Guest Blog: A Mom Stops Enabling and Starts Supporting Her Daughter in Recovery from Meth Addiction

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One of the most rewarding aspects of the #OYACommunity is connecting with other parents who are on the addiction and recovery path with their children. Together, we share experiences with the hopes that it helps other families facing a similar situation.

Today’s guest blogger is the Jennifer Jinks Yates, the mom of a young woman who is overcoming Methamphetamine addiction. She writes about recognizing the signs, to getting her daughter into treatment and now supporting her in early recovery. We wish Jennifer and her daughter Abby the best as their journey continues. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JYTS68

I realized very quickly I had no idea who my child was. About a year ago I knew something was going on; the violent outbursts, the weight loss, hallucinations.

Of course, she looked at me right in the eyes and lied; “I swear I’m not on drugs.” I believed her.

I even took her to a gastroenterologist because of her vomiting and diarrhea episodes. I later learned she was actually just what they call “dope sick.”

One night last fall she called me in the middle of the night hysterically crying. “He beat me up bad, mom. Come get me.” I met her at a gas station, dried blood on her face and windshield busted out.

I asked again, “…are you on drugs?” “Yes, mom. Yes!” she yelled. I’d love to say I was in shock but I already knew in my heart.

She told me she had been using drugs, mainly methamphetamine, for over years. Smoking it, snorting it, and within the last year, injecting it. I look back and that is when my instincts kicked in. Prior to that, I truly had no idea.

Back to the night I met her at the gas station, how broken and tiny she looked in her car. I brought her home and called her father.

We had her in treatment within 72 hours. I felt peace for the first time in a while.

I drove her to the treatment center three hours from home. Leaving her there was the hardest thing I’ve done since burying my mother at the age of twenty-five. I cried the whole way home. I cried almost every day for a while, uncontrollably at times.

Thinking back and wondering, “How did I not know? Did I ever really know her at all?”

Two weeks in she convinced me she learned her lesson and was ready to come home. I reluctantly went and got her.

I was the queen of enabling at that time.

Three days in and she was at it again. Her abusive boyfriend brought drugs to my home while I was working two jobs. I previously told her if she relapsed she could not live in my house. Two weeks before Christmas she moved out. I prayed and prayed for her. A few weeks later she asked me to come get her again. I told her I would only if she would agree to return to treatment, and she did. That was early January, 2015.

Immediately she was a different person. She stayed in rehab until the staff said she was ready for sober living. She will graduate from sober living in a few weeks. While I am nervous about her returning home, I have to give her a chance. She has done all she has been asked to do.

I have had several people who knew her the first rehab visit say she is a totally different young lady. Our battle is far from over. She feels like sober living is a bubble protecting her from the scary real world.

What I got out of all this was strength I never knew I had. The enabling stopped after I took her to rehab the second time.

It is unimaginably difficult and breaks your heart, but in the end it will save their lives.

Enabling kills, it is that simple. By doing drugs these addicts are killing themselves anyway. Enabling helps that process.

Addicts do not have a soul. They are empty shells doing whatever it takes to get the next high. Once they are so deep into addiction, they are no longer in control. Enabling the addict will get you nowhere. They aren’t themselves.

Letting the addict to hit rock bottom quickly makes them see they have no other option but to seek treatment.

I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know my daughter. She has my eyes and sense of humor. She is very well liked where she is. She is excelling in her job, earning employee of the month for the last three months. I have been so blessed by this experience. She could have easily overdosed and died. I also would like to mention the show “Intervention” helped me become a better parent. I learned a lot from other parents going through the same thing as well. I am very appreciative and honored to be asked to write and share my experiences.

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your wisdom with us. We are glad to have you as part of the #OYACommunity.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

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Denial Leads to Enabling Young Addicts

Friendships among neighbors often go awry when kids are using drugs and alcohol, and especially when there is denial and enabling behavior. Midwestern Mama respectfully and sadly shakes her head at the continuing chaos down the street.

Just a few houses down the street from us lives a young addict. At 24-years old, he’s been using, and abusing, drugs and alcohol since sophomore or junior year of high school.

When my son was curious and wanted to try marijuana, this was the kid he sought out. Although they had been acquaintances, it wasn’t until they started using together that they became friends, if you can even call it friendship. From there, a tumultuous relationship ensued, and our relationship with the parents went awry.

At first we tried to engage with the parents. They had become our friends over the years. We were open about our son’s situation and our concerns. Interestingly, they would share this with their son, who would share it with our son, and just like the game of telephone, the message was always messed up. This became detrimental to our relationship with our son and toward efforts to encourage him to get help.

We never blamed our neighbor’s son or passed judgment on him or on them. We realized he had his own challenges and consequences just as our son had his.

From time to time, the other parents would tell us of the horrors happening in their house, including overdoses and violent threats toward their family members. Each time they would say, “Whatcha gonna do?”

What are you going to do? Stop denying the problem! Stop enabling the situation!

It sounds so simple, but admittedly it’s far from easy … until the day when parents realize that we have to do something. That moment came early for us, and it was not easy nor was it always clear how to distinguish loving support from enabling. The more we worked at it, however, the clearer it became.

