There was a time when I would describe my life as the fairytale that every little girl dreams of. I married the man that I fell in love with on the steps of the church that my grandfather pastored. We met when we were 13 and married when we were 21. Later we had two children, a daughter, now 38 years old, and a son, who is 31.
Our son was happy, rambunctious and just pure joy to everyone, even when he was diagnosed with a learning disability. It affected his memory and his ability to retain information. He was also diagnosed with an auditory processing and genetic abnormality. He was assessed and placed on medications from Ritalin to Concerta, Adderall, and others. Our son’s education became a source of stress for him and for us. In middle school I was advised that it would be in our child’s best interest to remove him from the public school system and to either put him in private school or to homeschool him. This is when he began to interact with other teens in our neighborhood and at our church, who introduced him to alcohol and marijuana. He was about 14 years old at the time.
He experimented with drugs and alcohol and eventually was introduced to meth by a coworker. He would later tell us that was the day his entire would change forever. So did ours.
We made many mistakes trying to save him from all the fallout from his addiction. We bailed him out of jail as he began to have legal problems related to his drug use. We hired attorneys and pleaded with judges, probation officers and such to go lightly on him, as far as consequences of his actions. Our thinking at the time was that prison was a terrible place and we didn’t want him to go there. Sadly, we began to realize there are worse things than incarceration. Our son’s drug use had progressed to the point where we were watching our son die right before our eyes…a slow death, much like someone dying of cancer. We began to realize that no amount of running ahead, sleepless nights, planning or posturing was going to save him.
We began to plan his funeral. He has a 12-year-old daughter and we actually talked about whether we would have a small funeral to protect her privacy or a large one and use this as an opportunity to educate others as to what addiction can do to a wonderful human being.
I was listening to our local Christian radio station and an advertisement came on for PAL. The second I heard it, I knew I needed to come out of hiding and quit fearing what others might think about my son or our family. I knew that I needed to get healthy and by doing so would better be able to help my son.
I began to attend PAL meetings and found a place of hope for me as a parent, a place where I could gain knowledge about how to help my addicted son, and I also found support from our facilitator and from other parents and family members who were in the same struggle.
PAL helped me to let go of all the things I was trying to control. I am learning techniques that help me face my fears head on. I have learned that focusing on helping myself is not being selfish. That in getting help for myself, I am actually helping my son as well. I have learned the difference between healthy helping and unhealthy helping; that pain must be stronger than the addiction and that if there are no consequences for the addict and if there is no pain, there will be no change.
I learned the definition of enabling (helping someone continue their addiction). I learned what healthy helping was precise helping and only when asked for … not to give unasked for help.
My husband began to attend with me and that night the lesson was on Delayed Emotional Growth. I realized that I was treating my son as if he were the age he was when he began using and that I was hindering him from his full potential by doing so.
An important breakthrough for our family came after I left a meeting and went home and apologized to him for treating him like a child. I promised to treat him like a 31-year-old man and asked for his forgiveness. He hugged me and thanked me. That was a game changer for our relationship and for how we as a family approached him in the future.
I learned about codependency “relationship selfishness.” This was a real eye-opener for me. How could caring for your child be selfish? I learned to change the mind picture I had of my son and began to empower him. When my perception changed, his perception of himself changed.
Our family motto became “I love you enough.” We told our son that we loved him enough to educate ourselves about his addiction and how to best help him. Our home began to be a place of peace and not constant strife.
Initially our son was very resistant to the changes. He said, “I hate those meetings you are going to and all that stuff they are telling you to do!” Eventually, as he progressed in his sobriety, he began to hand out the PAL literature to his counselors and to probation officers at a court-ordered drug program he was sentenced to.
We still have many hurdles and our son is very early in his sobriety, but I am healthier and that is really what PAL is all about. Our loved ones may go through many seasons with their addiction, but we as parents have the promise of no more winter seasons. We can take care of ourselves, forgive ourselves for what we didn’t know, educate ourselves and create healthy habits with a new foundation of knowledge through PAL, and I am very hopeful for myself, my family and my son.
A PAL mom