Sunday, June 24, 2012


November 2010.  We got up, got dressed, drove our son to what he thought was an appointment with someone who was going to test him for depression, met with a therapist, and two psychiatrists, and then let the intake coordinator explain to my son that we were leaving him there for an undetermined amount of time to be treated for chemical dependance and depression.  He stood up, assumed a defensive stance, and swore like we had never heard him swear before.  There was no way he was staying there, but even as he said that, he had to work very hard to cover up his tears because he knew that no matter what he said, he was staying.  I wanted to throw my arms around him and tell him it was going to be okay and help him to stop crying like I had so many times when he was a little boy.  But, we were ushered out of the room while he was searched for anything that he may have brought in his pockets that wasn't allowed in there (like the pipe that he later said he ditched in the parking lot for some reason, and his I-Pod).  After we brought his duffle bag (full of clothes and new personal care items that I had bought and packed so that he wouldn't wonder where any of his things were) and pillow back in for him, we were supposed to say good-bye to him, but he wouldn't even look at us or speak to us.  Trying to hug him and tell him we loved him was like hugging an unyielding tree. 

I cried more than I thought I could possibly cry that day.  I cried in my husband's arms in the parking lot.  I cried when he left in his own truck to go to work.  I cried while driving to my friend's house where I cried most of the day.  Leaving my son in rehab was a very difficult thing to do.  Knowing that the alienation that had been taking place in our relationship just multiplied by a thousand percent; knowing that he needed help that I didn't know how to give him myself; knowing that somehow I failed him as a parent; knowing that I might not see him again for over a week or more; and knowing that going home to an empty house was going to make me ache for my little boy made me just flood the earth with my tears.

And now it was November 2011.  One year later.  What do you do to mark one year from the time that you put your child in rehab?  One year from the time that he started his road to sobriety.  One year that had a few rocky days that may have included what is termed as relapse, when he may or may not have taken some pills.  I knew that most recovering addicts realize that if they relapse, they start counting their sobriety again with Day 1 and they resume their journey.  My son adamently denies relapsing in any way, shape, or form.  He wants us to believe him and to believe in him. 

I thought it was very important for us to show that we do believe in him by celebrating his one year sober birthday.  We went to the AA meeting that he regularly attends with his sponsor a few days after his one year sobriety date and saw him get his one year chip and heard him speak about how it was to be sober and how it is so worth it, and how he even appreciated his parents for doing what they did for him.  I was so proud of him in that moment that my tears were tears of happiness and extreme gratitude.  It was a moment that I would have shared with the world, but it was also a very private moment for my son, my husband, and I.

I decided to take him, the rest of our family, and his sponsor to a restaurant that serves Brazillian food, mainly a variety of meats brought around to tables by servers who then cut off portions for the diners.  My son has eaten there once and has always wanted to go back, but we never have because it is quite expensive.  This seemed to be a worthy occassion to pay the price.

Just to make sure that it wasn't wrong to have this kind of one year celebration, I sent an email to his sponsor.  He knew about the questionable days, and I knew that he would give me the right advice.  I trust this person with my son every day that he speaks to him, and every week that I leave him in charge of my son for a few hours.  I trust him because he would do anything to help my son and anyone who needed him.  His experiences have made him a great, caring, giving, and successful person.   

This is the email that I sent:
“I don’t mean to bother you, but I have a question.  Do you think it would be okay, if we had a one-year sobriety dinner/party when that date comes?  I was thinking about taking him to Tucano’s, since he loves it so much, inviting our family, and you and your fiancĂ©.  I wanted to check with you on whether it was a good idea or not before I started making plans.  He doesn’t know that I am thinking about doing this.
Thank you so much for all that you do for him.  You will probably never know how much it means to us.”

