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?
Recently, we had a scary incident occur at school for our 12-year-old son, Adam, that merits sharing.
At the beginning of the school year, Adam’s first year in middle school, he befriended a boy I wasn’t completely comfortable with for various reasons (we’ll call the boy Joe). Adam, a kid with a big heart who befriends just about everyone, genuinely liked Joe and hung out with him. I remained cautious, but allowed him to invite Joe over from time to time. I shared my concern and how I felt about Joe with Adam, but it was hard to argue with my son because he truly liked this child and didn’t have any real reason not to.
Then, months went by and we didn’t see Joe. I asked Adam about it and he said he didn’t feel comfortable around him anymore. I wasn’t about to argue with him since I was uncomfortable around him as well, but felt better knowing Adam could sense something wasn’t right.
Fast-forward another few months and Adam wanted to hang out with Joe again. I asked what had changed and he said, “Joe did.” With trepidation, I allowed him to come over to the house, but required them to stay in the yard so I knew what they were doing. When Joe left, Adam was annoyed. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “I am disappointed in you.”
“You wouldn’t let us go anywhere. What did you think we were going to do?”
“Adam,” I said, “you are sending me mixed messages. One minute you want to be friends with Joe and then the next minute you tell me you don’t feel comfortable around him anymore. What has changed?”
“He has changed.”
“How?” I asked. “You know, Adam, I am taking my cues from you. If you feel something isn’t right, you need to trust that. It’s your intuition and it’s almost always right.”
That was the end of the conversation at that point. However, this week we received a call from the school saying that Joe had been expelled from school for the rest of this year and half of next year. Not only had he brought a knife into school, but he had threatened several kids, including Adam.
I don’t know how to impress upon not only my own children, but other parents’ children as well, how important it is for them to trust their feelings. Adam’s intuition alerted him that something wasn’t right, but as kids often do, they give people the benefit of the doubt. The scariest part about the whole experience was that Adam didn’t come home and tell us about the incident. He was scared, didn’t want to talk about it and was worried I would “freak out.” He also convinced himself that Joe would never have hurt anybody because he’s too shy.
Again, I used this situation as another way to impress upon my son his need to trust himself above all else. By not telling anyone, it could have turned out a lot differently (as we all know too well). In this case, things turned out okay, but more than anything else, tweens and teens NEED to trust their intuition. It’s the only guarantee they have to feel their way through situations when everything on the surface looks normal. The stronger their feeling, the less likely they will be to jump in a car with someone who’s been drinking or go somewhere with someone they aren’t sure about.
It is my hope that people will read this and follow their feelings. I sensed from the get-go something wasn’t right, but I remained aware and in tune and fortunately (or unfortunately) my feelings were accurate.