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What I Wish I Had Done Differently with My Addicted Son

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A while back, I received an e-mail from a concerned mother. In it, she described her son’s addiction. She spoke about several experiences that were similar to my own. She told me about how she had done this and that trying to help. She was scared she was going to lose her son.

She then asked me a simple question: “What do you wish you had done differently?”

It was a tricky question. Some may even say it was a trick question. Looking for the silver bullet has been the quest of every parent who I’ve spoken to. In fact, it was even my quest for several years.

For a while after she wrote, the woman’s question remained in the back of my mind. It caused me great anxiety. I simply didn’t have an adequate answer.

What do I wish I had done differently? At first, I thought of all of the little mistakes I made. Perhaps, if added up, they would have made a difference. Maybe some of the small changes might even have prevented this nightmare…or maybe not. Yet, this response did not satisfy me. After a few weeks of deliberation, I finally discovered a better answer.

I would have learned to listen.

First, I would have learned to listen to my son. What does an addicted person really have to say worth listening too? All along through his words and actions he told me there was nothing I could do to fix him. But as a parent, I knew that it was my job to fix my son. That’s what parents do, we fix things. I spent years of trying to fix him, despite the fact that he was telling me not to.

I would have also learned to listen to counselors and parents. Listening is very different than searching for answers. Getting answers to questions or “what to do” solutions assume that there is a single answer or methodology that will awaken not just you but also your addicted loved one from this nightmare.

I would have learned to listen to my own internal struggles about what I am told. What have I heard, what do I feel and why am I scared? My emotional reactions were a result of unresolved internal struggles.
A man listening
Finally, I would have learned to listen to my heart and my head. Most of the time one or the other wins. My heart reminds me that where there is life, there is hope. It allows me to love someone that by all accounts seems to be unlovable. Yet my head reminds me of the reality of addiction. Heart verses head is not a win/lose struggle. Your heart and your head should work together. It is possible for your heart to accept that your son may die. It is also possible for your head to understand that there may not be an answer for addiction and loving for just today is all you get.

Listening is hard. After all, nobody will ever love your child the way you do. You fed him, changed him, raised him and provided for his every need. Listening to your child is hard when loving and caring for him has always been instinct.

What do I wish I had done differently? I wish I had learned how to listen sooner.

44 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Gail Boal
    Gail Boal / May 14, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Thank you all for your comments and thoughts. I am looking at my son’s addition with a different set of eyes and heart. he has been a meth user now 11 years. Unbelievable. He is just 26. He has been through re-hab a few times It was so wonderful to see my son and spend time with him not under the influence of drugs. I had such hopes for him! Unfortunately he is still using. I told him I am “done”. I probably enabled him too much. I gave him money when he needed it, I even bought a little condo so he has a place to call home- that ended up being a disaster. I think he wants to get better and he tells me he hates the addition.

    I’m going to step back and let him be. I have told him that I love him and believe in him, but can’t be around him with this addiction. He is 6 ft 3 and very scary when he is on drugs or just coming off the high. His sister who is 22 is as scared of him as I. I feel terrible that I don’t want to be part of his life right now, but I don’t know what else to do. I need to get over my anger, detach, but also understand and listen more to what he is going through.

    Thanks again, Gail

  2. Avatar of Michael
    Michael / May 13, 2014 at 2:55 am

    Been there done that , im at wits end and even God is out of the question. He hates life, God and all in it. I miss who he was and want to kill the teen druggies at his school but im not that way and no cop will help. no counselor works
    im certain he will die or worse become a vegetable the next od

    help

  3. michele / May 8, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I recently responded to an email to our local newpaper that ran a 3 part series on heroin:

    I responded as “A Mothers Anguish…the other side

    Approximately 2 years ago, for whatever reason, my daughter tried heroin

    and her as well as our families life fell apart. The following are things I have

    come to know that have left me to write this and let you know from a mothers

    point of view how things really work.

    Of course, my daughter was a bright beautiful loving person, high honors in

    high school, many friends. She graduated with a bright future in store for her.

    She attended a year of community college in hopes of becoming a nurse.

    Life brings changes and she had a beautiful little girl, my granddaughter. In

    hind sight, I was unaware of what was to come. For some reason that she nor I

    as her mom will never know she dabbled in heroin. Long story short, she lost

    custody of her child when she was found to have paraphernalia in her possession

    with my granddaughter in the car. That was the day my life as her mom had

    completely and utterly been destroyed and will never be the same again. That was

    in February of 2013. I immediately had her placed in a methadone program

    thinking this would be the answer to my devastation. I was wrong. She did

    amazingly well until this following December when she relapsed. She left our home

    and visits with her child. I never knew how powerful a drug this was and learned

    step by step how life will never ever be the same. I had convinced her to go to

    rehab after overdosing to which she walked away. Things progressed for the

    worse and she stole my credit card and purchased close to 2 thousand dollars in

    gift cards. We as her family were destroyed again in this ongoing hell. I searched

    for her went to police did all I could to find her, to which we did, walking the

    streets in 10 degree weather with no shoes. I was then able to 302 her and she

    was placed in a dual mental drug clinic then sent to rehab. She then came home

    after 21 days and was here for 2 days and went back on the streets. She was

    finally arrested a week later to which I was actually grateful. I spent 2 months of

    no sleep, nights of constant tears. She has created this I know but there are

    other concerns I have as to ways to obtain money for her habit. When she

    stole my credit card I learned that she obtained gift cards. I was infuriated

    to learn that these check cashing stores accept any gift card and will give you

    one half the face value. Now, lets be honest. These places know exactly

    what is going on. I cannot believe they are even allowed to be part of our

    business community. The police are well aware. These stores actually accept

    stolen property. To me that is a crime. They are profiting off of stolen goods

    in a legal manner. Please, I implore you to look into this and speak with the

    local police. This is morally wrong. Legal, but wrong. To me they are acting

    as the middle man between the user and the dealer. I am trying to see if

    I can file a complaint against United Check cashing, How can the same

    person come into a store approximately 15 times with 100 dollar gift cards,

    be paid half the face value and they claim its not their problem or responsibility.

    Outrageous to say the least.

    I would also like to add that I found my daughters phone, went thru all her

    text messages and found all the dealers. I had contacted them all and I told

    them I would be their worst nightmare. I was told that was dangerous and it

    made me more determined. I confronted them and used language I cannot

    relay to you. I was not in fear because my anger took over and I don’t regret

    one text or call I made to any dealer. I would be their worst nightmare. I worked

    with the local police and handed over names and addresses of all the dealers

    I was aware of. I had a feeling of satisfaction. I felt I was able to help in some

    small way in this neverending war.

    At the local hospital we have detox for patients who walk in off the

    streets and are in need of help. I realize some addicts just use this as a revolving

    door, but those who need the help have a rude awakening. There 6 female

    and 6 male beds for patients who have no insurance. That is the case for most.

    For patients with insurance its not much better. The deductible is usually 2500

    dollars or more with copays daily. Rehabs are a for profit facility and no pay, you

    must leave. Also, when a patient arrives for detox in the emergency room, they

    MUST have drugs in their system or they are told “you are not a candidate”.

    Also, when their are no beds available for detox, they are told to leave, continue

    to use and return daily until a bed is available. This is the standard protocol. People

    wanting help and turned away. They find dirty syringes in the ladies room

    so they can use and be sure they have drugs in their system just to pass phase

    one of what sometimes turns out to be a major let down and they are asked to

    leave.

    My daughter was recently arrested and placed in prison. I refused to bail her out. It was the first time in months

    that I was able to sleep and not wait for the hospital or coroners office to call me. That is what its like living daily

    with a child on heroin and not knowing where or who they are with. They did this to themselves, but the fact

    of this addiction is that its web is very large and affects all who are in their life. As a mother, I find it inconceivable to be able to go on with life not knowing where your child is or how much danger they are in. We are told that it is their choice and you no longer have control of their actions. That is true and factual, but not to a mother. I cant get to the place where you have to let go. I cant sit back and watch a life be destroyed and not try to help.

    Our family will forever live with the constant nightmare of when or if relapse will happen. This drug is non discriminatory. Rich, poor, young, old, professionals, non professionals. It has no boundaries. You are alone also. Friends shy away…your only support is those who live this life with this horrendous disease.

    I have written this to show the other side of addiction. I will keep on my quest to assist law enforcement and individuals or agencies that will listen and help. I ask that my name not be mentioned. The Citizens Voice had published my daughters arrest with her picture. I understand this is public knowledge, however, the journalist that published this story cannot imagine the destruction he had on our side of this tragedy. It was humiliating yes, but I also have a 16 year old who had to go to school the next day. A teacher entered her class and held up the article and my daughters year book picture and proceeded to humiliate my daughter even more. She was not bullied by her

    classmates, but by her teacher. This is the mentality of how people perceive addiction.

    All in all, I am forever and always changed. I am on a mission, be it small in this unnoticeable war, to help in anyway I can. If I can educated and share my story and help one family, I feel I have succeeded. I implore you to please look into to this deadly disease that affects not only families, but society as a whole. It needs more attention and stricter laws. I need to find someone..anyone to listen. Look into the check cashing companies. Its a travesty that they are allowed to operate legally in a society when their major profit is stolen goods to purchase drugs. How insulting and hideous this entire operation is. I thank the mayor that there are none of these companies in the city limits.

    Thank you for listening and telling my story…my nightmare

    • D vaughn / July 7, 2014 at 11:15 pm

      I really like reading blogs about parents going through the same thing. My son is15 been in rehab twice in six months and has relapsed again. I’m looking for residential treatment of 3 to 6 months. I am afraid it will be in vain. This is so draining on families. I do feel actions need to be done on selling gift cards, stolen property etc. I’m looking for more website blogs for families going through the same thing. Best of luck to u look forward to talking to you. Debbie vaughn

  4. Avatar of Todd @ Addiction Solutions
    Todd @ Addiction Solutions / April 30, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Frank C, thank you so much. I have read it two times and shall read it many more! Keep posting.

