"Mom! How could you even say something so ridiculous?" my son likely would respond with disbelief.
But it's shaping up to be the hardest thing I've ever expressed to date. While I could never say he's not welcome, it's honest to say his drug addiction is not welcome. He is the son we have always loved and will always love, but he is not the son we have always known.
There are several reasons he might not be there - from the unthinkable (drug-related death or disappearance) to the hopeful (he'll have admitted himself for drug treatment).
He's on his own with his life choices these days. Notice, I didn't say the choice to be addicted. He didn't choose addiction; he is its victim and we are the witnesses.
Hello, I'm the mom of a young-adult addict.
Parents of addicts may feel they are alone and that they've run out of time, but there are more of us out there than most realize, and we've still got time to hope for our children's sobriety and recovery.
At a time when parents should naturally be letting go of their dependent minors and anticipating transition to independent adults, addiction creates unnatural challenges with letting go. We're caught off guard, perplexed. We seek resources to redefine our roles and responsibilities. We seek community with others who have been there and done that and those who are going through it right now.
Sharing our story is not the downer you might imagine, but rather an opportunity to put it in a positive, accepting perspective while encouraging conversation when it might be easier to pretend our kid isn't an addict.
Let me back up.
Snapshot of Addiction
We became concerned about our son during his junior year of high school. His attitude sucked, his interests centered on video gaming and his sleep habits dramatically changed. However, medical professionals and family counselors concluded, "He's a good kid. It's tough growing up."
Just months before his graduation, we started finding evidence of drugs. We confronted him, but during counseling he always downplayed his use. In reality, as we would later learn, he had been getting high five times a day even as he aced ACT tests and sports tournaments.
From high school honor student, varsity sports captain and scholarship recipient, he dabbled in drug dealing, landed in the emergency room and detox, got kicked out of college housing and dropped out of classes.
He went to more counseling and agreed to evaluation but entirely disagreed with the assessment and flat out rejected treatment by running away from a wilderness facility nine days into the program. He spent the summer living in a storage room and selling his plasma to make ends meet.
Everyone welcomes the story of overcoming addiction and recovery, but this is the story of now as it's unfolding.
Today, he's a 19-year-old with no zest for life, just determination for living as a chronic drug user and no telling what else.
He has a job to support his lifestyle. But to my dismay, he has acknowledged stealing that goes on at his place of employment and that he and co-workers get high during shifts.
His life is not good. He is changing weekly. It's more and more apparent to me the effect of drug use and lifestyle. His clothes are often filthy. His feet stink. He stinks ... or tries to mask it with cologne. He has lost a lot of weight. His teeth have an ugly stain from toking. The way he talks is often agitated. I'm pretty sure he's lonely as his old friends have moved on with their lives.
Our son's addiction called into consideration my beliefs and values. It had been a long time since faith and spirituality played a significant role in my life, but if ever there was a good time to reconnect, this was it.
Some things remain a struggle, but I embrace the journey for what it is and choose my actions and perspective. There have been some incredibly bright spots, including meeting people whom I genuinely admire but might never have met, developing more meaningful relationships with friends and family, reconnecting with a higher power and engaging some of my gifts, including advocacy and writing.
We are grateful for regular contact with our son and opportunities to interact, ever hopeful that he will realize he deserves and can make a better life for himself ... and that he is in our prayers and those of many others who love him.
This is the grace I'll be saying on Thanksgiving: Great spirit, in this season of Thanksgiving, my blessings are plenty and my hope is eternal. Bless the addicts, their families and friends, who pray they will know brighter days ahead. Days when passion, goodness, potential and wisdom will again guide their lives. Days when there is triumph over addiction. Days when the people we once knew return. Days when they believe we're on their side and would help in any way we could. Days when they will know they always have been and always will be loved.