My son is in jail. I love him. He is 24 years old and a drug addict.
I know him better than anyone else. He is beautiful, kind, caring and smart. He is also an addict and is going to spend half a decade in prison because he was convicted for possessing with intention to distribute drugs. My son is an addict and this is our story.
The tragic rollercoaster began when my son was 20 years old. He had been in and out of rehab so many times that I lost count. In fact you could probably say it was a year in total. He tried to get sober; in fact he was winning the battle but fell off and succumbed to substance abuse once again less than a year after going sober.
Ambulances? A monthly occurrence. In fact, he has bled out, almost died from an overdose and had several seizures. He has literally died on the operating table and come back. I am no stranger to the thought that my son may die tonight. He has been to a psychiatric ward – losing the battle against drugs often brings with it the loss of will to live. He found God, and lost him too. He has spoken to the brightest minds, psychologists, doctors and therapists. And so have I. The law knows him well. AA knows what his favourite food is and he has scraped his knees falling and getting up so many times he has callouses on the palms of his hands. My son is an addict and the battle for his sobriety is bloody.
It is not easy being the son of an addict. Less so when you are fighting the battle alone. My ex-husband, an alcoholic and substance abuser was taken out of the picture when my son was young enough to move away from his father and those inevitable footsteps. I made a promise to make a better life for him, to nurture him and create a better world for him. I didn’t take drugs or drink. I tried my hardest to be a good parent and put them first. Sometimes I wonder if I could have done more for my son. It doesn’t matter now. All that matters is getting him back. Back from the sharp and poisonous claws of addiction.
So how did my son become an addict?
High School. Don’t for one second think that there is a stigma attached to drugs and only a select few of outsiders are taking them. No. Drug experimentation, especially with alcohol and dagga are almost the norm at school. Obviously I didn’t think that he would elevate his drug usage to uncontrollable levels, which parent does? But he did. And it opened a door to heroin, cocaine and meth.
As the days rolled on by, so did my boy’s spiral into a dark well of addiction. It took over his life, like a filter across his eyes, a shade of despair and pain, only relieved by the pathetic false promises offered by the next high. And don’t think I sat by and let him just go through it alone. I was right there, in the passenger seat, telling him to slow down, put his foot on the brakes. I felt the same ups, the downs; I have clasped my hands and pleaded with god, with my boy, with anyone that would listen, to save him. I don’t even know what a good sleep is anymore. I have offered myself as a substitute for my boy, as any mother would. I went to sessions for family members and I gave up my free time, my weekends for visitations. I opened my mind and absorbed new ways of thinking, of living and doing. I can write a book on recovery, how to approach drug abuse survival and can tell you about every paragraph in every book written about working through drug abuse. All to try and find a way to save my boy.
Gut instinct is real. Trust it. My Son is an Addict.
If you are reading this and you have a teenage child and you are getting that feeling that only a parent does, a slight niggle, a second thought about a change in behaviour or processes , it is your gut instinct. Do not deny it. If you are sitting there, on the side of your bed and thinking, “oh my God, my son is an addict,” and you are wondering if you should act, stop doubting your instincts. Do it.
Be more attentive about what your child does. It’s more than just his or her words that count. It’s actions that can out the demon lurking below a smile and a nod and the all assuring words from your child, “everything’s cool mom, stop worrying.” Being able to keep that trust bond between your child and yourself is obviously paramount, but remember that your love for your child should not keep you from simply discarding the facts. If you see a problem, and your child is not old enough to make their own decisions, or they still live with you, act. Now.
There is a time for you to be lax, but not now, now you need to be the parent your child really needs, with an unbroken set of rules. Look, the way you approach the situation may be different to the next parent, but you need to be straight up and direct. I know you may think that your young adult child may see you as a friend but you need to make sure that they are completely aware that what they are doing, their addiction and the behaviour associated with it is becoming noticeable to others.
Like it or not – here are some truths about having a son who is an addict.