  5. Frank C. / April 30, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Thank you Linda P and Sanee for your kind comments. I am just a dad and care about the common suffering we all share as parents and loved ones like the heartbreak that Sule C shares in her story of her son. It is difficult to make sense of our children’s choices and in the end we all have to find our own way to deal with the incalculable emotional and financial costs that hold our families hostage to abuse.

    I do believe that our children’s choice to use drugs in ways that destroy our families is abuse. Abuse is the maltreatment of another person…in this case a child’s choice to choose drugs over family. The pain that we share is so deep it defies any description and tears at the core of our existence every minute of every day. Sule C you are right. You can’t continue to live your life the way you have for the past two years or your health will continue to grow worse physically, emotionally and spiritually.

    Your decision was difficult but the right thing to do because if you lose who you are at this point of your journey you will be lost to everyone else that loves and cares about you. I do speak to parents individually and in groups and I tell them that in a 24 hour period you have 1,440 minutes to contemplate the fate of your child and family. If you are lucky you will get to sleep a portion of that time because of the emotional exhaustion and heartache we share in thinking about what may happen to our child. I would assume based on my life experience that you may get 4 or 5 hours of restless sleep each day that leaves you with 19 to 20 hours, or 1,140 to 1,200 minutes, to think about your situation.

    If you calculate that you think about your child only one time per minute, which is a really low estimate, then you will have over 1,000 fearful or confusing thoughts each day of your life. Multiply that number by years of abuse and it is easy to see why we lose our way as a parent and often times feel like the insanity that chases us minute by minute is going to overtake us. The thoughts that race through our minds depletes our spirit and basically steals our life away in sadness and hopelessness.

    The first hope to seek is for yourself. To know that you have the strength to save yourself. It is not being selfish or any less a loving parent that your child may choose the streets over all the good things you have to offer in your home. As with most parents fighting to save a child from their destructive choices we have done the best we can even if we have made mistakes along the way. The biggest mistake we often make is to continue to share in the responsibility of our child’s choices. It is not yours to own…it is their’s. It is one of the first things we must let go.

    It is not a game of winners and losers for us parents. One analogy is that it is about our survival in being dealt a really crappy hand of cards. There are times that we have to fold but it doesn’t mean that we are giving up. There is another hand coming and we have to keep the faith that a better hand is in our future. And sometimes we need to push away from the table for a few hands to take care of ourselves and others in our family. I know this sounds simplistic but the reality is that we don’t control the dealer…we can only work to stay healthy and alert enough to place our energy and love in the hands that give us a chance in helping to change the trajectory of our child’s choices.

    I can relate to how frustrations grow with each bad experience. But I think it is universal that we parents continue to search for something that is going to be helpful for our families. Think about what you need for yourself first so that you can be there when you are invited back into your child’s life.

    Addicts live with lies and secrecy every minute of their existence. Make a choice to live your life differently. I think about it as a model of the chain of command that we all have grown up with. The leaders at the top of the hierarchy make the rules that always flow downwards. The rank and file are then asked to take sole accountability for those rules that we as parents then push back to the top. Most of us are willing to live this way…our addicts are not.

    Put yourself into a situation where the rules you wish to follow fit your needs. There are approximately 14,000 treatment centers in the US and it is impossible for them all to have the same agenda. It only makes sense that we become confused because we are always being asked as parents to pay the bills either directly, through taxes, or insurance premiums and co-pays. The question I ask parents to think about is where your choice to find help ranks you the parent. If you are not at least equal to the rank they assign to your child then you are in the wrong place. In fact I would strengthen my opinion and say that if you are not ranked above your addict then it is time to move on and get help elsewhere.

    I never had a treatment expert come to my home and live with my family during the worst of times. But most were quick to answer my questions with cliches or acronyms that were meant to maintain the order of their treatment process. Because you see, they sit at the top of the chain of command that you have chosen for help and you are being asked to be tolerant to staying in your place. My question is this, how do we as parents make them accountable to our families?

    Never let anyone make you believe that you are below your addict on this difficult journey or that you have to accommodate your addicts choices. To do so only weakens your ability to hold others accountable to the needs of your family if you choose their help. And never let your personal inventory be controlled by feelings of shame or guilt. Author and speaker Brene Brown sums it up well when she explains that empathy is the antidote to shame and the way out is to allow yourself to be vulnerable to your own needs and realistic expectations. I remember the days of trying to make sense of everything that only made things seem less attainable. Follow your heart and your spirit will eventually be lifted.

    Sule C, I can only say that I truly empathize with your pain that we have shared on this journey and in my own way will always be here in spirit to support you as are the millions of others that have been able to survive this most difficult of challenges. May you find the peace and happiness that you so rightfully deserve…don’t be afraid to pursue it.

  6. Avatar of Sule C.
    Sule C. / April 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    My son 23 son has been completely addicted to heroin for now over two years. He apparently started with pills and I assume based on what everyone says became to costly and the heroin was the cheaper fix. He’s gone to rehab twice so far to no avail because I realize he doesn’t think there is a problem or more like he’s an addict… well… this is how it is an nothing can be done about it.
    Life in the house has been hell. He basically dictates how our day will be. If he’s high no one is sleeping because he’s going to be up all night and keep us up all night. Tension is just as HIGH as he is.
    He’s stolen, lied the whole nine. He is completely delusional in that he thinks that if he goes to some trade school he will be better. All he really wants is the money he will get if he attends at the end of every month.
    For our health and because it all came to a screeching halt I put him out. I know the hurt as a parent, and possibly the frustration and sheer lack of sleep made the decision for me.
    I know addicts do what they can to survive and I’m sure he will make due.
    However, as I read everything everyone has written I feel like the hardest part of this has been to be patient and try not to fix matters.
    I feel horrible that he just started school and on his second day he’s homeless but we purchased a vehicle for him to get to school and made him insure it so that we wouldn’t run the risk of our carrier dropping us for having an uninsured motorist let alone someone who gets behind the wheel high. He has my husbands gym membership and I feel he could go shower there everyday and there are shelters he could go have a meal at.
    I’ve done everything I can aside from quitting my job and making sure he doesn’t get the opportunity to get high. I’ve paid for suboxon, made arrangements with therapists, outpatient centers and nothing has helped.
    Am I giving up. I just know that while I love him I hate the addiction and the addict and I can’t live like this anymore I have aged in these two years more than I could have ever in 50.

  7. Avatar of Shanee
    Shanee / April 24, 2014 at 2:00 am

    Frank C. – Thank you for your commentary. It is the
    first time I have ever read anything regarding parenting
    an addict, that truly made sense. You certainly are
    articulate! You have put into words exactly how I feel
    and it was a pleasure to read what you wrote. Hopefully
    other parents will read your story and save themselves
    a lot of pain and suffering. May your son be a source
    of pride to you and your family!

  8. Avatar of Linda p
    Linda p / April 18, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Frank C, thank you so much for your insight. I have read it three times and shall read it many more! Much gratitude for your taking the time to share.
    Linda

  9. Avatar of Frank C.
    Frank C. / April 8, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Cristina I can relate to your comment about how difficult it is to lovingly detach from your addict. As a parent of a son that took my family on a six year journey of chaos it was perhaps the most difficult part to learn. Learning to love my son and still be able to detest the addict. My son now has four years clean after numerous rehabs, an almost successful suicide attempt, and the countless lies and constant emotional manipulation.

    The hard truth is that as parents and loved ones of addicts we live in a constant state of fear that often times makes it difficult to process events and words without being unbalanced emotionally. The possibility that your child will die is less than the probability of the death of your family. 2013 saw just over 38,000 overdose deaths with less than five percent as a result of street or what would be called illicit drugs. The remaining 95 percent were the result of prescription drugs according to both the TEDS Report and the National Institute of Health. It doesn’t make it any easier to know that your addict’s lies are less concerned about you and your family than their desire to get high with their drug of choice. But the fact remains that they will survive given the statistical probability of their choices and you as a parent may not in the way that you may choose to view your role in the process.

    Unless parents have totally disregarded their child’s well-being through either neglect or use of drugs with them, we have no control over their choice to use and subsequent fall into the abyss of dependency. They will tell us it is our fault because they need an excuse to put things into their body that they know can kill them and in all honesty they don’t value the relationships with all those around them that love and care for them. There is a book, “Walking on Eggshells” that discusses our need to try to say and do all of the right things for our addict because we often times share responsibility for their destructive choices. This is exactly where they want us to be…

    As a good friend Dennis from the organization BILY.org says it, “The pain of their choices is not an option but your choice to suffer is.” In looking at the stories posted on this website it is easy to see why. From a recovering addict willing to blame his parents for being the triggers for use to a proponent of evidence based cognitive based recovery theory…it is easy for a parent to get lost in the cliches and competing concepts as to why our children choose drugs over life and the role we as parents occupy in the process.

    I am not discounting either. I just want to say that each of us has our own unique story in addition to the many similar experiences that we also share. But stories don’t help if they don’t have a reasonable call for action based on where we are at on our journey. I remember wondering if letting my son quit playing on his hockey team could have contributed to his choice to use drugs. I wondered about everything I had ever said or done in his life. In the end it was his choice to use…not mine. I was going insane and there weren’t any treatment professionals willing to address my role as a father except for the cliche’s and referral to another group.

