We were among the lucky few who found the treatment that our son needed. We found good advice from a wise counselor who knew what we didn’t about treatment and recovery. Fortunately, we encountered a genuinely caring legal system that believed in rehabilitation instead of retribution. And our son, out of options, embraced the treatment we found and offered. He learned how to manage his illness, and surrounded himself with a supportive community of compassionate and dedicated souls who had traveled his road before him.
But my worry still remained. Relapse is such a common occurrence, and I still suffered from PTSD from that February call that had jolted me out of my serenity and ignorance. I flinched whenever my phone rang and I saw my son’s name on the caller ID. I feared the worst. But this time, his voice was clear and upbeat. “How long do you grill chicken thighs?” he wanted to know.
Rachael and I now volunteer as Parent Coaches. For an hour a week, we talk on the phone with other parents who are concerned about their child’s substance use. I especially like working with other fathers, who, by some accident of culture, have learned to keep their feelings to themselves. I don’t have all the answers, nor a magic cure. I do have a little experience, perspective, and a few tools I’ve been taught, like listening openly and allowing natural consequences to be a learning experience. And that worrying, in itself, is not very useful.
Sometimes these ideas help. Most often, the parents I coach are just happy to talk to someone who understands a bit about what they are going through, without feeling shame, judgment or stigma. And every once in a while, I get to hear a parent’s pride in their child’s progress.
This past summer, I got to see my son graduate from college. He is focused, determined and inspired. He has been sober for over three years. He has a full-time job and talks about going to graduate school. “You will be amazed,” says one of the tent-card slogans at a support group I attend. And I am.