My time is not my own right now.
My husband and I have dedicated 3 of our weekday evenings during this rehab experience to helping our son and our family. It feels like we have become so busy that we don’t have time for anything anymore. Hobbies, housecleaning, and even our other children seem to get neglected, (luckily they are both married adult children and should be able to cope with it). Both my husband and I haven’t spent nearly as much time on business and work as we used to and as we still should. Not only are the week nights busy, but I have spent a lot of time reading books on topics like parenting, how families are affected by drug use, and all of the information from the required parenting classes.
My husband and I have spent hours talking and thinking about how to get through this trial with a solid relationship. We thought we were doing fairly well with that while he was in residential treatment. One thing we did have during the first two months was more alone time together as a couple.
One night a week for the first two months, we had parent training. We spent one and one half hours that night learning parenting techniques and some of the behavior therapy skills that the kids learn. We liked the parent training a lot. It seemed to help just to be in a room with other parents who were going through the same things that we were going through. Listening to them talk about the challenges that they have had with their kids made us feel like we were not alone. Even though we have friends and family who have been supportive and who listen to us when we cry on their shoulders, somehow it is different when we talk to people who experience similar things with their kids.
We learned some acronyms for remembering how to handle interactions with our kids. One that is easy to remember and works really well is called GIVE. It stands for be Gentle, act Interested, Validate, and use an Easy manner. This one is very helpful when things start getting out of control--if we can remember to use it. When arguments start with our son, neon lights need to start flashing to remind us to use GIVE.
We also learned about Mindfulness, which is paying attention in a particular way, “being” in the present moment, and not just doing things on automatic pilot.
We learned how we have 3 states of mind—reasonable mind, emotional mind, and wise mind. Wise mind is a combination of reasonable and emotional minds and is the best frame of mind for communication with our kids. I know that almost all of the time that I have spent yelling at and in conflict with my son—I was definitely operating in emotional mind only.
On the same night, right after parent training, we have Family Group Therapy. This meeting has been on-going one night a week throughout the entire time my son has been in the program. We meet with all of the parents and kids who are being treated by the same therapist to discuss various topics presented by the therapist. She goes over behavior therapy skills, talks about what has been going on with the kids in therapy, and teaches us how to communicate better. This is also the group where each kid has to read their drug history letter to their parents. Meeting with the other parents on a more one-on—one type basis and hearing the kids talk about the feelings that they have in front of their parents is very therapeutic. Our son does not say very much in these meetings. This, apparently, is his pattern in all of the group therapy situations that he participates in every day. The staff and therapists have a very hard time getting him to share and talk about his feelings. Every time he does share, I feel like writing it down, just to have proof that he has opened up, just a little bit.
The next night, we have Individual Family Therapy for an hour or more, depending on how things are going with our family relationship. At first, these meetings were even shorter than the one hour that we should have had. He was so angry that he wouldn’t talk at all. His therapist asked him how long he was going to stay angry and he just shrugged his shoulders. She said that he was setting a record for how long a kid in treatment stayed mad at his parents. My husband and I would silently laugh and think to ourselves, “Yes, that is my son.” Then, after leaving for the night, my tears would come.
We have spent most of our Family Therapy sessions discussing communication, limits, expectations, and rules. I wish we could figure out how to function in these areas so that we could spend at least some time talking about the big issue—Drug Use! Sometimes I think my son likes to have one of our other problems be the topic of the day just so that we won’t have the chance to talk about his drug use. Our therapist is great, though. She tries very hard to understand our son and helps us get through one week at a time, making a tiny bit of progress toward improving our family relationships.
The last night that we spend at the facility with our son is also one that we benefit from—the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I never would have thought that in my entire life, I would have a reason to attend an AA meeting. The meetings are run by an adult and many other adults attend, but the kids in the program get a lot of the focus. Each week, one kid presents a topic for discussion, and then everyone gets a chance to comment on the topic and share their feelings. It is very eye-opening to us as parents to see the people and hear what is said in this meeting. Feelings are shared without reservation and all of the alcoholics/addicts help each other by talking about their experiences. We understand more about what it is like to be an addict by listening at these meetings. It also helps us to understand that staying sober is one of the hardest things that these people will ever do. As we have become familiar with some of them, we feel very happy to see them each week and know that they are still making it. This is where our son met his AA sponsor. He is one of the adults who regularly attend the meetings. This man has become a big part of my son’s life and has done so much for him. We will never be able to thank him enough for his help.
While in residential treatment, we also visited our son on Saturdays and Sundays—sometimes taking him some food, playing games with him, and on Sundays reading religious based magazine articles to him. When he was given a pass which allowed him leave with us for a few hours, we would take him out to dinner, breakfast, shopping, or even to get a haircut.
One of the big impacts of spending all of this time on our son was also spending a lot of money. We were always gone at dinner time, so we went out to eat every week. We were happy to find a diner within 5 minutes of the facility that had good prices and a very diverse menu. We also ate a lot of fast food and—surprise-- I gained weight! We spent money on drawing supplies, books, clothes, and other miscellaneous items that he just had to have. He is a master manipulator and even in rehab can guilt me into buying things for him.
We will do anything that we can to help him.
Including spending huge amounts of time and money.
Rehab isn’t cheap.