Monday, July 6, 2009

CAUTION: Truths Ahead (enter at own risk)

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.


Gin said...

Wow! Wow! Wow! Looks like we were kind of on the same page today. This was brutally honest and much needed. I am seriously thinking of sending this to my in-laws. I am barely on speaking terms with them because of the enabling that they do with my husband. They blame me to the point of telling him that they think I have a mental illness. It is very difficult. This was absolutely awesome.

Tall Kay said...

Very painful truths. You both have walked through so much, and have experience, strength and hope to offer others. 'Detaching' with love, and you have found peace. Great post.

Lou said...

This is a reasoned and truthful post. A policeman once told me that for everything my son is "caught" for, he got away with tenfold as much.

They have fines to pay to society. Our tax dollars. I used to make excuses that all the money my son owed put him at a disadvantage to get sober. Bullshit. Many people dig themselves out from under thousands of dollars in debt. When I was my son's age, I worked two jobs to pay my debts. No one "cleaned" up after me.

Yes the little boy with the precocious smile is gone for the time being. They can come back however, if they choose to stop using.

My son slept under a bridge during one of Detroit's coldest winters,and frankly he seemed none the worse for wear. However, I suffered every minute of it...

Just like the addict, the people that love them, will come to their understanding in their own time.

It is what it is. Bless you, Mom & Dad.

clean and crazy said...

you sound like you are in a very healthy place right now. i am glad you are getting sleep at night, it is very needed.

Anonymous :) said...

Love it. My husband and I are right there with you, just really wish we would have known all this years ago. It may have sped up the whole process. I have a daughter with severe drug struggles (MC) and one who graduated from college and is on her merry way (PK). Yesterday, shockingly, we found everything needed to create a nice bong to smoke pot in PK's room. This is our drug free daughter. Now that we know what we know and wish we would have known then, we told her she had two choices. (1) Explain to the police why she had drugs in her room. (2) Move out immediately. Needless to say, she chose to hotfoot it out of our home. My husband and I got the chance to prove that we have boundaries, that they are strong and that it's OK to tell a drug user to go. I think the whole thing was a good lesson for MC, as well as PK. How can we ask them to set boundaries with all their drug-using friends if we have no walls ourselves? I'm not sure whether or not this is incredibly selfish, but we think that our kids don't have the right to ruin our lives. We used to give them that right. We love them. But, I mean, enough is enough.

NH said...

Good post. I think, though, that many of these truths apply to all people, not just addicts. We can only ever change ourselves. We can only ever try to be there for those we love, it is up to them to accept or deny what is offered. As long as there is life on earth humans will be hurt and saddened by the actions of fellow man. Much war and turmoil would be avoided if people came to terms with the fact that we can only control our own actions.
I would love it if your son had his own blog. It would be like an ongoing Tweak vs. Beautiful Boy.

Anonymous Mom said...

I think this should be published somewhere that more parents like us can read it. Thank you.

Gledwood said...

Drug addiction, once it gets to the stage of Major Problem, does totally hijack the "user"... I remember when I was worst on heroin my life revolved around little else except obtaining money for, obtaining and then using heroin and alcohol... and crack if there was money "spare"... I v seldom dwelt for any length of time upon anything else...

"ENABLING" ... that is a thorny issue. I'm writing out a post on it at this very moment. But won't be probably posting it today or tomorrow because I'm so lost within the twists and turns of my own argument (know what I mean?)...

Syd said...

I am glad that you shared these truths. While I don't have children, I do understand that I had to get to the point of realizing that I couldn't control anything to do with my wife's drinking. I had to take care of myself.

Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog since the beginning, and I've gotta say that I'm blown away at how fast you've learned all of this and faced these hard truths. It's an inspiration. You (Mom & Dad)are really strong people. Thank you for blogging about this.

Dad and Mom said...

It's taken a lot longer than the last few months of writing this blog to internalize these thoughts. We had read this stuff, been told this stuff and said it to ourselves and others many times. However, it takes a while to truly understand the ramifications and outcomes of not living to these truths.

I hope that no one just takes our word for this stuff just because I said it, but studies and deliberates upon this in their own situation. I am not going to be arrogant enough to believe what I have learned is "the truth" for everyone in every situation but they have helped us immensely.

ChaiLatte said...

I could not find one thing that I disagreed with, we are learning these same truths as our journey continues... Thank you for sharing.

Athena said...

Thank you for putting so well what so many of us have come to understand. It does help so many that you share the struggles and the insights - if it saves one child, comforts families, and helps you & mom to "decompress", the time you have spent here sharing your heartaches and joys is priceless & precious.

I hope our addicts will one day be in a place that they can read these blogs and understand the love, and pass it forward. Maybe, maybe.

Unknown said...

Well Said. Exceptionally.

Anonymous said...

What sobering thoughts. Pun intended.
We seem to have more clarity that our kids. Like you, I want my son's innocence back. Of course, it's not possible.
Reading blogs helps me tremendously.
Well done.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughts. My daughter is addicted to crack and heroine. I am desperate because I think she will die soon. She has been to many rehabs. She has not maintained herself clean for more than a few weeks. Now she is prostituting. She was beautiful and proud. She is mentally ill as well.

We are three years into this life now.

Please pray for us as we will pray for you.


Anonymous said...

OMG I found what I needed! I've been searching all engines for tuff love topics. My son 18 years old is in his third rehab for heroin addiction. I'm not kidding myself any longer, this isn't going to be an easy fix. But I had so much doubt about when to separate from him and stop trying to fix him. I too see the little boy in him running around with his batman cape flaggin in the wind. It hurts so much, but now you opened my eyes and confirmed what I have been struggling with for 2 1/2 years. He's gotta suffer the consequences of his choices. I can no longer watch him destroy himself and his family. Thank God for your blog and I'm sorry for your troubles, but you've helped a fellow suffering parent get a reality check. This is one boo-boo I can't bandaid. God help us all! Thank you so much. Donna

parent of addict said...

excellent post! so many great concepts for new parents to embrace.

Yasmeen Elsayed said...

thanks ,,,,,,,,

Colleen said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I am working on detatching with love from my 27 year old son who just got his 2nd DWI. Things were going great for him until he once again made a poor decision. I know he will wind up in jail this time. There aren't any alanon meetings close to where I live so I am grateful to have found your blog.