My son, in his late 20s, was a wonderful young man. He was the kind of son every mother dreams of — caring, loving, and always doing the right thing. He would do everything and anything to help you. He would always go that extra mile just to find that one item on your wish list. He enjoys a lot of sports, but his favorite is NASCAR, which he could watch it from morning until night. He adores his nieces and nephews and can make you laugh when you’re down, or sit and hold your hand when things get rough. He would love to have a family to call his own, but just can’t seem to find that one special person to love him.
Then, without any type of warning, he began to use drugs and alcohol.
When my son is under the influence, there are no boundaries. He becomes a person I don’t even know. Sometimes, even his facial expression changes and I barely recognize who he is at that moment.
I watched a beautiful child grow from a sweet, innocent bundle of joy to a mischievous little boy, doing all the things that little boys do. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that one day a horrible disease would strike this child and turn him into someone completely different.
As a teenager, I saw changes but thought that it was just typical teenage behavior. But as the days and weeks progressed, the typical concerns turned into worry, and worry to fear, and fear into desperation.
It began with small things, until the addiction enveloped his entire life. Then it was all about how to get the money for the drugs, where to get the drugs and then how to use the drugs without anyone finding out.
My son has an addiction to cocaine and alcohol. He has no job, no insurance and feels so worthless.
He has become a liar and a thief with addiction. His cocaine addiction began back when he was only 17 and his alcohol addiction did not start until he was almost 22. He was five years into recovery at the time, and was doing really well. But that legal drug, alcohol — and thinking that just one drink wouldn’t hurt — took him right back to his substance of choice. It all hits the same part of the brain. Addiction is a brain disease.
Parents: believe me when I tell you that the roller coaster ride is unbelievable. The pain you endure is unimaginable, yet the world expects you to go on like nothing has happened. Families are hurt, and those who don’t understand addiction are always quick to put you down or to blame.
I am and always was a good parent, even without a handbook. I prayed and did all the right things. I was guided by specialists and really believed in them. I made sure I knew about all the childhood diseases, but no one ever told me about the one that is more silent than others. The one that can take a child’s life from you without you even knowing it — the disease of addiction. It creeps into your life, affects your entire family and leaves you with pain and loss.
The pushers and dealers get richer and richer. They get your hard-earned cash, your laptops, your digital cameras, your jewelry, your family heirlooms — nothing is beyond them. They have no conscience. They don’t care what their buyer brings to them, as long as it’s worth something. The person with addiction will bring the dealer a thousand-dollar laptop, and the dealer will give him two $10 bags in return. And when that person walks away, the dealer laughs and thinks, what a fool.
Each and every one of these people deserves the chance at recovery. There are great people in recovery out there working very hard every day to make this world a better place.
I will continue to support my child. I will swallow the pain and turn him in to the authorities, even see him in jail if that’s what it takes. But I do not want to bury my child.
I know today how it really feels to have a broken heart.
Kathleen A. Larson-Dobbs
Kathleen A. Larson-Dobbs has been active in the addiction field since 1997. She first became involved when she discovered her 16-year-old son was addicted to drugs and she couldn’t find help for him where they lived. She has since made it a priority to increase the availability of treatment programs. This led her to co-found Parent-To-Parent, Inc., an organization that brought to southern New Jersey the first long-term residential adolescent rehab for 13-18-year-olds and made funds available for 18-24-year-olds for detox and treatment. Kathleen believes that addiction is a family disease and will share her experiences of struggling through her son’s addiction, while imparting the wisdom she has gained and the hope that she has held onto. Kathleen currently lives with her husband in New Jersey, and has three children and three grandsons.