My husband and I both were raised in stable households. We have two kids – a girl and a boy – and we enjoyed so much together as a family. We were boaters and the kids waterskied, rode ATVs, hiked, and cooked meals together. We had big family cookouts nearly once a month and traveled regularly to visit family and friends. Both kids were diagnosed with ADHD and put on Adderall in elementary school, something we didn’t think about until later.
Our daughter “Ann” was an honor student, and “Bill” was a great athlete. Ann started partying a lot her junior year, and while we knew she was drinking, she managed to keep her grades up. She graduated from college, got four internships and a series of great jobs, but always seemed to have trouble keeping them. There was a parade of boyfriends.
Bill was a goody-goody who never broke the rules and didn’t even like alcohol. But at 15, fellow football players introduced him to muscle relaxants. He liked how they helped with his social anxiety, and that led to trying marijuana and ultimately opiates. He went to college out of state, which exposed him to more substances. I’ll never forget the shock I felt one October day seven years ago when he told me he was addicted to Percocet, despite trying to stop many times on his own. He wanted help.
We did help – we got him get into a Suboxone clinic, and they assured us in nine months he’d be fine. I later discovered instead of weaning him off the Suboxone, instead they added Ambien to help him sleep, and Clonidine for anxiety. From there, he went to another inpatient facility. He tried to go back to college but relapsed hard and had three hospitalizations for MRSA infections.
While he was in the hospital, a therapist told me about PAL. She said I couldn’t do any more for my son. I learned how parents like us were sending their kids to rehabs thinking they’d come home fixed, but it was really the parents who needed to be fixed as much as their children.
I loved the concept. I was so relieved that finally someone wanted to help me learn what the problem really was, and how I was actually making things worse. I was thrilled to find a curriculum for parents that taught us new ways to deal with our addicted children. For the first time I understood how my enabling, rescuing, making all the decisions, how literally trying to fix my two kids would never work. Not by the remotest possibility.
I read Mike Speakman’s book, The Four Seasons of Recovery. I read Smoke and Mirrors. The relief that I felt was like light bulbs going off like crazy in my head when I learned I was not to blame. “I didn’t cause it; can’t control it; and can’t cure it.” I also read books written by former addicts and was able to hear their side of the story and how their parents actually made things so much worse by continuing to not enforce boundaries or let them suffer the consequences.
My daughter is now four years sober, and my son is three months sober. Both have full-time jobs with good companies and full benefits. There is hope. It’s the honest truth when you hear it’s a marathon and not a sprint – but so worth it. Never, ever give up hope. The hope for your child will come from the changes you make as a parent.