Help! Just about this time two years ago, I was doing exactly what you’re doing now. I was searching the internet for something – anything — that might help me deal better with being the parent … of an addict. Certainly, I never expected to be this parent. As it turned out, I found a wonderful online community and connected with a number of caring adults.
Now several years in, another mother and I decided we would start Our Young Addicts. I am a Midwestern Mama who chronicles life with a drug-addicted son who is just about to turn 21 years old. Our family has come so far yet we have no idea what’s next. Ditto for my cohort Mama from the Middle Atlantic. Together, we’ll share and support. Join us.
To get you up to speed on my family’s situation, here is a draft from an article that I wrote for the January 2012 issue of Renew Magazine. It was good to re-read this and re-commit to the positive yet painful road to recovery.
A New Year for Recovery in 365 Days
I remember our kids’ karate instructor saying, “All you have to do is a little better each day. Next year, you’ll be 365 times farther along.”
That simple premise from my son’s youth is an inspiration for me – the journaling parent of a young-adult addict. To move forward, I took stock of the last 365 days. The 2011 entries revealed spiraling addiction during a frantic January and a fast-forward February, but a year of clarity and serenity nonetheless.
Our concerns began in 11th grade, continued through a near-miss graduation and escalated when he decided to forgo a substantial college scholarship. We had repeatedly found evidence of drugs and confronted him, but during counseling he always downplayed his use. In reality he had been getting high five times a day even as he aced ACT tests and sports tournaments. Ultimately, he delayed college until second semester 2011, but it didn’t look promising.
Thursday, January 13, 2 a.m.
Hearing something, I walked downstairs to see him pouring a nearly 10 oz. glass of Johnny Walker Red. He casually explained he’d never had a drink before thus wanted to know how much he could tolerate as a precaution for finding out the hard way. Riiiiiight.
A candid conversation yielded a confession that he hadn’t saved the money to buy a laptop and textbooks admitting that he’d been spending $60 or more each week on Pot. It chagrined us, but we were willing to pay for the college necessities; it was time for him to move out.
Saturday, January 15, 4 p.m.
With trepidation, we dropped him at college.
“Mom, don’t worry. I can do this.”
Sunday, January 23, 8 p.m.
I was excited to hear his ringtone on my phone. But, then: “Mom, I really screwed up again.”
Two nights prior, he had too much to drink, smoked Marijuana and ingested pills. A student found him passed out in the snow. He was taken by ambulance to the ER, and when he was stable they transported him to detox.
Thursday, February 3, 9:45 p.m.
Again, the phone – this time, the dean. “We’ve had another incident with drug use in the dorms.” His housing contract was revoked and he was dismissed from his athletic team.
Saturday, February 26, 10:30 a.m.
He sofa surfed for a few weeks but without dorm privileges, he started skipping classes before dropping out altogether. He had no place to go and didn’t want to stay at college.
We drove to campus to talk through options with him. I suggested he boot up his laptop so we could start figuring out the next step.
“Uhh … I sold my laptop.”
He was resolute as ever, “None of this has anything to do with me smoking weed.”
Instead of debating, we asked, “Where are we dropping you off? Because, you, your drugs and your destructive lifestyle are not coming back home.” I am not proud of our parental temper tantrum, but I am immensely proud of the realization: A distinction between his addiction and our recovery.
Each day forward, we decreased enabling and increased detachment with love. He agreed to evaluation, but entirely disagreed with the assessment of chemical dependency and mental health concerns, and flat out rejected treatment.
A Facebook exchange with a fellow user about his departure from college proclaimed, “Dude, ‘cuz, you’re an addict.” My son’s retort, “I’m not addicted. I’m committed.”
His year continued to spiral as ours slowly moved toward recovery. We enter the New Year with hope our son will choose sobriety during 2012 … just a little better every day.
R.M. brings a parenting perspective to young-adult addiction. 365 days a year, she fills black-and-white composition notebooks with myriad details, feelings and observations of her son’s addiction and the family’s recovery.
From one parent to another:
- Benefit of the Doubt. Only extend it so many times before insisting on a chemical dependency assessment.
- Broken Rules. If they keep breaking the rules despite the consequences and can’t keep promises, it might be that drug/alcohol use is beyond their control … and beyond yours.
- Trust your Mom-intuition. Most likely you’re not overreacting, particularly with a young addict.
- A Clean Slate – Wipe it clean once, twice. Put away the eraser.
- Befriend the Parents – Some of the other parents will support you and some will not see eye to eye, but at least you’ll know where they stand when it comes to your kid and theirs.
- You’ll Make Mistakes & Progress. There is no such thing as perfect parenting, just love.
- Take Care of Yourself. Explore online communities and blogs in addition to support and recovery groups like Al-Anon.