Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Addiction Recovery Process for Loved Ones

I have been struggling with a whole new problem within myself as it relates to my son and his recovery efforts. What is the role of a loved one when an addict is working on their recovery?

Just like all of this when dealing with an addicted child, when you finally think you are getting a grasp on the new learning you have experienced; there in front of you is a whole new world that must be experienced and digested.

Enabling addiction is what we all seem to do in the beginning. Then as this disease progresses in our child we begin to learn that what we are doing is helping the disease to progress, so we struggle with changing our paradigm concerning addiction and the progression of this disease.

Now we are facing a new change, what is the role of parents to support recovery?

I’m a simple guy without a formal education so in my deliberations about everything concerning addiction I have to break down very complex issues dealing with this disease into simple examples as they related to the learning I have based on my personal experiences. (some of you have been exposed to my examples before.)

My son, just as I am sure many other recovering addicts have done has dug himself a very deep hole in which he stands at the bottom. When you are actively using I am sure the bottom of that hole may actually provide a measure of security and insulation. But after a profound experience an addict stares at the walls and the light that seems so far up. All of us are standing at the top staring down. What do we do to help?

Somebody at the bottom of a hole, I got lots of options to provide and assist a rescue. We can fly a helicopter over and lower a basket on a winch they can climb in and be lifted out. We can drop a long ladder slowly into the hole and they can climb out. We can throw a rope over the edge and they can pull themselves up and out. We can pitch a shovel into the hole and they can dig themselves out. And, I could just stand at the side of the hole and holler down, “Looks like you are in a world of shit, good luck.” And wash my hands of the whole mess.

I have helicopters, ladders, ropes and shovels and sometimes I can yell real well too. I’m sure each of these tools have a place in recovery but the struggle for me as a parent is; when you have all of these tools at your disposal, what tool do you use and when?

The dichotomy in all of this is most of the time the answer is we probably should do the minimum. But I am conditioned just as most people in our nation and society are conditioned to help those that are in trouble and need help. This involves helping people afflicted with diseases and even people in conditions in which they may even have had a hand in creating. For example; people were told to evacuate New Orleans before hurricane Katrina. Many people did not evacuate for a variety of reasons that made sense to them at the time. As a nation we flew in helicopters, provided food and housing and money, in the final analysis even our national efforts at help were woefully inadequate. During floods we provide help to people we do not know, but with a little effort it is easy to determine where flood plains are located and we all know not to live in a flood plain or drive into rushing water, right?

Speaking the truth from inside of me, what do I do? I am lucky, I have the resources to help him but what is the right thing to do in helping my son?

33 comments:

Syd said...

Ron, the only thing that I can say is to follow your gut. I knew the answers when I was dealing with the alcoholics in my life, but chose to ignore the voice within. I think that you know deep inside what is best for you and Mom. I needed to take care of myself rather than trying to make everything great for the alcoholic. I am glad that I finally listened to my inner voice. It has helped both of us.

Brother Frankie said...

dad, i like the "hole" thingy your using..

lets say we look into this hole and decide to throw a rope to the person inside. but they look up and say, i am napping, or i dont feel like grabbing this rope.. come down and carry me ..

then you could say..

“Looks like you are in a world of shit, good luck.”

and continue on with your day..

you are loved
Brother Frankie

Dad and Mom said...

Brother Frankie,

You are SO right, can't force recovery.

I ain't carrying nobody out.

Erin said...

I so agree with what Syd said, I am finally learning to do this.

Bristolvol said...

My theory is this: they don't need you help to get into the hole, why do want to provide help to get them out? If you make it too easy for your son, he'll get used to this and there might be a good chance for relapsing. It is not your obligation (unless he is a minor) to provide for him and rewarding his recovery is a bad idea. As he did not need help to get drugs, why should you help him in his recovery? Once he has proven himself to be recovering (5 years into the future at least) and has earned your trust again, you can make baby steps toward helping him if he still needs help. Right now you are standing on a very slippery slope and until you feel solid ground under your feet, you should move as little as possible. Give him the chance to be as creative and resourceful in his recovery as he was in his addiction. Just my opinon.

Kim A. said...

Wise words that were shared with me about my son, "Give him to God, get out of his way, and get busy with your own life." It took work for me to mind my own business and learn to treat my son with dignity and respect. Both things which every human being deserves, no matter what monkey they have on their back. Cause I have a monkey too and it is my job to tend to it. That is a full time job. ::hugs::

♥namaste♥

Toyin O. said...

