He always thought he could handle it, until he couldn’t. He was always trying to feel something other that what he felt.
When we began to realize what was taking hold of our son, we new the object of the game was to get him to treatment. Only that is not at all easy. No one is ready for treatment – at least no one is readily able to see their need, to recognize or embrace what they need to do, and most certainly not ready to stop using.
We would learn that using is about preserving the security of how the drug makes them feel and to protect them from the discomfort of not using.
But this does not mean that getting help has to wait until they are ready. Instead, it means helping them become ready and understanding that readiness is a process. (More on these topics in a future post.)
What’s more, each opportunity to engage in getting help – for your loved one and for YOU – is an opportunity to find a way forward. Each meeting you attend, each counseling session, each conversation, each book or blog you read, each everything is a clue that helps you find what is hiding and what you are seeking.
Ultimately, what most of us are seeking is serenity and all that it encompasses. (Again, that’s a topic for a future post.) There is much to find: not all of it is hidden and it’s all there for the seeking.
When recovery takes hold – and it takes a while – there will be giggles and hugs again. I cherish that the most.
Midwestern Mama aka Rose McKinney