I think perhaps the hardest thing for me to understand about my son’s addiction was how the sweet, curious, creative, thoughtful, loving, energetic little boy I spent so many afternoons with after school became such a totally different person.
Just about every day during his preschool and early elementary school years, we would walk down to the railroad tracks that ran through our neighborhood at the end of our street to watch the trains. We’d wave at the engineers and occasionally, receive a short – prohibited by noise ordinance – toot from their horn. Surely they saw what I knew of him and were charmed.  Where had that energy gone?
I wondered that when he stole and sold $4,000 worth of tools from me to support his habit. I wondered that when he manipulated me into covering his hotel bill and food “just until he landed job,” only to watch him on the live action cam of a local news station being hauled off to jail for possession and dealing.
There is some intangible element about having the flesh of your flesh disappear into the haze of addiction.  You are sure it was your fault; that there was one moment in time when you made a bad decision that caused it all.
When I was introduced to PAL, I discovered I was not the only one second-guessing myself.
I attend the national online meeting led by Terri. I now know that addict is not him; it’s not the child and teenager I have such fond memories of.  It’s the demon of addiction that takes over his heart and mind and soul. My experience with PAL has reinforced that and built upon it with ideas like that of delayed emotional growth, concepts that are now foundational for me in terms of dealing with my son’s addiction.  PAL also provides other tools and insights that help me deal with the emotional tides of his addiction.  Most are generously shared on the Resources page of the PAL website.
That said, I think that the most important thing PAL has done for me is let me know I am not alone in this.
Bottom line, all of us did the best we could at the time, and my PAL pals preach self-forgiveness and forgiveness and blessings from God or a Higher Power or whomever you believe in. And they are very open and loving, even to a salmon-loving tree-hugging Oregonian.  Thanks to that and my bride’s love and the grace of God, I have come to forgive myself.
A little over a month ago, my son texted me a very simple thing.
Something in me has changed.
The parent in me wanted to totally embrace it.  The skeptical parent of someone suffering from addiction thought we’ll see.
But so far, the parent is right.
He has found a really good job, totally on his own, with great benefits and regular hours and a decent wage.  He is so proud of himself, as he should be, and we have affirmed that to him.
In addition, my son has moved into a sober living house.  And he is regularly attending group meetings and was recently asked to speak at one about his experience, something he decided he could do.   Sort of like me deciding I could write this.
There is still a long road ahead. And I think I understand that he will always suffer from addiction.  One of the more sobering conversations we had was when he told me that he had shoplifted hand sanitizer because he could drink it and get high. That demon will always be lurking there in him.
As for me, I am now in a place of hope and cautious optimism.  And I would say that because of that, there could be the temptation to step back from what has become fairly regular attendance at PAL meetings, just as my son may – and has been – tempted to stop attending his meetings when things are going well.
But I know that would be a mistake.  For one thing, when you are in a good place, you are in a place to provide support for others who may not be, and that is both a gift and a responsibility.  And for another thing, if the worst happens, then my pals and PAL tools will be at the forefront to guide me.
Even more importantly, by faithfully attending my PAL meetings I am doing my part for my son by demonstrating behavior that I believe is important for anyone dealing with addiction, no matter what side of the fence they are on. Because together, we have hope.
 A PAL dad