Maybe I should also qualify this with: As I See It
I have been reading a lot of blogs lately. I particularly feel very empathetic towards those parents just beginning their journey down this terrible path or those facing the turmoil of a next step; rehab, incarceration, dislodging the addict from the family home. These are open and fresh wounds for Mom and I. The pain is just below the surface and it never goes away no matter how well our son is doing today. We know all it takes is one trigger and we are plummeting down the drop not knowing where the bottom is when just a day ago we were sitting on top of the world.
I am going to list some very hard lessons we have learned and maybe some short explanations. All of this we denied in the beginning. Mom and I fought with ourselves and with each other about these things. It didn't matter who was telling us the truth, we knew better, after all he was our son. We have now accepted these truths and it is now so much easier to actually deal with the heartache and be more effective helpers for our addict.
1. Parents Are Enablers
We love our sons and daughters. We would do anything to remove the pain. Take away the addiction. Smooth the road. We'd give our life if it would help. I once wrote a letter to my son about these drugs. I used the analogy of him standing on the railroad tracks and a train (drugs) is blasting down the tracks and blaring its horn but he hears nothing. I told him it was my job to knock him out of the way and take the hit, that is what fathers do. I understand now, I was wrong. All that would do would leave me dead and he would be standing on another set of tracks the next day. We raised our children the best way we knew how. At some point they made decisions that set them down this path. We can only support them and provide them opportunities to make another decision. This is a hard one. That is why at times sponsors, recovering addicts, police officers, probation officers, corrections officers, pastors, counselors can all do a better job than we can in showing our addict the correct path. That is difficult because no one loves our addict like we do but we cannot do what they need when they need it.
2. I Cannot Fix This
Goes a lot to what was said above. This is a problem only our addict can fix. Very hard for me to accept because I try to fix everything. No one is allowed in our addicts mind except them. They are the only ones that can decide to do something about this. This will not end until they decide to end it. Parents trying to make that decision for them only results in failure and frustration.
3. My Addict Is A Liar
Addicts will say anything to hide their addiction and the actions it takes to mask the problem. I honestly believe at the time they do not even realize they are lying, they just say whatever they believe you want to hear. I believe they have motives in this to seek approval and to give us pride. I believe addicts do not like themselves or what they are doing but at some point they can see no door out. Their only mechanism for survival is to seek some kind of approval through lying, even if they know they will be busted. But it goes to the instant gratification thing that drugs provide, I think even a smile of approval from a loved one shoots off those chemicals in the brain that gives them a different high, even if it lasts only a couple seconds. When my addict tells me he is not using I really don't hear it. I tell him often "My eyes can hear much better than my ears." Just as we seek evidence of their using, we must seek evidence of their NOT using, not just faith that they are not using.
4. My Addict Is A Criminal
That is why he is incarcerated. Face up to it Dad and Mom, he has done things wrong and he must pay the price, as they say, his debt to society. It does no good to bad mouth the police, the judge, the jail, the lawyers they did not put him there. He put himself there. When we see others on TV and in jail we think about how much they deserve to be there but our babies aren't like them. We can justify and separate the wrongs by misdemeanor and felony but those are legal terms. The long and short of it my addict has did things that got himself put in there and he must pay.
5. Others Don't Want Them Around
That is OK. He has wronged many people. We are the parents, it's called unconditional love. It is not wrong for friends, brothers, sisters, grandparents, relatives to have their own feelings and pain about this situation. Some families have great support and no one abandons anyone, some people decide they do not want the trouble of an addict in their life. That is OK. We all get to make the choice and there is no wrong choice, it is just a choice by those people.
6. Life Will Not Be The Same
At 5 years old my son thought he was Michelangelo, of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Running around the house with an orange bandanna tied around his head brandishing plastic weapons fighting evil and the bad guys. When we look at our addicts we see that 5 year old and mourn the loss and try anything we can to get them back. My addict is a 21 year old man. He is every bit an adult with at times a child's maturity. But our world recognizes chronological ages, not maturity levels, parents must do that too. I believe Michelangelo is lost inside of him. Those that are lost sometimes find their way back, but some do not. I can grieve that loss but it will not help him or us to move forward. An addict does not live in the past or the future. An addict lives in the here and now, if you want to help your addict you must live in the same world they do.
7. Homeless May Be The Path He Chooses
Mom works in downtown KC. When you drive down there you see the homeless with signs and people living under the bridges. They are dirty and hungry. They very likely are addicts, alcoholics or have mental illnesses. The one common denominator for all of these men and women living alone and homeless is that at some point in their life they had people that loved them. They are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends to someone. That doesn't change their situation. They made choices that helped them to this point. They can make other choices, and there are people and organizations to help them change. The key is, they must make the decisions. If our addict makes the decision to live this way, it will hurt me but he will do this until it is time for him to change, I cannot change him or those circumstances. It will not help him for me to give him a bed in my home if he continues to live the lifestyle.
Why is all this important?
We struggled mightily against these truths, fought with every ounce of strength. We lost our fight. We have accepted what we wished was not true. My learning's are; until you understand the truths you cannot find peace within yourself or be really able to help your addict. Accepting these truths is what enabled me to do what had to be done, call the sheriff on my own son and have him arrested. Accepting these truths is also what gave me the courage to go to the sheriff and probation officer to ask for help after he was arrested. Accepting these truths is what allows me to sleep at night while he is in jail.
I do not hate my son for using drugs and putting all of us through this pain. I hate the things he does. I hate the lying, the stealing, the using. I love my son very much, I hate his ways. It is perfectly OK to separate the two.