My name is Sharron, and I’m not an addict. I am the mother of a 34-year-old poly-substance abuser and alcoholic.
As a child, I dreamed of having a yellow house framed by dark green shutters. The manicured lawn grew lush and thick. Flowers adorned the yard and window boxes with splashes reds, pinks, and purples. My dream home stood within the confines of a white picket fence that kept bad things out and good things in.
Somewhere between my little girl dreams and big girl reality, the picket fence morphed into a barbed wire prison of addiction. My Pollyanna ideals didn’t prepare me for life with an addict. I grew up in a protected environment and my naïve approach to family life opened the door for misbehavior with my three children, two daughters and a son.
In the first grade, our son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder and after much hand-wringing and tears, we agreed to put him on Ritalin. He continued taking the medication until the eighth grade when he took his first hit off a soda-can-turned-marijuana pipe. He also discovered alcohol at this time and my picket fence splintered.
His first introduction to rehab centers was at the ripe age of 16. We put him in an upscale, $1000 a day treatment facility for 28 days. What a waste of time and money. The information he gathered while there were the names of more drug dealers in our community.
From the ages of 16 to 30, he participated at six treatment facilities. He had periods of sobriety and all was well in his world. Then he would quit going to meetings (AA and NA), start drinking, and the inevitable crash would occur. He crashed hard in 2008 when someone gave him a Roxycodone tablet, a few months before his son was born. That small pill began a descent into a hell I knew was inescapable.
The teenage years’ misbehaviors were like a ride on a merry-go-round compared to the dips and turns of the roller coaster of opiate addiction. We had never, in all his years of abuse, experienced anything like the pain pills. He became someone I didn’t recognize—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
My son did things to feed the voracious opiate habit he had never done before. I was a nervous wreck waiting for him to be arrested, killed in a drug deal, or dead from an overdose. He survived one at age sixteen. I became the proverbial basket case. I wept as items in our home sprouted legs and walked out the door to pawn shops. I thought I was going crazy when cash I knew I had was nowhere to be found. To think that a child of mine would do what he did baffled me. My spirit was as crushed and full of holes as his first soda can marijuana pipe. How would the nightmare end?
In August of 2009, his wife posted this phrase on Facebook: “Jeremiah 30 and 31. Restoration Promised.” Restoration wasn’t at the forefront of my thought processes, so I didn’t take the time to read the two chapters in the Bible. We trudged along as the addiction consumed more and more of my only son and my family. On October 8, 2009, at 2:30 in the morning, I once again fought with the Sandman. My body needed sleep but disheartening scenarios of what might happen to him danced in my head and kept sleep at bay.
I got up to watch television but reached for my Bible instead. I remembered the Facebook post and flipped to Jeremiah 30. Tears streamed down my face as I read the prophet’s message to the children of Israel. He talked about them being held in bondage. I identified with that scenario. He talked about redemption and freedom and a time when all would be made right. I didn’t know about that and my breaking heart longed to know more.
I read and reread those two chapters, marking out Israel, Ephraim, and Jacob and inserting my son’s name. I wrote beside verse eight the things that held him and our family in bondage: drugs, alcohol, lying, and friends. In chapter 31, verses 15-17, I crossed out Rachel’s name and put mine. I changed Ramah, the region in which she lived, and put my city’s name. I made the verses personal, and I prayed them back to God, believing he would honor the promises to restore and redeem my family.
My son entered treatment in November 2009 but was discharged four weeks later. He relapsed on pain pills following emergency gallbladder surgery. After two months he was allowed to return and on February 18, 2010, he drew his first clean and sober breath in several years.
From a parent’s perspective addiction is brutal. The images of self-destruction never leave my memory. The night he overdosed replays in my mind; it is no longer a point of pain, but it will always be a point of reference. His choices to feed the addiction monster still haunt me in my quiet moments. How could he do the things he did? He’s an addict and that’s what addicts do.
I learned over the last four years that recovery is best accomplished one day at a time. I tried projecting five, ten, or fifteen years of clean time on him, and he quickly corrected me. “Mom, I can only be clean today. I can’t worry about five years from now.” I, too, live my life one day at a time. I know that today my son is clean and sober and that is all I can ask or hope for.
For family members of addicts, hope is the life line to which we cling like a drowning victim. When I speak, write, or share one-on-one with a distraught parent I always include the promise of hope for a sober and clean tomorrow. As long as there is breath there is hope that today will be the day for embracing a drug-free lifestyle. I wrote a 90-day devotional, Praying for Your Addicted Loved One: 90 in 90, to share a message of hope and encouragement to families without either.
My white picket fence dream is just that—a dream. I no longer peer through the sharpness of barbed wire, being pricked at every turn. My life has quietly settled behind a split-rail fence, still functional, but not as idealistic as the pickets and not as painful as barbed wire.
Blessings and hope for today.
Sharron K. Cosby
Praying for Your Addicted Loved One: 90 in 90