These days, I have a lot of hope and love. Yes, as we move toward the end of the year, I do have that feeling of real hope for a great year ahead. Much different from the constant fear I felt so many years prior when my son was actively struggling with substance use and heroin addiction.
I tend to keep things – letters, greeting cards, notes. But I have held closer than ever those few notes received from my son Ryan. For so many years I had the dismal thought that someday these papers would be all I’d have left of him. Notes on Christmas saying, “Mom, I’m sorry this year has been such a difficult one. 2004 holds much promise and with God’s grace, I’ll make it the best year yet.” And seven years later a note: “Dear mom, God does have a plan and I think I’m finally following it. Thank you for loving me as I am and always being there for me… love you, your son, Ryan.” However, it wasn’t until three more long and frightening years that Ryan finally came face to face with his addiction. Thankfully, far away in Los Angeles, Ryan finally found the medical rehabilitation he needed.
It was another S.O.S. cry for help, but this time Ryan was willing to sleep outside a detox center for as long as it took to be processed. He knew he needed help and would do anything to get it… But after just one short week of detox at a public facility, he wondered, “now what?” He had been told there was no bed for him. With grace and a lot of luck, Ryan was sent to treatment.
Getting my son addiction treatment
Addiction's family toll and our eventual healing
Our family suffered for years in silence through this horrific journey — but I had no idea that freedom for all of us was just around the corner. The physical, financial and emotional toll it takes on family members is devastating, but shame and silence are killers.
Our family is now bonded into a stronger and more loving unit because we can speak of Ryan’s health problem out loud. Ryan is recovering from a disease. We love, support and celebrate his life daily in recovery. Last year, he participated in his little sister’s wedding in Miami, the same little sister who for years feared she would wake up one morning and he would be dead.
Today, Ryan is doing so well and I’m incredibly proud of him. He works daily on his own recovery and has become a powerful voice and nationwide advocate for countless others in the process. When I watch the heart-wrenching videos of parents who have lost their sons or daughters to heroin overdoses, I still painfully remember that hot, burning feeling of terror in my chest and throat that I felt for so many years. My phone would hardly ring and I was always waiting for the one call I was so terrified to receive. Those thousands of calls I made that went unanswered and the hundreds of nights wondering if he was sick, warm, fed, alive or dead.
These days, I receive phone calls from my son regularly, just wanting to say hello. No longer do I fearfully search for him or wait by the phone hoping he checks in. I truly know he is healthy, working daily on his recovery and with an amazing life ahead. My heart is incredibly full of gratitude.
Our family is filled with promise. This process has been a healing one and Ryan’s life has been saved thanks to the right treatment. I’m a professional with a good job, and I had some limited resources to draw upon. But what about the countless families who truly have nowhere to turn? Compassion for Ryan and our family’s financial flexibility without question helped lead him to a life of recovery. Addiction is a disease and effective treatment should be available for all who are suffering. This year I plan to get more involved in how we, as a nation, can make this happen.