It took a while to get here but I think the time has come to share my experience as the father of a child under the influence of opiates. As you can see already it is tough for me to just say my son is a drug addict. The words are just too painful to get out of my mouth, but it is true. At least it was. Although as of this writing he has been clean for 3 weeks so fingers crossed and hands poised in prayer! I thought this post might serve several purposes. First to help me to actually write these things that it might help me to come to grips with the fact that this is actually happening. Second maybe it will help other parents, and third I hope it will encourage others to post replies.....whether it be from other parents or those of you in various stages of use and recovery to share your thoughts. The hope is we can all learn from each other because as of this posting I can honestly say I knew shit about what was going on and what to do about it.
This post is more about the present rather than the past. How my son and I got to this place is not really up for debate. We are here. The cycle of use and intervention has taken place several times over the past 3 or 4 years. To say that immediately tells you that our plans to fight this were not that great. No matter how much you want success, tweaking the same broken plan can only lead to more heartache, tears, anger, and despair. I am hopeful this current detox will hold because the plan is different and it is something that is based on feelings. Those feelings are what is going on in my son's mind. I know this because I finally asked him.
Being the son of a military parent I was taught that problems are just handled. It does not matter how hard it is or how much you don't like it, just get in there and get it done. That credo served me well in my life, however the same credo does nothing in the realm of recovery. I have made several attempts to monitor my son's behaviors and actions only to find that his addiction creates a person who becomes extremely resourceful and finds ways around these restrictions. My son said it best: "Dad for every limitation you put on me there are just as many ways to get around them." I never took the hint. Each intervention just led to a tightening of the noose around his neck. It had to be my way or nothing. Knowing my son the way I do I should have known that this plan would only turn him away.....and it did.....many times. I think it was my feeling that I just had to do SOMETHING, even if it was unproven or wrong. In fact it WAS wrong every time. All I did was enable him, make him feel ashamed, and make him not want to try as has as he could. The urgency was gone. This is all about urgency and the feeling that you have to do something because this just sucks and change is needed. I was caught in a cycle of failure that went something like this:
1. Monitor my son's life and look for signs of trouble
2. Confront him and make him admit the problem
3. Make my son admit the situation was bad and help was needed urgently
4. Find out how bad things are and correct them
5. Impose new sanctions on him to further restrict his life
6. Create the sense that urgency is no longer needed because dad fixed everything
7. Make my son realize that this is the plan going forward which he may not like but HAS to follow it
8. He feels pretty good now that detox is over and he is clean
9. All of the above is combined into a feeling of "Hey now that I feel good I guess I do not need medicine and counseling because I got better without them!
10. Delay seeking medicine and treatment
After this last intervention a few weeks ago I decided to set an example for my son and I sought treatment for myself. It became clear that my efforts were hurting rather than helping so I bit the bullet and went to see a counselor. I started off by making this intervention about his wants and desires. The best way to do this was to sit back and ask him what HE wanted of me to help him. His response was to just be there for him, so that's what I did. It was really hard to do. Doing nothing when you spent every other time taking charge and controlling the situation is really hard. So I told him seeking treatment and counseling was HIS responsibility not mine, but I was here if he needed me. While this was happening, my therapist was showing me all of the things that I was doing to hurt him. She said users feel ashamed and helpless, and afraid. My rules and laws and restrictions only further deepened these feelings and no matter how hard I try to control things "if he wants to use he is GOING to use....PERIOD." This is not about needing to seek help but him WANTING to seek help, so what better way than to show him that I NEED HELP too. It has been 3 weeks in therapy for me and I have learned so much. I know this is just the beginning and I still have much to learn, but I feel better knowing I have professionals on my side guiding me. My son seems better. Is he getting treatment and counseling? I still do not know. If he wants to tells me that's great. If not then all I can do is hope and pray every day that he is ok. As of now that's enough for me. Sometimes knowing everything about your son's movements and actions and finances is too much information, especially for a father who worries too much. My days were filled with hours and hours of worry and research into bank accounts, phone records, car mileage etc. Now each day I still worry and wonder how he is doing, but after that I go to a place of hope and prayer. He sees the difference and he has told me he appreciates what I am doing. I can only (again) hope and pray that my actions inspire him to face his fears and do what he needs to do to finally face this demon.
PLEASE PLEASE for those reading this I ask you to comment and share your experiences that we all may learn from this and help each other. God bless all.