    All parents have to bear in mind that the treatment of addiction is worth an estimated $34 billion dollars annually. It is big business to treat the small percentage of addicts that actually choose or are forced to seek help through the courts. I don’t even want to get sidetracked with the role of the insurance companies. But I have seen families lose their homes and life savings because of the continued investment in treatment and attorneys to help their child. Not to mention the personal costs of the emotional roller coaster that our addicts would like us to live on to sustain their choices.

    The majority of parents I have met through the years are good people with their love and hearts in the right place. It is the perfect place for the addict to work from. They know exactly where we are at and can and will manipulate to get what they want. Boundaries are the only protection we have if they are healthy and not based on anger and resentment. It is unrealistic expectations of ourselves and our addict that cause the suffering. It is our choice to be a victim or to choose life without the chaos and destruction to our families.

    It isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work and a support group that helps you when you are down or being able to help someone else that may need your help. It most certainly won’t come from the lies of your addict until they choose to be clean and honest about their choices. The pain of knowing that they are willing to use our love for them against us hurts. It is up to us to decide what to do with the pain. I chose to continue to love my son but I had to eventually choose to save myself and family from his self-destructive choices.

    I had to fight to move away from the lessons that are taught about how we as parents are supposed to save our children from their choices to the point of losing my savings and retirement on a son who while he was using just didn’t care. Clinicians and pundits would call me an enabler even if they hadn’t shared a common journey with their own child. None of it made any sense but I spent the money anyway and listened to their ‘white coat’ interpretation of my behavior by reading about it in a book somewhere. Boy was I wrong.

    I attend many meetings to drop in to see if after a few months if the group is moving on or whether they are there to just share and commiserate about their journey on the ‘pity train’ that grants us parents free passage. I can’t tell you how many times after an absence the group is still talking about what “Little Johnny” did last week without the story teller saying anything about what they were doing about their life and what they could do to change it.

    Addiction is complex and this post is in no way intended to indict or offer all of the answers because it is impossible and unethical to promote insight without the benefit of individual direction of another’s place on their journey.

    I am lucky that my son finally chose to be clean and to reconnect and respect the love of his family. I have also attended too many funerals of children that didn’t make it. But I am also not afraid even with his sobriety to be able to tell him when he is thinking impulsively and acting like an addict without any fear of what he chooses. I let go of my resentment and thinking that I could control his choices a long time ago. It wasn’t cliche’s or listening to experts promoting a cure…it was hard work and the personal commitment to decipher their clinically coded messages to keep me in the abyss of the treatment process. And I found a sponsor and friend willing to tell me when I was being delusional about my role as a parent. He asked me to do one thing. To prepare myself for the ten second window of opportunity to respond to my son when he was truly ready to ask for help…even if that meant that he might ask more than once. I learned to do it without offering money or any more of my family that had already been abused or manipulated. Lots of faith and hard work and learning to stop doing the things over again that had failed in the past. Keep the faith and don’t be afraid of the ‘heavy lifting’ that is a part of finding a healthy place for you and your family.

  10. Avatar of Cristina C.
    Cristina C. / March 17, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Dear Patti,
    I read your post with openness and interest. Our son and his fiance lived with me for two years and used drugs under my roof. We found out and my son went into withdrawal on his own. We took him to the hospital and he ended up in a 7 day detox. Within the month he was using again. He tried AA, but felt that it was a cult and they were trying to talk him into believing in God. We have been on this journey since he was 15 years old. He spent his 16th birthday in jail, and his 20th. We sent him to three separate treatment centers and paid for all of them. We were out of touch for a few years, and then he came back into our lives. I thought he had “gotten better” and was doing all right. At 28 years of age, I let his fiance and he move in with me while my husband commuted from a distant city on weekends. The deal was that they would get jobs and save their money. I allowed them to lie to me for those two years. I had to know on some level that he was drinking again, and probably using drugs. I did not realize that they were both using heroin and that my house was a place where they were doing it. Their room was filled with needles and bloodstains on the walls. I have been in recovery for over 30 years from alcoholism. I thought I would know, but clearly, I didn’t want to see the truth.

    We offered to help them get treatment. His fiance was involved in a methadone treatment program for awhile. My son seemed to be clean, but not really.

    To make a long story short, they were both arrested for having drug paraphernalia in their car a few weeks ago. Her parents bailed her out and she moved back in with them. She also is facing a DUI we didn’t know about. We were advised by many people not to bail our son out. We did not. A friend bailed him out. We at least knew he was safe during that time and not using. He is now with his fiance in another state. He blames me for his drug use, and says that I kicked him out. I am the heartless, uncaring one. We have offered to help him in any way possible if he would get treatment. He is an atheist and says that recovery treatment places are cults and he won’t be brainwashed. He has a chance to go to a drug court program in the state where he was arrested. He has already pled guilty. He refuses to even consider the drug court program and says that he will go to jail instead. He says we have abandoned him and his life is over.

    Patti, what do you suggest the family to do if the person refuses help? When he was a juvenile we tried everything. Now he is 30. He cannot live with me. It has become dangerous. I wish the courts would decriminalize drug use in this country, so that more people can get help. But they must be willing to get that help.

    I cannot have drugs in my home, or people using illegal drugs in my home. Again, he has said repeatedly that I should let him live with me and that he has no intention of getting help of any kind. He says that the arrest has proved to him that we live in a fascist state and that all governments are corrupt. He says I threw him out and treated him like an animal. I am fully aware that this is the addiction talking. I try not to react, but I do when he tells me that his life is over. He said that to me today, and it terrified me. When I got on the phone with him he said he had no intention of killing himself, that he is seriously depressed. I asked him what we could do. He said we should let him live with us again. I suggested treatment. No way. And around and around we go.

    Seriously, Patti, I have listened, I have read books, I have a therapist and an addiction counselor I am working with to walk through this illness as best I can. The destruction done to my house was just an indication of how ill they both are. They have not been treated like pariahs in the least. In fact, we supported them for two years thinking they were saving money to eventually move out and get an apartment of their own.

    I do have a spiritual life, and I am praying that I can learn to let go and let God. I have also been in AA meetings with tons of young addicts, and almost all of them have said to me that they didn’t get help until their parents detached and stopped talking to them. I’m not convinced that closing off communications entirely is the right course. However, time and time again, I’ve been told by recovered addicts and their families that until parents detached … with love…but detached, there was no hope for recovery.

  11. Avatar of JoJo
    JoJo / March 15, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    I feel for all the ppl here dealing with their children’s addictions, no matter what the age, my son is 30

  12. Avatar of JoJo
    JoJo / March 15, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    My son works in law enforemnt and has a bad addiction problem with opiates & Xanax, he was in rehab for 3 days and then outpatient for a month, he was told to go back in inpatient but refuses, he semeed to be doing ok for the month after he was released but has taken a turn for the worse in the past week, he calls me slurring on th phone but says he isn’t? I beg him to go back, he refuses, I know he will lose his job and I’m afraid he will accidently overdose, I can’t sleep or eat & I don’t know what to do :( help

  13. Avatar of Jenna Bordeaux
    Jenna Bordeaux / March 4, 2014 at 5:11 am

    My 21 yr. Old son started using in middle school. It went from pot to pills to crack and now meth. I am pretty sure there is much more in between that I dont know about. He refuses help. And nothing I do or say makes any difference. I am the only one of his family members that will even talk to him. It has come to the point now were I am afraid to even go near him due to his careless choices and the people he associates with. I am afraid to have him in my home because of his stealing. I feel so helpless. I dont want him to die. I research meth and its a terrible drug. The last time I saw him I could already see the signs of the damage. He has what they call meth mouth, itching and insomnia. I dont know what to do. He has and will sleep on the street before he gets help. There is no rock bottom for him. Hes already spent time in jail. The only thing I guess I have done right is listen. I have always listened to everything he had to say even when I suspected he was on something. I read one comment above wheee someone said her son told her his addiction was going to kill him so she needed to prepare herself. I cant imagine any way humanly possible to even begin to prepare myself for loosing him that way too. But yet its one of my biggest fears. Sometimes it hurts so much hearing how he sounds when hes using. But then when I dont hear from him for awhile or dont take his calls because of his disrespect, I am afraid I will never hear his voice again or see him again. I need help with coping with this. I just dont know where to look. I guess a part of me doesnt think there is anything or anyone that can help. I just wish he would get help.

  14. Avatar of Scott
    Scott / February 10, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    My son has battled with his addiction for 4 years now. We are an average family and like so many other families effected by this economy are living paycheck to paycheck. I do have health insurance but because of the increase in premiums I had to raise my deductible limits to ungodly levels.

    Six months ago we were able to get him in to a 6 week intense outpatient program. We supported him with positive reinforcement, attended family nights and tried to show him in every way that this was something he could conquer. Six weeks later he was flourishing. He was motivated, attending meetings, working and going to school. It was great to have my son back.

    Skipping ahead 30 days, signs were reappearing that caused concerns so when confronted with a drug test, he confessed that he did in fact relapse. My heart just sank! I would ask him how he was doing on a daily basis making sure that he knew he had tools in place (sponsors, family, friends etc) should he find himself struggling. How is it that he could relapse yet again! This brings to where I am now.

    I have used all my financial resources to get him through the last program. With my new deductibles I can not afford the same treatments. I have the responsibility to my wife and other son not to bankrupt our household regardless of how bad I want to help him.

    Can anyone guide me or make suggestions on a next step. What might be available to him that I don’t see. All programs in or outpatient require money that just isn’t available. Where do we go from here to help our son!

