Learning to Talk to a Recovering Addict

One of the hardest lesions I’ve had to learn over the years is how to sit down and have a serious conversation with those in recovery. I’ve had numerous occasions to experience this and in most cases walked away with more doubt in my thoughts process than those of the user. There is a somewhat simple reason for my misunderstanding. As a parent, or friend we act just as that. We are trying to introduce a broad scope of what is forward in the addict’s life. The one addicted is more in tunnel vision mode. They are at some stage in recovery and depending how determined they are to continue that path are focused on one thing only. To live for the moment and stay focused. Those things that you see as problem issues approaching, only create turmoil in the life of the user. Turmoil or stress is one thing they try to avoid at all cost.

The user has spent time totally focused on how to avoid those people, place and things that might tempt he or she to return to that past life full of nothing but misery. They have chosen to select those things to avoid and let hamper them in any way. To point out the known issues you see as they go forward only create stress and can also a total turn off to what you are lecturing. They become overwhelmed with all your saying. If they are truly in recovery they move to where they are at this moment or day. If they are happy and pleased with what they are doing and feel they are following the steps that have been taught and continuing the things necessary to maintain their sobriety. Your intervention or thoughts may have little meaning.

You are only trying to help them avoid pitfalls that you yourself may have found in your own life. You are sincere in your wishing only to help them. They know you are trying to help but for whatever the time period, they have had it driven into their head each day, what they must do. Once you realize the mindset of the user, you may be better apt in discussions. You move forward with baby steps as some say. This healing process is slow and those involved are in constant learning mode.

If conversations lead to arguments and bad feelings, step back for a moment and give yourself time to think who you are and where your user is.  Don’t be ashamed to apologize for things you may have said or misunderstanding what your loved one is telling you. I believe I’ve mentioned my son has told me I will never fully understand drug addiction as I have never been a user. Therefore, I leave many of my concerns to his lessons learned, his sponsor, recovering friend and his own good judgment.  My part is to continue to love and support.

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.

Who’s The Addict?

Addiction in its simplest terms is an activity that has become a major focus for a person’s life, even to the point of obsession. My addiction was obvious to everyone except myself, anger. Anger usually results from fear.

After a second son feel victim to drugs, I decided to devote myself to understand all that I could about user disorder. I proposed that I keep a journal of my own movements towards learning all that I could. With the second son’s addiction, he moved to the top of my list for help, forgiveness and understanding. For years I was full of hatred and anger living with and around my other addicted son, who finally succumbed to alcohol and drugs. He spent more than eighteen years lost in any real joy in his life. At age forty-two his life ended. I could only see the destruction of the rest of my family and the damage he brought to himself and so many others.

Revisiting his story now only brings sadness rather than anger as I am starting to understand what addiction is and how helpless I am or anyone is to do nothing more than attempt to keep the addict alive.  We continue to deceive ourselves by enabling. I’ve learned through listening to so many horror stories that I am so limited in doing nothing more. It is very difficult repeating all this once again in my life. It seems much easier to speak in a different tense outside what is reality and that I have once been there before. The fear is more difficult. Really everything is more difficult. The major thing is that I’ve found an understanding and hopefully it will continue to give me strength. I don’t want to revisit and hear all the stories but I find it makes me go back and see how all my anger came to being. I did as much or more damage to myself than both sons by not understanding. It is a sad thing to live with myself and realize how much life was wasted on my part. With his death, his pain and soul searching are gone forever. I live with mine because I was blind to what his suffering was and what my current addict has at this moment and will as long as he lives. I think my biggest fear is to leave this earth not knowing or believing he will be okay and recover from this disease. Thoughts like this keep my life in a holding pattern as I continue through my own recovery.

