8 Personal Conclusions I’ve Reached as the Parent of a Child in Recovery

My son stopped using over two years ago. For seven years he was addicted to drugs and, by the end, was a heroin addict. Today he is drug-free and working to put his life back together.

There are countless books and websites about addiction, rehab and recovery. Most of them are filled with valuable information that helps both the addict and the parent. I won’t discredit anything on these sites or in these books, but I want to share what I have learned about being the parent of an addict in recovery, not from reading but from experience — no long-drawn processes or lengthy explanations. These are just some realizations that seem to help me.

1. Recovery is hard. Sometimes your child needs a hand. Make sure your hand is out for them to grasp when needed. But don’t hold on too long.

2. Addicts dig deep holes for themselves. Contrary to what you may think, filling the hole is faster when only one person has a shovel. If you help to shovel, it will take longer to fill the hole.

3. Forgiveness is for me. The sooner I understand, the faster I heal.

4. “Believe” or “doubt?” I choose to believe. Have you ever had someone tell you that they believe in you?

5. Normal is right. “Fragile. Handle with Care” is not stamped in big red letters on a child in recovery. To stop using drugs or alcohol means he or she wants a normal life again.

6. Nagging, suspicious looks and reminders of past mistakes really irritate me. Addicts in recovery probably don’t need them either.

7. His recovery is his to manage. I know that for the last seven years, he hasn’t been able to manage ANYTHING. But we all have to learn and begin someplace.

8. “I love you.” That is a reassurance we ALL need.

Learn how to keep yourself & your family healthy

Like Ron, many parents are finding out how to use forgiveness, belief in their child and love to help their child recover from substance use. You can, too.

10 Responses

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    January 18, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    To Pam
    I am at the exact place that you are. My husband the enabler continues to believe my daughter. She tells him she wants to live a normal life again & will get better, he in turn believes that & provides shelter, food, a car and money. I don’t live there anymore because I was always the bad guy. I now live alone but still can’t seem to move on with my life. She has reluctantly has agreed to go to rehab which I refuse to pay for (she’s 19, he pays for her health benefits that won’t cover rehab) & he refuses to put on State Aide. She was also in school (dropped out) told him she will go back & again he believes her – I don’t! So therefore will not see her when she is high nor will I provide money for anything. They both think I’m selfish. When I did live there it got to the point of her punching me in the face & he sat there and said nothing when the cops arrived. She was reprimanded by the police & I ended up leaving for the night. I sold the house & we all had to find a place to stay. She chose to stay with her father! I can’t forget & oh how I would like too. Maybe its too soon but I just can’t forget the years between 13-present of the terrible treatment from both of them.

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    Linda Smith

    January 2, 2013 at 7:17 AM

    I see myself in all of these letters. For 15 years I watched my daughter killing herself with drugs. She began at about 14 and eventually became a heavy meth user. Her story is long and I lived my life as you say – just existing. The conclusion to each day was “she’s either dead or alive – if she’s dead, I can’t do anything about it and if she’s alive, I have to go through another day of terrible problems.” At about 30 she was arrested again (after having spent time in prison) and was on parole. She had nowhere to go, but the parole supervisor found her a spot in a rehab center on skid row in downtown Los Angeles. She spent a year and a half there and turned her life around. She is now 5 years clean and has a wonderful family of her own. Parole told me most addicts do not change until their mid-30’s. There is something in the brain that just clicks on. Do not give up. They will steal and lie to perfection for drugs. But love and your strength are all you can give them. It takes 3 years after stopping drugs for the brain cells to regrow and create endorphins for addicts to feel “normal”. It is a disease and nothing but pure hell and a living nightmare that won’t stop. However, it is your child’s life, and as parents we endure and do not give up. Every addict that recovers had to find the treatment that worked for them. There are so many suffering like we did – and the general public has no idea of the extent of the problem and the horrific consequences of drugs on our kids. It’s like a big secret we hide because we feel the shame of what our kids are doing and we feel like failures as parents. As was said – only someone that’s been through it can understand. My heart is with you all and I’m sure my daughter would be open to speaking with anyone about specifics or her experiences.

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    December 31, 2012 at 12:57 AM

    @ Russi Arden, I am so sorry for your loss.

    My husband and I tell my son how much we love him all the time. As far as “believe v. doubt,” well we are both guilty. My son is looking at court dates (more money, lawyer) this month, but continues to cop and smoke weed, and then tries to justify it. Let me clarify, my husband believes he is straight, when clearly he is not. He is just starting to read his face, actions and eyes. But even with that, he does not want to see it. My son is amazing at telling his dad whatever he wants to hear. He will say to me “see I can sit and have a conversation with dad, I’m fine.” If I mention to my husband, “he is high,” my husband gets mad at me. I truly feel like I am fighting a battle that no one knows is raging. It’s like he is trying to prove he can do these drugs and no one is the wiser.

    I have learned that tough love is absolutely a crap shoot… it may work for some, and not for others. It did not work for my brother in law, and for my husband’s niece (23 and an addict) accidental O.D. Two family members have absolutely changed the way my husband is approaching my son’s addiction. If it is God’s will to take my son, I feel I mourned his loss years ago, then so be it. I know this sounds cold. But we are merely existing right now.

    My prayers and thoughts are with all the parents dealing with this demon. No one can possibly understand unless they have been there. We had an abundance of friends. We do nothing now, and speak to no one…. not personal just the way it is.

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    December 28, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    Russi, my heart goes out to you. My son started at 17…he is 32 and is struggling still with addiction. You are right there are no fundraisers, ribbons or telethons..I feel the same way you do. And I am so sorry you lost your son to this horrible disease.

    Ron, I love your conclusions..I finally learned that it really does take longer with two trying to ‘shovel out of the hole’. I love you, I care about you, I believe in you cannot be said enough. The hard part is the waiting, hoping that your loved one will find the strength ‘to get out of the hole’ – to turn their life around.

    I believe also in help… in medicine…in counseling…in support of those who have recovered and help from the family. It’s difficult to know when to offer that help and sometimes you make mistakes but don’t ever give up trying or give up or your loved one. Where there is life there is hope.

    And I believe that addicts and families of addicts need the support of our communities, government and health insurance companies. Just like any other disease we need help in fighting this disease of addiction.

    Thanks Ron for all of what you do and for those who take time to comment on sites such as these. We need a louder conversation, a more public one so that everyone knows the true struggle of an addict. We need more hope.

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    Russi Arden

    December 24, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    My son started using drugs at 17. He has been in and out of rehab many times. Three stints in prison (all drug related)I did everything in my power to help him. On Sept 23rd he was found in a parking lot dead from a drug overdose. He was 34
    There are no walks for addiction, no pretty ribbons, no fundraisers, no telethons. I had lung cancer, and had surgery to cut it out of me. There is no surgery to cut out addiction, yet they are both a disease.
    Ben’s tortured life is over, but I cry for everyone afflicted with this terrible disease.

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