Yesterday, I was reminded of the dangers of denial and enabling young addicts.

The neighbor’s future daughter in-law (she’s with their younger son) said the user had threatened her and the parents did nothing. She moved out saying enough is enough, enough of the enabling.

In time, our son – after many, many consequences and heart-wrenching experiences including relapse – did successfully complete a treatment program. Today, he is almost 10 months sober, is back in college part time, has a part-time job. He is living at home, continues to see an addiction counselor and a mental health therapist.

We are so grateful for our son’s efforts and recovery. We are healing, too.

Meanwhile, the chaos and dysfunction of addiction continues down the street, and I only hope it ends before it’s too late.

What Can I Say? Arguments Happen.

Midwestern Mama shares three great sayings that put arguments in perspective.

Bloggers are not just blog writers. We are blog readers, too. One of the blogs I read regularly is written by a mom whose son is eight months sober – you can see why I find this one of interest.

In her last post, she shared an argument that happened over the holidays. It was eating her up as she wondered about the impact of this on her relationship with her son and, of course, on his recovery. She had hesitated to blog about it, but then found value in processing her feelings and gathering input from her readers.

It got me thinking about this blog and our vision to provide honest, real-time posts about our sons, their journeys, and our parenting experiences. Aside from maintaining appropriate anonymity, I hold back nothing; at the same time, I try not to bore you with all the details. If anything, I hope you see us as real people dealing with addiction and recovery in a real way – not always perfect, but always with good intentions, and always willing to share what worked and what didn’t.

We, too, had an argument with our son recently. It scared me. It scared him. Fortunately, it was short-lived and we weathered it. In fact, I think it actually strengthened things. A year ago, I doubt this would have been the case.

This argument was about a laptop computer. It’s been a recurring topic in parenting our young addict.

When my son graduated from high school, we were paying his tuition (minus a wonderful scholarship he’d received) and he was supposed to use some of the money he earned from a part-time job plus graduation-gift money to pay for his college laptop and textbooks. Seemed like a fair deal.

Well, of course, he spent all his money on drugs before classes ever started. Because we desperately wanted him to go to college and hoped that he’d rise to the occasion of a clean start, we bought him a laptop. Within a few weeks of drug-related trouble at college, he sold the laptop. For drugs.

Two years ago, my son won a $1,000 raffle. He immediately went out to purchase a laptop with it. He relished in being able to play online games again instead of being limited to the family computer or the computers at the library. A few months later, I noticed the laptop was missing. He sold it. For drugs.

Now this fall, out of treatment and working on recovery, he took action to return to a local college. Certainly, he would need a laptop computer for homework. With a part-time job, he wanted to buy a laptop. Props to him for wanting to buy a laptop himself and for sharing this decision with us.

The laptop he selected was quite expensive – because it was primarily a gaming computer, one that had more bells and whistles than he legitimately would need for school. And, because his bank account is set up to prevent him from making purchases over $300 due to a history of bad checks and debt, he would need his dad or me to pay for the laptop and then he planned to reimburse us.

That’s where the argument ensued. We had concerns about the amount he was spending when a more affordable laptop would meet his school needs. We had concerns about him spending too much time gaming – contributing to staying up late, engaging in another form of addictive behavior, etc., etc. We also had concerns about him putting this purchase ahead of other debt he needed to pay off and expenses that we are covering while he’s getting his life back together.

Black Friday and Cyber Saturday were feeding his impulsiveness and obsession. He needed this computer and he needed it right now. He felt the deals would never be better. That he had to buy the laptop NOW! We felt he could wait until after the holidays, earn a bit more money. Do a bit more research on which laptop to buy.

He kept pushing the conversation. Kept asking if we’d put it on our credit card. Kept saying he’d pay us back.

I tried to explain our concerns. He did listen, but he had a comeback for each one. Finally, my husband entered the conversation and in his direct, to-the-point style, he asked some hard questions of our son, and laid out our concerns in no uncertain terms. When my son started to explain, my husband interrupted him, and then my son interrupted him, and then each one raised his voice, and then each one started saying what they felt. It was getting ugly.

By this time, my son stood up, grabbed his coat and said he wouldn’t continue the conversation. He was leaving. This is a behavior we’ve witnessed many times in the past, and it never led anywhere good. It was always a setback. He’d always go running to his drug-using buddies. This scared me.

We gave him some time. About an hour. Finally, we exchanged a few text messages. I think I started it with, “The mudroom door is unlocked when you’re ready to come home” He asked if Dad had unlocked the door or if I had. This mattered a lot to him. I lied and said Dad had unlocked the door. About an hour later he came back.

The next day he was scheduled to see his therapist, and following that, he suggested a compromise – he’d look for a less expensive laptop AND he would write a note to Dad explaining that “walking out” was his way of cooling down.

A few days later, he wrote the note, he apologized for raising his voice first and for using expletives. He was sorry and he wanted to move forward. And so we have.

My son found a less expensive computer that met his school needs and would accommodate gaming. He pledged to limit his time on the computer, keep good sleep habits and to be open to feedback from us if we observed otherwise. He says he’ll share his grades with us on a regular basis. He’s going to let his behaviors build trust.

