“Here we go again.” Those caustic words rang loudly in my head. They were like the sound of a fight bell signaling the start of another brutal round. Round Eight, actually.
After relapsing once again, my 27-year old son has just begun his eighth round of treatment in his fight for sobriety. Throughout it all, I’ve been standing in his corner, supporting him, and cheering him on to get sober.
But I have also occasionally entered the ring to do some of his fighting for him—finding treatment programs, getting him to 12-step meetings, drug testing him, and more. In hindsight, I can see that my efforts just left me worn out, hurting, and feeling helpless. But I didn’t know any better. As a mom, it was ingrained in me to fight for my child—especially when he couldn’t fight for himself.
Oh, how I wish I knew then what I know now.
My son’s addiction has been going on since he was a teenager, but he still managed to graduate high school and college with honors. Yet when heroin entered the picture, things spiraled quickly. In just the last two years, he’s been in seven residential treatment programs, plus extended care, sober houses – you name it.
A few weeks ago, things took another nasty turn and suddenly my son was no longer just in a fight to get sober. He was in a fight for his life.
His second overdose in less than three months landed him in the ICU on a ventilator for several days. After a week in the hospital fighting an aspiration pneumonia, he was discharged with nowhere to go. Right smack in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. In a hotspot city he had just moved to one month earlier.
For the first time in his life, my son was homeless.
Sure, he could go to a shelter, but with the condition of his lungs, and COVID running rampant, he knew he could easily end up on a ventilator again. With no program to return to, no friends to offer him a couch, and no money to rent a place, he finally had to face the consequences of his drug use.
Will this finally be his rock bottom? Will the helplessness he is feeling finally be his turning point? I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s completely out of my hands.
It’s incredibly hard to watch someone you love make such bad choices and come so close to death. It’s even harder to know you could help ease his suffering—but instead, choose to do nothing.
Yet that’s exactly what I have done. I am letting him sit in his fear, regret, and uncertainty.
I couldn’t have done this a few years ago. But with the help of PAL, I’ve learned to step completely outside of the ring and let him fight his own fight. Because that’s his only chance of getting sober.
I wish that I had found PAL when we were just beginning this journey. Back then, I thought treatment would “cure” him. Then with 12-step meetings and our support, he’d be fine. But he continued to use, and we continued to “help.” I paid for things, made excuses for his behavior, let him move home, and enabled him like a champion. I wasn’t just a helicopter parent rushing in to rescue him, I was a full-on snowplow parent—clearing every obstacle out of his way that might impact his education, job, or future.
But now I know better. Thanks to PAL.
PAL lessons have been life changing. So have the weekly check-ins. It’s so important to have people in your life who’ve walked in your shoes and understand what you’re going through. Our PAL meetings are a safe space without any judgment—just education and support. I always leave feeling like those 90 minutes were exactly what I needed.
I don’t know if this eighth round of treatment will be my son’s last. I pray that he’ll get tired of being knocked down by drugs. That he’ll finally humble himself to accept God’s help. That he’ll be able to see all that he has lost and do the hard work to gain it back.
Mostly, I pray that he’ll emerge from this round 100% committed to recovery. And that he’ll be able to look ahead and see a life full of day-to-day victories and a life worth fighting for.
As for me, I’ll admit, I still catch myself slipping back to old behaviors, but I recognize them now. I can put up my mental “STOP” sign. I can respond instead of reacting. I can find the strength to say, “I can’t help you. But I know you can figure this out.”
Most of all, I can focus on living my life—not his.