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?
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.