Pray for him.

http://youcanfacetodaybecausehelives.blogspot.com

clean and crazy said...

i heard a speaker talk very similar to what you described here. his name is Vito L. and he has 48 years clean, he was a real freind of Jimmy K, one of the founding members of Narcotics Anonymous. the story goes;

there was a man in a hole desperate and lost, crying in agony. a doctor came by and said let me help you, he reached down and the addict said, no, no you can't help me so the man left. then after a while another man saw the addict in the hole and said i am a pshycologist take my hand i can help you, the addict said no, no you can't help me, you don't understand so the man left then a third man came by and saw the lost soul in the pit of despair and he reached in and said let me help you, i am a man of god, again the addict cried no, no you can't help me. after that the addict was alone then a man came along and saw him in the hole and said what is wrong the man said i am an addict and there is no hope for me, the man climbed into the hole and down to the addict, the lost addict said what are you doing the man said, 'my name is jimmy k and i have been here before, i know the way out.'

i don't know, i just like that story. it kind of reminded me of what you were saying here. in my opinion, you need to take care of you. your son will take care of himself. hopefully clean.

jackandaisy said...

having been down this road before and am on it again i know that this is my son's job. i can stand by and be kind and supportive in my words but that is all. the bigger question here is what do we do with ourselves now. for the last 4 years i have abandoned myself in order to help jack. now i am finding it isn't as easy as it would seem to pick up the pieces of my life again. i have great ideas of how to do this, such as volunteering, picking up old hobbies or learning new ones but i am having difficulty doing any of them. i'm not sure why this is.

daisy

Anonymous said...

I think a profound statement I have made to my son over and over is...you have been extremely resourcesful in getting your drugs and making that work for you, I should think you could use that same resourcefulness and intelligence to do other things necessary to get your life on track. Of course, if you don't face the addiction (he is an active user I'm sure) it is only putting a bandaid on the problem which is NOT going to work. Fix the addiction first, then use your intelligence and resources to grow the other parts of your life. Of course, he is not sober and where I sit now, guess I would say I would do ANYTHING for him if clean..but I know that isn't the best for him!

BMelonsLemonade said...

First of all, I want to say I like the Katrina analogy. I stayed behind because I did not have enough dope to leave, plain and simple. Still, for several years after I left and began my journey of recovery, I would feel angry when people would say, "the people of New Orleans were told to leave..." (with whatever may follow there). Now, I realize I stayed for a stupid reason. And many other people stayed for various reasons, but now the arguement is no longer about WHY we all stayed, but it is simply an argument because of the FACT we stayed. And I am lucky to be alive. I have taken a devestating situation and let it save my life. It is all a matter of perspective. Anyway, I like the Katrina analogy.

As for your role, now...you will be, once again, feeling it out as you go. I can say from my experience that if my parents dove in and rescued me in those early months, especially...but even in those early years, I might not be where I am. I had to learn to make it on my own. Financially, the were unwilling to do much more than buy me some minutes for my phone occasionally. They were unwilling to help with attorney fees, court ordered treatment costs, probation fees, or anything that would bail me out of the trouble I had created. They did not go to court dates, or remind me about it. It was my responsibility to do all that. If I couldn't be responsible enough to keepup with court dates, then I wasn't responsible enough for a car. I had to get out of the trouble on my own. They offered advice, but the buck stopped there. Now, they were about 5 hours away when I was dealing with a lot of legal trouble, and I am sure they would have gone to court dates with me if they had been closer. But, I did not want them at my court dates, anyway. They did not help me get an apartment, although they did put up the offer to move home, but it came with extreme stipulations (get a job, no rides...take the bus, save money, stay clean, go to meetings, no rides to those either, complete outpatient treatment, and keep following up...I could go on and on.) I almost took this offer, but the court in Virginia would not allow me to leave until my probation was over. They did not buy me things that would have made my life easier, like a computer. But, they did talk to me anytime I wanted to. They would often be the firm voice of reason that I had become so unaccostumed to hearing. They did not waiver...I had to get clean. I had to stay out of trouble. I had to get my s**t together.

My mom also sent me lots of books. Inspiring books. Addiction books. Spiritual books. Self help books. She did not cram it down my throat, she would sometimes send them without even a word about it. Slowly, the relationship began to build again. One baby step at a time.

