To Live Among Them – Return to a Safer Place

(These are two abbreviated sections of my journal. Our son returned home to face court after several months of rehab in Florida. He was given PBJ and unsupervised probation. This happened near the beginning of his recovery and mine more than three years ago.)

I looked forward to taking our son back to his sober living residence. We no longer felt his home was a safe place. He now lives among addicts in an environment I thought I would not wish upon anyone. He needs to be there where the people surrounding him are trying to recover. Here at home, many of his friends continue to tread down the path of destruction and hopefully not death. All of his family is here, those he loves, and he is forced to walk away. He longs to have those days of happiness before he made the choice to become a victim of drugs. He and I now know we cannot go back and recover mistakes we made. All we can hope to do is repair them. His mom and the family know how well he is and can only hope for the best. He has so much love and support here but the real tools to help him reside in Florida.

Love and support are so very important but encouragement and the right word from fellow users are the lifeline at this time. For some reason I look forward to going back with him and rebuilding our relationship and meeting his new addict family. Sounds stupid? I can relate to them all. I go there with a better understanding how they are struggling. I hope they don’t think of me as an outsider as I’m no different in my own way. I’m looking to heal myself just as they are doing.

The following day, he and I drove back to his sober living residence. This was my first visit to his location of recovery. His first day back was very enlightening to me. I met some of the nicest, good looking and polite young people I’ve ever met. It’s hard to believe their lives have been impacted by drugs. I have to think of the families involved. As our son went from place to place each person welcomed him back and said how much they missed him. Others did not know he was gone and said they missed him at their meetings. It’s like he went away for a long vacation somewhere. He had been gone three days? The following day we went to a restaurant where he had worked earlier. Again, I met several young users, boys and girls, so good looking and friendly. They seem so happy. They are a society of recovering drug users and they band together as if one is missing they worry and fear the worst. They are so close. I don’t believe a family could be closer than these wonderful people. They are covered with tattoos and piercings that have meaning to each of them. Words, pictures or thoughts that they’ve decided to inscribe on their bodies. I understand relapse and how high the chances are but with the support of those I’ve met this first day, I think he can make this happen. At home his friends would only offer another high to relieve depression or whatever triggers at the time. His companions and fellow users at sober living will offer help with words non-addicts would probably be of little meaning other than lecture. They know each person wants the other to be successful. They will do everything humanly possible to keep their fellow user from relapse.

The weekend provides some down time for the addicts. I went with my son to the nearby beach where a large group of young users gathered and relaxed. Again, I met several more, as before very pleasant and polite as those met previously. Here they are away from their daily routine of going to several meetings during the day, intensive outpatient program, and more nightly meetings. They still have meetings on the weekend but they are more relaxed and in more pleasant surroundings in the park, on the beach or at one of the local manager’s home.

Today my son and I went to investigate purchase of a scooter as a mode of transportation around the area and means of getting to and from employment. He also had an appointment to get a tattoo as a birthday present which will be this coming month. I was sitting on the beach this morning and for God only knows why decided I should get a tattoo. I did not want anything but the simple script that have been eating away at me since we started to attend NAR ANON…UNDERSTANDING and FAITH. At 74, I have no need to tattoo my simple body but there is some kind of bonding happening at this moment and it seemed appropriate as further meaning for each of us. This trip has so much significance to me. I’m not sure that my son knows what his father is doing but he thinks if it’s something I feel the need for, then do it. Usually you put a lot of thought in this type of stuff but for me the tattoo is a simple expression of my feelings at this moment. I doubt that will change any time soon. Actually, it crossed my mind last night as I proceeded to follow the aftercare instructions, maybe if we come down in November to present his one-year pin, I might get HOPE and FORGIVNESS on the opposite side. Then again, I may realize that I’m caught up in a moment and these things don’t wash off.

I could not wait for the one-year pin. Decided that the tattoo looked unbalanced so did the other side of my chest with HOPE and FORGIVING. (Not forgiveness). It says what I want. Coming back to the hotel a young fellow was on the corner (there are a lot of them in this area) holding a sign saying “I want to be honest, I just got out of prison and I’m hungry. God Bless! I kept looking at the young man and I had to hand him a couple of dollars. I think it was the honest part that made me reach into my pocket. There are so many in prisons because of drugs. It’s a hell of a thing to wake up at 74 and see how much misery exists. I’ve been very fortunate to have all that I have and that we are able to help my son at this difficult time. I know full well he could be like that young man trying to regain any part of his happiness. It’s been another day in Addictville learning and understanding.

