Being a Parent Means Making the Hard Choices
anonymous Asks ...
I apologize that this message is so long. But I will try to summarize the best I can.
I have a 24 yr old son, who we've been trying to help for the last 10 years with his mental health issues and addiction problem.
My husband and I have never had drug/alcohol addiction, however my dad and my grandfather have been alcoholics.
My son's problem started when his older brother (who had an opiate addiction) relapsed and tragically died of an overdose at the young age of 20. Our remaining son who at the time was 14 spiraled into a deep depression and debilitating anxiety kicked in shortly after (prior to this, we did notice that he had anxiety issues, but exaserbated). He isolated himself and threw himself into an online game that he used to cope. He would stay up all through the night playing and would have little communication with anyone. Despite our efforts of counseling, drug therapy prescribed by a psychiatrist, SPECT scan by the Amen Clinic, (which showed that he had anxiety disorder and mood disorder) etc. nothing seemed to work. He would have out of control rage and take it out on my husband and I.
After a 1 1/2 years of this he went back to school, but when he did he started using alcohol first and then it turned into other drugs. He eventually was arrested at the age of 18 for posession of ecstasy and stolen property. He was ordered to a 6 month program, which he did and seemed to be doing better once he was out. Unfortunately, he soon got back into the drug scene and started using opiates.
He has been on suboxone, which he has weaned himself off of just recently. He is sober now, but his addictive behavior goes into other areas of his life. Prior to giving notice, he worked in Las Vegas for a well known magician. After 8 months he decided to leave because of addiction to gambling and anxiety issues. He's now home with us (in California) and needs help to get his life on track. My husband and I have depleted all our savings, retirement, etc. to try to help our boys. My husband left his lucrative position when Aaron was 16 because we felt that we were losing him, too. Now we are at a point where we both are without work and financial means to help him. If you have any suggestions of low cost group home for young men who have mental health issues along with addiction issues to get some life coaching and possibly medication to help with debilitating anxiety would be so much appreciated. Or if you have any other suggestions? We are at a point where we know there's not more we can do, but want to try to reach out to other experts in this matter. Thank you so much - CC
Florence Cameron Says ...
My heart goes out to you and your husband. I can certainly hear the desperation in your words and can feel the love that you and your husband have for your son. It is never easy to lose a child and then be on the cusp of a second one sufferIng from the same disease of addiction. It also appears that you have not left a stone unturned and exhausted all your resources in trying to help him. As you discovered with your first child, sometimes the disease wins. It also appears that you have already sought the opinion of many experts in the field, yet you find yourself still seeking answers. I'm afraid that the answers lie with your son. Unfortunately this disease is your son's disease. There was one resource I did not hear you mention, Al-a-non. If you haven't already sought out the help of this organization I urge you to do so.
The disease of addiction is insidious, it is lifelong, takes daily maintenance by the one who suffers from it, takes hostages and needs enablers in order to survive. Addiction is a destroyer of all things, as you have already experienced with the loss of your first son, your jobs, and your savings. I also feel on some level that you're losing yourselves and your marriage is probably suffering from the stress and strains that are inevitable in situations like this. Sometimes we have to learn to let go in order to save ourselves from losing everything. Remember the analogy on the airplane when the flight attendant tells the passengers to be sure to firs put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help anyone else.
As a mother of three sons myself my heart breaks for you. As a counselor who worked with drug addicted felons for many years, I can tell you that a drug addict does not care about anything or anyone except their next fix and there is nothing they will not say or do to get it. You stated that your son seemed to do better in the mandated program after he was in legal trouble on possession charges. My suggestion would be to give your son's disease back to him. Let him begin to reap the responsibilities for his actions whatever they may be. Stop helping your son kill himself.
Some of my sickest clients were able to continue their disease by having family members love them to death. The clients that were mandated into drug court because of being arrested on felony charges were looking at long-term prison sentences. To avoid loosing their freedom they became willing to learned about their disease, joined twelve-step programs, found sponsors, learned how to have fun without using drugs, and miracles happened. The caveat here is that they must do this by themselves, for themselves. The old adage "you can lead a horse to water and it may make him thirsty." This is why mandated programs can work. The stats suggest 1 in 10 may recover, in the business of addiction, we walk over more bodies then not. However, if I can reach one person and make a difference then I feel I'm working God's plan.
You and your husband need to rejuvenate, find you, live, and begin again planning for your future. We cannot give away what we do not have and killing yourself will not help your son. You'll still love your son and can be supportive, but stop short of crippling him, after all he will need to learn how to survive after you and your husband have left this earth. Giving him his independence is the most valuable gift you can give him. Taking back your life is the best gift you can give yourself.
It is never easy being a parent, often we have to make sacrifices and hard choices. Practicing our faith can help us along the way. I hope for you all the best.
Jeannie Cameron, LMHC