One of the hardest things to do is release them from our care. However, you choose to make this happen, it will drive a huge stake into your heart then and even deeper later when you become more knowledgeable about addiction. I’ve felt this twice in my life. The first was out of love and anger. The second was out of love and sadness. Leaving our son for the first time in a strange place far from home, alone to deal with this horrible disease was frightening for him, his mom and me. As I said goodbye I thought how hard this is to say goodbye but to say goodbye forever as with the other son, will never remove the pain and heartache.  No matter the question you ask, the answer will always be nothing, absolutely nothing. You are helpless, yet you believe you can save someone so precious to you. We seem to indulge in this self-deception that there is a way. Maybe the best way to at least help the addict is to help you. I cannot read into his mind but in some cases, it seems the addict finds comfort in knowing that you are looking for help just as they are. This removes some level of anger for both of us. We each are seeking recovery in the best way we know. We can sense this more as both of us understand

What the most important thing to us is this moment. It is recovery for both of us. I’ve seen many of the members of the NAR-ANON group and actual addicts themselves change for the better. There is a definite link in some way that as the addict sees those they counted on distance themselves and no longer enable but continue to love the addict. It may seem slight at the beginning but as those who loved and cared regain a life again, the addict seems to follow. This is just one of many things I’m learning from attending meetings.

The time I spent thinking of the addict’s success or relapse had no value. What will happen to me if he were to relapse? There will be so much hurt and sadness rather than hate and anger now. This is what NAR-ANON and other meetings has done. I understand much more of what he is struggling with today and will for the rest of his life. I can only pray that he is able to continue his way through recovery and has a chance to know some level of happiness and gratefulness that he was able overcome such overwhelming odds. It’s so important for me to remove or minimize my own addictive behavior and find understanding instead of anger.

I have realized through the meetings that I am only able to keep him alive and no more. This is no way meant to be harsh or unforgiving. It is that I have and continue to learn what his role is and what mine is. We can forgive and love one another and each of us realize where we are and what we must do to succeed or at least continue through life with some degree of satisfaction that we are doing the best we are able. Addiction seems to drain a parent, spouse or loved one of any clear meaning or vision of what health and happiness are. Everything is blurred by a daily battle trying to survive. The addict world makes one seek any help possible for all involved. There are no clear answers.

You understand but it does not make the question go away. As one addict learning from another, I find there are two primary things I need to concentrate on: First, NAR-ANON, NA meetings are a must for me. Second, my son and I continue to exchange conversation on our plan for recovery. I feel we are aware of our addiction and the actual problem that we each suffer from. It is important for us to address what we are. We frequently discuss the deceased son and the suffering he experienced and how this son understands what I felt. This exploring of all three of our lives seems to keep us focused. We are in a good place.

Examining Both Side

Drug and alcohol addiction has become so widespread that it has risen to one of the leading issues of our society today. We search for answers. More and more groups are forming to help those afflicted by the disease. Organizations for the addicts themselves have long been in existence. Organizations for those afflicted by those persons they love and cared for that have become a casualty of the disease are now starting throughout the country.

I see two types of approaches to the problem. One addresses the addict and steps to recovery. The other helping those hurt to better understand addiction and how to regain sanity to their own lives. I have attended meetings with the addicts and those trying to help themselves and if possible the addict as well. Both have intention only to help and comfort. What I see though is that each group concentrates on the problems confronting those attendees looking for help. As part of the agenda is the underlying desire of each to help the afflicted and those affected.

When I became a participant with each group, I myself find a better understanding of the approach and methods for a solution. Unless somehow a connection can be established whereby each completely understands the feelings and struggles each has daily to recover all that was lost. This is no simple task. It involves much more than just understanding. Love as well as hope must be included in the mix to save each.