He replied:
First, let me assure you that you never bother me. You can contact me anytime no matter what. On the surface, I think it would be very important to celebrate his upcoming sobriety date. It can be tricky sometimes, though. I would maybe suggest that you ask him if he wanted to have dinner at Tucano’s with immediate family, then surprise him with everyone else. I know that it is important to him because it is a very big deal for an addict to go any length of time being sober, little alone a year. We would love to go.
I want you to know that I really don't do much for him. I care for him like a brother. You and your husband are amazing people, and even more amazing parents. I completely care about you all. I will help in any way I can. Without melodramatics, my life depends on being there for your son. So, in some aspects, I do it for very selfish reasons.”

So, I made the reservations and told our immediate family to come.  (At the last minute, his sponsor wasn't able to make it.  He had a lot going on at that time with his job and with a huge project and I understood but, I felt bad that he couldn't be there).

This is the page with all of the
chips that he accumulated.
We were wondering what else to do to show my son how proud we were of him at this occasion.  My daughter-in-law thought about it and called me with a really good idea.  She said, “Why don’t we all write him a letter and tell him how proud we are of him?  We can compile them somehow and give them to him for a gift. Then, he will always have the letters to look back on and they can help him through tough times that he may have.”


I decided to make a scrapbook that would hold the letters, his 12 months of chips, the serenity prayer, the 12 steps, the two poems that I wrote for him, and some reminders of the goals that he had talked to me about during his summer birthday mini-vacation.  It meant a lot to me to make this scrapbook for him.  Everyone spent hours thinking about what to say to him in a letter.  It turned out to be a very special scrapbook.  

When we gave him the scrapbook after we ate our meal at Tucano’s, he acted mildly impressed.  Knowing him, he was probably thinking if we were going to give him gifts, cash would have been nice, too.

He thumbed through the album, but didn’t read any of the letters right then.  I don’t know if he has ever read them.  I will share all of the letters (some in the next post) because they give a good picture of our whole family's love and concern for this boy and how much we all want him to remain on his path of healing and sobriety.

This was my letter:
“Well, this has been quite a year.  Not the year that any of us would have chosen.  It has been difficult, but you have made a lot of progress.  It has been a long and hard process, but you have accomplished so much.  I am very proud of you.
When things get tough, or you get discouraged, or if you think you aren’t strong, remember that you have tons of support and that I love you and I am always here for you.
We have all contributed to this book for you to keep and read when you want to remember how proud we all are of you, or if you need to boost your spirits, or give yourself courage.
I wrote the next part in a letter to you one year ago.  We have come a long way since then.
When you were a baby, we had a book that had this song in it:
                            “I’ll love you forever,
                           I’ll like you for always,
                            Always and forever,
                             My baby you’ll  be.”
I made up my own music to that song and I sang it to you all the time.  I even wrote it on the back of a rag doll that I made for your first Christmas so that it would be something that you would have forever.  I wanted you to know how important you are to me and how much I love you.
You are so special to me.  The first day that I saw you was one of the greatest days of my life.  I loved you the minute that I knew about  you and the love has just grown and grown every day after that.  I want you to be happy and healthy in your heart, body, and soul.
I’ll love you forever.”
You are so awesome and amazing.  You can accomplish great things.  You have so much ability and have shown how strong you are.  I love you more and more each day.
Never forget that.
Be awesome all the time.

Gratitude is a big part of recovery and
so are goals, so this page is for those
two things.
My husband wrote:
“Congratulations, you have made it to one year sobriety.  I’m very proud of you for staying with the program.
I’m very excited about your new talents of drawing photography, and carving.
I will admit it has been a very difficult year for me watching you go through all you have gone through.  I really missed the boy you used to be.
But, I like the achievements you are making and see the old you slowly coming back.  I want you to know that I love you very much.  I look forward to the day that you and I can have our relationship back as father and son.  You are a great son.
You are loved by many and will be loved by many more through your life as you serve others.  Your grandfather would be proud of you this day.
As you move forward in your life always remember your Heavenly Father is there for you. I’m there for you also if you need my help.  Continue to move successfully forward towards a great life.
Congratulations again.
Love, Your Dad”

