My efforts met with annoyance and sometimes bitterness, but that's OK. I never let this stop me from making contact. I knew deep down that it was important and that it was the right thing to do.
A few weeks ago when our son shared with me that he was using again - in moderation, he tells me - he said I have to stop sending him daily texts. I told him I'd be reaching out whether he was using or not because I love him, love keeping in touch, no matter what. I am coming to terms with letting him live his life whether I like it or not. (For whatever reason, that's harder for Dad more on that in a few paragraphs.)
He's had some ups lately. At his job, they have approached him about taking on additional responsibility and perhaps a managerial track. It chagrins me on one hand, but doesn't surprise me on the other. He's capable, responsible and smart -- even under the influence. I wish it didn't fuel his belief that he can use and succeed, but even he realizes that it's far from what he really wants to do and even farther from his God-given potential.
Among the many parents of young-adult users/addicts, I am grateful for the frequency of communication and
If anything, it increases the recognition that substance abuse problems truly belong to the user. Yes, the family and friends are affected to the extent that we choose to be (and in the case of minors, are obligated to be).
That realization is one of the hardest aspects of loving a user. Honestly, from day to day, my perspective on this changes to the point that I'm overwhelmed and exhausted by it. Step one of the 12 Steps starts to have significance for me - that I admitted powerless over it and that my life became unmanageable.
Each time, I realize the need to "let go". But it sure is hard. Really hard. And even more so, when we see that our son presents so well to the rest of the world when we know that behind the scenes he's just an act, just a cover.
Last Sunday morning, my husband and I were chatting as we woke up. I had rested well. He had not. Our family meeting with our son and his treatment leader had gone well - there was no yelling, no negativity - but in our mind, it was a bit of a charade on his part. He said what he thought we wanted to hear. We didn't call him on the carpet.
We rehashed the meeting. I listened to my husband's frustrations. I expressed my own, and I shared that I just needed to let go, to stop, to allow our son to go forward successfully or not at least for the time being, and that I was OK with increasingly becoming OK with this.
It was, and has been, a tough option for Dad. He's a problem solver, a solution provider.
And then, a dim light bulb flickered for him. A good friend in Chicago forwarded an article from the Sunday Tribune about Erik Kramer, an NFL quarterback for the Bears who lost his son to a Heroin overdose. Maybe it was the dad-to-dad context, but this part of the article really spoke to my husband:
" you can't make every encounter a fight or struggle," Kramer said. "So you tend to keep (the conversation) to news, weather and sports and support him the best you can. But you cannot force drugs out of his world. It has to be something they come to on their own.
"I would always text him and tell him I love him, or call him and leave him messages. He would choose not to pick up the phone, or he would occasionally allow me to take him to lunch or dinner.
"We just kept it simple and there was no tension or anything of that nature. We talked about the Bears or Peyton Manning and the Colts or football or the weather. But he wouldn't offer up a ton. He was always in the process of covering up his life with me.
For me, the advice I gleaned loud and clear is you can't force drugs out of his world. In that, I found reason to keep in touch and at the same time let go. I think my husband did, too. Therein, is the power of parents sharing this path, and I hope that ours is one of strength for the readers of this column.