It almost seems that a new group be found that acts similar to an “intervention” but on a greater scale. There has been success where family and friends meet with the addict to express their feelings in hopes that the addict will seek help. Having gone to both groups and listening to both the struggles, suffering and misery each deal with daily, makes one keenly aware of how much help is needed. Listening to each side of torment gives you more insight that how much love must return to the family and addict. There is no room for hate and anger as I so often experienced. Hate and anger make you blind to any real solution. As a society we should be looking for a cure much the same as for cancer or any other disease. I understand full well all that is involved and can only pray that a cure is not too far down the road before we lose so many young lives. I can only speak to what I myself have found to give me strength and my son strength to survive. Each of us is following our own healing process yet we have been together from the beginning. We know each is working towards healing and know without doubt there is love and understanding that precedes us and guides our behavior towards each other.

Addiction brings out the worst of us. The anger and hate for those suffering because of the addict and the lying, hurtful and deceitful circumstances of the addict themselves. There are no good feelings or actions associated with addiction. We are talking about unacceptable emotion behavior that can only result in severely damaging or ending any relationship. Open minds during these hard times is so difficult. The addict’s mind has chosen to think only of themselves and the means to satisfy their habit. I’m not sure anyone can define or project desperation on the part of an addict to where there is a willingness to put aside the habit and seek help. It may never happen and as result those with hope a love will need even more support to survive.

Somehow it seems there is a need to look even deeper into those cases where success resulted. I believe you will see that love and support became the reason for success. The addict gained strength from knowing that his or her family has not abandoned them. Abandonment does more harm than good especially if the final result is death of the addict. With death the addict suffers no more but those who gave up love and hope will continue to feel great pain, possibly until they themselves give up life.

A question comes to my mind after my initial visit with my son and his roomate I have journeyed with these past two years. Are you happy? They did the right things and deserved a chance to rejoin society. Their life right now is financial hardship, adjusting to new people, places and things outside the environment they’ve lived in, spending the majority of their time working or sleeping. Entertaining themselves does not seem present. I have to wonder myself how difficult this might be to come from a controlled atmosphere where you must put everything into trying to regain your life only to see the payoff is hard work and little time to enjoy what you worked to attain. I sense there is no real happiness in their new life. I have to ask “Are you happy”? If the answer is yes, I would like to know why. It may be as simple as because they are no longer addicted and once again learn to enjoy the things around me the same goal that I had but without drugs interrupting my journey.

It’s so easy to go back to their early childhood and recall all the joy and happiness in their lives before falling prey to drugs and alcohol. We remember the laughing and funny stories and so much of happy times. Now they gave grown to young adults and have managed to put their lives back into some degree of order but you don’t see that same joy and happiness as before. Maybe it’s just the fact that they have grown up, but even as grown-ups we still laugh and find happiness in many things. It may come in time but for now the ability to stay clean may be the reason for happiness.

All parents want their children to be happy regardless of circumstances. Our son has worked hard to succeed in his recovery and his mom and I are proud of his ability to face and fight this disease. I think his mom is at ease that he is happy and will continue to be so. I guess I’ve gotten too close. I made the journey with him. I lost sight of his happy times when he started using and I seem to be looking hard for those same smiles and laughs as beforehand. No one wants him to enjoy life and good times than me. The strange thing is that my deceased son  with years of drugs and alcohol was happy and seemed to enjoy life. He was family oriented and loved to joke and tell funny stories. You could not knock him down. It was amazing that someone so hooked on drugs and alcohol could still enjoy things around him. I guess because he was able to still find happiness even in the worst circumstance, I look for my recovering son to be able to put this part of his life aside and remember the good times he loved with his family.

I may be expecting too much too fast. I want to see my son with his beautiful smile and his gentle laughter. My age tells me I want a fast heal to a serious disease. These are my own greedy inclinations. The picture of the three of us at his one-year celebration is special to all three of us because it shows the happiness in each of us at that moment in time. I look at that picture almost every day and it makes me feel good the look on his face says I’m happy and I’m going to be okay. What more could I ask?

 

 

Spirituality

My son asked that if I had time would I please read the book “The Four Agreements”. He said it was short and was not specifically written about addiction but had great meaning to him and felt I might find benefit in reading it. The Four Agreements reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love. He and his sponsor indulge themselves in spiritual readings and thoughts that go much deeper than anything I’ve sought to understand. I know when his mom and I visited his sponsor while in Florida, I was totally lost in some of the people they referred to who were mostly ancient philosophers from foreign religions and practices.

