Saturday, February 7, 2015

7 Truths About My Addict That Took 5 Years To Learn

It is a different life today than when our son was in seven years of active addiction. Our son got clear and sober in July 2010. I have writing this blog for over 5 years. I am going to reprint some of my posts that helped me the most and seemed to have a good effect for readers. Hope this helps new parents living this nightmare.
I feel deep empathy toward parents just beginning the terrible journey of their child’s drug addiction — and those facing the turmoil of a next step: rehab, incarceration, dislodging the addict from the family home. These are still open and fresh wounds for my wife and me.
Following are seven hard lessons we’ve learned in our journey, all of which we denied in the beginning. We 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 come to accept these truths and now it is much easier to deal with the heartache and we’ve become more effective helpers for our son/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 using 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’s what fathers do. I understand now, I was wrong. All that would do would leave me dead on the tracks 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

This goes to what I wrote above. This is a problem only our addict can fix. A concept such as this is very hard for me to accept because I try to fix everything. No one is allowed in our addict’s 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 take any action to mask the problem. I honestly believe at the time they do not even realize they are lying, they just say whatever they think 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 somekind of approval through lying, even if they know they will be busted. I believe it offers a similar instant gratification as drugs. 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. Do not rely on faith that they are not using because they told you.
4. My Addict Is A Criminal

Symptoms of this disease include illegal behavior. 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 done things that got him 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 the addict, 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 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 now 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 this 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 he does.
7. Homelessness May Be The Path He Chooses

Mom works in downtown Kansas City. When you drive down there you see homeless people with signs and some of them living under the bridges. They are dirty and hungry. They very likely are addicts, alcoholics or suffer from a mental illness. 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 got 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 son makes the decision to live this way, it will hurt me terribly 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 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 is: until you understand the truth you cannot find peace within yourself or really be able to help your addict. Accepting the truth is what allows you to help your addict by helping yourself.
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 okay to separate the two.


Cathy Taughinbaugh said...

Thanks Ron for sharing your experiences with your son. It is so great that you are willing to help other parents who are on this journey. Take care!

Anonymous said...

Good reading and all very true. Takes us time to realize it ....

Candace Plattor said...

Hi Ron, thank you so much for sharing this. I'm so sorry for your pain, and I understand. I'm an Addictions Therapist in Vancouver, Canada, and I work predominantly now with the loved ones of addicts - people just like you - because there is so little help for them out there. I'm also a recovering addict with many years clean - and I've lost people to addiction as well. You can see more about me at

I'm very grateful for all the points you made about choice - and I couldn't agree with you more. Whether or not addiction is a disease, and even though there is clearly brain involvement - underlying all of that, addiction is a choice. If that wasn't true, there wouldn't be people like myself who are in recovery from it.

And I appreciate what you said about the parents (and other loved ones) being enablers. Enabling an addict is never a loving act, and parents need to get help for themselves too, so that the entire family system can heal.

You've written an amazing article, and I'm going to share it with a lot of people. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. I hear you loud and clear. My son has been clean and sober for 13 years now but it was (and still is sometimes) quite the ride. One of the things I was told at one point was that I was loving him to death. That was very true although it was hard to hear. We think if we love them enough they will quit. Not true! If we love them enough we have to let go and let God take care of them for us.

Karrie said...

It takes courage and caring to share your experience. We have faced this struggle ourselves. Finally, after 7 years our son has decided to change his life. I pray for the families of addicts and the addicts themselves every day. It's nice to know that we are not alone. Everything you said is so true. God bless you and your son.

Anonymous said...

You guys all suck. Placing the blame soley on the addict. Yeah it's a choice but others shit on them until they just don't even want to live anymore...but hey it's their choice, because who wouldn't want to live in a world where they are labeled as a junkie scumbag criminal, even by their families. Whatever though it is what it is, cool story bro.

Dad and Mom said...

Dear Anonymous, (you guys suck)

If you read more of my blog you will see I understand that a person addicted doesn't like what they are. I know addiction is a disease. I know everyone suffers but I also know that parents cannot help anyone even themselves till they understand the world in which THEY live too.

