My family includes my husband and me (we have been happily married for over 35 years), our three adult children and several grandchildren.

My addicted loved one was always the class clown. School was a breeze and all the teachers loved him. He was smart, athletic, and just a fun person to be around – and still is. He started using drugs (weed and Soma pills) when he was 14 years old which we didn’t realize until he was about 16. After talking with a counselor, we had him admitted to an intensive outpatient program. My son went through that program and came out great…until the next time.

He was always on the go, working a lot, out with friends, playing sports, etc. When he was 18, we realized he was using again. He explained everything that he had used and what he was currently using (heroin). My son went into rehab again, a 30-day program. My husband and I joined the parent support group affiliated with the program. It was an extremely difficult time for our family. My other two children were very angry at him for making these life-threatening decisions.

We tried counseling, lecturing, arguing, anything we could think of to get him to make different decisions. We were ignorant. We didn’t realize that it was his choice to get sober or live a life in active addiction. We didn’t realize that relapse was part of the journey and when it happened, it broke us. We felt like we were back to square one when, in fact, we weren’t. He was still on the path of sobriety, he just hit a “hiccup” on HIS journey. He got clean before and he could do it again, and he did.

My son went to a facility where Mike Speakman (PAL founder) worked, and my husband and I got involved in a PAL meeting. Truth be told, we never looked forward to the meetings because of what they represented – our son was using – but every time we left those meetings, we were glad we went. We learned new information, got to listen to others who were dealing with some of the same issues and even shared a laugh or two.

One of the things we got out of PAL was that we love our son, but we should love ourselves more. We must get ourselves healthy – spiritually, physically, emotionally – before we can be of any help to our son. We had to realize what boundaries we wanted in our family and stick to them. We learned about forgiveness, dealing with anger and maintaining a healthy marriage.

In spite of all the setbacks we learned to maintain hope. Then one day, my son stopped doing drugs! He decided he wanted a better life, wanted a career and wanted to be a part of our family. The change came from within him. He now has a terrific career, a serious girlfriend and a new faith in God. We could not ask for more.

We have been blessed by PAL and we decided to give back by becoming PAL facilitators. We truly believe in this program and the benefits it can give parents who are on, perhaps, the most difficult journey of their lives. The support and love, without judgment, is a very special gift PAL participants give to each other. We are honored to be a part of the program.

-A PAL Mom