 

He was raised a Catholic but seems to find more of what he is seeking spiritually in the ancient readings regarding what the true meaning of life. He was not an avid reader yet today has volumes of books dealing spirituality. He has had sponsees and shares the readings in hopes they might provide help towards recovery.

 

I would not change his mind in any manner. He is on his journey to find happiness and anything that helps him is his choice alone. I know as I got older I found fault with some church teaching but having studied theology and other religions I never gave up the existence of God. I still pray every night. I have for most of my life and even more so with addiction coming on board. Addiction will most certainly give you good reason to seek spiritual guidance and help. It may be the only reason I go to sleep at night.

 

After he suggested I read The Four Agreements, I purchased the longer in-depth version of the book. I know that he and his sponsor follow the ancient philosophers with regard to a spiritual definition of God and what life is all about. I am a layman in terms of the wisdom of teachings by these learned individuals. I will read and no doubt read again this book to try and grasp what he has found to help guide him on his journey.

 

As I’ve said numerous times I have not followed the steps earnestly nor do I believe I have been on a spiritual journey. I think my healing has come directly from his journey. He is successful because he is seeking a spiritual reason for life itself. When we have our long conversations about our addictions, I hear how he has changed mentally in his general thinking and how he sees everything around him at this moment. Myself, I have a fixed focus on finding forgiveness for my actions against both of these sons.

 

I think as people use the Twelve Steps as a basis for helping, they put all their energy into following the suggested procedure. If you step into the world of the ancient philosophers, then you will need to step outside what is reality in my mind and learn an entirely new way of thinking. This world of thinking and living life outside what most of us consider normal is complex and I have no idea how he has managed to understand. The fact of the matter is that he is gaining strength and understanding by studying the concept of life as taught by these learned individuals.

 

As I said I am a layman and even with my own religious beliefs taught over the years have doubt especially those facts we take as faith. He would define faith as agreement to something we’ve been taught and we accepted which is now our belief through faith. I am much older and my mind is already cluttered with doubt for years of teaching me right from wrong. It may be too late for me to try and comprehend this type of thinking. I may find it as difficult as, probably more difficult as the Twelve Steps.

 

One thing I have definitely learned this past year is to be open minded and listen. I have been guilty for years in interrupting conversations with my own thoughts regarding almost any subject. You’d think if I put my own thoughts into what my life was about I’d be perfect. It would be exactly what I see and want as happiness. This is foolish and I know my life has not been happiness. I have no real spiritual understanding such as he is starting to find.

 

He and his sponsor have mentioned books and philosophers and their thinking and leave me with a blank stare. Maybe I need to at least investigate further the Twelve Steps and the spiritual teachings of some of these ancient thinkers. I guess my life has been molded by “agreements” I should have never made. I’ve taken little to no time to examine what makes my personality and why I behave as I do. He is young and because of his addiction has laid aside a great deal of time to get better. He is using this time wisely to gain understanding of who he is and what he seeks for happiness in himself and those around him.

 

Forgiveness

Today my son called to touch base. The phone conversation went on for more than an hour and half. I guess I have not spoken with him recently since I’ve had theses health issues. This is mostly my fault as I’ve been neglecting in checking on his progress. His mom has kept me in the loop but she knows my conversations with him get into great depth on many subjects but primarily our own recovery.

He gave me all his updates with regard to his job seeking opportunities, plans with roommate on moving out of Pathways for Peace sometime in the near term, his hopes and regrets. He finally got to the heart of his phone call. Was there anything else that he could do for me to make amends for the hurt he has given me? My emotions are worse than ever as I age and everything strikes a chord so easily but this reached deep into my heart. His voice was very serious and I could tell he had given his question a lot of thought. He was working the ninth step and his mom and I were of course on top of the list for making amends.

