My wife and I have been married for 31 years and have two children. Our daughter is 23 years old and our son, David, is 21 years old.
Growing up, David was always a very sensitive child. He was very well behaved, didn’t get into trouble and was well-liked by his teachers and classmates. Though he was a good kid, he tended to be a bit melancholy, but we chalked it up to “growing pains” as friends said their boys were experiencing similar things. In high school, we had him see a therapist where he was ultimately diagnosed with depression.
David’s first experience with drugs came when he got access to a prescription of Xanax when he was 14 years old. With limited access, he began to experiment with other drugs: alcohol, marijuana, mushrooms, LSD, painkillers and, in college, it progressed to cocaine and fentanyl.
David didn’t have any run ins with the law or get in trouble related to his drug use as he kept up a good front, maintaining his academic scholarship, working and having a girlfriend. His addiction manifested itself through health-related issues. They first appeared during his senior year in high school when he had a seizure while at work. It all came to a head as he was returning to college after Christmas break. Though he denied any drug abuse, we finally realized he needed professional help. We ultimately helped him get into a treatment facility on a Monday and the next evening we attended our first PAL meeting.
We heard about PAL through a therapist friend whose brother struggled with addiction – they said PAL was a godsend for their family. Joining a PAL group early in the process proved to be a gamechanger for us. We, like many families, were upside down when we finally came to terms with what was going on with our son. In our very first meeting we learned so much about addiction, the rehab process, that we weren’t alone and there was hope for us and our son. That night the facilitator talked to us about establishing boundaries and to be careful to not let his problem become our problem. In the subsequent meetings we learned about enabling and ways to set boundaries that would be critical (and tested) in the following weeks as he went through the rehab process.
David went on to complete a 90-day inpatient and then Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). Thirty days after he completed PHP, he relapsed. Although disappointed we were prepared based on what we had been learning. With the help of PAL, we learned to talk to and encourage him as he went through the process. Taking steps not to rescue him and to let him figure it out and make his own choices. We can’t overstate how much the lessons and support from our PAL group helped us navigate this process every step of the way. It was hard but we know it was done in a loving way.
David now has some time under his belt, and he is doing very well and continues to be drug free. He now lives out of state, but we hear from him a couple times a week. We feel like we finally have the adult relationship with our son that we always wanted as we hear about his life experiences and all he is doing.
As for us, we are doing very well and are very grateful. We grew through all of this just like he did. We understand that we didn’t cause it, we can’t control it and we can’t cure it and embracing that has made all the difference for us. We just got back from a wonderful vacation – something we knew we needed to start doing for ourselves. Through PAL we were able to get off the roller coaster of his addiction and live our lives!
-A PAL Mom and Dad
*Names have been changed to protect identities