It’s so difficult to look around at these surroundings and realize this place is so much better than his home where he lived and enjoyed so many fun times and friends. When I sit on the beach or in a restaurant with his roommates they are eager to explain the happiness and security they have here. They come from all parts of the country and at this moment all have little interest in returning home. Not that they miss loved ones, only to say they’re not ready. They each said they only knew that they needed to leave from wherever and find a new life and this was the place. They may return to home at some point but none seem to neither know when nor give it a lot of thought. This being safe is foremost in their minds. It’s like a huge “thumb sucking blanket” and each hold onto like life itself. Any attempt to take it and wash it clean of all the heartache and misery that resides on it will only hurt those that have dumped their tears and days of darkness on it. It is a collection of life, relapse and death all over it and they will not nor choose to erase memories of success and failure. If one loses grip the others rush to help. This whole thing is so indescribable. I have learned so much so fast. I will not leave here without thinking of every young person I’ve met. The community where he resides is a perfect example of solidarity. They practice it day to day. It’s so sad to think of the heartache that waits for their recovery. Those who love and cared for them most of their life stay behind trying to assemble a new life themselves at the same time the NAR-ANON phrase “loving at a distance “plagues them each and every day. Why not? They’ve invested so much love in their addict and have to hang on to hope that they too will succeed.

If I hear someone cry out of worry that their addict is in horrible place surrounded by dealers on every corner, drugs being exchanged in open sight, prostitutes on the corners, kids holding signs at every light begging for help, believe me lessen your fear. There is a stronger power hidden wherever your addict resides. This power reaches out every moment of every day asking do you remember when you were happy. If you take drugs will you be happy again? They answer the same. Drugs never made me happy. They seek to be happy and I can only pray for all to succeed

I only have one more day to savor this visit to my son’s new residence. I have no idea if he will stay here the rest of his life nor of his success or failure. I only know that at this time in his life and mine I feel he has the best chance where he is at this moment. Leaving will be emotional I know and the closer I get to my time for departure the worse it gets. He may feel it but not like I will. He has his daily obligations and he is surrounded by his friends. I am a permitted outsider to see and hear a small fraction of his life now. I need to return home to my own tools to aid me in enjoying the remainder of my life. NAR-ANON is as important to me as this community is to NA is to him. I am glad I was able to visit it and it adds even more understanding for me. I told his mom tonight that this is the most horrible wonderful place. I’ve never had so many ups and downs in such a short time. You walk from happy street to sad street with each passing moment.

This was my last day with him before heading home. I knew as it got closer more emotion would start to develop. We spent most of the day just being together doing fun stuff. There was lots of talk and reassurance from each of us that the other will be fine. The entire day would have to climax after we ate dinner at his favorite place and had his favorite dinner. I feel he has separated his life into two sections. One where he was happy and the other unhappy and under a blanket of substance abuse enjoyed doing things with. These folks around him are fantastic friends but they are addicts and as such know, as he does, that complacency will increase the chances of relapse and even death. He has this driven in his head either through things he’s learning or from his friends. He gave as example a recent process group he went to where the therapist asked that each person go to a section in the room marked 0-10. This was the level of understanding what addiction was. Zero meaning nothing. Ten was having a strong knowledge. He was the only one that went to the zero corner. When asked why he explained if he knew anything about addiction, he would not be here. This would have been my answer as an adult. He did say there were a lot of twos and threes and those standing at ten were smart assess that were trying to be funny. He went on to say I will be learning the rest of my life about addiction. Over this week he and his partners have filled my head with information from the addict side. I never heard any of this from my deceased son. It was very, very difficult to hug and say good bye. Why is it that sometimes you tear up? Is it thought that this may be the last? Once again, I have to leave shaking my head and saying I don’t understand. One thing that is positive, he is in a good place with one goal and people who love and care as much as we at home do.

I head home tomorrow. It will be a long lonely trip.

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