By A PAL Mom

PAL Group is helping me maintain continued growth in my own recovery. Prior to coming to PAL, I had no idea that I needed recovery. Recover from what? I was not the one with the addiction. I always thought that once my loved one was in long-term recovery for his addiction, I would automatically be better. What I know now, is that I do need my own recovery and it takes time and effort. My recovery process involves identifying the unhealthy, codependent behaviors in my life and choosing a different and better way. It is true, that there is a better way for someone like me who was raised in an alcoholic home. Someone who also raised a child with a substance abuse problem can certainly find a better way. PAL is part of my better way.

In my PAL group, there is the reassurance that I am not the only one with these kinds of struggles and am not alone in recovery. I have met others who were brought up in a codependent family and like me, had no clue that it was problematic. It is also true that someone like me can learn new behaviors and apply them. In PAL, I have learned new concepts, such as the difference between caretaking and care giving. I have also learned other ways to respond to my addicted loved one. In most cases, addiction exists with the help of a codependent relationship. As I continue to be healthy and remove my codependent behaviors, my loved one’s addiction may be less likely to thrive.   

Let us look back on my loved one’s life for a moment. My second child is the loved one struggling with addiction. When I was pregnant with him in 1985, I was diagnosed with an incurable neuromuscular disease. During my treatment and recovery, I was separated from my children for a few weeks. This separation seemed to create some additional anxiety in my then, 13-month-old son. Moving on through his school years, the anxiety issues continued, followed by conflicts with students and teachers. By the age of 15 in 2001, one of his friends shared some prescribed pain medication with my son. He has since told me that he remembers that day well and had an immediate attachment to the feeling that came with taking those pills. His pill problem was brought to light quickly and he was placed in residential treatment.

Into his adult years, my son had periods of active addiction followed by short periods of recovery and initially just a few clashes with the law. During one of my son’s relapses, he was missing for days. I searched the local jail to see if he had been arrested, and he had. He was facing some serious charges. When this event occurred in 2012, my world felt like it completely imploded.  My mother and I went into full enabling mode. I pleaded with my husband to hire an attorney and our lives reached an entirely new level of turmoil. After serving about 18 months incarcerated, my son was released. Soon after his release in 2014, he was again missing and found to be charged with repeating the same crime at the same place. This was complete insanity.

My life had truly become unmanageable, yet I still didn’t fully comprehend the extent. I slowly awakened to how dysfunctional our lives had become when my husband said he was going to a PAL meeting to better understand addiction and the chaos it creates in a family. My husband and I did not grow up the same way. This was not “normal life” for him. He and I married when my son was 19 years old. I had thought my son’s “adolescent pill problem” was over at that time. Several years into our marriage, my husband was able to recognize that our life was far from normal. Thankfully, he had heard about PAL from a relative in Arizona, where PAL originated. We live in Indiana where PAL offered a meeting close to our home. I didn’t know what a life changer PAL would become for us down the road. My husband went to the meetings for a while and told me how wonderful the people were. He liked going and felt understood. He gained knowledge about the disease of addiction and learned about self-care. I noticed some subtle changes in my husband after he attended PAL. He was better at setting boundaries and in deciding how he was going to spend his time and with whom. However, I still had not gotten completely “on the clue bus” with how badly I needed help. There was a needed break in the chaos when my son spent a few more years being incarcerated, and life moved on.

As wisdom comes through failure, when my loved one was released from incarceration in 2017 and began repeating some behaviors that were clues he was back in active addiction, my mother and I again got on the hamster rescue wheel. Although, this time, I was only partially on the wheel. I had been seeing a therapist during the three years my son was away. I also stumbled upon a book while cleaning our home, called “The Four Seasons of Recovery,” written by PAL’s founder, Mike Speakman. My husband had purchased this when he attended those PAL meetings several years ago. I had never seen the book until exactly when I needed it most. I started reading it and asked my husband if he thought I should go to a meeting. He agreed that would be a good idea. This was another step in the right direction for me and my own personal recovery.

Presently at 33 years old, my son has completed 11 in-patient addiction treatment programs. He has also been in many Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP,) lived in half-way homes or other sober-living programs and participated in multiple recovery groups. He has been kicked out of many of the housing communities for non-compliance. While heartbreaking, I have learned that his choices and behaviors are not in my control. When I was a teenager, I learned through my father’s recovery that “I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it. And, I certainly can’t cure it.” It has taken me a very long time to really embrace that concept. I spent years blaming myself for my son’s addiction. Even well-meaning friends and family members had asked me if they thought his addiction was because I was sick when he was a baby. I no longer entertain those thoughts. I have found a better and healthier way.

As of spring 2019, I am still attending PAL meetings and plan to continue. I am attending the Midwest Conference in April 2019. I no longer blame myself for my son’s choices or behaviors. My attention is focused on myself, my husband, my daughter and son-in-law, and an expected granddaughter in May! Although my son is again away, I will continue to move forward in my recovery and pray with all my might, that God heal his mind, body, spirit and soul. My gratefulness for the people and resources provided by PAL is immeasurable. Without the support from my PALs, I just don’t know where I would be.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story!

-A PAL Mom