The year 2011 was a very difficult one for our family. It was the year that I felt myself beginning to change and lose hope. It was the year that brought on a bout of depression. It was the year that brought on other health issues as well. It was a year from hell!
During the year, there was the usual stress of dealing with an addicted son, which, on its own, is enough to break even the strongest of people. I cannot stress enough how difficult this journey is on families.
My bout of depression was brought on in the fall of 2011, when our son’s addiction reached a critical point. He had become an IV user, and also went to jail.
The jail came first and that was very hard, but when I learned that his disease had escalated to IV use, I felt myself beginning to change and lose hope. I tried absolutely everything that I could think of, but the disease continued to beat me every time. It had such a grip on my son that I was at a loss of what to do. My unwavering love was not enough. My advice was not enough. My advocating on his behalf was not enough. My support was not enough. My pleas were not enough.
By December, I wasn’t enjoying life very much. I kept asking my friends (who knew about the ordeal) how I was supposed to live normally knowing that my son could die any day and I couldn’t stop it from happening. How was I supposed to be happy when my child was so sick and dying? I had no idea how to do that. I wore the happy mask when I went out in the world, but inside I was dying a little every day. The person that many people over the years have described as “the most positive person I have ever met” was drowning in sorrow.
In January 2012, God intervened. I began to have pains in my chest that continued for days without letting up. I went to the hospital where I was hooked up to the EKG machine to see if it had to do with my heart. It didn’t. I don’t think broken hearts are picked up by that machine!
The doctor also checked my blood pressure, which was extremely high.
He insisted that I make an appointment with my family doctor immediately because my blood pressure was very concerning and couldn’t be put off. Plus, my chest pains were being caused by stress.
I made the appointment, which was a few days later.
My doctor determined that I was experiencing a bout of depression. I couldn’t believe it. Depression? Me? But, it all made sense with how I was feeling (hopeless, not wanting to leave the house on weekends, spending more time in bed, etc.). He said that I’ve been through more than most people will ever go through. I needed to take time off to grieve and take care of myself.
I tried to explain to my doctor that I work in a very supportive place and that I love my job so it is not the problem. He still insisted that I needed the time to heal and not to keep burying myself in my work. After some negotiation, I agreed to take 4 weeks off. (NOTE: Everyone’s situation is different. Every person is different. Some people require a much longer time frame to heal and that is completely okay. You have to do what is best for you. Take all the time that you need to get well!)
The person who never took a sick day was all of a sudden going to announce a 4 week absence. My boss was amazing and very supportive.
I was determined to get well and do whatever it took to get back on track. I needed to start by finding help somewhere.
My sister, Judy, convinced me to visit her in Edmonton, which would allow me to remove myself from the daily stress of addiction and work on getting better. We found a couple of family programs in the area that we attended.
The first was a Nar-Anon group, which is for the loved ones of addicts. The room quickly filled up with parents. The meeting began.
When it was my turn to speak, I got out the words, “My name is Rose and I am the mother of an addict.” Then the floodgates opened and I cried and cried. I was crying so hard, it felt like my throat was closing over and I couldn’t speak any more words. They just wouldn’t come out! Judy put her arm around me for support and gently encouraged me to keep going. I motioned with my hands to pass to the next person but the Chair of the meeting said, “Take your time. We’ll wait.”
At that time, I realized that through this nightmare journey of addiction, I did not allow myself to cry very often. I was a fixer. A doer. Not a crier. All the bottled up fear and sadness was making me sick. I took a deep breath and continued on with my story, sobbing much of the way through it.
It felt so good to share my story with people who understood exactly what I was feeling. They knew my son was not bad. They knew that I loved my child. I didn’t need to waste time explaining all of this to them. They already knew. I could focus on my hurt, my pain, my fears, my sorrows.
That night, I was determined to start a family group on PEI. It would benefit me and many other families going through this journey to have such a supportive place to go and share our stories.
Judy and I went to the other family meeting, which was also good but very different. It was not one that I could easily start here on PEI, but I could start a Nar-Anon group immediately.
After the much needed two week break with my sister spoiling me I came home feeling better. I felt determined with renewed hope. I immediately ordered a Nar-Anon meeting package and pounded the pavement with a friend to find the right location. We found one and I started the meetings.
This was in January 2012, which was before I started my blog and at a time when very few people talked about addiction. The stigma was crippling. It was even harder at that time to admit that addiction was in your family, especially in a small place like PEI. Because of this, only a handful of people came to the meetings and not all the time. Sometimes, I would be there by myself. I would wait for at least half an hour in case someone in need arrived. I never wanted someone to show up, desperate for help, only to find an empty room.
After almost a year, I decided to fold the meetings and focus my efforts on raising awareness, educating and building compassion for addicts and their families. I brought my work to a new level in January 2013 when I started my blog.
I get regular inquiries from people wanting to attend family meetings. Many ask if I still have mine or would consider starting one again. A friend of mine mentioned earlier in the week that she may start one up. I offered to help her in any way that I could if she chose to do so. I received another inquiry this morning from someone looking for a family meeting.
I thought that I would create a survey to find out the level of interest in starting one back up. Please take a moment to complete the survey by clicking here: Interest in New Family Support Group
As I always say, you do not have to go through this alone. You truly are not alone. I promise that you will find comfort and healing if you allow yourself to reach out for help from people who understand. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Peace is waiting for you.