  15. Patti Herndon / January 31, 2014 at 1:32 am

    “My family, which SHOULD have been my support system, were actually my “triggers–” they didn’t help me in the way I needed to helped. Instead, they refused to listen to me, or to doctors, therapists, and addiction specialists. The only ones they listened to were their own ignorant and uneducated views of addiction. As a result, they triggered me with their anger, spiteful and cruel comments, the way they would follow me and spy on me, their random “searches” where they would overturn my room looking for drugs… these things built up over time to cause me to want drugs instead of recovery. That’s what a trigger is. It’s any person, place, or thing that triggers the addict to want to use their drug of choice. Addiction is a family disease. It takes every member of the family to get the addict to where they are now. That doesn’t mean you’re to blame for the addict’s choices, but it means you play a part in the addict’s life. Whether you like it or not, you’re influencing them (and therefore influencing their recovery) with the things you say and do. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of what your loved one needs in their recovery. And it won’t be the same for every addict.”

    Dear courageous Person in recovery from heroin,

    I choose not to refer to you, or any other person challenged by substance use disorder, as ‘addict’…because you are infinitely more than that label implies… infinitely more than the sum of your substance use disorder challenge. Among all the wonderful, creative, caring attributes you possess; you happen to be ‘a person in recovery’, too. And, your strength of spirit and desire to share what you have learned is inspiring.

    Thank you for the courage you demonstrate in saying above what many in our culture (including some invested advocates in the recovery movement) too often experience as challenging. That is, the challenge of being open to consider that it is ‘our’ choice as parents/Concerned significant others to interact with our addiction-challenged kids in a consistent manner -one that will either hinder or encourage/support efforts in recovery/healthy change.

    The day to day relational dynamic, that is, our spirit/style of interaction with our substance use disordered son/daughter/family member, impacts their progression, or the lack thereof in achieving sustainable change/recovery. It’s critical to learn what does and what does not support a healthy change process in our unique loved one. We are living in a time of such positive change and growth in terms of addiction attitudes and treatments.

    We know, now, as the result of evidence-based studies regarding treatment outcomes, done in more recent years, what serves recovery and, also, what serves to stall it.

    It took a lot of education from current, evidence based addiction science for me to recognize that my interaction with my son was, often, causing more problems than it solved. I wanted to help him more than anything. I was a desperate parent trained up by ‘traditional’ parent peer groups, as well as a handful of well-intended counselors who were not trained beyond traditional methods, who also advised ‘tough love’ as the ‘go-to’. But, that was all there was back then. There was no ‘menu of options’ in recovery support for the substance used disordered individual or their family members.

    That was over 15 years ago. It was a familiar tune: ‘Let ‘em hit bottom’…the whole, ‘my way or the highway’…the, “lock him out if he’s not home by curfew”, notions… “drop her at a homeless shelter”. I knew that approach wouldn’t help my son. But, I do know of parents that have employed such measures, believing they were doing the only thing they could. And, I’m sad to say that I have experienced parents (who I know love their children with all their hearts) communicating to me that they have employed these kinds of tough love ‘strategies’ in what would often come across as an ‘almost’ braggadocios spirit. I never understood this kind of ‘pride’ in this tough love parenting technique. It seems it was coming from a place of anger/passive aggressivity…an, “Oh, no. He’s/She’s not going to get one over on me. I’m much smarter than he/she thinks”. It was about ‘winning’ and showing their kid ‘who’s boss’. It wasn’t about recovery and change. That kind encounter was, unfortunately, common when listening to parents discussing their beyond difficult challenges in parenting a son/daughter with a substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder.

    We should be very choosy about the kind of ‘support’ we engage. If we are not mindful to guard our own spirit, paying close attention to the dynamic of the support philosophy…in other words is the direction/energy one of hope-building and problem solving…or is it designed as a ‘venting’ of the challenges. A balanced mix of the two can be therapeutic and helpful -under the guidance of an experienced, knowledgeable facilitator . But, if your support group consists of an hour or more of talking non stop about all the detailed war stories of the journey, informing on ‘how selfish your child is because they use drugs, and how ‘if their lips are moving, they are lying’, then you are probably not learning anything of value. If it’s venting to the the exclusion of, “Ok. So, now, what specific relational strategies can I try that may improve the outcome, next time”?… it’s not likely going to be a source of support that will inspire hope or better listening technique onto problem solving for your particular situation. Parent after parent being influenced/directed to vent about all their kid’s bad choices isn’t going to help ‘any’ parent take away anything of value toward the goal of going home and being effective in helping their son/daughter engage recovery.

    It was these kinds of parent peer group experiences that made me more tired and left me more hopeless than when I arrived.

    Not coincidently, some parents who choose to participate in these kinds of support groups are often the parents that continue to be baffled and frustrated, (year after year, even), as to why their son/daughter is not making progress in recovery, not ‘responding’ to their bigger/better boundaries.

    Boundaries are important in the whole picture of recovery. Appropriate boundaries are helpful. But, boundaries that are arbitrary and ridged, boundaries that disrespect the individual, boundaries that do not consider the individual’s unique coping style, their strengths, their beliefs about how ‘they’ will best engage the change process are likely to only be boundaries ‘in’ recovery, not ‘toward’ recovery. These kinds of boundaries are dead ends to change and sustainable recovery as they increase contention in the relationship…just as the smart young woman in recovery points out above in her comment.

    I encourage parents to check out SMART Recovery Friends and Family (Self Management and Recovery Training). This easily accessible support resource (just google it) is rooted in evidence-based science – Cognitive Behavioral based frame/CRAFT/Motivational Interviewing.

    You stress the critical importance of parents demonstrating empathy and compassion in interacting with their addicted son/daughter. Empathy has been studied in association with treatment approach and proves to be a key player in inspiring an individual with substance use disorder toward developing their own reasons for change. Until and unless a person experiences the sense of ‘being authentically heard’ by those around them, especially parents; it becomes less likely that they will be successful in hearing ‘their own’ voice leading them to the path of increasing health/better choices, better coping mechanism. Perceived anger, judgment, control, ridged inflexibility, frustration, contention and fear wash away and erode the healthy foundation of authentic change before it can even begin to be laid.

    As parents we have, have always had, great influence with our child and thus the ability to shape the quality of interaction with regard to their recovery from substances use disorder. We have the power to facilitate change in our son/daughter’s choices…to encourage and lend them ‘our’ sense of hope and belief in their ability to make healthy change, little by little, in a big way as they engage and build on their own sense of hope and belief in their ability to recover. In this approach, each individual within the family system can learn, hope, change and grow…And, that is the goal: Better lived moments:-)

    Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

  16. Avatar of Recovering Heroin/Meth Addict
    Recovering Heroin/Meth Addict / January 12, 2014 at 4:00 am

    Anyone who is dealing with the harsh reality of an addicted loved one: there is hope. I’m a recovering addict, so I can tell you what works and what doesn’t.

    Listening is the most important thing to do. The tough love approach rarely works because parents equate it to “just let the kid do whatever they want and don’t try to help them in any way, shape, or form.” Too often, this attempt to “create a rock bottom” for the addict results in death before recovery. That doesn’t mean you should enable them, but it’s very important that you take the time to do research and ask a very important question, which is, “What can I do to help you get better?”

    My family, which SHOULD have been my support system, were actually my “triggers–” they didn’t help me in the way I needed to helped. Instead, they refused to listen to me, or to doctors, therapists, and addiction specialists. The only ones they listened to were their own ignorant and uneducated views of addiction. As a result, they triggered me with their anger, spiteful and cruel comments, the way they would follow me and spy on me, their random “searches” where they would overturn my room looking for drugs… these things built up over time to cause me to want drugs instead of recovery. That’s what a trigger is. It’s any person, place, or thing that triggers the addict to want to use their drug of choice.

    Addiction is a family disease. It takes every member of the family to get the addict to where they are now. That doesn’t mean you’re to blame for the addict’s choices, but it means you play a part in the addict’s life. Whether you like it or not, you’re influencing them (and therefore influencing their recovery) with the things you say and do. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of what your loved one needs in their recovery. And it won’t be the same for every addict.

    First, it helps to know how addiction works. It IS a disease. I recommend watching the documentary “Pleasure Unwoven.” After watching that documentary, you’ll know more about addiction than the average med student.
    In short, the documentary explains why an addict seems to “act bad.” It’s not because they’re a bad person or morally defective. It has to do with what addiction does to the brain.
    In layman’s terms, addiction affects two areas of the brain: the midbrain and the frontal cortex. In a normal human being, our midbrain is the primal part of the brain. It tells us, “FOOD! SHELTER! SEX!” Without it, the human race would never survive. We can’t change it and we are not conscious of it. We have no control over it. The frontal cortex, on the other hand, is the part of the brain that deals with morality, spirituality, religion, “right vs. wrong” mentality, etc.
    So in every one of us, our frontal cortex keeps our midbrain in check. An average thought in an average human with an average brain might be something along the lines of, “I’m hungry- I need food (a subconscious thought from our midbrain). I better go to work, make some money, go to the store, wait in line, be polite to the cashier, and buy some food (a conscious thought from our frontal cortex).” Makes sense, right? That’s an example of the frontal cortex keeping our midbrain in check. That’s why we don’t steal food when we’re hungry, because our frontal cortex tells us it’s wrong to do so.
    Well, once addiction kicks in (and this doesn’t apply to people who smoke pot or do drugs recreationally, this only applies to people who are physically addicted to a drug, like alcohol, heroin, coke, or meth, where they will go into physically sickness, withdrawal, seizures, and even death if they cannot obtain their drug), these two parts of the brain don’t act the way they should. Instead of the frontal cortex being in charge of the midbrain, it inverts. In an addicted individual, it becomes the midbrain that is in charge of the frontal cortex. And instead of the midbrain saying, “FOOD! SHELTER! SEX!” it becomes, “DRUG! DRUG! DRUG!” This is why addiction is a disease. At this point, the addict doesn’t have a conscious choice whether or not they want the drug. It becomes a subconscious NEED deep inside our primal instinct of the midbrain. How does this affect the behavior of an addict? Well, remember the example of the frontal cortex telling us not to steal food and to work for it, instead? This causes an addict to have a thought more along the lines of this: “I know it’s wrong to steal money from my mother (a thought from the frontal cortex)… BUT if I don’t get my drug soon, I will die (a thought from the midbrain).” And since it’s the addict’s MIDBRAIN that’s in charge, instead of the frontal cortex like an non-addict, this causes the addict to steal money from their mother to buy their drug. It’s literally as if their brain is being hi-jacked and making them do things that they would never normally do.