Just a page for inspiration.
His sponsor wrote him this awesome letter. 
“I am so very thankful to have you in my life.  That may not mean much to you, but you do mean the world to me.  I consider you something like a little brother I never had.
Life for a fifteen-year-old isn’t easy.  The difficulties are compounded even more when the fifteen-year-old is attempting to live sober.  In the last year, you have proven yourself to be an intelligent and worthwhile person without drugs.  At this time, you have absolutely no lid upon your life.  You can be whoever you wish to be.  The only caveat is that you are willing to put in the time and effort to make your dreams a reality.  Of course, that includes staying sober—one day at a time.
I know it is tough at times, but all you need to do is look around; there are so many people who care immensely for you and want nothing but the best for you.  I told you the other night that you are one of the smartest people I know.  I hope you know I do not say that lightly.  I try never to say anything I do not mean.  I am so proud of you.  However, as you know, you need to start working harder in everything you do.  Always do your best!  Ninety percent of life is stepping up to the plate, five percent is being willing to fail, and the last five is being willing to swing again.  All your dreams will come true if you continue to work at your life.
Believe in yourself because everyone else believes in you.  If ten people are telling you something you do not know, then you don’t know something those ten people know.  You have a friend in me.  I promise you, I will always be there for you if you choose to have me.  I expect great things from you.  You have no excuses from here on out not to be an amazing person.  You already are, but there is always plenty of work to be done, especially when it comes to your life. 
Happy sober birthday, buddy!”

I liked a lot of the things that his sponsor said, like:  "You need to start working harder in everything you do." 
"All your dreams will come true if you continue to work at your life." 
"You have no excuses from here on out not to be an amazing person.  You already are, but there is always plenty of work to be done, especially when it comes to your life."

So, we celebrated one year from one of the hardest days of all of our lives. 

He is sober.

He is healing, but the phrase recovering addict says a lot.  I think the recovering part is ongoing.  The "getting your life back on track phase" is going to be a long, long process for him and may not even happen for many years.

For now, he will just take another 24.

And so will I.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


My son doesn’t talk about his feelings.  He doesn’t talk about anything.  Sometimes getting 20 words resembling conversation out of him in a day is tricky--unless he is raging about something.

There are a lot of things that I would like to talk to him about and many questions that I would like to ask. 

But, thinking them is one thing and asking them is another.  There is a saying that goes, “Don’t ask any question that you don’t want to know the answer to.”

That seems to fit in with one aspect of my life right now.  I am terrified to ask the question “Are you on anything, or using anything?”  I am actually more afraid of the reaction to the question than I am afraid of the answer.

One of the reasons that we don’t talk very much anymore is because he doesn’t like me or my husband to ask him questions and so we don’t have very many ways to start a conversation.  And, when I ask a question, I don’t know if will I even be able to believe the answer, if I will get a straight answer, if I will even get an answer, or if I will get his rehearsed answers.  Nobody ever learns anything when he just gives the rehearsed answer.  But, it makes me just as crazy when he gives the answer that he thinks people want to hear.  All of the people who care about him and want to help him—myself, friends and family, his sponsor, his school counselor, his therapist, and his doctors—don’t have any idea of what he really is thinking and feeling.

I hardly ever ask him questions about school anymore.  I don’t even dare ask how each class is going, what homework or assignments he has, and if there is anything that he needs help with.  He just bites my head off every time I express any concern over school.

Since I was pretty sure he would run into people from his past at his high school,  one of the questions that I have asked him a couple of times is:  “If you get the urge to use, or someone tries to get you to—would you call me or your sponsor so that we could talk you through it or come and get you?”

The rehearsed answer: “I would call you, or my sponsor and there isn’t really anybody who is going to ask me to.”  Okay, I hope I can believe that.

One of my other questions:  “Have you seen anyone from your using days?” 

He usually says, “Not really.”  But, once, he admitted that he had seen some of those people, and all they do is nod at each other.

