I was a divorced mother of 4-year-old twins, “Jerry” and “Cherry,” when I remarried. We had another son soon after. Our twin’s biological dad was rarely there for them, and both were rebellious in their teen years.
Jerry was very intelligent as a youngster. We noticed he had a photographic memory as he could remember specific details from reading stories. He was the child that “saw” the whale in the ocean and embellished stories to gain interest. He loved to hunt and fish and was great at cutting wood; he was a very hard worker.
He started hanging out with the wrong crowd in middle school and was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) in seventh grade. He was treated with Ritalin for one year. By high school, Jerry was experimenting with “crank” and alcohol.
Jerry was committed to a juvenile youth camp in high school and on probation for a couple of years. He was incarcerated at the county jail at age 18 for drug-associated crimes. However, the jail sentence seemed to be a turning point for him as he managed to seal his juvenile record and was able to join the U.S. Navy where he graduated from a specialized nuclear welding program and served for eight years. Following his honorable discharge and the achievement of his Associate of Arts degree, Jerry was employed for a few years as a welder for the federal government.
He was married for 12 years and the father of two children when chronic PTSD and addiction to pain pills set in, plus an attraction to a new drug of choice – methamphetamine.
In fall of 2011 Jerry’s cousin (also addicted to meth) hung himself in his storage shed after an argument with his wife. Jerry was especially upset about the death. By the following spring, Jerry didn’t want to go to work anymore, and he was losing a lot of weight. His wife and two kids left him. We didn’t know what was wrong with him or how to help him.
In fall 2012, Jerry experienced an “end of the world” episode one night. He stole a utility truck from a power plant and drove into a small town. He thought kids were in danger and broke into a stranger’s house with thoughts of rescuing them. Although the family realized Jerry was “not normal” and did not press charges, he served one year in the county jail for this crime. Jerry has been in and out of jail at several counties in our state due to crimes associated with drug addiction. He has been in several rehabilitation treatment centers and programs.
We found that allowing Jerry to live under our roof did not help him. Jerry finally became serious about receiving help when he realized that our home was no longer an option. His dad drove him to a life center in town one night and since that happened; he realized he had to take better care of himself. He has experienced homelessness and does not want to continue that lifestyle.
I found a PAL group advertised in the local newspaper. It was a godsend for us. We had tried professional counseling several times which was helpful. However, it was refreshing to meet other parents (just like us) who had tried everything under the sun to help their loved ones with no success.
Our favorite principle was learning to treat our son like an adult. We had no idea we were perpetuating the concept that because he was acting like a 15-year-old; we were continuing to enable him to live his life as a 15-year-old. PAL has taught us to treat Jerry like an adult and experience his own consequences. Also, we no longer suffer from “false guilt” – another PAL principle.
Our son is in a much better place now. He is managing his recovery and mental health on his own with the assistance of the Veteran’s Administration. He is currently graduating from a veteran’s treatment center and will be entering a sober-living environment for one to two years. He no longer expects us as his parents to pick up the pieces of his life and direct his next steps.
Michael Speakman’s book, The Four Seasons of Recovery for Parents of Alcoholics and Addicts has literally changed our lives for the better. We are hopeful for our son’s future. We have been able to focus on other members of our family and not feel guilty. Our marriage is stronger, and we have better family and friend relationships as we no longer feel the need to vent to them. God has blessed us so much with the PAL group. We are so excited to help others and teach them to “let go and let God.” We believe in the power of prayer in the Name of Jesus Christ. Anything is possible with God.
A PAL mom