Parenting our young addict is a bit like being a meteorologist. We can predict the weather with some measure of science, expertise and experience, but in the end, the weather is beyond our control. When we think it’s going to be sunny, it turns out to be stormy and vice versa.
In the span of days let along hours and minutes, everything can change.
It always seems like after a period of niceness, our young addict’s itchiness returns and he heads out the door. Back to the familiar, the comfort of the drug world. Sobriety and recovery – be gone.
There’s always a glimmer of hope – of sunshine and clear skies. It is followed by an easily recognizable shadow of devastation – of stormy weather.
This has been another one of those predictable weeks. It’s gone like this:
A week ago Sunday – He wakes after 16 hours of deep sleep on the floor of our great room. Although he asked to come over for dinner, he slept through it. Although his little brother had a friend sleep over, he didn’t wake up. That morning, he showers and eats a bagel. I’m outside watering the plants as he walks out the door. “Where are you headed?” I ask. “To Dan’s,” he says. (Dan is his drug buddy, who lives at home with his parents.) “Not going to Grandma’s?” I ask. (It’s been a Sunday-afternoon ritual for the six grandchildren for years.) “No, I guess not,” he says.
We didn’t see or hear from him again in spite of sending nice texts asking if he wanted to sleep here or needed any help with anything. Chances are, his phone was dead as the charger was here at our house. Even still, his friends often have a charger for him to use.
Finally on Wednesday, I texted him that the family was planning to have dinner at a local restaurant – would he like to join us? He responded that he’d already eaten, but would stop by later. Then, later, he said he had plans.
Early the next morning, Thursday, as I was heading to work, he calls. “Can I stop home to shower and change clothes?” Years back, earlier in this weathered story of addiction, we would have been reticent to say yes. Today, as fragile as he is, and as hopeful as we are that he will return to treatment and recovery, we say yes.
“I have to leave in 30 minutes,” I say. He shows up, showers and toasts a bagel. Once at my office, he grabs some chair cushions and falls asleep under a desk in an colleague’s office who is out of town.
A few hours later, before heading to a client meeting, I nudge him. He grabs a soda from the office fridge and heads downtown with me. He sits in the car for my first meeting. For the second meeting, I point out the library across the street and he says he will hang there until I’m done.
When I come out of my client meeting, I check my phone to find a text from him. “Took the bus to meet a friend.”
The next day, Friday, around 5 p.m., my husband and I enjoy being home early on a warm and muggy evening. Sitting on the deck, we see our son walking down the street. My husband hops in the car catching up to our son. He’s headed to the local convenience store where a “friend” is picking him up. He accepts a ride.
More than an hour later, we stop at the same convenience store with his younger brother to pick up some sodas and snack for the family. Guess who’s still there? Our young addict. He’s standing with another young man, whom we recognize and a young woman. He won’t look at us or acknowledge us. His eyes are baggy. He is unsteady on his feet.
I buy our picnic and he angrily replies, “Stop stalking me.” Wow. I do not engage with this cold, angry, bitter conversation. We go on about our family evening. Without a doubt, he is stalking his next high.
Well, I would have expected no additional contact for quite a few days, but get a surprise text the next evening. “You home? I’m going to stop by.”
He does. Eats a bagel. (No there’s no balance to his diet, but at least I have what he seems to want.) He falls asleep. The dog manages to wake him up with sniffing and kissing. He takes a shower. Resumes his nap, but is awoken by a phone call. Within minutes, he’s out the door – headed to Dan’s. “See you tomorrow for Grandma’s. What time are we going?”
Just like that, he’s gone again. However, right on time, he reappears today to go to Grandma’s.
After a nice Sunday visit at Grandma’s, he takes off again, but there’s what I never predicted. He – all on his own, before walking out the door – confirms that he has an assessment appointment on Tuesday at the out-patient program we looked at a few weeks ago.
Will he show up for dinner tomorrow night and spend the night? Will he go to the assessment? Will he answer somewhat truthfully? Will he be accepted for the out-patient program? Will they recommend he return for in-patient treatment? Will he accept their recommendations? Will he enroll and engage in either of their programs? I cannot predict.
Why do I share this? Because, I suspect you’re in a similar spot – as a parent, an adult who cares, or a recovering addict. Together, we can recognize the weather patterns and better weather the weather.