I Wish I Would Have Learned to Listen to my Addicted Son

Father Hugging Son

A while back, I received an e-mail from a concerned mother. Within it, she described her son’s addiction. The mother spoke about several experiences that were similar to my own. She told me about the different things she had tried to do to help and was scared she was going to lose her son.

She then asked me a simple question: What do you wish you had done differently?

It was a tricky question. Some may even say it was a trick question. Looking for the silver bullet has been the quest of every parent who I have ever spoken to. In fact, it was even my quest for several years.

After I read her email, the woman’s question remained in the back of my mind for days. It caused me great anxiety because I simply didn’t have an adequate answer.

What do I wish I had done differently? At first, I thought of all of the little mistakes I had made. If added up, would they would have made a difference? Maybe some of the small changes might even have prevented this nightmare…or maybe not. Yet, this response did not satisfy me. After a few weeks of deliberation, I finally discovered a better answer.

I would have learned to listen.

First, I would have learned to listen to my son. What does an addicted person really have to say that is worth listening too? All along, through his words and actions, he told me there was nothing I could do to fix him. But as a parent, it was my job to fix my son. That’s what parents do right? We fix things. I spent years trying to do so, despite the fact that he was telling me not to.

I would have also learned to listen to counselors and parents. Listening is very different than searching for answers. Getting answers to questions or “what to do” solutions assume that there is a single answer or methodology that will awaken not just you but also your addicted loved one from this nightmare.

I would have learned to listen to my own internal struggles about what I am told. What have I heard, what do I feel, and why am I scared? My emotional reactions were a result of unresolved internal struggles.

Finally, I would have learned to listen to my heart and my head. Most of the time, one or the other wins. My heart reminds me that where there is life, there is hope. It allows me to love someone that by all accounts seems to be unlovable. Yet my head reminds me of the reality of addiction. Heart verses head is not a win/lose struggle. Your heart and your head should work together. It is possible for your heart to accept that your son may die. It is also possible for your head to understand that there may not be an answer for addiction. Loving for just today is all you may get.

Listening is hard. After all, nobody will ever love your child the way you do. You fed him, changed him, raised him and provided for his every need. Listening to your child is hard when loving and caring for him has always been instinct.

What do I wish I had done differently? I wish I had learned how to listen sooner.

How to Listen

Learn how to keep the lines of communication open by knowing how to listen and when to talk.

651 Responses

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    July 24, 2018 at 8:40 PM

    i have read these posts over and over again. my son is addicted to opioids. he has been in prison, stolen from every member of our family and it is hard. his dad and i have been divorced since he was 9 and he and his step dad do not speak. i see him in the car, to get coffee or cigarettes. he is standing in as a step dad to a young girl with 2 children. i can only imagine they share prescriptions. he tells me he is taking suboxone (but not under a doctor’s care) to fend off using worse. we offered rehab but he does not want to go. i am scared. he is the first person i think of when i wake up and go to sleep each night. i pray and want to have hope.

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    February 25, 2018 at 2:11 PM

    My 40 yr old son was just arrested for poss of meth in DC while being in violation of probation of a separate poss of meth charge in VA. The original charge resulted in a 2-year sentence (released on probation). So I assume he will be serving that time in jail or prison, in addition to whatever happens with the second charge. Meanwhile, I really believe he needs medical and mental health care, in addition to legal help, none of which I cannot afford. Does anyone know services are available to him?

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    February 22, 2018 at 2:35 PM

    Hi there
    my son is also a heroin addict for a long time now.he needs to apply for low income health insurance and with medi-cal a doctor can prescribe suboxone for him.Suboxone si an opiate blocker and takes away the craving and withdrawl symptoms.This prescription is expensive $800 a month.My son got medical and went to his regualr doctor that refered him tio specialist who can prescribe suboxone. there are also free rehabs salvation army is one of the drug rehabs that are free.
    I dont want to scare you but there is no quick fix and these things take time .I know you need help today.Stay hopefull!

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      July 21, 2018 at 4:36 PM

      My son is addicted to drugs. He is using heroin. I am terrified and feeling lost. I am looking for advice and help on how to deal with this, and how to help my son.

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        Josie Feliz

        July 23, 2018 at 9:52 AM

        Thanks for your message Kris, we have forwarded your message to one of our Helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly.

        Our Helpline is a good place to start if you’d like to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Feel free to connect with us in whichever manner you choose in the future: https://drugfree.org/helpline.

        Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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    Dawn Kolm

    February 22, 2018 at 4:06 AM

    My son is a heroin addict, he is really trying to get off it, he doesn’t have medical aid and doesn’t have the money to pay for rehab, what can I do to help him.

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