Navigating the Holidays When Your Child is in Early Recovery from Addiction
The emotional pain of drug addiction gets magnified during the holidays. For families with someone newly in recovery, how do you have a “normal” holiday?
Paul Kusiak is a father of two sons in recovery and one of our most dedicated Parent Coaches. He graciously agreed to share his personal story in our new public service announcement (PSA) campaign Families Can Heal and shares his experience below. We are grateful to Paul and his family for their bravery, their willingness to share their story and their tireless dedication to helping other families.
My family was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important national campaign. I’m a regular dad, so I was a little nervous during the filming. I must admit, as soon the producer left my home, my mind flooded with thoughts of things I could have phrased differently or points I’d missed. Being in front of a camera isn’t as comfortable for me as being in a parent support group or helping someone one-on-one when they are in crisis.
My youngest son, Jared, best describes why my family embraced participating and why I volunteer as a parent coach and family advocate. When he was just beginning his recovery path, he didn’t hesitate to say, “Dad, I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, if it might help one other young person like me avoid what I went through and one other family like ours avoid what we went through.” He was 16 years old when he first entered treatment for struggles with opioids. Today he is 29 years old and has been doing well for over 10 years. His 4-year-old son – our pride and joy grandson – is also in the PSA.
My oldest son, Jason, always jumps at the chance to help. He texted me, “It’s always great to share!! I get excited anytime anyone asks how I got better and to show people it’s possible is amazing. I couldn’t have done any of this without my family and their love for me :)” He began treatment for prescription opioids when he was 20 years old. Today, he is 33 and is also doing well.
My wife was away with friends when the filming took place. She felt badly not participating. “People will think they don’t have a mom,” she lamented. I replied that taking a break and having fun with friends is practicing self-care. “You deserve it and you’re leading by example,” I told her. We both laughed. My wife is wonderful and was incredibly helpful every step of our journey. We worked hard to be on the same page and got through this together as a team.
Sometimes I feel uncomfortable sharing upbeat stories when I know that many loving parents have tried everything, yet lost their child. My heart breaks for these families. No one has all the answers. Sometimes, all we can do is the best we can, with the information that we have in that moment, and hope and pray our child gets through their darkest moments.
Despite the horrific grip drugs have on many individuals, families and communities, no one should have to fight this alone. When my boys were at their worst, I didn’t imagine we’d be where we are today. Finding and accessing resources and having good outcomes may feel impossible, but it’s not. I know what it’s like to be at my wit’s end and not imagining things could get better. Yet, my family kept reaching for help and never gave up. It wasn’t easy and certainly not one straight line, but over time we went from hell to happiness. I’m optimistic you can get there, too. Let’s do this together.
I hope the optimism and encouragement we tried to share in the PSA, coupled with the evidence-based resources available at www.drugfree.org will make a difference in the lives of others. Although we cannot magically legislate compassion, imagine if everyone started treating those struggling with substance use disorders how they would want their special loved one in their life to be treated and their family to be treated when they struggle. We can work collaboratively to improve the system so lives can be saved and #FamiliesCanHeal.
Watch our PSA featuring Paul and his family: