My son and I were talking the other day about addiction and the various ways that families try to deal with it. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to dealing with this cruel disease. With broken hearts and shattered dreams, we do the best that we can in the hopes that it will help our loved ones to get well. We want nothing more than to have them healthy again.
After years of trial and error (it was more like hell, actually), Mike and I found what worked best for us. It was to keep our son close, being very careful not to enable him. We supported him, not his disease. We found the right balance for our family.
He knew the rules and respected them, which made it possible to keep him close. We were not putting our other children, pets or ourselves at risk by having him around. He was not aggressive in the least and I thank the good Lord for that!
One of the best rules we implemented was not answering right away if he asked for something. We would tell him to call us back in half an hour. That way, we could talk about it and determine if we were helping him or his disease by saying yes to his request. We never gave him money.
He was welcome to drop by anytime we were home. His visits gave us an opportunity to love him up and gently encourage him to seek help. We would tell him how much we loved him and that we wanted nothing more than to have our boy back, living the life that he wants and deserves. We did not say this in anger or to make him feel guilty. Our words were from the heart. He didn’t seem bothered or annoyed by our “lectures”. He seemed to listen, but he is a quiet soul anyway so it was hard to tell.
We would also feed him. Lord knows his body was malnourished and needed it. Food is also good for the soul.
While he was talking or watching TV, I would look at him with a heavy heart. He was thin and had sores on his face. Without being too obvious, I would search his face, neck, hands, and arms for any signs of health issues. I would see track marks, which saddened me. Damn, I hate this disease.
I would also silently pray for the right words that would get through to him. There was my beautiful, sick child in front of me but I couldn’t reach him. I wanted to shake the disease right out of him. All I had to offer was love. I felt helpless and frustrated at how powerless I was. I knew that if I lost him, I would lose my world. Yet, I couldn’t do anything about it. As I said, this is a cruel disease.
It turns out that I wasn’t so powerless after all. During our conversation the other day, he said to me, “I always loved coming home for a visit. When I was having a really bad day it always made me feel better to be around you guys. Even when I was going into withdrawals and feeling sick, being at home made it easier and gave me hope.” I can’t tell you how much it meant to hear him say that! Even in the darkness of addiction, our love got through to him. We showed him that there was a better way to live.
My advice to other parents is to express your love in the best way you can, based on your situation. You can give lots of love from a distance, if need be. If you only see or hear from your child once a year or less than that, make sure they know that you love them and that you are there when they’re ready for help. Keep yourself safe and your love strong. Let your love be the light in that dark place they are in.
Our son has been in recovery for almost eight months. We are so grateful. Never give up!