It’s Thanksgiving time, which means everyone is thinking of their loved ones and counting their blessings. But it begs the question: What does the parent of a child with a substance use disorder have to be thankful about?
I remember the horrors of holidays. It seems no matter the occasion — Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays or anything that was special to our family — our son, while he was using drugs, somehow found a way to bring heartache and sorrow to the occasion.
Why couldn’t he just be okay for just one day? Why must we have every holiday and special occasion ruined? These thoughts were constants in our life.
Looking back, it is easy to remember these drama-filled events. Our son showing up on Christmas Eve while we were walking out the door. Drug dealers bringing heroin to our home on Christmas Eve as casual as a pizza delivery. Thanksgiving Day, not being able to rouse him awake to join us for our meal. Going to a prison 125 miles away on Thanksgiving eve to pick him up when he was being released. Seems like every holiday there was an event that spoiled our joy.
The perspective of time and distance allows me to understand that most all of our anguish and hurt was self-imposed. We expected what was impossible to be delivered. My son was addicted to drugs and I didn’t understand addiction and what it meant for him or for us.
The perspective of time and distance allows me to understand most all of our anguish and hurt was self-imposed. We expected what was impossible to be delivered. My son was addicted to heroin. And I didn’t understand addiction and what it meant for him — or to us.
If your loved one is suffering from addiction, accept the reality of what is and don’t play a game with yourself that they ought to be able to be ‘good’ for one day.
My son suffered from the disease of addiction. He did what people with that disease do; what his brain was causing him to do. He continued to use drugs no matter what I wanted or expected. My heartache and anger was self-imposed. I expected from him something he didn’t have to give. At least not at that time.
The regular rules don’t apply here — your loved one is sick with a disease, and they need help before you can start expecting normalcy.
Secrets from a father about for surviving a holiday with an addicted loved one would include:
- Temper your holiday expectations.
- Accept what is given.
- Love with no return expectation.
- Do not expect something from someone that they do not have to give.
- Inside there is still a person. You loved them all their life — do not forget.
- Where there is life there is hope. Look around you and you will see the life.
- Don’t forget to be thankful for what you have. Sadly, many parents have an empty chair at the holiday table.
Never stop believing. Tomorrow, on Thanksgiving, my son who is now in recovery will be joining us with his family. Hugs will be shared. We will give thanks to all and each other.
All those years ago, if anyone would have told me this day would come, I would have thought they were crazy. Never stop believing in yourself, or in others.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
This post was originally published in 2017 and has been refreshed for content.