After my son graduated from college, he lived on his own and picked up a few jobs before he started working for a bank – he was in his mid-20’s. He was doing very well at the bank and was working in the mortgage department. He advanced up through the department and was eventually managing six other branches.
He was 29 when he got his first DUI. Eight years later, he started having severe abdominal pains. The pain persisted and he was continually being admitted to the hospital and given pain meds. After multiple tests, he was diagnosed with pancreatitis – the doctors said this was likely caused by drinking alcohol.
Since he lived on his own, we didn’t know the extent of his drinking and in 2013 he got another DUI. This time, he went into a rehabilitation center for 60 days, and convinced his counselor to let him out before his birthday. We all thought he was “rehabilitated.”
The pancreatitis progressively worsened, and the doctors found a grapefruit-sized benign tumor on his pancreas that was choking off his biliary tract. This caused infections which were making him very sick. They could not do surgery until the infections were gone and the pancreas had rest.
He moved in with my wife and me so I could tend to his medical needs. For three months, I administered antibiotics three times a day into his PICC line, flushed his biliary tube twice a day and administered liquid through his feeding tube twice a day. Once he was feeling better, he moved back to his house and a few months later the doctors removed the tumor. As result, he was now a type 2 diabetic.
He had no job, no car and no health insurance and the surgery was $35,000. He, again, moved in with my wife and me. During the long recovery process, I could tell he was becoming addicted to the opioids he was prescribed for pain. There were times where he would nod off and fall asleep while he was cooking, eating dinner or just standing. I would have him check his levels thinking his actions were a result of low sugar. Often times, I would take him to the hospital because his sugar levels were so high and they would put him in the ICU while treating him with IV fluids and pain management.
Little did we know he was drinking late at night after we went to bed. One night he was stumbling around and falling. Thinking his sugar was low again, I went to get his test kit in his bag and found a bottle of whiskey. I was devastated! I told my wife and just cried for hours.
During the three years that he lived with us, he was in and out of rehab centers and IOP’s. When he went to rehab, it was the only time I could breathe and get some sleep. He would stick with it anywhere from 1 to 4 months but always relapsed. He always asked us what we wanted him to do. I would tell him it’s not what WE want you to do, but what YOU want to do.
Time passed and nothing changed. I wanted to help him. My wife could see that I was enabling him, but I didn’t realize that. It started to affect our marriage. We went and counseled with our pastor. I reluctantly agreed to set a time limit on how long he could live with us. We agreed on four more months. A week after telling him our plan, he moved in with his mother.
A couple at our church announced they were starting a support group called PAL. Our pastor approached us and recommended we go to these meetings knowing what we were going through. PAL taught us that we were not alone. It was very educational regarding the disease of addiction and learning about delayed emotional growth. Enabling and not saying “no” were problems I definitely needed to work on. Everything I knew I should do did not feel normal as a parent. I recently read a quote “when it comes to our children, every parent is blind” – I can relate to that!
After he moved in with his mom, nothing changed, but we continued going to PAL. We soaked up as much information as we could and tried to live by it. He lived with his mom and stepdad for about two years before they told him to leave. I was praying to God desperately to get him out of this addiction. Everyone was praying for him. With the help of PAL and my wife, I finally gave it to God and asked Him to take care of him.
When he got his third DUI, the police took him to the hospital and the next day he was admitted into detox. After detox the hospital found a rehab facility for him to go to – this would be the first day of his sobriety.
Today my son is three years and nine months sober living life one day at a time. He lives in a sober living home with another recovered addict, is active in the AA program and is sponsoring others. One thing my son told me when he apologized to us was how much he hated that I did everything for him. Ironically, I learned that early on in PAL but had a very hard time applying it.
My wife and I still go to PAL to tell our story and let people know to never give up hope. We are so grateful to God and to everyone who prayed for my son. I am so proud of him. It was a long road, but by the grace of God, a lot of prayers and PAL we are all recovering well, one day at a time!
A PAL Dad