I wish he could/would make some new, awesome friends, so I asked him if he had found anyone to hang out with at school during lunch.

He answered, “Yeah, but I don’t know any of their names.” 

He doesn’t know the names of the people that he hangs out with every day?  Has he never asked or heard anyone’s name in conversation?  Does he just not care?  Or, is there another reason that he doesn’t want to tell me the names of kids he might be associating with?

One day, he called me from school and asked me to bring his hacky sack to him at the beginning of his lunch period.  When I pulled up to the curb in front of the school, he said, “I can’t talk to you because if I don’t hurry, I won’t be able to hang out with J*** at lunch.” 

Well, there is a name.  I know who J*** is.  He has always acted as if my son is just a friend of his other friends and that is all.  They weren’t first-hand friends before rehab.  Some people have said that J*** is a pot-head.  Others have said that he is one of the kids who is clean, clean, clean. 

I wish I knew what to think about J***.  It would be nice to know if he was sober or not. 

After school the next day, my son told me that someone stole his hacky sac out of his back pack while he was talking to a teacher. 

I realize that this could be a believable story.  However, there is one little part of me says, “Or, he traded it for something.”  It was a $10.00 hacky sac.  It could have some value in the world for getting what you want if you are not allowed to hold or keep real money.

Once again, feelings of doubt override feelings of trust.

Another kid from his using days is in his World Civilizations class.  My son told me about him when he mentioned that they are working on a project together.  Great.  If there were 5 kids that I would not want my newly clean and sober child hanging out with, Z*** could be at the top of the list.  There would be no working on this project outside of school together as far as I was concerned.  I was prepared to raise holy heck if that were required by the teacher.  This kid just exudes a "don't trust me" demeanor.  I KNOW that Z*** is a user.  I have seen him blatantly walking around with a glow-stick hanging around his neck claiming to wear them because he just likes glow-sticks.  Yeah, Z*** and you like a little ecstasy with your glow stick, too.  Z*** is one of those kids who has the freedom that my son used to sneak around to get, except Z*** doesn’t have to sneak around.  I wouldn’t put it past him to try to get my son to relapse. 

Other than having to work on this project in World Civ with Z***, does my son just give him the nod that he gives other past “using” friends?  Or do they talk outside of class?

What really goes on at school every day?  Is everything about it starting to  get to him?  Does all of the work, the atmosphere, the challenges, the peer pressure, or other aspects of it contribute to the increased swearing and over-reacting that has been happening a lot lately?

He said that nothing was going on to cause any of it, just that he was very, very bored and that swearing is one of the only things he has.  He has said that several times, and the only thing I can think of is that it is his control issue.  I can’t MAKE him stop swearing, so swearing is one of the ways he shows that he has power.  And, he knows that it bothers me to hear the F-bomb and he knows that it hurts me to be called names.  So, he even has power over me.

In my mind I scream, “Oh, okay.  You want to feel control over something in your life and you are bored.  Go ahead and swear about every little thing, then.  Over-react to every question you are asked or to every comment that people make that you don’t like.  Be bored, and don’t try to get a life or get out of your safe little box and try to make new friends.  Don’t explore other possibilities of entertainment that aren't just playing video games.  Just be bored and swear a lot.” 

I wish that wasn’t how he felt, though. 

The solitary little box that he has created for himself probably feels safe.  In the box, nobody can entice him to do things he knows he shouldn’t be doing, or at least things that he knows will get him sent back to rehab, or worse.  It is his safety zone.  He could feel that the box helped him stay sober for the last 11 months.

Is he still taking it one day at a time?  Or is he just going through the motions and passively coasting through life because he doesn't think there isn’t anything else to do, BUT go THROUGH it?  Is he afraid to actually try to LIVE life?  Is the fear of going back to rehab the biggest motivation to stay clean?

Is it easier to watch life go by without really engaging in it?  I hope not.  I hope he soon realizes that there are many good things out there waiting for him to discover and enjoy.  I wish I knew how to get him to see the wonderful things in the world that are just outside his box.

