I have three adult children – two boys and one girl. I was married to their father for 18 years, who was an active alcoholic that entire time. Two of my children are married and have children. I have been happily married to my current husband for 20 years who also has three adult children and two grandchildren.

My son with addiction issues is my youngest – he is 28 – and has a one-year-old daughter whom no one in the family has a relationship with, by choice of her mother. He was a happy, easy-going kid until he discovered marijuana at age 15. He had been very active in sports and was particularly gifted at diving. He was diagnosed with ADD by a counselor he was seeing and given a prescription for a low-dose medication. It worked well, and his grades went up exponentially. Then he decided to substitute those meds with marijuana which he began using much more than we realized. His high school years were hell for us between his behavior and attitude. We allowed him to suffer every consequence he encountered, yet it didn’t faze him enough to change.

He moved out of our home to his father’s house his senior year and his life spiraled downward from that point on for many years. He has been in jail for drug-related offenses in three states for a few months at a time; he has been homeless for short periods of time; and he has worked so many jobs that I lost count years ago. He went to rehab for the first time last March. To my knowledge he has relapsed two times since June of last year. He lives 2,000 miles away from us so the only information we have is what he gives us.

A good friend of mine was attending PAL, and suggested I join her. The first time at a meeting I felt I was in a safe environment. I was sitting in a room with people who actually understood how I felt. I could let out what I kept secret in all other settings – your addicted kid’s latest problems are not what you discuss or ask advice about while out to dinner with friends who have perfect children … or so it seems when your kid has spent years treading water going nowhere. But at the PAL meeting, there is no judgement about all the things you may have done incorrectly while trying to assist your adult kids. You can be brutally honest about how much all of this hurts. I also love being able to encourage people who are newer to this journey than me. That makes me feel like going to the meetings is meaningful.

My son has been sober since early August and has a great job with a construction company which he enjoys, although it’s not his dream job. It offers a different experience each day which is good for the ADD aspect. He has a girlfriend who encourages him daily to remain on the right path, and he attends AA meetings each week. We communicate by text…pics of food he cooked, job site photos which he is proud of, and sports updates. All in all, much better than a year ago. He says, in his words, he is “way past the point of denying that drugs and alcohol are a lifetime issue” for him.

I am doing better, although I struggle on the days that I just wish my son’s life wasn’t so complicated and that the relationship was less of a challenge. I am grateful for how far we have come, however, and pray it continues in the right direction.