This interview was conducted by AllTreatment.com over email, with a parent who's son has been addicted to heroin. This is a part of a series of interviews and articles conducted and written by AllTreatment that strive to give perspectives of several different people that have one way or another been affected by heroin addiction. The following interview is uncensored from the original email.
Personal Bio: My name is Laura and I'm an enabling codependent. 🙁
I'm a conventional spirit with an uncoventional life. I've been a married, divorced, custodial and non-custodial parent. I've dealt with an unplanned pregnancy, and adoption. I have two sons and we've all endured the travails of a fractured home and generations of addiction and abuses ranging from alcohol to mental, emotional and verbal. We're still intact (sort of!) but constantly dealing with the splinters left behind.
Finally, after many years of running on the hampster wheel in an effort to fix, nurture, and help everyone else, I stepped off when it was my life or theirs. Emotionally, that is. I finally found the right recovery meetings for me dealing with my own issues of codependency and enabling. My blinders have come off and day by day I feel as if I am being enlightened to healthier living through mind, body and soul.
Driven by faith, I live life the best way I know how. I love to write and have been writing on two blogs when time allows. Tiptappinlu (tiptappinlu.blogspot.com) covers the lighter side of life and Enabling Love (enablinglove.blogspot.com) for the reality of life. Writing was a way for me to apply a soothing salve on my soul and to process through my thoughts in a constructive way.
The biggest thing I've done for myself in the past two years is to remain consistently in accountability through meetings and mentoring. The other thing I do is pray constantly and to remember that this life and recovery for me and my family is a process. No magic and no imaginary happily ever after.
I am single and am employed in a full time job, involved in recovery meetings and various ministries through my church. Grandmothering is my most favorite thing!
How old was your son when you noticed his beginning activities? And what do you think his experimentation was a product of? Friends, school, rebellion, etc.
My life was not a conventional life. When my sons were 10 & 11 my job took me out of state and my sons stayed in Michigan with their father. When I left, my son was a pretty happy go lucky kid. Some struggles behaviorally but he was bright, outgoing, and happy. After the first year, I came back for a visit and noticed a darkness over my son. His appearance was dark, his hat pulled down over his eyes and his face was thinner. I took it as partly going into adolescence but didn't like that his countenance had completely changed. School and home life began to be a real big problem. A few years later when I came back to Michigan, he was really struggling at home and at school. Quite rebellious and always in trouble. He came back to live with me at that point. I was confident that some drug activity with pot had begun. There had already been some alcohol issues too at his father's house. Pretty quickly it progressed into trying just about anything and heroin became his preferred drug of choice. I tried to see the real facts behind it all, but struggled and blamed our divorce, his father's home (which had a lot of unhealthy issues too) and ran defense for him a lot which only made matters worse.
How has his drug usage effected your family and household?
His drug usage affected everyone involved. For the majority of those years (we were 15 years in this mess) I spent my time chasing him down or searching for him. At times he was on the streets and then would beg to come home. I would allow him back in hopes for a better result but the nightmare would just replay. It affected our household financially, sometimes by me "helping" him with money (while shorting myself) to him helping himself to my money. Pawning things became a reality. Relationships with other family members became nearly non-existent. He became an isolator from any family or healthy social functions. I omitted information when asked in an effort to preserve his dignity for the future I hoped for. All that did was begin the pattern of me keeping secrets, not realizing how unhealthy that was. I thought I was just taking care of "my business" that others didn't need to know. It was abusive manipulation at it's best. To this day, relationships are still rather fractured in the immediate family.
How can you trust your son and how can't you trust your son, and if there's something you can do to build that trust (a tip for others) what would that trust-building activity be?
“At times he was on the streets and then would beg to come home. I would allow him back in hopes for a better result but the nightmare would just replay.”
My story may be a bit different as my son is now 29 and has spent years in and out of county jails and most recently state prison. I am a woman of faith and during this last go around in state prison God got a real hold on me to help me see the light of my sons life in the truth and just what it was costing me emotionally and mentally. That's when I began going to meetings. Additionally, my son had a prison cell conversion (which often is just a facade to get a place to stay) which appeared to be real. Since he has come home over a year ago, not once has he lied to me or given me a reason to question him. My purse gets left out, my car keys are where they land, and my money is never touched. This came slowly after he came home from prison, but I decided that if I was going to allow him to come back, and he had really changed as he said, then I would treat him like an adult and trust his word until he proved untrustworthy. But probably one of the first trust building activities we had was simply giving him some money to pick up some items at the store and getting my change back full and complete. No story about needing just one little item and it being "no big deal". Leaving my bedroom door open and everything being as it was. No more "ransacked" drawers, closets or boxes. At this time, there isn't anything that I can't trust about him. This doesn't mean I like everything he does but trust has not been violated which is major.
What's something positive going on between you two, if there is anything? (So we can also highlight something optimistic and supportive that isn't 'enabling').
Remember, my son is an adult now, aged 29. But just this week he had parole. He doesn't have a license and I did agree to help him to get to parole appointments if he kept me informed. He reports 14 miles from home and their isn't public transit from here to there. This week he didn't make me aware of his appointment, and while I have a little flexibility on my job, I told him he would have to find his way for not informing me ahead of time (respecting my time and schedule). He wasn't happy about it but somehow managed to find another person to get him there. The positive thing going on with us is very good communication (even if we don't like the topic) and his preparing his life to live on his own. He pays a small amount of rent here and I never have to ask for it. I am grateful that some healthy steps are happening and that allows us to enjoy our evenings together when we are both home. We will watch a program or movie together and we have fun doing that. We are also going to family functions together. He is healthy again and everyone is very happy to see him. He senses a future that is good and he is always on time and showing up at work with positive comments from his employer. He has 8 months with them and he never accomplished this before. It may sound juvenile but he was using drugs for such a long time that he never kept a job for more than month or so. He NEVER was complimented as a valuable member of the team, so to speak. This makes our rapport so much better too! Yesterday at parole, he found out that his time is coming to an end. He doesn't have to report as often because he's been "exemplary" which will make life easier for both of us. Yay!
If there was one thing you could tell other parents helping their sons and daughters through this time of hardship, what would it be and why?
If I could stress one thing, it would be for the parents to get themselves into a support group fast! Find one you like (there are so many out there) whether it be faith based or traditional and make it a consistent part of your life. Over time you will begin to see reality a little bit clearer and just have the strength to take the stand you need to take. You will find viable support to set boundaries that were never set or clear to yourself and to your addicted child. You can't help your children if you are unhealthy yourself, and unfortunately any abuse or addiction creates a chaos and unhealthy thinking and behavior in your life that you might not even notice. And Pray…..