Why I Share My Story as a Father of Sons in Recovery

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:

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    Rae Pevy

    May 25, 2017 at 1:50 PM

    That was a nice commercial and a good looking family! You are lucky to be experiencing the miracle of recovery in your family. It is important for families to see that it is possible for recovery to occur and also that parents can be emotionally supportive to their kids and give them the kind of support that will be helpful and not enabling.

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    May 25, 2017 at 1:12 PM

    I am a 77 yr. old husband, father, grandfather who worked all my life for myself and family. My wife died when she was 27 and I was left with (2) sons ages 7 and 3 at the time. I remarried trying to bring a broken family together. My oldest son married at 19 and the youngest at 20. The youngest dabbled with drugs as a teen. He married a drug user and it continued. Many trying times have passed since, he is now single and has lived under our roof many years. He is now 52 years old and been in and out of rehabs many times never to complete a program. He stole from us and others and continues this behavior where as my wife or I will not leave the house with him in or around. He has broken in and stole selling for drugs. He had many very good jobs only to lose them in a matter of days. He now has a criminal record from petty stealing plus. I admit I am an enabler as I gave him a car to find work and now I keep it running because he constantly lies stating he has an interview, etc. I now am in the process of legally getting him evicted within 60 day’s. The story is sickening and goes back over 30 years but more intense the past 3 to 4 as he has been living steady under our roof. We can not stand for any more of this. He never contributed to his living but only took. He has taken more money then I like to say. Problem is that I am a caring parent and my wife has always treated him as her own. There is most likely a book that can be written on the damnation of drugs introduced into a family life.

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      Rae Pevy

      May 25, 2017 at 3:42 PM

      Tony, I’m sorry to hear about the painful experience you’re having with your son. It is so hard to bear when we want the best for someone we care about and they take advantage of our love. Have you tried going to Al-Anon? Al-Anon is a program for the loved ones of alcoholics. There is also a similar program for Narcotics Anonymous families.

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      May 26, 2017 at 9:50 AM

      Hi Tony,
      I can only imagine the struggle that you and your family have been through. I know you are working toward having your son evicted and am wondering what your relationship will be like going forward. If I may make a suggestion, you might find reading Beyond Addiction by Dr. Jeffrey Foote helpful. He gives guidance and practical suggestions on what that might look like from a family member’s perspective when a loved one is in active use. You can find out more about the book in our bookstore (leads to Amazon): http://drugfree.org/article/amazon-book-store/ It is by far the best book I’ve read to help families not only address the loved one’s use, but also to help you with your own self-care and ability to handle your personal emotional triggers.

      I wish you and your family peace,

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    Melanie Holst

    May 25, 2017 at 1:00 PM

    My daughter died on February 15. She was 45 with a teenage son, my grandson. He has now lost both of his parents in the nightmare that drug addiction causes. I keep on keeping on somehow, but it’s been a long hard road, and my family of origin now seems to be disintegrating in the face of this most recent loss. If it weren’t for my ‘program’ and friends, I would be very alone. Wish I could tell you a happier ending, and I hope and pray that as we travel this path together, we will find some happiness, joy and freedom.

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      May 26, 2017 at 9:53 AM

      Hi Melanie,
      I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter. It’s so tragic that there isn’t better treatment and help for loved ones struggling with this issue. I hope for so much more for your grandson and that all of you will find peace.

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