To make things even better, he went to his bank and explained the situation and was able to work out a way to pay for the computer directly from his account. The banker listened as he explained going back to school, working part time and being committed to recovery. They let him make the one-time larger purchase, but have kept the spending limit in place until he reaches and maintains an established minimum balance. That my son did this on his own is incredible. We did not enable, and he empowered himself!

We all learned some things from this argument, and it reminded me of many of the things I’ve learned as a result of our son’s addiction and recovery about relationships and communication.

Support groups are full of good sayings. Sometimes these seem trite but more often than not, these are great reminders of the good old Golden Rule. Who can argue with that? I can think of at least three sayings that resonate with me on the topic of arguments.

One is from my Al-anon group, one is through an online group where Mid Atlantic Mom and I met, and one is a quote from Steven Covey that my son embraced during his treatment program.

“Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.”

“From chaos comes clarity.”

“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviors.”

What can I say? Arguments happen and those three sayings are as great guides for these, sometimes unavoidable, exchanges.

Midwestern Mama

Gift-Giving Guide for Our Young Addicts

Midwestern Mama struggled in the early years of her son’s addiction with what to give him for Christmas – torn between what was kindness and enabling.  She poured her heart out in a column (below) for the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 2011.  Last year, her son was in a residential treatment program.  Now six months sober, she’s as excited as a “kid at Christmas” to have her son home for the holidays.

Without hesitating, parents are natural givers. It starts with the miraculous gift of life and continues with gifts of protection, encouragement, sustenance, love, praise, boundaries, hope, strength and more.

We give our best without expectation for anything in return. All the while, we’re prone to question ourselves if we could do better or do more. It is the unwritten code of parenting, the natural order, the way it is. Our parenting report card may not be perfect, but it’s all A’s for effort. It is our heart that tells us if we’ve given well, if it’s good enough.

When our son was little, it was easy to give gifts that absolutely delighted him emotionally and materially. It showed in his face and in his behavior.

During this season of giving, I’m at a loss what to give our 19-year-old son. Certainly there are things he needs – things we’d ordinarily give him if he was not living a transient, unemployed, addicted lifestyle further exacerbated by deceit and denial. It’s far more complicated because material gifts (clothes, food, money, and housing) fall within the taboo category of enabling, the major no-no of addiction.

Instead, we give him our prayers daily – actually, multiple times day and night when I wake up at 3 a.m. and wonder if he’s warm and safe. We give him our love. We give him our commitment to help. We give him our best wishes. We give him all we’ve got and we keep trying to come up with something more, something better, something of affirmation and value.

We’re learning to give him the freedom and respect to live with the outcomes of addiction and mental health, to own his problems, challenges and choices. This is the gift I understand in my mind, but find difficult to reconcile with my heart.

There are other things we have given him that I wish we hadn’t, at least not for as long as we did. We gave him benefit of the doubt way too many times. We gave him chances to change, only to be shortchanged by more of the same. We gave him a clean slate more times than he’s aware, including paying off substantial debts all with the idea that we don’t want a poor credit record to hurt him once he gets his life together.

We also forgave him for all we went through these past few years because we finally realized that he didn’t do these things on purpose or to us. A combination of drugs and mental health has influenced his actions and choices beyond his control.

We’ve made amends, too, by realizing he is emotionally starved for the comfort and joy that home and family represent. And while we can’t give him our trust these days to live in our home, we do welcome him to visit, to curl up in a blanket by the fireplace, to play with his little brother, and to hold hands around the table in grace before sharing a home-cooked meal.

Emotional gifts are sustaining but often aren’t noticed or appreciated unless these are absent. Material gifts, however, can be just as important because these are physical reminders, even symbols. And this is the season of material gifts, things wrapped up in paper with ribbons and small notions that Santa puts in stockings.

I suggested he put together a Christmas list, so we’ll see if he does and whether there are items we can give with good conscience – items we don’t think he’d sell or things that will go unused. The last couple of years, he’d open his presents and then these would stay unused in a pile on his bedroom floor.

The idyllic mother image in my mind compels me to pile gifts under the tree that will magically trigger a transformation in him from despair to delight, from pessimism to optimism, from stubborn to open minded, from addiction to recovery.

During the gift-opening frenzy, sadly, I know that we’ll keep an eye on any cash that his siblings or cousins receive from relatives because our son has had sticky fingers. (Three times in the past year he stole his little brother’s wallet full of allowance he’d been saving for an i-pod; his older sister has had cash taken from her purse; and, this summer he stole money that his grandmother gave to his cousin for doing chores around her house. Parents of addicts nod their heads, yep, it’s part and parcel.)

Any ideas what we should wrap up for him? I know we’ll give the gift that keeps on giving – love, commitment, hope … and probably some socks, underwear, gloves, books and favorite candies.

With no job at present, he said he won’t be able to give presents this year. It’s nice that he wants to give, but we don’t expect anything nor do we want something he picked up at the store.

The gift we want is a gift he’ll give himself – the gift of help, of sobriety and recovery, of health and happiness.

Midwestern Mama