I needed to explain where and what he was to me at this moment. I wanted him to know that the idea of death surfaces more frequent than I care to think about. Maybe because of so many friends passing and the fact that I believe age has given me the realization of my own mortality. I have a fear of dying not so much for myself but for the hurt and sadness it gives those I love. I’ve seen most of my family pass and I know the hurt will pass but it will take time. I told my son that he needed to know that if I go to my grave this day, I’m okay with both my deceased son and himself. I cannot tell him how grateful am for the understanding he has shown and the wisdom in his young mind. There are no words that will sum up how much he has done for my healing. I don’t believe anyone could have broken through that barrier that separated my deceased son and myself. In doing so he has stayed strong. I think he got his strength from seeing that he was not only helping himself but more than that he was helping his father. The more he saw that I was gaining understanding the more he sought his own understanding. We were giving each other a reason to get better. What better reason could one have than to get better for the sake of someone who means the world to you?

He said he thought the answer might be as I said but he wanted to be sure there was nothing more that he could do for forgiveness. This of course brings me to my knees as I think back on the anger and pain I inflected on him and as well as the son I lost. This young man can pull at your heart strings so easily. I’m not a sentimental old man but I’ve shed more tears over things he has said to me about understanding and forgiveness. Maybe that’s why I inscribed those words above my heart? He cuts so deep into me that I cannot help myself but to tear up. It’s like he takes your whole life and puts it into a simple misunderstanding of caring and real love between a father and son. I have so much to learn but each day with him still here I have a place to go for peace. I am okay. I wish I knew how to tell you so you would never doubt how much you have done.

 

The Journey Continues

The Journey Continues

Even though our son has remained clean for more than three years, he would as with most recovered addicts, tell you the choice to relapse is always present. The struggle eases in time but there remains the constant reminder that circumstances are always present that may trigger a behavioral change that may include relapse or even death. Drug addiction is a stain that cannot be removed but may less apparent with love and support. The addict must continue working the steps and reach out when they face obstacles. The triggers or bumps in the road are ever present to all of us. Learning to manage them is a constant challenge. The obsession to rejoin those addicted lessens each day but it is there.

I feel right now he is in a good place as we are. We still are regenerating or recharging our batteries from time to time as incidents such as the one mentioned with Complacency suddenly appears. We are no different than the addicts themselves. We need to continue meetings and seek understanding. The blog has now become my journal. It helps me to keep myself in check. It’s only a suggestion, as they continually remind us in meetings, that one might find a journal helpful to record your own journey. I frequently go back and can see where I’ve learned so many of the tools our son has used to work his way through issues and in turn how I applied to my own behavior.

I have no idea if ever I’ll stop attending meetings or seeking understanding addiction. When we get involved with families and addicts themselves it brings out the good in people. Even if you have no understanding of what addiction is, you can feel the pain or see the sorrow in their lives. Many including myself looked at addiction as one’s own fault and weakness. You choose the mistakes you make in life. We all make them. Why not try to help? Certainly, we wanted help. Pulling yourself up and starting over again becomes easier with help. For the addict the major hurdle is to reach out. The major help will not come from the family as they have been hurt and have no answers. The people the addict must reach to are in rehab facilities, sober living, meetings and sponsors. These are the tools to start the road to sobriety. Our son will continue his own challenges which are far more arduous. He knows and understands firsthand what addiction is and what it does to the body and spirit. He knows it will be a struggle for the rest of his life and accepts that but feels strongly that he has the tools to remain clean and sober and enjoy life once more.

He knows the family’s love and support is present and gives additional strength to his incentive to the journey. Our son frequently will mention one of his favorite sayings from the meetings “Keep your heads up, you’ve had them down long enough.” Love and miss you.

Will Trust Ever Return

Will Trust Ever Return? 

