Sunrise – The Miraculous Transition from Addiction to Recovery

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” It’s something my mother used to tell me, and as I grew older I thankfully learned she was right.

Shining light on recovery in Minneapolis.
Shining light on recovery in Minneapolis.

Throughout my son’s addiction, when not only the nights seemed dark but the days as well, our family always looked for the bright spots – the bright spots we hoped would be ahead. Sometimes, we would get a small bit of sunlight and it would make us hopeful for more. Then it would dim and darkness returned.

As his days became darker and the light was less and less, our family learned to move forward. There remained a shadow of his addiction no matter what we did, but we found our own guiding lights and the hope that each new day would bring – if not for him, for ourselves.

Addiction is a time warp for the addict as well as their family and friends. We wonder when it will end with the hopes that it becomes a transition to recovery as opposed to the unthinkable end to end all ends.

From Addiction to Recovery

The pivot from addiction toward recovery often comes on unexpectedly but no less gratefully. When night turns into day, it is a miracle of sorts.

One year ago today, our son was in the depths of his addiction. He had been to treatment several times. He had recently relapsed horrifically just a few months after an in-patient program and halfway house transitional program. I feared we were coming to the end – not the good kind of end. I could not believe how bad it had become.

It was as dark as it had ever been … and then, he was ready to stop being an addict and was ready to change. His recovery began on July 11, 2014, and continues forward. We are so happy for him.

And, we are immensely proud of him, too – we are learning that recovery is hard work. Recovery, while the opposite of addiction, is not necessarily all joy either. It too has dark days and nights. It takes an effort to see the light, and some days are easier than others.

The Sun is Shining

Most recently, I’ve witnessed some of the brightest days of our son’s recovery and it fills my heart with joy because not only is he sober, his personality is transforming in such a positive way.

Just last week, for example, he asked if he could go downtown with me over the noon hour. I had a client lunch and he thought he’d shop for his sister’s birthday present. I said, of course, however, I was leaving shortly. He doesn’t like to be rushed, so he hemmed and hawed about whether he’d be ready. Then he was concerned about how long the family dog might have to be home alone. I nudged him to make a decision one way or the other neither choice being right or wrong. Ultimately, he decided to come with me, but was non talkative during the ride as if he weren’t so sure he was glad to be going.

Now in the past, this might have been one of those get a ride with mom and then disappear for days at a time doing you know what. We’ve come a long way since then. Not only is there trust, he no longer yearns for the rush of scoring drugs and using, and he no longer wants that transient, lonely lifestyle. Phew – such a relief.

After my lunch, and to my surprise, he told me he’d run into one of his old tennis buddies from high school. They were grabbing lunch from one of the food trucks AND he invited me to come join them as they caught up. NEVER, in a very long time, has he encouraged me to participate in conversations with friends. Today, he was including me.

A couple of blocks up, I joined these young men as they chatted. We laughed, talking about the tennis days, and shared news of their siblings. My son was animated, smiling, laughing, conversational … he was happy.

Not only had he made the effort to go downtown, he got the unexpected positive reward of reconnecting with a former friend, and the chance to share updates of his own about going back to college, having a part-time job, and being sober.

Last week, the sun rose and shined as brightly as I’ve seen it in a long, long time. At many points over this first year in recovery, I have sensed the positive transition from addiction; each one has been amazing and this latest one was as affirming as any of them – my son is recovering!

Midwestern Mama

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Frazzle Free or at Least Not so Frazzled

Midwestern Mama takes pause to consider the transition from chaos to calm.

Today as I was moving from early-morning family duties to work commitments that included three client meetings and then heading to campus to teach a night course, I realized there is relatively little chaos in my life right now.  Just the normal, more expected things like deadlines and deliverables.  I’m not as frazzled as I had become during the early years of my son’s escalating drug use. Instead, I’m not trying to fulfill my responsibilities to others – let alone myself – while containing and compartmentalizing the out-of-control and truly scary situation that was consuming my young addict and our family.  After all, even though we were dealing with addiction, we still had to live our lives.

This transformation from chaos to calm is attributable to several things:  acceptance, exploration, connection.  It’s also attributable to my son’s engagement in treatment and recovery – sobriety does wonders.

Acceptance came in phases.  Initially, acceptance came from recognizing that there was a problem and stepping up as parents to address it.  At first we couldn’t diagnose the problem but we could pinpoint the existence of our son’s challenges. We could tap the experts like doctors and counselors.  As we came to recognize that drugs were indeed a contributing factor, we moved from suspicion to documentation to action.  Eventually, it came full circle to accepting that the situation simply existed.

Exploration also came in phases.  It has ranged from Google-fests to appointments to prayer and meditation.  We sought to understand.  We sought to solve.  We sought to deal with our feelings, our concerns and our hopes.    Exploration included education as well as a willingness to try different options.  In many ways, exploration was salvation because each new finding, each new piece of knowledge, led to understanding.  It also led to despair and overwhelming thoughts of all the what ifs.  Ultimately, though, exploration provided context and actionable next steps for ourselves and for our son.

Connection, however, was among the most liberating aspect of our lives these past few years.  I think about the many people I talked to on the phone and met with.  I think about attending Al-anon meetings and adapting many of the principles to my life in general.  I think about connecting with MidAtlantic mom and many other parents via online forums.  Each of us seemed to be there for each other at exactly the right time.  We still are.  For that, I am forever grateful.

If through acceptance, exploration and connection nothing else changed, I am confident that I began to build up the emotional reserves to live as the parent of a young addict.  I know that I can go on no matter what.  Amid all the chaos and the most frazzling of situations, I know I am part of a community that cares and that I can contribute to helping others transition from chaos to calm.  Please let us know how we can be there for you and how we can help.

Midwestern Mama