I can imagine that you are sitting at your desk, reading through this right now because you are just becoming aware of the road that lies ahead. Or maybe not, maybe you are hurtling along the highway of drug abuse and recovery and you are desperate for some clues, some answers and some relief to this whole hazy situation. You won’t find them here – but you will find a few things that may guide you towards that final destination. If you have said to yourself “my son is an addict,” and you want to know some truths about what lies ahead, read on, it may save your sanity and more importantly, save the life of your child.
Stop thinking you are the reason for your child’s addiction.
- Maybe you could have done some things differently – but you did what you thought was right. Stop throwing energy and thoughts at a pointless idea. Focus on the now and the future.
- You are not the cure. You probably cannot stop your child’s addiction. Only they will be able to find solutions to their quest for sobriety. You can help by giving your child literature on self-help, getting them to rehab and organising support groups for them from within your own community. None of that will work however until they smash rock bottom and make the turn themselves to get on that road to recovery.
- There is a massive difference between what you think the bottom is and what your child believes it to be. You may think failing school and dropping out may be horrific and tragic, they may see that as a mere knock on the shoulder. You may even think that night you held their hand after an OD was enough; they may not see it the same way.
- Do not emotionally bribe them. Telling them that true love from them would be getting sober is not the solution. Remember, they are an addict, they love you regardless, but they are swimming in deep and murky waters which could be clouding their judgement.
- Your child will lie to you. Stop thinking that they are saints will only make it easier for them to steal and lie to you. Don’t be naïve.
- You are not your child’s lawyer. Getting them out of trouble every single time they do something wrong as a result of their addiction actually enables them to continue using without fear of consequence. Coming face to face with the result of their actions early on in the addiction could be the lesson they need to assist them in facing their problem. Sometimes the idea of tough love may be what you need to come to terms with before simply reaching for a quick fix solution to a problem caused by their behaviour.
- Referring to my previous comment, this applies to jail time too. If your child is arrested, think twice before bailing them out. I know it hurts, I know that your entire body is fighting to free them and that you cannot bare to see them behind bars BUT, and it is a very important BUT, they will most likely survive the experience and possibly use that as a key pivot in turning away from the drug abuse direction they are heading towards. Also remember that hiring an expensive lawyer may or may not minimize the charges that your child has against them, but it is certainly not going to do anything really towards getting your child away from addiction and into recovery.
- You can never tell your child that you love them enough. You should also be firm in your commentary about never supporting their habit or reminding them that their behaviour while using is unacceptable. Drug users can be sly, they can be underhanded and cunning and most of all you cannot possibly comprehend what they will do to get what they want. You can ban them from using things, like your car or expensive items, and you can even ban them from home should it get to a situation where their actions are jeopardizing your health, lifestyle and others around you.
- Sometimes love isn’t enough. It’s okay. They can get to the point where they are hurting others, themselves and cause untold heartache – and love simply cannot prevent it. It is okay. You could lose loved ones, burn relationships and even cause irreparable damage all in the name of protecting or loving your drug addicted child. As long as you never give up on your child and believe that they can recover, all is not lost.
- In the darkest hours remember this . There is always hope. A candle shines brightest in a dark room. Always believe that your child will get through this. And so will you.
In closing, regarding my son is an addict.
My son has turned a corner. In fact it has been six incredible months since he last had a run in with the law, his demons and is becoming more of his former self daily. He is in rehabilitation and when we talk he tells me that all his legal issues, his time behind bars and the things that have happened to him since his guilty conviction have changed his mind set and allowed him to be more freer than before. He is working towards a clean mind set, he studies and focuses on building himself and his education and is more courageous than ever when it comes to fighting his demon. I woke up recently for the first time after having a full night’s sleep, happy and aware. I sat on the corner of my bed and instead of saying to myself “My son is an addict,” I said, “My son is a warrior.” I won’t give up, and neither will he.
Are you like me, the parent of someone with a drug addiction? How did it affect you?
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