More than four and a half years later, we are closer than ever. I finally earned back their trust and respect. It has taken a lot of hard work. And it has taken a lot of time. I don't think it would mean so much now, without that time and work. I never want to disappoint my parents again. I also think I would not be as self sufficent and motivated as I am now if I had been given much more help in those early months and years of recovery. When you work very hard for something, the reward is much sweeter. You guys will figure it out...

BMelonsLemonade said...

I also want to respond to a few comments here. (I always respond myself before I read comments...) First of all, I LOVE what Brother Frankie says.

Second, I want to disagree with Bristolov here. I think you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD help him with his recovery. Sure, he did not need help getting drugs, but he DOES need help in recovery. I am not saying financil help. And I am not saying reward him for his short amount of recovery time. I am saying, support him through this. Go to family sessions with him, it is vital for the family to be part of the recovery process. You most certainly should help him with his recovery! Walk beside him through the process; this does not mean you have to help pay for the walk. Furthermore, do not put a time limit on it. I have not been clean for five years, but I have proven my commitment to it already. Finally, the baby steps are now. In five years, you will not be just starting with baby steps! Hopefully, by then you will be running a marathon by leaps and bounds...

Fractalmom said...

tough decisions. really tough. these (were) are, our babies. God Almighty, this hurts badly doesn't it?

I sure don't have the answer! I could tell you at length every single thing I did (wrong) in the first 6 years of her addiction. I could detail the hundreds of thousands of dollars we paid out to help her.

She is doing better now, I don't like the methadone, but it's better than heroin, slightly. I don't give rides to the clinic (she is car-less). I don't give money. I do occasionally take her to the store when it's bad weather so the baby doesn't have to be subjected to the elements in the walk to the store, but that is more for the baby than the daughter.

She did tell me one time, in honesty...Mom, the best thing you ever did was to abandon me to my own fate. I had no where to turn, except within myself to solve my problems. All my life, you were there to help me solve them, when you said ENOUGH, I had no one. I was either going to die a junkie, or figure it out myself.

I hold on to those words most nights. I will never know if my actions, lack of actions, or reactions were right or wrong.

Bristolvol said...

To BMelonsLemonade: I guess I did not make myself clear. I really did not mean abandon him in his recovery. You are right, walk with him every step of the way. The problem is the fine line between enabling and supporting. If I gave my daughter my little finger, she'll take my hand in a heart beat and would not even realize it before it is too late. She would have to earn my trust before I'd give her any financial support, etc. I am all for moral support, if you can stop there.

CC (Mumsicles) said...

Our philosophy was "You want to get clean? Great. Prove it." And it was only as he demonstrated with his actions that he was serious that we would consider supporting in some way. For example, he signed a medical release so we could speak directly with his counselor and have access to UA results. He demonstrated he was serious by reducing his methadone dose steadily over time. We still made mistakes, and he still manipulated. But it was a good guide. Keeping our hands off finally led him to his 'bottom' when he declared "I'll do anything it takes, I just want my life back". We're still on the journey, nowhere near the end. But we have seen miracles in the last 4 months that I never expected. And I can see now that not rescuing him played a big part.

BMelonsLemonade said...

@Bristolov...As a recovered addict I agree 100% with earning trust back before ANY financial support is given...if my parents had given me financial support before I hard earned it, I would not be where I am today.

addictionstinks said...

I'm pretty sure what you really mean here Dad, is should you help him out financially? I can only give a huge NO! It was made clear at the start of J's addiction and legal problems, that we would NOT buy him out of it - even tho we could easily afford to. We did NOT buy a lawyer, we did NOT and will NOT pay the stack of overdue bills that still sit here waiting for him to pay someday. I will NEVER hand him cash. Just remember my golden rule: It's NOT gonna be MY dollar that kills you! I don't EVER want to be the one who gave him cash, which he then purchased drugs with and killed himself. NEVER.

By the same token, he knows that his family loves him VERY MUCH, and that we support his recovery. He's in some tough times right now, and I do write him almost every day, and talk to him on the telephone when I can, because he's hurting right now. He needs to feel the love of his family. That's what will make him heal. If money could buy healing, he would not be where he is today.

VJ said...

My counselor told me, "Don't do for them what they can do for themselves."

Annette said...

I wrote a post for The Partnership on this very thing. Because it is tricky....you change from worrying and obsessing to letting go and then they start to get better. Then what is your part?

