She reports that she first learned her son was addicted to drugs when he was in college over a decade ago. He was in treatment after treatment, six weeks, at times for six months. Sometimes the treatment was nearly free; at times it was very expensive.
Finally, he got clean and sober after an 18-month, faith-based program and has been in recovery now for a little over four years.
Her story is not, she reports, about him: “It is about me and how I healed from the despair, shame, isolation, fear and hopelessness of the black hole of addiction that we separately experienced.”
She suspected her son’s addiction but denied it, wanting desperately to believe him when he told her he was not on drugs. When she accepted that he was, she wanted to keep it a secret, “just wanted him to not die, get help, stop using drugs, keep our secret and we’d all go back to normal.”
She now knows it doesn’t work that way: “Addiction in a family changes the addict, and it changes the family.”
She reports that with her desire to control, “My worry level stayed astronomical” and that she was “on high alert at all times.” And she was angry with her son.
As a Christian, she found that she did not know how to pray. Her prayers had “deteriorated into just begging and pleading.’
When people asked her about her son, she lied and began to cover for him when he failed to meet his responsibilities.
The family paid and paid and paid “and kept our secrets.”
At one of the treatment center, a counselor recommended Al-Anon.
Today she says, “I still believe my son really wanted to get better each time he asked for help,” and she now knows “how powerful drugs and the cravings for them are and that relapse sometimes occurs as part of recovery.” She learned this in Al-Anon.
The first thing she learned in Al-Anon, however, was the three Cs: “I didn’t cause my son’s addiction; I can’t control it; it can’t be cured.”
Al-Anon is a 12-step program, and she indicates:
“I really was powerless over my son’s addiction (step 1) almost as if I were on drugs myself.
I realized I needed a power greater than myself to take control of it (step 2).
I decided to give it to God (step 3).
I began to look at my character flaws and deal with them (steps 4 through 7).
I had hurt my husband by keeping things from him and we had to work on that (steps 8 and 9).
I had other things to work on, too, and I had to continue to watch myself and fix what was wrong with Me (step 10).
I began to pray a special prayer for my son: that God not let anything interfere with His plan for my son’s life, even me-yep, that’s right, no interference from me. I had to believe it and know it and trust it and continue to pray it (step 11).”
As she recovered, she needed the help of friends in AA and Al-Anon to keep from sending her son money, continuing the practice of bailing him out. She said to them, “What will it help me if I do the right thing by not sending him money and I get a call that he’s dead and I could have saved him from being in the wrong place or with the wrong people?” Their response was, “I guarantee that he’ll die if you keep sending him money.”
She tells me that her Step 12 was when she received a call from the Hope Center director asking if she would help lead a family meeting once a week for family members visiting their loved ones at the treatment center. Step 12 is to carry the message of Al-Anon to others and practice the program daily. She agreed and this altered her sole focus from her son to connect with women and their families who were seeking recovery. She has done this for the past four years and calls it “a blessing in my life when I needed it most.”
She concludes the interview by saying, “I can’t know what will come tomorrow, but my Al-Anon tools, information and support group and my stronger faith in God’s plan helps me stay prepared. I believe that Al-Anon can help a person who loves an addict or an alcoholic. It was there for me when I needed it most.”
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