I have two boys and two beautiful granddaughters.

Chris, my oldest, has always been incredibly intelligent, even as a small baby. He did everything early: he talked in sentences before he was a year old, he crawled by the time he was 4 months, he was potty trained by the age of 2, and he could read before he was 2.

Needless to say, we learned that Chris started smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol in elementary school when he would spend the night at his friends’ houses. Once in junior high, he started smoking weed.

At one point, we moved in with his grandmother because she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and needed someone to care for her. In addition to my full-time job, I worked an evening job, so between my jobs, and my younger son being involved with motocross, Chris was left to himself most evenings.

For 15 years Chris battled with his addictions: alcohol, marijuana, LSD, Molly, heroin, and meth. However, the last two years of his addiction got much work as he started using IV drugs. All of this felt like I was living a nightmare.

Not only was Chris dealing with addictions, but he was also dealing with several mental disorders (bipolar disorder, PTSD, personality disorder) that led to him seeing many therapists, going to mental health facilities and ER departments, being in 15 rehabilitation centers and going to jail four times.

Our family tried everything. We staged interventions, we had him leave our house, we drove him to rehab centers, we left him sitting in jail, we groveled, we begged him to quit but nothing worked. Sometimes he would stare at us blankly or sometimes he would “hear us,” agree to our terms, go for a week or two without drugs or alcohol, making us all believe him and then the spiral would begin again.

I was desperate. I needed to be near others that knew how I felt and how very lonely I had become. Sure, I have close friends and family, but no one truly understands the pain and deep isolation of what loving an addicted loved one does. I had been living this life for 15 years and putting my all into Chris. I searched for anyone and anything that would bring me happiness because I had depleted my life in trying to save him (including being married and divorced three times). A friend told me about PAL; so, I decided to give it a try and it turned out to be the best decision of my life.

It was amazing being surrounded by people who understood. Their words resonated with my own experiences, and I could be myself and share without fear of judgement. I was safe and comfortable, and it was like walking into a warm safe hug.

Chris is now 21 months sober. He is working at a recovery facility, he is married, he has custody of his daughter, all his legal matters are now taken care of, He has accepted Jesus Christ into his life, and he is doing better than I could have ever imagined him doing.  As for myself, I have learned how to place boundaries in my own life. I am happy, I am making new friendships, I am making my own way in life, and I am spending time with both of my boys and their families. I love my PAL family as if they are my real family and have become a facilitator so I can help others the way PAL helped me. It was the best decision I ever made for myself.

-A PAL mom

*Names have been changed to protect identities