    Parents, please remember what I just told you.
    Read it as many times as you need to.
    It’s vitally important to understand this.
    Many conflicts in addiction/recovery arise because parents think their child is stealing or behaving badly simply because they lack respect and love for the parent, and it makes the parent blame the child and in many cases, makes them unwilling to help their child. You have to remember you child isn’t doing these things because they want to. They’re doing it because they have an uncontrollable thought in the back of their head, telling them that they will die if they don’t get their drug. It doesn’t mean their behavior is okay, but it means that they’ve crossed a line into addiction where they desperately need help.

    Now that you understand why an addict acts the way they do, you can start focusing on what your loved one needs in order to recover. It sounds simple enough- they need unconditional love, they need to be heard, and they need support. But this can be the hardest thing for some parents to do. My parents thought the more control they exerted in my life, the more likely they could control my drug use and recovery. The opposite is true. They would take away my money (money that I had earned at my own job), take away my car keys (of a car that was mine), and threaten me if I didn’t let them control every aspect of my life. I was in my 20′s when they did all this. This made me feel trapped, and only escalated my drug use. I needed respect and a decent amount of freedom to get clean. If your loved one doesn’t have freedom, they will never learn to be clean on their own. As hard as it is to understand, you have to let them be able to have the option to get high so they can learn to say no because they genuinely don’t want to use anymore, not just because you locked them in the basement for a month so they didn’t have a choice in the matter! True sobriety isn’t forced. True sobriety is where you can put a drug in front of that addict and they still choose to walk away.

    On top of the things already mentioned, here’s some suggestions of things that helped me recover:

    -SOLVE UNDERLYING ISSUES!!! The majority of addicts (probably around 80-90%) started using drugs because they had an underlying trauma, or an underlying mental issue, and tried to use drugs to self-medicate. With me, I had issues with depression, anxiety, ADD, and low self-esteem. It’s very important that an addict gets these issues solved. Make an appointment with a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a therapist, or even a regular physician to talk about possible conditions that need to be taken care of. With the right combination of medications, my depression is much easier to deal with, my emotions are stable and rational for once, and I rarely get panic attacks or anxiety anymore. It’s great.

    -Going to Narcotics Anonymous (12 Step) meetings. There’s something almost magical about it. The addict can go here regardless if they’re clean or not, and be accepted, loved, and understood. I didn’t think sitting around in a circle with strangers and talking about my struggles would help me, but it did. These people instantly saw me as a friend and reached out. At my first meeting, I left with dozens of phone numbers of people who truly cared about me, and urged me to call them at any hour of the night if I felt like using. These meetings are held frequently, they’re fun, everyone likes each other, and they even have sober parties and dances! If you want to support your loved one, you can even go with them! You can learn a lot about how you can help your loved one by going to these meetings and asking questions. The members will be happy to help you to the best of their abilities. Don’t think of them as “a bunch of losers or junkies–” members of NA and AA do more work on themselves and generally have a better outlook on life than any non-addict I’ve ever met. If you’re in a city, you can also probably find Nar-Anon and Al-Anon meetings, which are strictly for family members of addicts and alcoholics.

    -Picking up the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, or the Narcotics Anonymous Book. These are what are usually read out of at 12 step meetings. Reading these two books gave me tremendous insight on my addiction, and they include stories of recovery to inspire me, and when I read these books, I felt like I was learning something new about myself every time I picked it up. It seemed like this book knew me better than I knew myself. Every chapter I would say to myself, “Hey, that IS true! I DO think like that! I DO feel this way a lot! How did they know?!” Again, even non-addicts can gain knowledge from reading these books.

    -Spending time with my family and friends. Although my family didn’t understand me and triggered me, it’s never a good idea for an addict to isolate themselves. Being with your family and friends will remind the addict that they’re not alone, and they’re surrounded by people who care. That’s important.

    -Finding hobbies! I was always a very artistic person, but when you’re an addict, drugs take over your life! When you get sober, you don’t know what to do with yourself. Your life feels so empty. That’s when you need to find yourself again. I started creating art again, writing, and even playing instruments. I spent time practicing, painting, and teaching myself to play songs instead of getting high. And I have much more fun doing these things than I ever did using drugs. Many addicts get a part-time job, go back to school, and even volunteer at homeless and animal shelters. Boredom is a major reason people relapse, so too much spare time can be destructive.

    -Taking care of myself. When you’re an addict, you don’t pay too much attention to what you look like. It’s true when they say “When you look good, you feel good!” Not in a materialistic way, but in a healthy way. I started going to a hair salon and getting hi-lights. I got my nails done. Got a pedicure. Bought myself some nice facial scrubs, bubbles for a bubble bath, some nice make-up, and some new clothes. I even bought myself a gym membership and started working out and tanning. After spending years being malnourished and unhealthy, it feels amazing to work out and spend some time making myself look “put together” in the morning. It raised my self-esteem in so many ways.

    These things are what really helped me and what I believe will help the majority of other addicts.

    If your loved one is an addict, I suggest asking them how you can help them get better, and even discussing a compromise between you and your loved one when things get rough. I had to write out a contract with my parents and we both signed it- I agreed to try my hardest to stay clean and stay on track, and they agreed to at least try to be understanding and sympathetic to my needs in my recovery. This prevented many of our typical fights.

    I hope this helps someone out there. Either an addict, or a family dealing with addiction.
    If you have an questions, feel free to email me. hfs92 at yahoo.com.

    Rehabs are great if you can afford it, and if your loved one is a heroin addict I highly suggest a Suboxone regimen. It’s not like methadone, it’s a medicine that keeps away cravings and withdrawals. It’s been a lifesaver for many addicts.

    Good luck to all of you!

  17. Avatar of June
    June / December 29, 2013 at 3:42 am

    Thank You,

    What seems so hard is no one has a the answer.
    We all search read, talk look for answers.
    Put our children in hospitals, rehabs (10 or more so far for me), and church camps, schools I was able to send her in the middle of corn fields in Iowa… two weeks after graduation She relapsed.. So then came
    Half way houses, private Doctors. Then jail…. the list go on. As her Mom I made the call to put her in jail I had to have her arrested, she spent jail Christmas and her birthday.. the only way to keep her alive. I hoped maybe I can get a few more years.. maybe she out grow this…
    Truth,is as my daughter gets older she only gets worst. I am reminded of the story in the bible where the man sits and cuts himself alone and screams.. Until Jesus drive the demons into a heard of pigs. I wait….What I know is my daughter who has a body of a women mind of a 13 year old. Has been raped many times, pimped out.. she has allowed tatoo all over her body.
    She happy it a rosary with praying hand …. I love Jesus,
    Mommy I cry and ask him to make it stop I don’t want to put the needle in my arm…. why Mommy Why won’t it stop ???……. I have no answers…I try to find one None……. I am sorry I love you,just the way you are not the way you should be.. I notice brown spots on her teeth, but I say nothing…..Bigger Fish to Fry Hep C trumps spots on teeth, her skin yellow skinny eyes hollow yellow…..
    She hates herself, and I watch her allow everyone and everything that could hurt and destroy her. She gives permission and slowly she is slipping away. In just a few day it is her 23 rd Birthday ..in just a few days. I wonder will she make it….As her Mom I received calls from her crying I have Hep C. I am pregnant will you raise the baby ??? He hits me.. I watch Every man uses and abuses her , she married an addict to stay in another State .I am amazed how she is able, incapeable she always figures a way in and a way out .. But she cries When I say “no one should ever hit you.”. her reply “I deserve it…. I am a junkie ” he trying to help me get off drugs..
    She lives in Florida I in VA. … I lay in bed ,close my eyes , sadly when I am in my head its not a good place to hang out..because I am at the 199 funeral of my child… Next day I see her picture on face book page my only informant of how I know anything …
    Her skin is yellow , barley any clothes on..
    She smiling….And I am drowning in sorrow…
    Much like PTS when a solider return from war, He is not there.. as I look and see hollow eyes she gone …. she is here body only but barley
    Your receive phone calls from stranger…….Your daughter dying you should come…Her eyes are closed she keeps dropping her cigarets, her words are mumbled .. But every time I do I am cursed at..By the one I came to rescue…. All around I hear of other Moms & Dads they lay their children to rest. Some boy, some girls 18 none older then 24 years all have died from addiction most of the young adults have OD.. It getting closer to me and I am scared, and so are my other children.. Will I be Ok, will we all be ok ? (don’t have the answer ) Lord Please don’t let her die on the streets.
    You wonder what did they (the other parents) Do wrong???????????? I am scared will my child be next ? So I read ,ask, search…
    Books , messages ??? Doctor ,prayer meeting Pastor Rabbi
    Priests, Tapes……… And no one has the answer for this
    problem that has hit all of our home…. I attend meeting
    I still don’t have the answer.
    All I can do is take a deep breath, pray and trust in Gods Love His will and not mine….. Trust in His love for everyone who is hurting from this pain…
    As for me (Mom) I resigned from playing God ….A very hard role.. Yesterday I shut down my face book, to painful to see… If working I don’t answer my phone, I try to write a list of everything I am grateful for. I don’t know if I can handle much more.. I ask God for help & grace more love and understanding…. I remind myself I just have today,I pr need to stay there I work and try to
    stay in the moment,(pretty hard for me) I am thankful for all things .
    I don’t know the out come.. But I do know I am not alone
    Nor is my little girl.

