My husband and I share a blended family of five adult children. I have three sons and my husband has two daughters. We have been married for eight years. Two of my three sons struggle with addiction- my oldest son age 38 and youngest son age 33. To the best of my knowledge, they have been on this path about 15-plus years. Addiction was not new to me, as my first husband, my sons’ father, struggled with alcohol addiction. Our marriage ended after 29 years.
My oldest son was extremely smart and musically talented. He graduated with highest honors in high school as well as college. He was on the path to enroll in law school when he found out he was going to be a father at the age of 21. He decided it was best to get a job and put law school on the back burner. I had no idea at this time that he was entering the world of drugs. It was brought to my attention that he was starting to use pain meds while in college, which eventually led to cocaine and meth, and currently, heroin. Because my son had always been so diligent and a high achiever in school, I thought it was something he tried only once or twice. It would take several years for his drug use to start interfering with his life. During the last 10 years of struggling with addiction, he has spent time in jail, has been homeless off and on, fathered another child, lost custody of his oldest child, had his car impounded, and has been inconsistently employed. The one and only time he has been to rehab was when he was court mandated to attend a one-year rehab program at an out-of-state facility. He was sober for 15 months and relapsed three months after completing the rehab program. That was four years ago. He is currently active in his addiction.
My youngest son was a very happy and friendly child. He enjoyed playing sports and spending time outside. He was also a bit mischievous. He struggled academically in school; however, excelled in sports, especially golf. He received a full paid golf scholarship to a university. After the first year he failed the random drug screening and was dismissed from the golf team. He lost his scholarship and returned home. At the age of 19, he went to his first rehab facility. This would be one of eight rehab facilities and several detox centers he would attend. He also spent time in a sober living facility. He would relapse within days after every attempt at recovery. Within the last four years, he has spent time in jail, has been homeless, and had to experience the death of his wife two years ago to heart failure from excessive drug use and a toxic level of kratom. Now, within the last six months at the age of 33, he has slowly started to make some changes in his life.
Throughout the years of my sons’ addiction, I thought I was helping them by allowing them a place to live, purchasing vehicles so they would have transportation, paying for cell phones, giving them money for gas and so on. Their addiction was not only controlling their life, but mine as well. I was even allowing it to interfere with my new marriage. The impact of their addiction was wreaking havoc on my life – physically, mentally, and especially spiritually. I knew I had to grow in a deeper relationship with God in order for me to manage my life. My husband and I attended counseling – that helped us sort out our differences regarding the negative way I was handling the stress and turmoil of my sons’ addiction. I also sought out support by attending Al-Anon and attending a weeklong family therapy session at the Betty Ford Clinic; however, I needed something more. I continued my internet search and that is where I found PAL.
My husband and I attended our first PAL meeting together. After the first meeting, I knew I had found a place where I could be educated on addiction and the impact it has on the family. The facilitator welcomed us with open arms and a compassion which made me feel that I was not alone. I have learned valuable lessons through some of the principles such as: setting boundaries, enabling, healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, and how to respond to my addicted loved ones based on facts and not my emotions. The “gems and nuggets” became my “go to” for responding to my sons. I learned how to deal with them in a positive and “cheerleader” way. I felt an empowerment and it was making a difference in my approach. I also started to see a change in the way my sons responded to me.
The PAL principal of “enabling” has made a difference for me. Because I was hanging on to maintain the relationship with my sons that we had when they were younger, this principle help me to see where I was keeping them in their addicted state. I was not sticking to my boundaries and certainly not to consequences. Being able to learn the difference between healthy helping and enabling has had a huge impact on the way I handle situations today. I understand the more I enable and don’t keep boundaries, the more I am feeding into their addiction. As I was sharing with a friend about PAL and the difference PAL was making in my life, I invited her to join me and attend the meetings. That would become the start of a new journey in my life. After much prayer and reflection, my friend and I decided to bring PAL support to our hometown and become PAL facilitators. I trusted that God would provide us with the insight and become the instrument we needed to make this happen. We are going on our third year as facilitators.
Today, my oldest son is still in his addiction. He currently has a job and is living with someone. He has no interest in recovery and thinks he does not have a problem. He is working on his relationship with his oldest son, who will be starting college in the fall. He does not see his youngest son on a consistent basis.
My youngest son is working on recovery on his own. He is not interested in attending a recovery program at this time. He has completed all court requirements for his criminal charges and is working on finding a permanent place to live.
I pray daily for all my children and grandchildren. I pray God continues to work in me to have a healthy relationship with my addicted loved ones. I am learning to let go of my control. I know my sons must find their own recovery on their own time. What I have learned from PAL is: there is HOPE and I am not alone.
A PAL mom