Struggling With Addiction
A Mother’s Plea for Mercy
This is not easy to admit but my husband and I struggle with addiction — not our own — my son’s that has been going on now for the better part of fifteen years. Admittedly, in the beginning, we had the same inaccurate belief of most good parents that his destructive habit was indeed our fault. Somehow, we missed a vital turning point in our son’s life, or maybe we lacked in implementing tough discipline that would have deterred bad decisions through fear of harsh punishment, or perhaps we simply were not diligent enough in screening his friends.
What we have learned over the years through the guidance of mental health professionals is that we could no more have prevented this disease than any other potentially fatal illness. However, society, in general, still believes substance abuse is a choice and, if given the correct response or punishment, it will stop, which tends to spur unsolicited advice.
As a mother of a child battling addiction, I am asking you to rethink any advice you believe may be helpful to someone in my position. Many times, I have endured opinions from friends and family on what I should do or say to stop this ludicrous behavior from my son. And, although I understand it comes from a place of concern, the comments initiate another bout of guilt that I failed as a parent. That there was some magical phrase or insightful action I did not know about that would have spared my son and family from the misery we have lived with for over a decade. It simply does not exist. Admitting I cannot save my child has been a painful process that has been realized one heartbreak at a time. Understand that there are many layers to this story (some that would bring you to your knees) that are hidden behind strained smiles and, as harsh as this may seem, your viewpoint on how to fix my child is not helpful.
Know that although you may see my son as a miserable young man that spews hate and ugliness, who cannot seem to get his life together, and hurts his family deeply, I see a four-year-old boy holding my hand in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble on his first visit stopping in the middle of the street to take in the moment saying, “Mommy, I have always dreamed of a store like this.” He is the middle-school child that took an 8-week Intro to French class who began speaking fluently shortly thereafter ordering French books online translating them in his head. The high-school kid that read Foucault, Nietzsche, and Kant among others placing books written by George Orwell on my nightstand with a note to “Please read so we can discuss.”
Know that he dreamed of becoming a writer before he could even read drawing pictures on slips of paper telling a story for me to staple together. Later, his sophisticated writing style and philosophical musings were deep and poignant marvelous to read and way beyond his years. The imagery, the thoughtfulness, a beautiful art form.
He is a master of words, and I have felt both elation and destruction from the end of his pen.
Know that this disease shattered all of our dreams for his future. That he agonizes over the college education that was discontinued so that a backwards community could withdraw him from rehab to spend time in a county jail. That he lives with regret for the criminal record that identifies him as a felon making fulfilling jobs or decent housing impossible. That these life events truly perpetuate failures in life feeding into feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing, which are many times directed toward others, especially myself and my husband.
Know that the last bout of vile comments from him came over the weekend. Know that they were so incredibly hurtful my husband and I wonder how we will ever be able to open our hearts again. Know that we said out loud (this, too, has been a process), “I think he might be using again” because any indication of our sweet, caring son was completely void in his remarks giving us an indication that the ugly hand of addiction has possibly taken over again.
Know that you are only a witness to the surface of our pain and comments, no matter how well-intended, add to the raw wound we conceal every single day. I simply ask that when you reach out to family members or friends left in the destructive wake of addiction, please show us a little mercy. Know that our loved one is just that — loved — no matter how unlovable they seem. Spare us the judgmental looks or unwanted opinions but rather just be supportive during those dark times. No need for words or advice of any kind unless it is simply, “I am here for you.”
Also, a hug would be nice and, if you’ve got it in you, a bear hug is best.