    • Nancy Cominotto / May 28, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      Hi June
      We have it so similar!
      My daughter turned 23 just 3 days ago
      I have no idea where she
      I am heart broken. ..lost. ..scared
      I do pray multiple times a day I don’t think tough love…let go let God is working for me……

  18. Avatar of Gail
    Gail / December 20, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I have read these comments, especially the ones from Mike Doherty but his FB is no longer available. Everything he spoke of about being an addict is what my 27 year old son has told me. He has been using drugs since he was in his teens. This past year he has lost custody of all three of his children. I moved back here to ‘help’ him and after thousands of dollars have come to the conclusion that I am not helping him but enabling him. He has been through drug treatment three times, knows it all by heart but just refuses to follow the rules. He wanted to go on a drug called Suboxane. His insurance ran out after just two weeks and asked if I would give him $500 to buy it off the internet which I did. I found out he only bought $250 of the Suboxane and $250 went for Oxy which a combination of the two can kill him. I told him when he started the Suboxane that if I ever found out he was using again, I was done. I couldn’t take it any more. When I found this out, my heart just sank. He has pleaded, begged, lied, manipulated, threatened suicide, everything he can think of to change my mind. I’m done. I drew a line in the sand and said this is it and feel if I don’t stand my ground, nothing will ever change. I have supported him for years trying to get him help but until he wants to help himself, I don’t see that anything I do or say will make any difference. I wake up each morning my stomach tied in knots and can barely function throughout the day because of worry. I hope and pray that he gets the help he needs and understands that I’m not doing this to hurt him. I’m doing it before it destroys me and him.

  19. Avatar of Tina
    Tina / December 3, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Drug abuse is too common. Our 15 yr old nephew and our best friends 16 yr old daughter. It is complex, there are things you can do. Only time will tell for sure what will work. Listening is the advice that can start the process. One of the parents involved doesn’t listen and started to give up on a 16 yr old. Giving up will not help. They may very well benfit from strength and love. It would not hurt.

  20. Avatar of Emily
    Emily / November 18, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    I was slapped in the face today with the realization my daughter does meth. I could tell from the scabs on her face. My heart is broken in pieces at this revelation. I have been reading the book “Yes Your Teen Is Crazy” by Michael J. Bradley, Ed. D. It is an excellent book, even though it is not strictly about addiction. I never thought about how much junk they have to go through, and my reaction is less than stellar.I have anger issues, and realized I have to get rid of that if I want to help my daughter. Reading the submissions on this site has been most helpful to me. I thank you all for your honesty,it has helped immensely.Best of luck on your journey. :)

  21. Patti Herndon / October 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Melissa,

    Wishing you and your family increasing peace, health and Godspeed in your journey. Please read the book, “Born for Love” -Maia Szalavitz and Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., and “Get Your Loved one Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening” -Robert J. Meyers, Ph.D. Brenda L. Wolfe, Ph.D.

    “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

    Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

  22. Avatar of bobbi
    bobbi / October 3, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    im so lost right now yesterday i found a crake pipe and kicked my 21 yr old sonout didnt know what else to do i put up with his bad behavior for my grand babies so now i lost them all. i want to call him se if he is ok and i miss him so bad i still having a issue admiting he is addicted to meth what to i do

  23. Avatar of Melissa
    Melissa / September 29, 2013 at 12:55 am

    As the one fella described “Dope sick” Well this is only a very small definition very small definition of what it feels like for the parent of the addict! I wish dope sick was all I had to deal with, worry about, grieve over. There is no magic wonderful “Hit” for us! The only hit we get is the one the addict slams into us before we feel like we are going to die anyway.

  24. Avatar of Stan
    Stan / September 23, 2013 at 3:28 am

    Just found out yesterday,my 31 yr. Son is doing heroin for the past three months.I honestly feel like a little 8 yr. old laying in bed and hearing a noise I don’t recognize in the house at 1 in the morning.I can feel my body feeling weak and my thinking not on track.He’s a Chef that had a promising future,now,who knows.I’m scared for all the people he will be affecting along with himself.
    We live in Florida,he’s up in N.Y.Were giong up with-in 2 weeks or later unannounced.Any suggestions. He makes decent money,never has any.Thanks for any suggestions.Take Care,Stan

  25. Avatar of Life is Like a Box of Chocolates
    Life is Like a Box of Chocolates / September 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    I love these posts; reading through them has given me insight to my son’s addiction. Deep inside, I knew he has experienced addictions because he has been unhappy for many years and must be wanting to escape reality. It is difficult for me to realize since I always want to be in reality. I’ve set rules and boundaries and realize I have a soft side and have sometimes given in too easily — allowing him to break some rules and not following through with the consequences set by the boundaries. He always used to be able to talk to me and share — open to whatever seemed to be on his mind. Now…at age 19…I find myself less patient when he steps over the boundaries and my anger comes through in my voice. He is shying away from being open to talk now. How can I take steps back to leave more openings again for him to share. I realize I have to catch him in positive motion and staying within boundaries, making efforts to let him know those actions are much appreciated and helping him to realize his positive steps can move him forward to recovery without using those specific words. Does anyone have suggestions?

  26. Avatar of Getting Sober
    Getting Sober / September 12, 2013 at 9:17 am

    You know what? One of the reason why teens get addicted is because they don’t have someone to talk to during their downfall. Me myself could prove it because i was an addict too. But thanks God i am sober for almost 10 years now. If parents is not there when their teens need them,that will cause them unhappiness. Young people take drugs is to escape their reality. Because for them, drugs are a way to escape that unhappy reality.

    So it is very important to learn how to listen. :)

  27. Gabby / September 8, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Thank you so much for posting my letter. My niece is in the hospital again and this time, thank God, she called me. Unfortunately our options have been decimated as the insurance is refusing to pay for any more hospitalizations because it is related to the use of K2. I am not sure what is going to happen but thanks to you I will contact Patti Herndon who hopefully will be able to give me some guidance. God Bless. Gabby

  28. Avatar of Nancy Despain
    Nancy Despain / September 7, 2013 at 5:45 am

    My name is Nancy and I have an amazing son that I, like all of you, love to death! He’s bright, gorgeous, talented and funny! Has everything going for him.
    I found out in July, from him that he was smoking pot. I was surprised because he has always been so straight laced. In any case, we have had open communication about his pot use. He told his dad and they have talked and fought about it.
    We do not encourage or condone using pot but we were hoping he would decide to quit.
    I guess I have been trying to keep the lines of communication open with him, which of course is good. But in the process Ive buried my head in the sand a little bit too.
    So today i let my son see me cry hysterically over his drug use. I let him see my pain. And his dad expresses his pain over being lied to. And he drove him to the juvenile detention Center so he could see where he could land of he gets caught.
    We had a good talk. And I ended it by asking my son to consider speaking to his psychologist about his pot use. Thinking that we could have a nitty grtitty conversation with someone he respects.

  29. Patti Herndon / September 5, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Gabby,
    Hi… I’m so sorry that you, your niece/family are experiencing this beyond difficult challenge. As I read your words, it’s so very evident- the learning/wisdom you have been earning in the journey… the love, dedication, insight and empathy you demonstrate for her/for your family. ‘That’ spirit, demonstrated by loved ones, is what serves the very foundation of mental/emotional health, change/sustainable recovery. Keep engaging resources like The Partnership, and other resources to expand your options for best supporting her co-occurring addiction and mental health challenge.

    Your belief in her ability to engage/sustain recovery pours through every sentence you shared. She can -even with her challenge of bipolar and her extreme ‘shifts’- achieve stabilization…and that opens the door to sustainable recovery, little by little. Relapse is common. Recovery/ this level of change takes longer than we are usually, initially, prepared for. We can build our coping skills…You are such a good example of that. We can, then, ‘pass’ that along…We model this to our addicted loved one. It supports and encourages them in discovery of their coping skills. No matter the level of challenge/or starting point, all individuals are capable of increases in mental, emotional health. There is no such thing as someone who is incapable of it. It takes finding the right match/the right kind of support for each individual. And, we know that is the most frustrating part of the journey.

    It’s so clear you’ve always been a ‘light’ for her. Don’t detach. Don’t disconnect. Keep researching…keep expanding your options for support/help.

    What you have shared speaks volumes about your heart, your sense of hope, your commitment to her past, present and future. She is so blessed to call you ‘family’. She loves you/her family…even if she’s struggling to communicate it.
    Keep searching for ways to connect with her, let her know that you are there…that you/her family/friends believe in her ability to make the kind of healthy change that she desires/deserves.

    If I can support you in any way, support your research….help you make contacts, help you get feedback from potential treatment providers that are skilled in dual diagnosis/clinicians that are familiar with K2, help connect you with resources that could serve to expand the potential there is for your niece’s recovery, and for yours/your family’s sense of confidence and peace about the journey…or just ‘listen’ to you…please don’t hesitate to contact me. patti.herndon@gmail.com

    Godspeed and peace to you/your family, Gabby…

  30. Patti Herndon / September 4, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Gina…Yes! Thank you very much for recommending these thought provoking, insight-giving books. You’ve inspired me to re-read “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts…”. I recommended Anne Fletcher’s book to someone, very recently – to support/encourage them in the challenging process of treatment matching on behalf of their substance use disordered loved one. Thanks again for these recommendations!

    Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

  31. Avatar of Gabby
    Gabby / September 2, 2013 at 4:00 am

    My 23 year old niece is the closest I have to a daughter. Just two weeks ago we were laughing and hugging each other as she told me that she would wear my wedding dress when she gets married. She is beautiful, smart and loved by anyone that meets her. She is also bipolar and addicted to K2.

