mother and son

When your child is an addict helping can often end in disastrous results. But let me back up. Addiction is sneaky, it’s also progressive and terminal.When I think of my son and his time spent in active using it didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t like one day he was a beautiful vibrant boy, and the next, a skeletal bag of bones. It happened slowly and over time. Thing is it wasn’t only happening to him. It was happening to me, it was happening to us. Addiction is a family disease and as he grew sicker, so did we. Strange we didn’t identify it earlier. After all I was born into it, became it and produced it. I’m a recovering addict, 16 years this month. My father hasn’t had a drink in more than 30 years. Yet as I walked this path with my son it was easier to blame his using, on mine. Maybe he was using because I hadn’t been the best mom. Or maybe it was because of abandonment issues. Maybe he was just experimenting and would grow out of it. And maybe he didn’t really mean to steal my car. It all just sort of ……. happened.

By the time it became apparent this was far more than any experimental stage, it was almost to late. Like any other illness, the sooner you treat addiction the better the chances are of success. Luckily, I was sober by then and working in the field of addiction. So I did the hardest thing any mother could ever do.

I walked away.

I offered to help him if and when he was ready and then I left him to experience the consequences of his behavior.

Now I don’t suggest you do this without a support group and faith. I had both and relied upon them heavily.  I’m not going to tell you it was easy. It wasn’t. I prayed every day my son was alive. But I also knew the truth. By now my son wasn’t really my son. He belonged to addiction. His disease had stolen anything resembling my little boy. I also knew when I ‘helped’ him, I was really helping his illness. Whether it was ‘gas’ money, or money for ‘food’, it was all helping him stay sick. My helping was really only making me feel better and it was killing him.

I hadn’t spoken with him in some time, when he phoned me one morning while I was at work. My supervisor came to fetch me from group with a grim look on her face.  My heart in my throat, I picked up the phone, barely recognizing my son’s voice. I won’t tell you what he said, for that’s his to tell, but just know this. On that day, almost 10 years ago, my son asked for help.

And guess what?

He’s sober.

To this day he’ll tell you what saved his life was never wanting to experience what happened to him, again. He doesn’t say it was his moms help, or he realized he was dying, because he didn’t.

What saved him was me getting out of the way.

When we make excuses for addiction, we’re helping it. When we say yes, even though the tiny voice inside our head screams no, we’ve just become as selfish as the addict. When we do for others what they could and should, be doing for themselves, we encourage a crippling disability.

So when does care giving become enabling?

Every time it’s involved with Addiction.

(c) 2014 Jagged Little Edges All Rights Reserved

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  1. I think the best thing that ever could have happened to me is my family, my whole family, except my kids, walked away from me when I relapsed after two years clean. I have over seven months clean now and a few have begun to speak to me again but I do not let it get me done. I was stripped of everything and everyone I loved and I had to start from scratch. Now I am so grateful, I am happy, I love life, I LOVE LIVING! I learned how to live in the here and now, materialistic things do not mean anything, love means everything begin with myself. If I don’t love myself, if I am not OK, I am useless to anyone else. I spent two years clean and did well but I had reservations and I did not listen nor did I work on myself and my defects. I ended up relapsing last summer and now I listen, I value the people in my life and I take negative experiences and find a lesson in them. I react, I’m human do not get me wrong, I cry, I yell and I have days where I want to curl up and die. The difference now is I give myself some time then I shake it off and reboot. I meditate, I think about everything I have to be grateful for, I think of those who are still out there sick, I think of the less fortunate and then I look at what made me sad and I try to learn from it. I give anything to God that I have no control over. I actually write it on a piece of paper and put it in a klneex box that I call my God box. Anyway, that’s how I stay clean and that is how I found a new way to live. I hope you’re son finds the same serenity I have. I will pray for you both. Blessed be and keep writing!

    • Thanks Amy, we all have made changes and are so much happier for them. The God box is a great idea and a useful tool for letting go. Great to hear from you!