It’s 3 a.m. and your son has not come home – again. You want to cry, or wail, or pound on the walls until your fists turn bloody. But you know that won’t change anything. Tears well in your eyes, as your husband sleeps beside you. For one crazy moment, you want to reach over and strangle him. Rage roils in your belly as you stifle the urge to shake him awake. Your son’s addiction doesn’t seem to affect your spouse, the way it does you.
Overwhelmed and indecisive, you try to come up with a plan. Should you get out of bed and start looking for your son? And what if he comes home while you’re out and then he leaves again?
You imagine your child lying dead in a gutter. Your logical mind knows this is probably not true, but at 3 a.m., logic is out the window. For the ten-thousandth time, you think back to the signs you missed along the way. Was their addiction your fault?
Addiction is a genetic and environmental illness. Does that mean every time your child witnessed you taking a drink, you were putting a nail in their coffin? You’re not an alcoholic. Neither is your husband. So how did your child end up with this illness? Your mind races conjuring up worst possible case scenarios. Your thoughts turn from the gutter to the morgue and an icy chill spreads up your spine.
Unable to stay in bed, you rise. Even though you know your child is not home, you check again. As you look into their messy room, you think their neglect reflects your life. Exhaustion sweeps over you. For just a minute, you give in. As you lower yourself onto the lumpy ball of tangled sheets, you remember a time not so long ago when a small child lay there.
You see their tousled little head sticking out from under their blanket and you beside them, reading their favorite bedtime story. But one story didn’t end with a goodnight kiss. Your child wanted more. Please, Mommy, one more! Their young voice rings in your ear as you stare down at their present-day, unmade bed.
Please, Mom, one more – has become their mantra. Only they stopped saying, please.
Maybe that was the sign you missed? This obsessive need for more. More toys, more stories, more TV, more electronics, more money, more, more, more!
It was as if your precious child had a big hole in them that could never be filled. Everything you poured into them, leaked right back out. To compensate, you poured in more. There were plenty of times a firm hand was needed, and you tried. God knows you did your best. But you’re left wondering if your best was nearly good enough.
Saying no to your child was a marathon event. While other kids graduated high school and went on to university, yours dropped out. When other kids were out getting jobs, yours slept all day. While other kids were accomplishing great feats, yours was out getting high.
Even though your adult child still lives at home, you rarely see them. And when your paths do cross, it’s in anger and frustration. You don’t talk to your child anymore, you nag, you yell, and you threaten.
Your child isn’t the only one you’ve been yelling at, lately, either. Your husband is getting an earful too. Come to think of it, so are the rest of your friends and family. It’s like there’s a volcano waiting to erupt inside you. If you have to hear one more story about how good someone else’s kid is doing, or what your kid is not doing, you might just explode.
Truthfully, it’s rare that a day goes by when you don’t want to yell at the whole goddamn world. You’ve never felt this helpless, angry, and resentful. You’re at the end of your rope, and you don’t even use drugs!
Sitting in your child’s darkened room, it occurs to you – you might be waiting for the wrong person to come home. For in trying to help your child, you’ve lost yourself.
With this insight comes power. Rising from the bed, you are stronger. You know what you have to do, and you will do it. Yes, you vow. You will do the one thing addiction hates. You will attend a family meeting and you will ask for help.