I’m a PAL mom who started a PAL meeting in my local community. I’ve been married for 44 years and have two biological children and two “adopted” daughters that call us mom and dad. Between them I’m a grandma of three boys and two girls. A few months ago, we retired and moved to be closer to our grandkids. This was a difficult decision as it meant moving four and half hours away and leaving our son, James, who has SUD.

Growing up James was extremely active, popular and kind to everyone. He was involved in sports, Scouts and community service. He used to babysit the DARE officer’s children and even helped train the officer’s drug dogs. I knew as soon as he got his driver’s license, I would only see him when he was hungry. I was right, but that is also when he began to lose interest in sports and other activities. We noticed his friends changing and we knew he had started smoking pot a little, but all kids go through a phase, right? We didn’t have a lot of concern until the end of his senior year. Despite our concern, we knew he would be going away to a trade school, so we figured he would have a fresh start.

When he was 20 years old, he came back home and got a great paying job; however, he was always broke. Right before he turned 21, he lived a few hours away but would come home every weekend (we later discovered that he was homeless, living out of his vehicle but still working). On one of his weekend visits, he asked for help. We immediately got him into treatment and knew he was “cured”. Having no history of substance abuse in our family, we knew NOTHING. Cured? What a lesson we were about to learn!

James did well at first. After treatment, he came home, but relapsed, so he went back to treatment, and did outpatient – now he was cured! James got a great job and was active in the recovery community – he even worked at the treatment center for a bit. He was sober for eight years. Then his longtime girlfriend committed suicide and he fell off the wagon – this time, he had no desire to get back on. He spiraled to the point of being arrested multiple times and ended up in prison. He was put in prison by the very same police officer he used to babysit for! A pattern started as he would try a new treatment program, be sober for a bit then relapse.

When we told him we were moving away he was extremely upset; however, this became the catalyst for him to change. One day he called me and asked me to pick him up. He said he was done with this life. He said he had an epiphany. We had gone through this so many times, yet this time he sounded different, so I picked him up and we did decide to let him stay in our home temporarily. That was 10 months ago and he’s still sober!

Due to parole restrictions, James is staying with other relatives, but he’s jumping through every hoop to move to where we are. One part of his motivation is his niece and nephew as he wants to be there for them as they grow up. He’s in the gym every day and is looking healthy again. I have guarded optimism. Right after we moved, I decided to tell him that one of my biggest worries about moving was wondering who I would call to identify his body since I was so far away. I wasn’t trying to make him feel guilty, but I just said it.  He cried, took my hand and said, “I’m sorry mom.”  This was not something I had heard before.

Before PAL I would have never left him. I would have never set a boundary where he would have to leave our home, I would have never allowed him to live on the streets. I did do those things, and I showed him the entire time that my love was unconditional, but my help was not. I think that is why he is alive and sober today.

– A PAL Mom

*Names have been changed for the purpose of anonymity.