Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What Do I Wish I Had Done

More than a couple weeks ago I got an e-mail from a mother telling me about her son. Similar situations that we have all experienced. She had done this and done that trying to help. Now she was scared she was going to lose her son.

She ask me a simple question about what should she do now. She ask what do I wish I had done differently?

That is a tricky question. Or, some may even say it is a trick question. Looking for the silver bullet has been every parents quest that I have spoken too. It was my quest for several years.

That troubling question has caused me much thought since she wrote. I answer every e-mail I receive in some way or another. Many times I feel I just have no answer that is adequate but sometimes the answer that best fits is simply, "I understand, you are not alone."

"What do I wish I had done differently?" First thing I thought of was all of those little things and big things that I feel would have made a difference. Might even have prevented this nightmare. That was my first thought and I threw in some answers I hoped would help. But, my answers troubled me. After a few weeks of deliberation I am satisfied with a different answer.

I would have learned to listen. This is not an easy thing for a parent to do.

I've spent years chronicling our family experiences on this blog. Written about what I have learned and how we screwed up. There is nothing original, I just had to experience for myself and draw my own conclusions.

I would have learned to listen to my son. What does an addicted person really have to say worth listening too? All along through his words and actions he told me there was nothing I could do to fix him. Although, as a parent I knew it was my job to fix my son. That's what parents do, we fix things. Years of trying to fix him even through he was telling me not too try.

I would have learned to listen to counselors and parents. Listening is very different than searching for answers. Getting answers to questions or "what to do" solutions assume that there is a single answer or methodology that will awaken not just you but also your addicted loved one from this nightmare.

I would have learned to listen to my own internal struggles about what I am told. What have I heard, what do I feel, why am I scared? Emotional reactions was a result of unresolved internal struggles.

I would have learned to listen to my heart and my head. Most of the time one or the other would win out. Listening to my heart is what tells me where there is life there is hope. My heart allows me to love someone that by all accounts seems to be unloveable. In my head I know all of the realities of addiction. Heart and head is not a win/lose struggle. Hearts and head can actually work together. It is possible for your heart to accept that my son may die. It is also possible for the head to grasp that there may not be an answer for addiction and loving for just today is all you get.

Listening is hard. No one loves your child like you do. Since they were babies you fed them, changed them, raised them and provided for their every need. Listening to someone or anything is hard when loving and caring for them has always been instinct.

What do I wish I had done differently? I wish I had learned how to listen sooner in my life.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post. What I learnt from my son's addiction is that there is nothing i can say which can make my son turn around. He has to want to do it. When the pain of addiction becomes greater than the pain of recovery he will turn around. In the meantime the best we can do is to take care of our selves.

Lisa said...


This post reminded me of the Chinese proverb "to know the road ahead, ask those coming back." Struggling to understand and looking for answers, I paid close attention to individuals who were ahead of me on this journey. You were one of those parents to whom I listened. I am so thankful for your willingness to share your experience publicly.

Sheri said...

I agree with Lisa that drawing from others experiences is a big help. I am grateful for your posts and those of others who have been there.I also think that what you say Ron is very, very true. A person has to self-reflect and listen to their inner voice. You are correct, that voice comes from two places that usually are in conflict, the head and the heart. Drawing from both "voices" is difficult but both voices are important. Listening to my heart, I can still love my son and yet I can let my head temper that strong desire to go too far in the name of love and try to fix him.
Patience with myself to do this is required but it can be done.

Syd said...

Powerful post, Ron. I think that learning to listen and having head and heart be in balance are necessary for my recovery as well.

Andrea Desouja said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dad and Mom said...

Andrea Desouja, please do not comment in order to just post an advertisement for your services.

Becky V said...

Ron, this post gave me goosebumps, and that's a good thing. It means that your words connected with my heart and I felt your love for your son. Thank you for sharing what's in your heart with others who need to know there is hope and they are not alone.

Tori said...

That was a wonderful post Ron.

v. paulson said...

Great post..It is so hard to watch somebody you love so much self destruct. As a parent you feel love for this child of yours and would do anything to help them.The head has to not let the heart take over.It is a very fine line.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your experience and that of so many others. Thanks for your courage and interest in humanity. Sharing is a path to help and progress.

I hope this is not inappropriate and would like to see your thoughts on something. I know a bit about drugs and addiction. Addiction is never someone's goal but comes from playing with fire. It occurs to me that one thing about early drug is the satisfaction that users have with their little "secret". There is a perverse pleasure in doing something and getting away with it. This is one reason I question our cultural approach to drugs. We force the drug culture into the shadows which provides cover for the black market. Users enjoy getting high and having this secret life. The addiction and terrible consequences follow. If drugs were decriminalized and the users were exposed to a more open/less exciting experience it might result in a different outcome.

Does the little secret/getting away with something idea resonate with your experience?

Best regards.

Dad and Mom said...


No it doesn't resonate with my experience. That also is the reason I am against legalization or drugs.

Using the logic of forbidden fruit doesn't make sense. Look at alcohol it is legal but we still have a problem with alcoholism. When alcohol was illegal during prohibition there were still alcoholics.

You are equating drug addiction to a moral failure where in truth it is a disease. Mental illness manifests itself in many forms. Drug addiction and alcoholism is a form of mental illness.

I my eyes the problem with our cultural approach to drugs is that drug addiction is dealt with as a criminal activity instead of mental health issue.

Holly said...

It's hard to JUST listen. Most of us think we are listening but really we're just listening to our own thoughts. To really listen you have to take yourself out of the equation. Beautiful post. I hope I can master the lesson.

Anonymous said...

I am a mother of three young sons and I am an addict.. I started off by taking a pill here and there to "perk" me up at work in the afternoons and didn't think anything of it until I started taking them in the mornings as well , it wasn't long before I needed them to get up in the morning and function! Now here I am 5 yrs into this hell . I wish to god I had never touched one!! My life is ruined.. I have tried to quit soooo many times only to go back because the withdrawal is pure hell!! I wouldn't wish this on anyone.... I wish I could go back to feeling normal emotions without anything in my system , all I want is to be naturally happy like I used to be . I was such a happy person just naturally happy but I have ruined my brain now so I am literally incapable of feeling "normal" . I don't want to be high just comfortable in my skin but its imposible for me . I blame myself not my parents no one is to blame but me...I have ruined my life...It's over I will never ever be normal again .....

Dad and Mom said...


Where there is life there is hope. You know this, but you can't do this alone. You need help. Seek out a meeting, go to a counselor, talk to others about this. There is more help than you realize, you are not alone. People love you and want to help. reach out your hand and take someone's hand.

Tomorrow call The Partnership Helpline 1-855-DRUGFREE. Speak to Jerry or Denise, if they are on another call leave a message, tell them that Ron said to call.

It is hell. I am not an addict but I watched my son. I also see my son today. There is a way out, the way out is you. And I don't want to minimize it, it will be the hardest thing you do. I know this because of what my son has told us. My son also said it was the greatest thing in his life along with his son.

Write any time, if you want to talk send me an e-mail. I will send you my phone number. If you want to talk to "mom" she will talk too. teamplayer@aol.com

You have not ruined your life. You have a disease that can be recovered from. Normal is what we think is right. Normal is actually being what you are and that is a loving mother or you wouldn't be reading these blogs and commenting, you are a person that deserves recovery and you can when you take that step.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your beautiful words , and please know that I am listening and I will act on your advice.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!! All of you!!


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