I think if my daughter was trying to get out the hole she is in, I would throw a rope down. It would be a tool, but she would still need to do almost all the work to repair her situation. She would need to want it, and exert energy in that direction and would need to climb and use strength she probably doesn't even know she has. But she would find it because she would be desperate to get to the light at the top of that hole. I would cheer along the way and tell her when/if she got discouraged that I KNOW she has the ability to find her way. Then I would pray like crazy. :o)

Dad 4 Truth said...

This is a great post and the responses are outstanding. This is how new parent's learn as they will read but not share or ask questions (usually).

This post ties one of the most difficult challenges parents will face into a positive exchange of helpful suggestions.

I would love to add new insight but everyone has done such a great job I can't think of anything to add!! That is very difficult for me to accept :)

Her Big Sad said...

So timely, thank you! These responses are very helpful to me. Much to ponder. Again, thx!

Mariah's Mom said...

So much of this depends, in my opinion, on the age of your son. Once Mariah reached a certain age, my husband and I had had enough and we assured ourselves that the hole she had gotten herself into was the same hole that she could figure out how to emerge from- and how much more powerful of a lesson would this be for her? She is 26 today and has been in the Teen Challenge program for well over one year- 15 months to be exact. But she figured this all out by herself while living in some unfathomable situations that my husband and I were not aware of at the time. If we were aware we may have jumped to her rescue preventing the most valuable lesson this woman has ever learned from occurring. There are programs available in cities all over our country and if someone wants help, they can get it. Plain and simple. Frankly speaking, I truly believe Mariah is desperate to live her OWN life and for us to carry on with ours and in some ways grew to resent our help because it probably felt like she was still a little girl needing the rescue of mommy and daddy. When we eventually "backed off" did we see our daughter begin to grow into the woman we always hoped she would be. Is she using? Not my problem. Is she lying to anyone? Not my problem. Is it really any of our business? Nope. Because it is her life to live. Do I love her and support her from afar? With all of my heart forever and ever...but I must let my angel grow up and live her own life.

LisaC said...

All I know is that it is an individual decision. My counselor once told me that assisting during recovery is not the same as enabling during active decision. What is in your head and your heart drives your decisions.

And I don't necessarily think that assistance is financial assistance.

Wonderful post to ponder; and wonder comments to ponder as well.

Tori said...

Great Post and I loved all the different comments. I am in no place to give any advice as I still seem to be enabling even when I don't think I am. I guess I am having just as hard of a time letting go and he is getting clean.

kelly said...

Ron,

I find myself in the same boat as you. The only thing I find comfort in is, the fact that it's a good day when they aren't using. Other than that, I have the same tools you do laying around.
I think there were some great comments here and very helpful to me. Thanks everyone!
Hugs
Kelly

Anonymous said...

Way easier said than done as most of you probably already know. My son has been a Heroin addict for 3 years- rehab twice- and has recently relasped again. It is so damn heart breaking but I think your advice is sound and I am going to try my best to follow it.

Sharon said...

Having an addicted child is humbling, isn't it? Please continue posting.

Anonymous said...

