Unlike most people, my whole life has been an open book. Regardless if it was good or bad, my motto has always been that it is what it is. I was blessed with three sons who grew up like most do and like all moms I just knew they would become amazing men with an amazing life and that I would be so proud of them. The crazy idea we get when they are little is so far from the reality of what can, and many times does happen. There have been times that my sons made me so proud and other times it was impossible for me to even pick out a birthday card for them because none of the cards fit the way I really felt. As they grew, little did I know that two of the three would become drug addicts, one would be shot and suffer terribly, and the other would follow his brother’s footsteps down the deep dark hole of addiction.

I was embarrassed about them and their addictions. I dealt 12 years nonstop with the effects of their addiction on all our lives.  I went from a trusting mom to worried to leave my purse or valuables around them.  I found myself constantly getting them out of financial problems, both legitimate and non-legitimate, eventually being afraid of a drive-by shooting. At times I felt like such a failure as a parent but then my oldest son was the epitome of a wonderful son and somehow, I would try to hang on to the idea that my two wayward sons did not get it from me or my family. The truth is some of their addiction problems were likely made worse because I enabled them so much and I knew that alcohol addiction ran in my family.

My one son, Marcus, was involved in a motorcycle accident and prescribed oxycontin which he just could not let go of. He was immediately addicted and started going after it any way he could and started to buy it on the street.  One day he and a friend set up a “buy” to get more oxycontin, and the “seller” decided to rob them at gunpoint rather than give them the drugs. The friend gave up his wallet, but Marcus the tough football player, refused, even though he only had $33 in his wallet. He was shot three times and one of the bullets severed his spinal cord leaving him paralyzed.  His life was never the same, as he sunk into depression.  For ten years, even in a wheelchair, he kept chasing drugs, living in and out of nursing homes and on the street. Eventually other health issues became worse and his lack of taking care of them eventually led to him waiting for insurance to approve a treatment, but when it was not coming through, he took a large quantity of oxycontin and overdosed and died.

After losing my son Marcus, I was paralyzed with the thought of losing my other addicted son, Jeffery. I still carried guilt and believe me, that gives a new meaning to the saying that I felt like a house was on my shoulders all the time.

I found out about PAL when I attended a grief group in my community. I did a little research that night before bed and at 3 a.m. I woke up and knew I had to learn more. I never went back to sleep. That morning I contacted PAL and got more information. From that point everything seemed to fall into place. I knew I needed help, I knew I could not do this alone or my way and even though there was not a meeting near me, I knew God was calling me to start a PAL meeting and do this even though I had zero experience. Every time I would question “should I really become a facilitator” I would see something else good happen, almost like I was now in tune to being grateful and seeing what I should have all along.  I don’t know how good I am at facilitating a meeting, but I will say for me it has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.

I remember reading Lesson One for the first time and it blew my mind … Delayed Emotional Growth … this was such an eyeopener for me. I had been to Al-Anon and other groups, but I had never heard of this concept. When I closed my eyes and pictured my loved ones (much younger than reality), I learned more in one minute than I did in 12 years of dealing with my sons’ addictions. It was at that moment I took responsibility to make changes in the one thing I had control over, ME.  Now when I have people tell me about their loved one, I immediately like to tell them to close their eyes and see if they have the same experience and hopefully the same breakthrough that I had. It truly is amazing to see what that does to a parent.

When Jeffery entered drug court treatment two years ago, everyone at court told me he would never make it – that only one in 25 are successful. Given Jeffery’s addiction background and that he had also been in an accident and had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in his past, it seemed like a recipe for failure. I feared his inability to complete the drug court treatment would eventually turn into a suicide or an overdose. Drug court was HARD, not just on Jeffery, but on our whole family. PAL was so helpful to me in sticking to boundaries and having the support I so desperately needed.

In addition to the drug addiction, Jeffery also suffered from racial discrimination. I realized that you can’t fight the system even if you can prove they have made a mistake. That was a tough pill to swallow but again, I had to accept it and pray that somehow, he would find his way. Bottom line is today is a good day.  I am so very proud to say Jeffery made it through drug court.

I was able to watch him graduate, and you might think it’s odd, but it was one of the proudest days of my life.  He asked me not to say anything to anyone because “graduating from drug court is not something to be proud of.” Well, I disagree. He was in the biggest, worst, darkest hole I could imagine.  He had been stripped of his pride, his self-esteem, and likely it had taken years off his life from all the health problems, but Jeffery never gave up. At times it was two steps forward and ten steps back but with God’s grace he finally made it out of the black hole.

The strength that he had was truly a miracle. When the judge asked me to stand so he could congratulate me for never giving up on my son, he told Jeffery he was so blessed to have a mother stand behind him.  Jeffery said, “without my mom, daughter, step-dad and brothers I would not be standing here today because they showed me support and constant love, even when I disappointed them.”  There was nothing I could do but cry.  Today Jeffery is a free man. His slate with the judicial system has been wiped clean. He now moves into the next chapter of his life. I believe with every fiber in my body he will be promoted to the top spot of the large company that he works for.

Honestly, I am writing this to brag, but I’m also writing it for other parents who have lost their hope of their loved one recovering. IT CAN HAPPEN. NEVER GIVE UP! I would also like to say that getting involved with PAL helped me tremendously.

Both of my sons started their journey after receiving drugs from accidents. That led to illegal activity to keep getting the drugs. I still feel resentment toward doctors who just kept prescribing these drugs, but I also realize that is not what this is all about.  I will NEVER stop advocating for addicts. Most of them get reputations they should never have. I still go to bed and wake up worrying about Jeffrey because I know he can relapse, but he has been sober two years and he swears he will never go back to it and things seem different this time. When I applied PAL principles, and I tried to stop controlling every outcome and REALLY gave him to God and DID NOT take it back from God like I always did before, that is when I changed myself because of PAL. This was when both my life and my son’s life started changing.  I cannot bring Marcus back, but I can celebrate Jeffery.

God bless and thanks to everyone who prayed and supported us on this journey.

Una mamá PAL