Some day through all of us, including you we might be able to remove the stigma of addiction and then people can get help just as others get help and compassion in treatment like others suffering from diseases we don't understand or have a cure for yet.

Linda said...

My son is in recovery. After 5 years of addiction he went into Teen Challenge (it started with teens but is an adult program as well just separate facilities) , a 14 month Christian program that does not charge except for an entry fee. My son is changed. His addiction has been removed. He has only been out 5 months and has a ton of maturing to do but he is changed. The comments on this blog are so true. It was not until I went to Celebrate Recovery was I able to heal from my co dependency and act in a manor that left my son no choice but rehab or homelessness. The message we often give to our addict it that they are losers. It is hard to separate the sin from the sinner. It was not until I was in Celebrate Recovery for over a year that I could LOVE my son but hate his sin. If I did not get the help I needed (and belive me I was as broken as they get). I lived with the shame of having a drug addict for a son. I viewed it as my fault, I felt that I must have done something wrong. I withdrew from all friend and most family and lived in my own world of darkness. I did not look at it as a disease. It is not just a disease of the addict. It is a disease of the family. The family needs as much treatment as the addict or the addict will not get well and he may not anyway. I am actually a better person because of my sons addiction. I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD HAVE SAID THAT 3 YEARS AGO!. But I am. I am kinder more patient and more loving. I have learned to surrender my controlling behaviors and I live in a peace I never thought possible. Addiction is a very difficult disease and so many families don't get the right help.

Syd said...

What sucks is how family members do everything they can over and over until they too are exhausted and emotionally spent. What sucks is not being able to get the obsessive thoughts about the alcoholic/addict out of your head and spending every moment wondering if they are alive or dead. What sucks is not having a life because of addiction.

John bentrick said...

This information is very important for those parents who wants their child to be sober as well as to those addicts who want to leave addiction.

Curtis Cox said...

Nice article! Thank you for giving a time to share your story to everyone. I appreciate your kindness in helping the parents who experience the same thing. It shows that your son’s struggle to his addiction has taught him and you at the same time a lot of lessons in life. I can feel how you really care for him to the point that you try to fix everything. I guess you tried even convincing him to undergo treatment addiction rehab but still you end up frustrated. But you didn’t give up quickly that’s why your son was able to get clean and sober. It’s a good thing that you are able to be brave and strong, staying at his side during his struggle will totally pay off. Good luck to you and to your son’s recovery.

Natalie Lamb said...

It is an old maxim, but oftentimes, the only ones that can help people are themselves. What this means is that we do not abandon our duties or our vigilance, but they have to want it for themselves above all else. Change should always begin from within. Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the matter. Good day!

Natalie Lamb @ Good LifeTherapy

Anonymous said...

Your blog helped me come to grips with my son's addiction and coping with the fact we had to let him go. Out the door on a winter night in the Midwest with a broken ankle and crutches. (he tried climbing out a second story window and we found him on the deck in the am...)
I am trying to help another mom understand. She knows her daughter is an addict but her daughter has medical medical needs she worries about. She has had 2 major heart surgeries in the past few years and is supposed to check in with a heart doctor daily. She can't bring herself to kick her out of the house. Any ideas? I love my friend and hate to see the family keep suffering.

Dad and Mom said...

Tough love may be the answer for some but it is not the answer for all. It's called setting boundaries for herself. It is possible to love the addict and not the addiction. It involves relearning the role of a mother. Tough to do but very worth the effort. It isn't about putting the love aside or throwing away her daughter at the expense of her health. My advice is to find someone that can help with the CRAFT model of dealing with an addicted loved one. Try these books, "Beyond Addiction" or Get Your Loved On Sober". Both very good. There is more you can do besides throwing them out and tough love. Good Luck, Ron

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. As the mother of an addict, I ├žan certainly relate to the 7 truths. My challenge is letting him go and live the consequences of his decisions...while trying to find some peace with this, knowing that it's the right thing to do.