    After 18 months of sobriety, she has relapsed 4 times in 6 months. Each time seems easier for her, there is less resistance; like a doorway that can’t quite close any longer. Each time is the same: she disappears and is eventually baker acted by the police because K2 makes her psychotic. K2 is not sold by dealers in dark alleys, but here in Florida it is sold in our local gas stations and other convenience stores. It’s “illegal” but known customers, mostly kids between the ages of 13 and 25, are sold this poison. Now at a higher price precisely because it is illegal.

    My family understands mental illness as unfortunately it is something we have had to deal with extensively. But with addiction we are lost. K2 pushes her into a hyper manic state where she is a danger to herself and others. She has been found on airport runways and on theater stages where she thinks she is one of the play characters.

    I am sure we are doing a million things wrong and that we are enabling her by taking her in each time. But what does a family do when the person is also mentally ill? Do we let her hit “rock bottom”? She is off her meds and doing a drug that pushes her mania to psychosis.

    Yesterday, for the first time, she checked herself out of the hospital without contacting the family. She doesn’t want our help. But is she capable of making such a decision? What is a family to do when there is both addiction and diagnosed mental illness?

    Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

  32. Avatar of mike doherty
    mike doherty / September 1, 2013 at 11:58 am

    My name is mike ,ive started a drug site on fb to help parents and family members in my home town understand drug addiction and help addicts get off drugs and show IT IS POSSIBLE to live without drugs . The following is my welcome intro that i have on my page . Please use in any way or anywhere on this website that you think it may be usefull……

    ~~~~~~~~~~~ A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ME (THE CREATOR) ~~~~~~~~~~
    I HAVE BEEN IN RECOVERY FOR SEVEN YEARS AND HAVE DEDICATED AND VOWED TO HELP AS MANY PEOPLE I KNOW OR COME TO ME THE HELP THEY NEED TO GET CLEAN! IN SHORT I HAVE PLAYED THE DRUG GAME ALL MY LIFE… MY CHOICE OF DRUG WAS ALWAYS COKE I DID IT ,I SOLD IT, I THOUGHT I WAS “THE MAN” THEN ONE DAY I TRIED VICODIN I THOUGHT IT WAS OK BUT NO BIG DEAL I WAS WORKING FOR THE MBTA AT THE TIME DRIVING A TRAIN ON THE BLUE LINE. WELL I,LL TELL YA THEIRS LOT OF FOLKS THEIR THAT WERE POPPING ALL KINDS PAIN KILLERS .IT JUST SO HAPPENED I BROKE MY ARM ON THE JOB AND WAS BEING PRESCRIBED ABOUT 100 PERKS A WEEK IT DID’NT TAKE LONG AFTER THAT I WAS ADDICTED. TO FAST FORWARD, IT ELEVATED AND IN NO TIME AT ALL I WAS SNORTING OXYCONTIN !!!! I HAD REACHED A MIND BOGGLING 1O O.C. 80?S PER DAY!!! THATS THE EQUIVALENT OF 160 PERCOCET A DAY !!!! $600 A DAY OVER $4000 A WEEK AND THEN ONE DAY I COULD’NT FIND OXYCONTIN ANY WHERE AND I CAN,T BEGIN TO TELL YA HOW SICK I WAS AND THEN CAME THE HEROIN THE ONE DRUG I SAID ALL MY LIFE I WOULD NEVER EVER DO.I WAS ALWAYS THE FIRST PERSON TO CALL SOMEONE THAT USED “HEROIN” A LOSER!!GUESS WHAT , I FOUND OUT # 1 IT WAS CHEAPER # 2 I COULD SNORT IT AND # 3 IT WAS THE SAME !!!WELL FOR THE PARENTS AND THE PEOPLE THAT ARE READING THIS AND MAYBE LOOKING FOR HELP FOR A LOVED ONE THAT IS HOOKED PERCOCET ,VIKODIN,OXYCONTIN AND HEROIN ARE ALL THE SAME !! THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THE POTENCY AND THE PRICE!!! AND OF COURSE ALL MY FELLOW ADDICTS AND I HAVE LEARNED THIS THE HARD WAY!! ….THIS SITE IS DEDICATED TO HELP US HELP OTHERS AND TALK TO PEOPLE THEY KNOW ABOUT HOW TO STOP USING AND GET THERE LIVES BACK OR A MOM OR DAD THAT HAS A CHILD GETTING INTO OPIATES AND SINCE WE ARE ALL FAMILY HERE THERE ARE NO STATE RULES AND WE CAN DO IT OUR WAY AND LEAVE ALL STATE AGENCIES OUT OF IT !!! ITS BEST TO BE HELPED BY SOMEONE THATS BEEN THERE AT LEAST IN THE BEGINNING OTHER THAN OPENING A CAN OF WORMS IF ITS NOT NEEDED ……ASK US FOR OUR OPINION FIRST IF THERES ONE THING WE KNOW ITS THE BEHAVIOR OF AN ADDICT——-GOOD LUCK AND I HOPE WE CAN HELP!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ THE SICKNESS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    FOR THOSE WHO WONDER WHAT THE “DOPE SICKNESS” THEY HERE ABOUT IS ? THIS IS HOW I EXPLAIN “”THE SICKNESS “”

    NO ONE CAN REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT SOMEONE HOOKED ON OPIATES IS GOING THROUGH UNLESS YOU HAVE FIRST HAND EXPIRIENCE ,THAT BEING AN OPIATE DEPENDANT PERSON……LET ME WRAP IT UP IN A NUTSHELL REAL QUICK ……..YOUR BRAIN MAKES A NATURAL CHEMICAL THAT LETS A PERSON FEEL PLEASURE (ENDORPHINES ) THE SAME THING IS CREATED WHEN A PERSON USES OPIATES ….SO ITS LIKE THE OPIATES ARE AN IMATATION ENORPHINE AND WHAT HAPPENS IS THE BRAIN SLOWLY BEGINS TO SHUT DOWN THE ENDORPHINE MAKER BECAUSE IT DOSE’NT NEED TO MAKE IT ANYMORE BECAUSE THE OPIATES ARE TRICKING THE BRAIN. THE MORE YOU USE THE OPIATES THE LESS THE BRAIN MAKES IT UNTIL YOU HIT A FULL ADDICTION AND IT STOPS MAKING IT ….SO NOW COMES THE DEPENDCEY ..YOUR BODY NEEDS THAT CHEMICAL BUT GUESS WHAT ALL BRAIN WORKERS HAVE CLOSED SHOP NOW ITS UP TO THE ADDICT TO FEED THE BRAIN THAT FEEDS THE BODY …AND THAT NEED IS EVERY 8 HOURS !! SO AS AN ADDICT YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE SURE ANY WAY POSSIBLE THAT YOU GET SOME OPIATES IN YOUR BODY OR YOUR GONNA GET SICK!!!! SO ITS NOT FUN AND GAMES WHEN THE FACTORY IN THE BRAIN ISN’T PROVIDING OR MAKING THE CHEMICAL ANY MORE AND THATS WHAT CAUSES AN ADDICT TO STEAL FROM THEIR OWN MOM ….AND SO ON….NOW OH OH YOU CAN T GET ANY MONEY TO GET THE DRUG TO FEED THE BRAIN THAT FEEDS THE BODY NOW YOUR SICK !!!! AND HERES A BRIEF DISCRIPTION HOW THAT FEELS …ITS LIKE GETTING THE WORST FLU EVER!!! WHERE YOUR BODY ACHES YOUR LEGS ARE PULSATING YOU CANT THINK RIGHT THE WORDS DONT EVEN SOUND RIGHT YOUR PUKING ,YOUVE GOT UNCONTROLLABLE DIARIHA YOU COUGH SNEEZE AND GAG ALL AT THE SAME TIME ITS A FUK’N HELL …….NOW ON TOP OF THAT AS IF ITS NOT ENOUGH YOU FEEL LIKE SOMEONE HAS JUST BEAT YOU WITH A BASEBALL BAT!!!! BOY AND PEOPLE THINK AN ADDICT LIKES LIVING THIS WAY!!!!!NO I THINK YOU WOULD AGREE………………NOW IMAGINE THERE IS A MAGIC PILL OR SOME MAGIC POWDER THAT CAN CURE YOU IN 1 MINUTE…..1 MINUTE AND ABRA CADABRA YOU FEEL FINE AGAIN….WELL WELCOME TO THE LIFE AND DAY OF BEING AN ADDICT . I HOPE THIS GAVE YOU SOME INSIGHT BECAUSE WHAT I JUST EXPLAINED IS THE REAL DEAL I WENT THROUGH IT!!!!

    • Nancy Cominotto / May 28, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Mike
      My daughter is out there somewhere unknown to me for almost a week now
      I gave her tough love upon realizing she moved from opiates to heroine
      After an extensive search we found her somewhere we never would have looked God bless cell phone tracking (unfortunately she no longer has a phone)
      After locating het she met me talked very briefly then finally came home at 4 30 am followed by her consenting to detox
      3 days later she was out..I was unaware (f## hippa laws)
      I’ve since read a few articles i am lost…tough love vs empathy????
      Please share your opinion HOW CAN I SAVE MY DAUGHTER?
      Thank you, Nancy

  33. Avatar of Jeff
    Jeff / August 23, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    I wish I hadn’t come to my brother’s rescue for as long as I did. I had to step back as it was coming between my spouse and me. Last thing I needed in the world was a phone call. Brother asking for money…
    Then he disappeared. Totally disappeared for 1 year and a half. No traces. Nothing. A strange thing happened. Awoke one Easter morning and there was an email from him. I shook with disbelief. He’d been rehabbing and part of his counseling was to avoid contact with all family members. Hard for someone as close as we were as family.
    Anyway, he’d turned his life around full circle. It’s been 6 years since he’s come back and is now Operations Director at a successful Shelter. I love it when the phone rings and it’s him. Unfortunately, it took him 40+ years to grow up. Sure, he has regrets for the things he’s done, but a better outlook on life than I even have. So proud of him and tell him often.
    Keep your chin up, expect the best and be strong without enabling.

