I’m an Expert in Rearview Wisdom

by Pattie Vargas
March 9, 2020

We often say that a child doesn’t arrive with an instruction manual. Most of the major events in our lives don’t come with an instruction manual—seems unfair, to say the least. 

It took me several years to accept the fact that my son had a serious drug problem and, even then, I didn’t think to call it “addiction.” That was a narrative that just didn’t fit in our family. We did our first intervention with him in 2000 and had no clue what should happen next—we just thought if we all sat him down and told him how much we loved him and how he was hurting himself (and us!), that love would win out. 

In the ensuing years, I can clearly remember yelling at him about “getting a job.” You’re twenty-two years old! You’re twenty-seven years old! You’re twenty-nine years old! In my life view, people with jobs were responsible, law-abiding, bill-paying people. I thought if he was gainfully employed, he wouldn’t have time to think about getting high. I was focused on a solution, unaware of the cause.

Needing a job, of course, led to justifying buying him a car(s), getting his car out of hock, paying tickets so he could keep said car, and “lending” him money to pay bills or rent so he could keep up this “responsible” lifestyle. The day he stumbled home, clearly high, and went to bed for four days, I had to face the truth: this was bigger than willpower, bigger than nagging, bigger than my limited experience. This led to intervention No. 2, this time with a professional, friends, family, threats, and a gigantic bill to send him to a gold-plated rehab in Laguna Beach. Thirty days later, he was discharged with nowhere to go (unless we could pay for another thirty days—they don’t tell you this up front). Within a week, he was using again, and we were back on the merry-go-round. 

As I said, there is no manual for helping an addict. Everything a parent learns, they learn the hard way. That’s not to say there isn’t help out there—blogs, books, websites, and counselors—it’s just you don’t know where to look the first time around. You don’t know what you don’t know. I didn’t know that addicts—even my sweet, lovable baby boy—lie to your face. I didn’t know they blame everyone but themselves and have an endless supply of excuses. I didn’t know that “treatment centers” range from compassionate organizations with a mission to money-making enterprises with no credentials. I didn’t know that this was a disease—a switch my son flipped the first time he got high and was incapable of turning off on his own. 

My husband and I were professional rescuers/enablers born out of love and a desire to save our son. We didn’t know that each attempt at rescue pushed his recovery further and further out. Our own recovery involves forgiving ourselves for not knowing what we didn’t know. We loved him—we still love him after his death—and we are wiser, albeit sadder, now.  

Find out more about Pattie here:
Book: The Resilience Factor Is Your Super Power
Email: pattie@theresilientjourney.net

Sign up for our weekly MomPower newsletter!

Please share our story:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print
Pattie Vargas

More MomPower Articles

Rescuing Ourselves

The best thing I can do for my child is to become as healthy as I can be.

Read »

The JUST Drawer

Fireworks fly as “Just this once” collides with “Just say no.”

Read »

Controlling Conflict

Ironically, the harder we fight for control, the more chaotic things can become.

Read »


  1. Sorry for the loss of your son. My 30yr old son has been in IOP Methadone for 2 years. Before that it was Suboxone and that didn’t work. He struggles now with still wanting to use mentally. He lives with us and we’re retired. This is his job right now. He takes public transportation. We take one day at a time???

  2. Thank you for these very real words, “forgiving ourselves for not knowing what we didn’t know”. We, too, never stopped loving our son and continue to love him after his death. I believe our love allows us to ‘carry on’!

    • I agree, Joyce. So sorry for your loss.

  3. I am so sorry for the loss of your precious son to this horrible disease. If we could “love away” addiction, there would be no addiction. I have been contacting our state elected officials to open a dialogue about incarceration versus rehabilitation for all these poor souls who have committed victimless crimes, to no avail. NO, 30 day programs do not work! Prayers for them and us all.

    • Keep contacting them! It takes time to find someone who will listen.
      Thanks for what you do.

  4. No truer words.

  5. Thank you so much for writing about exactly what we did. When we did the intervention she was so high, and it was a forced intervention. My sponsor told me she was not done. She had to want to be sober. Of course she stayed in her place for 6 months fell off and went back in. I finally let her go on her journey. I haven’t seen or hugged her in almost a year. I have no idea where she is. It’s heartbreaking!!

    • In addition to our son, our daughter is also struggling with addiction. I don’t know where she is although we text from time to time. Sending love from one mama’s heart to anothers!

  6. So sorry for the loss of your loving son. We did not get the manual to walk thru emotional torture. I did not rescue my daughter too much over the years, no expensive rehabs, I always knew she was not interested in recovery. Although one time she did stay sober for 3 months. I did everything humanly possible to interest her in a better life. I am sober 40 yrs. So my daughter just kept adjusting to lower men and lower bottoms. She is still,on the streets at the age of 49 and does not want recovery, but does want to blame and ask for money. Unbelievable that we are both still alive. What a nightmare from u know where. Bless u and your family jan❤️

    • Congrats on your heroic journey. One day she may see the light – where there’s lif, there’s hope.

  7. What a beautiful piece of the bitter truth.

    I am so sorry for your loss… And I am deeply aware of every point you make. We live it daily. Our son is in his second rehab attempt.

    Please keep sharing and helping people like me to realize we don’t know what we don’t know.

    Much love

    • Thank you for your kind words. Much love to you and your son.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.