There is power in numbers and in having others to lean on. When I lived with the addiction of my son, Andy, I found myself embroiled in a world of craziness. He was suffering, and, believe me, I was suffering too. Addiction impacts the whole family, not just the addict. I have never felt as powerless in my whole life as I did watching my beloved child slowly slip away from me. I tried to handle it on my own by loving him into recovery. I mistakenly thought my love for him could cure him.
At the point where I felt that I had nowhere else to turn and could take no more without going off the deep end, I found my 12-step program. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this saved my life. There, I found a group of people who lived what I was living. There was no judgment, only the benefit of their experience. It was a safe place to tell my story without fear of being judged or blamed. What a relief that was! They helped me understand and come to my own conclusion that I was not helping my son by enabling him. I was actually causing him harm. It goes against every parental instinct to let your children fall and to let them suffer the consequences of their negative actions and poor choices in life. But if you really love your child, you must do this. Enabling is looking out for your own feelings. Doing the hard thing is love. Remember what they say on airplanes, “Put your own oxygen mask on first and then help your children.” The point is that you are no help to your loved one if you are embroiled in the addiction yourself. I spent way too much time trying to put the mask on Andy first. I finally was able to see the light thanks to the 12-step village.
The 12 steps are hard work! I am so grateful for the supportive people of my group for helping me work through them. Doing this alone would have been impossible. I gained strength from their experience and their support. I began to live life again and let my son live his own life too. Now it has hit me that it must have been very disempowering for my son to see the way I tried to control everything he did instead of letting him run his own life. Having control over another person is pure illusion. I understand that now. Anyway, life began to have some joy and meaning again, despite my circumstances.
I would like to tell you Andy’s story has a happy end. Unfortunately, it does not. I lost my son in 2011 to a heroin overdose. He had a relapse. However, the last few months of his life were the happiest I could remember since he was a little boy. For that, I am incredibly grateful. Sobriety certainly made his life a lot better. I saw the proof. When I lost him, I again leaned on my 12-step village to make some sense of this new normal and find some purpose in life. Through God’s grace, I also found Heroes in Recovery. Although it is too late to save my son, it is not too late to help someone else. I really think that is the legacy my son left through me. I work with this dedicated group of people who work tirelessly to erase the stigma of addiction by telling the stories of people who have made it and are in recovery. We are a village joined by our mutual desire and passion for ending the stigma of addiction and getting people the help they need. Joined together, we are working to change the way people look at addiction. I can already see examples of the public mindset swaying toward treatment rather than incarceration. I can’t think of a better way to honor my son.
And now, I have a request. If you or someone you know has a story of recovery, please join our village and post your story at www.heroesinrecovery.com. Together, we can make a difference!
In love and light,