There was a question one night at NAR- ANON about will you ever be able to let the addict return home for a visit or family event and feel comfortable? I believe it is possible. Our son has returned home on several occasions without any sign of an incident. If the addict really wants to continue the road to sobriety, you see changes in their behavior that help eliminate the distrust. In the beginning of his recovery all the stories and conversations centered around negative events or feelings. As he continued in his program we could see how he started to recognized people, places and things that were a danger to him. He learned very quickly that the long-time friends of his that were still using needed to be avoided at all cost. He knew all the places where he got high, bought drugs, and broke into cars to feed his drug needs.

Originally, when he first went to rehabilitation all the stories were negative. Conversations were of recent relapses or deaths that he had encountered. He found difficulty in finding work. He continued to have weekly migraines, depression and poor sleeping. He was not getting much out of IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) and he had very little positive things to report. For his mom and I, this was heart wrenching as hope for recovery looked grim.

There were things that were in our favor that he himself decided upon. He said right from the day we drove him to Tennessee that he wanted to make this journey the first time through. He also wanted no part of returning home. These were major in how he continued his journey. The bed to bed move from Tennessee where he detoxed to the rehab in Florida went without question. This was difficult on all of us as it was a week before Christmas. The NAR ANON group helped ease the pain of all that by explaining that the rehab facilities went out of their way to help, the addicts get through this difficult time away from family by having social activities and meetings twenty-four hours a day over Christmas. He would not be alone.

After eighteen months in rehabilitation we could see so many changes in his behavior and more and more positive stories and conversations surfaced. He had selected friends and places that were aids in his recovery. He reached out to people he met that had been successful and helped him when he was down. His sponsor and roommate were his lifelines. He had many new friends. He worked his steps, went to meetings and continued to gain strength in his battle.

Coming back to the question of trust, I believe it may return after a time. For me I no longer worry about visits. I believe he does get homesick but knows he needs his support group in Florida. He misses us and the rest of the family but has learned that he needs to become independent and move on to find a full life again. Does it hurt to see him have to go through this at such a young age? Most assuredly to try and rejoin society and carry the burden of knowing you will always be an addict is huge challenge. I have been able to accept trust with him. I have built a strong bond with him throughout this journey. Can he relapse? Absolutely, but I know he knows what to do should it happen. I think after seeing him divert several grave situations I considered triggers and how he managed them, he is so much stronger.

I cannot spend the remainder of my life fearful that he may relapse. When he and I started this journey, we included my deceased son in how he and I made decisions and sought to understand what addiction was all about. It was a journey to understand the behavior of each of us. Someone recently said to me that they wish they had my curiosity to try and understand addiction and get involved in so many different ways. My response was that it was not curiosity but the challenge to find answers or maybe some aid to solving this horrible disease. I also said that I took on this challenge knowing full well I will never see the end to drug addiction. My only hope is to see even one life saved if possible.

I must say, though I hate to, that I have not completely emptied my mind of him falling once again. He has managed numerous triggers and shown us his strength. I still live with the thought that as strong as he is can he handle my death or his moms.

Here is where I know the bond I’ve made with him is wonderful but scary. The loss of a father or mother creates instant emptiness and sadness. My parents passed after having a full life and I was much older. He is young and the impact may be more difficult to deal with. I trust him with returning home, seeing family, visiting friends. I feel confident he is okay. What I don’t know is those he has really attached himself to like his parents, sponsor or others, can he handle the pain and sadness? Each day of his sobriety helps minimize the fear.

 

 

Financial Support vs Enabling

Financial Support vs Enabling

The general rule one hears at the NAR ANON meetings is to help however you feel appropriate in your best judgement while the addict is in recovery. This subject is a difficult one to put into simple terms. The cost of treatment for addiction can be staggering. Insurance may prove helpful but more than likely not help with the basic needs of the addict to survive while recovering.

