For many years I was a single mom. From the time my son, Drew, was young, he was a handful. I kept thinking “he’ll grow out of it”. His behavior and choices as young as age 12 were atypical for someone that age…stealing, lying, showing anger and being destructive. I continued to think it was just a phase. He was sent to military school at age 12 where he thrived…until alcohol and drug induced behavior perpetuated inside the military academy.
At 15 years-old Drew was taken to a mental health facility. I had faith and hope that he would be treated by professionals who could help him find health and peace. That did not happen. His behavior continued to decline. He was sullen, withdrawn, detached from everyone and everything, and he had no interest in social or sports activities.
I remarried and my husband graciously agreed to let Drew live with us “until he got his feet on the ground.” During his first year of college Drew’s budget was adequate while not extravagant. Yet he was always short of money. He dropped out during the 2nd semester after he went into an alcohol induced psychosis and had to be placed inside another behavioral health center. When he was discharged, he worked full-time while living with us. My husband and I were in complete denial about his alcohol and drug use assuming that it was a phase. He lost job after job and Drew always had a “good reason” as to why. This pattern continued for several years. He always seemed out of money, and although our gut told us something was off, we wanted desperately to support him (we thought that’s what parents SHOULD do). We ended up paying his extraordinary gambling debt three separate times.
Drew continued living with us although his patterns never changed. We continued believing that he’d find his way and that all we needed to do was continue to love and support him. We’d pay his bills and create a life strategy FOR him. The day I realized his life was beyond anything I could control was when I found out he had pawned his grandfather’s wedding ring for a pittance of money. I retrieved the ring and began looking for help for myself.
I was referred to PAL by an addiction therapist. It was during COVID, so my only option was online. Each week I would join a meeting of other parents whose stories and pain mirrored my own. I finally felt like someone understood this horrific journey! As I gained education and courage, I set boundaries I had not previously set. I refused to pay his bills, I no longer sat up all night waiting for him to come home, and I began to prepare myself for an outcome we all dread. It was hard to change my habits because I felt neglectful, but I learned through PAL that it was the most loving and helpful thing I could do for myself and for him.
When Drew turned 31, we asked him to move out. We helped him with the deposit, but we set ground rules for getting paid back. It was at that point that he began to assume responsibility for himself. He tried recovery a couple of times but never got past 90 days. Finally, something clicked for him. He began going to Celebrate Recovery, and this time he’s been clean for 13 months. He’s enrolled in school for the upcoming semester. For the past year and a half, we’ve used what we learned in PAL and have not interfered with, controlled, or managed his life. He knows we believe in him and are his best cheerleaders.
I am so very grateful to PAL for helping me see that my view of “supportive parenting” was emotionally killing me and having no positive influence on my son’s life. I am learning to focus on myself and my own recovery thanks to the education I’ve received through PAL.
-A PAL Mom
*Names have been changed to protect identities