Is he satisfied with being content, feeling nothing else?  Just going with the flow unless someone comes up with a request, thought, idea, or comment that interrupts his rhythm?  Are there times when he is actually happy?  Because rarely have I seen sheer happiness about anything (unless it is a new X-Box game and even that doesn’t seem to give him any kind of lasting happiness). 

Does he even know how to BE happy anymore?   

Was he happy even before he used drugs?  Maybe he wasn’t.  I have no idea how long he had untreated depression.  Maybe that is one of the reasons that he started using.  This kind of thinking gets me into the blaming myself mode where I think that if I had just figured out how to deal with his defiance better, then maybe we would have had a better relationship, we all could have been happier, and he wouldn't have gotten depressed.

So, now, I think in a lot of ways he is just going along with not returning to his old “using” life again.  It doesn’t necessarily make him feel any joy and it doesn’t necessarily make him feel any sadness.  He is just a kid who used to use drugs and now he doesn’t.  Somehow he needs to find a way to be more than that.

Well, we did everything we could to get him off drugs, but what do we do now to get him to find out who he is and what he can do with his life?  How can we advise him and help him?

How do we know what he is thinking?

Because we don’t ask very many questions.

So questions don’t get answered.

And there is a lot of silence.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I hadn’t gotten to the point where I felt good about leaving my son home alone.  Which meant that if I had to go somewhere at any time that he was home, I had to either take him with me, or wait until my husband got home, so that I could go without him.  

I didn't know how to just start trusting him to be home alone after all that has happened.  I had trusted him completely before I knew that he used drugs.  Now, I have this huge fear that something, or someone, or some situation is going to cause him to relapse.  I just wanted to keep him protected.

But, eventually, there had to come a time when I would have no choice but to leave him home by himself. 

One afternoon, I had to take someone to get an X-ray.  My son refused to go with me and I had to let go and try to trust.  I wish I would have come up with a plan for this situation, but it was an emergency and I didn't even have time to think. 

I was between a rock and a hard place.  I knew that if I insisted that he go with me, we would have a big war about how I didn't trust him to stay home.

I should have been smart enough to say, “Fine, you can stay alone, but I will be drug-testing you tonight.” 

I didn’t do that.  Why didn't I do that? 

During the 3 hours that I was gone, I called him twice, but since I couldn’t see him, how would I know whether he was as fine as he said he was? Or what “fine” even meant.

When we went to dinner and a movie as a family later that night, he sure acted a lot more closed off than he had been lately and I noticed that his eyes were REALLY red.  I don’t know what his eyes looked like before I left. I still forget to look him in the eye as much as I should.

I know the logical thing would have been to drug test him that night.  I wish I would have.  But, there is a part of me that now lives in fear of out-of-control reactions over a drug test. 

I pictured this: “I can’t believe you couldn’t trust me to be alone after all this time.  You will never have any f-in trust for me.  You are always going to treat me like I am two years old.  This is B.S. etc., etc., etc.”

Here I am the parent and I am afraid of my own child’s reactions so much, that I don't do the right thing when I really need to—like drug test him when I feel like I should.  I just don't know how to be the parent of a recovering teenage addict. 

It's too darn hard.

And then, two days later, he wanted to stay home alone again for 2 hours, while my husband and I were at church.  He is a master manipulator who takes one experience and then uses it to his advantage another time until he gets to do things that you never intended to let him do--like stay home from church.  But, his reasoning for finally being able to skip church was: “I stayed home alone on Friday with no problems and I should be allowed to stay home alone again."
I had no way of knowing if he was telling the truth about staying home alone on Friday with no problems or not because I dropped the ball on drug testing him.

I am afraid that I won't be able to trust him again soon enough for him.  I am afraid that I can't be the parent that he needs me to be, or that I need to be.  I am afraid of his reactions.

I have to get over all the fear.

How hard can it be?

For me?

Very hard.