I’m an Expert in Rearview Wisdom
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.