I feel as though I am at a crossroads. I just found this site and my eyes are opening. My son is 21 and is in a lot of trouble. He was always a happy kid but he started smoking pot and drinking at around 15 years old. He had to be pushed through High School and college where he performed poorly. He has always been a kid that looked for instant gratification - the quick fix. He's never stuck with anything for long; always excited in the beginning and before long, he would begin to shirk and eventually quit whatever it was- jobs, hobbies, sports etc. He has always been lazy around the house, disrespectful to me and my husband (his step dad)and has never contributed anything to our family. We kicked him out a year ago and gave him the first month's rent and security. He wouldn't get job, but started selling weed to pay his way. Six months later, he was living with a bunch of users and cried to come back home. We enrolled him in college and again, his performance was poor. He promised to do better so once again, as his last chance, we enrolled him again and he started going to the gym every day and did quite well scholastically. But then we found out he was using steroids to get big quick - again looking for instant gratification and unwilling to put his time in honestly. He moved out over this past summer and it was a quick transition from shooting up steroids to shooting up heroin and taking pills. He started selling to support his habit. Then things got worse. In a drunken/high rage, he broke into his girlfriend's apartment thinking she was cheating on him (she may have been)- he was out of control and the girls there called the cops. He is now facing a violent felony charge. Since it's his first offense, the judge doesn't know what to do with him yet. We wrote letters pleading for intervention and drug rehab. He is being evaluated this morning. Meanwhile, while he is waiting he is living back at our home and acting the same way; beligerent, lazy and generally unpleasant and when we come down on him, he'll change it up and act remorseful and toe the line for a day or so. He says he wants to enjoy his last few days/weeks of freedom before he is forced to get clean. I want him to be treated inpatient. My husband is a great guy, educated and gentle. But he is in alcohol recovery himself ( 3 and a half years) and he had to move out of the house to protect his own sobriety. I don't want to enable my son and I don't want to lose my husband. But I am a mother and I will do what is necessary to help my son. I have also had to cancel a celebration for my older son who just passed the bar exam because of this situation that is hanging over our heads. My husband can't risk coming so I've decided to postpone the event. It's tearing our family apart. Of course I want my son to stop using and change his whole outlook and eventually go on to a happy, productive life. But it seems like a dream - impossible to achieve. How can I best help him? Kick him out again? Call the DA and plead for serious inpatient treatment? I know from reading all of your posts that if he doesn't truly want to kick his addiction, I have to let him go down. But I am at a crossroads today. He says he will go inpatient if that's what it takes to save his ass from doing hard prison time. But I know he is still trying to manipulate and say whatever he has to say to save his skin. How do I know if this is his bottom? He is terrified of going to prison, but I think he still thinks he can work the system and wiggle through. I don't feel that he has accepted that his life has to change forever. I don't trust my instincts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for this. I am a single mom with a 16 year old addict who I am trying to keep alive. I have exausted all resources and am at such a loss. Your words, all your words, were so helpful to me today.

Anonymous said...

I just joined here today. I could not believe the original post “I have been struggling with a whole new problem within myself as it relates to my son and his recovery efforts. What is the role of a loved one when an addict is working on their recovery” My on was clean for about 4 months and while I think he is relapsing here and there, I am at odds what to do about it as I am proud of how far he has come. I am as mom who is so truly exhuasted both physically and mentally. I am certainly a helicopter mom and rescue my son all the time in fear that if I do not, he will get even worse; I truly hope that I can get to the place where many of you are at this point. I try to be tough but too scared that after 20 years of unconditional love, I would be failing him. I don't agree that they (well my son) chose the path to do drugs and that I should not help him. Sure he took the drug to begin with but not to party and get high with his friends. Our son is also bipolar and deals with constant depression. They have tried 3 different medications to help him in this area all of which he had to be taken off of due to his liver enzymes. Therefore, he is not on any medication for his bipolar. I know from many group meetings and many one on one conversations with my son that he started doing drugs ( oxy and then heroin) to free himself of the depression in only for a few hours. Of course more was needed for the few hours of peace and then more was needed just so that he was not physically ill. He was clean for 4 months after 1 week in in-patient rehab and 4 months of out-patient rehab and is on suboxone maintenance. I can tell there are days he is high; not like before, however, I know it can easily go back to that again. While its only 1 or 2 times a week (due to his suboxone) it is so heart breaking for me. Do I bail on him when he is trying so hard?? Again as said in the original post “What is the role of a loved one when an addict is working on their recovery”. So happy I found this group and again, so many of your posts were wonderful and I hope I can be strong like many of you.

found4sure said...

I am finally aware of my tendancy to enable. I didn't realize how much the addict manipulated me. My son is in there but I differentiate between the two, because I feel that my son is captive. If this is wrong I trust that will be revealed to me like alot of other misconceptions have been. But, in an effort to aid my son I have often fallen prey to the addict. I must let my adult son find his way. I just read a book about a mother's journey with her son's addiction. She was advised in the later years of a long struggle by the director of a very successful rehab in Italy to, "stagli vicino", stay close to him. Our addicted children need to know that they are loved when unlovable, and have our compassion and support, but no money. My son is incarcerated now. When he is free again I will strive to follow this principle.

Anonymous said...

recently i learned that my daughter is using heroin. It was so hard to digest. I live in Italy, and my daughter in US. What can I do being so far way. I don't know what to do for her. Any idea?

Tate Gunning said...

I love this post! I'm an addict celebrating 3 years of recovery, and interested in the topic of addiction - it wasn't until my parents withdrew themselves, or as you say "do the minimum," that I was willing to make some changes.

I'm curious now, 6 years later from the original post, how do you view this subject? Looking in hindsight, how do you feel, and what are your current thoughts?

Thanks Dad,
Tate