  34. Avatar of Carrie
    Carrie / August 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    What a great question. I know the one thing I would have done different and it would be speaking out loud about drug use. I wish I had made a point earlier in his childhood that it’s not allowed or condoned, etc. I spoke with him one time when he was in elementary school but I should have done it every month, every year, etc. He started “experimenting” in middle school and now he’s an addict. Start early people!

  35. Avatar of Gina
    Gina / August 20, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Patti Herndon, excllent comments. I would add the book “Inside Rehab” by Anne Fletcher and “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction” by Gabor Mate, M.D. to your list. Ron, thanks for sharing your poignant insights.

  36. Daniel D / August 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Love this! So glad they published it for you! Listening, what a concept for an Alcoholic, in Recovery or not…lol. I know I have to try very hard, even after a few 24 hours. Thanks for sharing!
    Daniel D

  37. Patti Herndon / August 17, 2013 at 3:44 am

    “The punch-line of just about every book on addiction is that the child doesn’t get better until the parent stops trying to help (enable) them. Of course we want to ‘fix’ our child, and spend a great deal of time and money to do this. But in the end it makes no difference.”

    AddictionMyth, With all due respect to your views, every book about addiction does not support your synopsis that a child’s addiction will end when the parent stops helping them. I would encourage you to expand your scope to include current, evidence-based resources/publications on the subject of addiction and recovery that avoid framing addiction/recovery subject matter in form of ‘punch lines’ and faulty interpretations regarding parental intent to ‘engineer and manipulate deflections’. Some recommended reading would include, “Get your loved one sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening”, and “Born for Love”. Google CRA/CRAFT (Community Reinforcement Approach/Community Reinforcement and Family Training). It’s based on BF Skinners work in ‘Operant Conditioning’. Operant Conditioning concerns the strong impact on change when positive reinforcement of desirable behaviors is utilized. Our culture has been habituated to focus on ‘punitive’ reinforcement over positive when it comes to addiction. But, we are beginning to understand that punitive doesn’t really translate into recovery. As well, we have learned a great deal more recently about how genuine empathy influences strides in recovery. So, these two books would be perspective-increasing and really helpful reading to start with.

    I’ve never heard a single person offer that they were helped in problem solving toward their own change by a loved one’s demonstration of anger. Emotions of all shapes and sizes are to be expected in the journey of addiction. And, certainly, we can get overwhelmed by those emotions as we try to navigate the impact that our son/daughter’s addiction has on life. Addiction is beyond difficult, after all. But, operating under the influence of anger as a means/a pattern of interacting with our son/daughter with a substance use disorder will not facilitate their recovery. To the contrary, it stalls recovery. Anger is toxic to the process of healthy change.

    Seek out resources/books that educate on the impact of the ‘relational dynamic’ between parent and child….and how that dynamic influences a pattern of coping behaviors that are established over time. These largely ‘learned’ coping mechanisms can be healthy or not healthy. Most of us implement both styles of coping to some degree. When the pattern of coping includes using substances to negotiate thoughts, feelings, narratives about life…it’s a reflection of maladaptive coping. Maladaptive coping, coping with alcohol and drugs can be traded for healthier and healthier patterns of coping –This is recovery. And recovery happens all the time. This kind of change occurs little by little in the majority of cases. Each individual has equally individual coping mechanisms. Substance addiction doesn’t tend to root over night. And, certainly, addiction is much more complicated than: ‘Parents are amusing because they make the same errors again and again, enabling and failing to put boundaries in place’.

    In addition, it’s important to recognize and understand that ‘helping’ and ‘enabling’ are not the same thing. Helping is…helpful – as in, actions that support and encourage a loved one’s healthy change and sustainable recovery. Sustainable recovery has much better odds when the addicted person/the person challenged by substance use disorder has an educated, supportive, persevering sphere of influence around him/her; Family members, friends, advocates, etc. that are dedicated to implementing the kind of support that serves to elicit and utilize the addicted person’s individual strengths for change . Further, the ability to demonstrate ‘empathy’ -which begins with the act of genuine listening…the kind of listening that Ron so insightfully describes – is not to be confused with ‘enabling’. Help is helpful to every individual -regardless of what kind of challenge faced. So often it’s the case that we don’t really understand the difference between help and enabling in our own circumstances. Some actions are clearly enabling, such as giving a person in active addiction cash or credit cards to use. But, determining what support will be helpful and what is enabling isn’t always so black and white. Besides… If ‘no help’ was truly the ‘best help’ we would not have a homeless population.

    There is a great deal we can do as parents to support our kids in their addiction journey, to support an increase in their self efficacy that lives between ‘nothing’ and ‘everything’. But, it’s up to us as parents to figure out what those things are…And it takes time.

    As for boundaries: ‘Appropriate’ boundaries/healthy boundaries are those that are suited to the individual person, theirs and their family’s needs/strengths. However, boundaries that are ridged and inflexible, boundaries that exist arbitrarily and without consideration of the individual circumstances will tend to influence contention and disconnect in the relationship. This kind of negative dynamic between parents and their addicted son/daughter often leads to increased barriers to recovery, as it decreases an addicted loved one’s sense of self efficacy and problem solving ability. This is often why we see so many failures in the mis-application of what our culture refers to as ‘tough love’.

    A healthy relationship -one that supports recovery efforts-begins with good listening. This is where the art of listening really begins to speak to recovery. Thank you, Ron, for inspiring us parents to reflect on the critical component that regards the spirit in which we choose to interact with our addicted son/daughter.

    The reality is that addiction is infinitely more complex than a myopic focus on ‘enabling and boundaries’ could ever hope to explain. If we, as a culture, put even ‘half’ the focus of energy on learning about how the patterned relational dynamic between parent and child influences choices in coping by our son/daughter, as we do advising one another to ‘kick him/her out’, ‘let him/her suffer the consequences’, ‘let him/her hit bottom’, ‘let him/her go find a homeless shelter’, ‘if his/her lips are moving they are lying’…well, we would stand to gain infinite insight about how we ‘all’ have so much potential and empowerment toward problem solving in recovery for our individual circumstances.

    Addiction has biological, sociological, psychological components. As parents our goal is to learn, hope, change and grow through the addiction journey. It’s not about ‘detaching’, letting them ‘hit bottom’, etc. No. It’s time we evolved passed those myths. God knows we ‘all’ make errors as parents. And, as “amusing”, apparently, as parenting errors are for some folks; the vast majority of us parents just want to learn what it is we can put into practice that will build and strengthen our relationship with our son/daughter, as well as the family collective – thus our ability to connect with and influence our addicted son/daughter’s healthier and healthier choices toward sustainable recovery.

    Where do we begin? We begin by listening to our kid. It’s the only way to truly begin to understand what kind of help and what kind of structure is appropriate for our circumstances. We can get there little by little in a big way.

    Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

  38. Avatar of Joanne Gillis
    Joanne Gillis / August 16, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I am struggling now with not being able to love my daughter for I am 3500 miles away from her,after rehab she went to a sober living home of her choice, we paid for that then she left there, relapsed and is struggling with her addiction, I do not send her money or anything but I miss her so much, she is 24 years old and I am hoping she one day finds her way but where she is she has people she meets enable her. I hate the big city she is at but I cannot have her live with me and my sister..I am just very empty without her :( I do send a text and tell her I love her and she responds but I miss being with her..

  39. Syd / August 16, 2013 at 1:03 am

    Good post, Ron. Head and heart in alignment is a great thing.

  40. Sandy B / August 15, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Ron, thank you for this insightful post. I have given this topic much thought over the last couple of years especially with regards to my own son’s addiction. Unfortunately we were not given the “addiction tools” when we became parents and it is only through making mistakes that we can get to the place of acceptance. It slowly becomes apparent that our trying to fix our child really doesn’t work and eventually there is no other choice than to simply love them through this horrible disease. This year, my son told us that his addiction would kill him and we needed to prepare ourselves for that. What a wake up call that was! It was, for me, a reminder that every day we have with our loved ones, whether addicted or not, is a precious gift, and as a mother my job is to love and support my children, not to fix them or change them. Did I make mistakes with my son? Yes, many and there will probably be more. Should I get angry and feel guilty for those mistakes? No, I don’t think so. Being a parent of an addict is hard on so many levels, we all do the best we can in the moment. I agree with you though that best thing we can do is simply listen, especially to ourselves.

  41. AddictionMyth / August 15, 2013 at 2:46 am

    Good wisdom from a man who has experienced it from the inside. But it always amazes me how many parents persist in the same mistakes for years, unnecessarily extending the drug use. The punch-line of just about every book on addiction is that the child doesn’t get better until the parent stops trying to help (enable) them. Of course we want to ‘fix’ our child, and spend a great deal of time and money to do this. But in the end it makes no difference.

    You should love and care for your pet, or your great aunt. But you have a greater responsibility to your child: to raise him to be independent. This requires making rules and setting boundaries. It requires not tolerating little lies and manipulations (the moral of “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff.) Even if the child resists, they are secretly appreciative. Many stories of addicted children show how much they appreciate seeing the parent’s true anger come out, instead of an engineered and manipulative deflection. And how much they appreciated when the parent actually stopped trying to ‘help’, which only served to undermine their independence.

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