Additionally, statistics indicate a great percentage of addicts will relapse and the idea of continually pouring money or life savings into a losing venture makes no sense. As your pockets start to empty you start to reconsider the word “enabling”. In the true sense of the word to enabling is to supply money or whatever with the intention to make something feasible or possible. Because we want to help someone we love, the meaning seems positive. In the case of addiction and the behaviors problems associated with it providing financial support can have a reverse effect.

We have helped our son financially and many times I myself questioned whether I was doing something beneficial or harmful. When you listen to the arguments brought up at the meetings, no doubt the general rule of not providing any financial assistance wins as the best step to follow. It is unfortunate but listening to all the cunning and deceitful things that addicts will do to continue their addiction puts a mental strain on helping the addict no matter how desperate the situation appears. This is something each of us has to deal with on a personnel basis. It has to be your belief and hope that your decision was the right one and your addict continues the journey to sobriety.

Many parents who have other children and live pay day to pay day experience extreme hardship with these circumstances and rightly so. A key point made at the beginning of each NAR ANON meetings because we “cross-talk” is that the comments from its members are only suggestions. The decision still remains with the person reaching out. You may immediately make some type of decision or it may take weeks or months. Groups such as NAR-ANON are there to help you get better. The ideas and suggestions are focused on helping those affected by the addict more than the addict. There is also a strong belief that the addicts themselves get better as those they’ve hurt become distant from the daily pain resulting from the actions of the addict?

From my own point of view, we felt that when our son finished his eighteen months of rehab and was asked to leave sober living along with his roommate in sixty days there was need for some type of financial assistance. They basically leave rehab with little more than what they came with stuffed in a duffle bag. Even with some savings, the cost to find a place to live, furnishings, food and utilities is no small cost. I helped by signing a lease with them. There was a risk but after almost two years in recovery we felt comfortable with the decision and to date no regrets. I must make an important point here. The time in recovery added weight to our decision. Both have been excellent about supporting themselves with little to no help from us. My son had some furnishings here at his home and the family had decided to provide basic items no longer needed as well. Our support and the family help seemed to help them through the adjustment to their new life outside addiction. They have been on their own for over two years and are fine. I am no longer on the lease and they manage all the costs associate with their continued recovery.

No Short Time Fix

No Short Time Fix

I think for those who have an addict in the family or are closely associated with one know that the programs concluding in thirty days or less due little more than help the addict work thru detoxification. There have been numerous studies that shown that relapse is almost a certainty unless the addict continues on to some type of extended program involving intensive outpatient care and possibly a sober living environment.

My deceased son had been to a number of short rehab programs and of course with no success as he really never intended to continue his recovery. When we discovered youngest’s addiction we made arrangements to send him to a rehab program located in Tennessee. This choice was made from lessons learned with the deceased son. We felt it necessary to take this son out of state and away from where all this started. As it was, the decision proved to be more beneficial than we ourselves believed. The fact that he was in a remote location and in a place that had hard rules and an excellent reputation got him off to a good start.

It was about this time that his mom and I reached out for help and found a NAR-ANON group located close by. This was the start of our own education and understanding of addiction. Although we planned on our sons return after he finished the program at the end of the month, the members of the group convinced us that he should not be allowed to return home and that we should notify the rehab center that we had changed our mind and that he needed to be moved to where he could continue his recovery. This is never an easy decision for a parent to tell their child they cannot return home. We were fortunate that he was willing to continue his recovery and agreed.

He had made the decision that he would continue his journey and be successful the first time. I cannot tell what brought him to that decision but again it proved beneficial to him as well as us. At the end of his time in Tennessee, he made a bed to bed move to West Palm Beach, Florida. His counselors felt that this chosen rehab center had a fairly good success rate with addicts they had sent there previously. Our son was pleased as his choice, should he have one, would be to Florida or California. It was two weeks before Christmas which brought on even more stress and loneliness for all of us. At this point his life and ours were in total turmoil. The NAR-ANON meetings helped ease the pain of all this and he himself was gaining new friends and tools who helped him as well.