Friday, April 25, 2008

Dirty little secret

What an interesting title today, huh?

I work at a public high school. I love teenagers. I know that sounds strange to parents who are trying to deal with their darling child who is morphing into a creature they no longer recognize. I just find teenagers to be interesting-- they need to know that not all adults consider them to be trouble. They aren't. They need guidance, encouragement and a lot of patience. Humor helps, too. Teenagers can make me laugh, and I get that every single day at my job.

I remember, clearly, when B turned 12. That sweet child of mine began to talk back to me-- at times, with a sassy mouth. It was then, that I realized my mother's curse had come to fruition. I was now the mother of a "tween" and the battle of the wills had just been set. Check. Checkmate.

Because I had a very controlling mom I wanted to be different. I wasn't allowed to have friends over at my house. No sleepovers. No dinner guests. I wanted to be the kind of mom who would keep an eye on B's friends. My secret weapon was my kitchen. I allowed B to have friends over at our humble home, and I would bake cookies and feed these hormonal creatures. Of course, my mommy periscope was fully extended. My ears were fine-tuned to listen to what they were saying. I figured that the best way to keep an eye on my son, was to encourage him to hang out at home with his friends.

I really wanted to be a "cool" mom, but I'm just not. At least, I'm not a "cool mom" in my teenager's eyes. I once remember my son saying how "thin" and "hot" one of his friend's mom is. Self consciously, I could only tug my t-shirt to cover my behind, that suddenly felt like I'd grown an extra one. My hairline was in bad need of touching up the gray hairs that were taking over. I didn't dare try to speak their lingo and my jokes got eyeballs rolling. I had to face reality-- the only thing I had to offer these boys, with big appetites, was what I could bake. I had to settle for being a "June Cleaver" kind of mom. I wasn't pretty, I wasn't thin, and I wasn't a spring chicken.

I sometimes miss the activity of coming home, only to find sets of huge sneakers and skateboards at my front door. When B turned 16, he bought a starter car from a small sum of money his grandmother left him when she passed away. Everything changed when he got the freedom of a car. I found less sneakers at my front door, and less of B's physical presence. Instead, I'd see traces of his tornado presence with evidence of B's raiding the refrigerator, wet bath towels and unfinished laundry in the washer. I should have bought a dairy cow to keep up with how fast the gallons of milk would disappear. He was home(a lot)less, but he always checked in and kept his curfews. To this day, he reminds me how ridiculous my curfews were. I'm hoping that when he is a parent-- 20 years from now-- that he will see that I was trying to be a responsible mom.

By the time B turned 17...and then 18, B would occasionally ask if a friend could stay at our house as a "safe house". B would tell me that his friend got kicked out of his mom or dad's house. I always suspected that there were three sides to the story-- the kids', the parent and the Truth". As long as the parent talked to me, I would allow a one-night stay. While I couldn't be a "cool" mom, I hoped that I would be a Godly mom who would try to listen to these kids. I would pray for that kid, though they never knew it.

I never imagined that some of these boys, who once traded Pokemon cards with B would eventually become addicted to drugs-- cocaine and mainly oxycontin. Sadly, several of these kids have since been through rehabs, are homeless and addicted to heroin. One of them is in prison for home invasion, directly linked to drugs. Most of these kids come from affluent homes. Many come from two-parent homes-- so that breaks the stigma that single parents breed troubled kids. No matter what, these kids helped me to discover how much I hoped to be a safe place for them to talk to. My heart goes out to them. The pressure of being a teenager, today, is even tougher than my generation...or the generation before. The June Cleaver family values are declining in our country. I see it happening at my school job, on TV, music and movies. B eventually bought into that whole "gangsta" culture that are connected with glorifying drugs and crime. But, that's another topic for a later time...

So, here I am-- the mother of a 19 1/2 year old son. He has not lived with me for almost a year, now. I never imagined that my son would relapse, secretly, into using opiates again. I believed B was doing okay, because he told me so. I was deceived, because his addiction was lying to him. I did not know the depth of B's addiction until he hit "bottom", just 25 days ago.

This time, I'm going to meetings for friends and family of addiction, at least twice a week. I am becoming stronger, and feeling no shame that my son is in this situation. Those who really care about me feel concern. Those who judge me...well, that's their own ignorant right. I am taking Bs addiction to opiates very seriously, this time. I can no longer numb my fear and look away, hoping that B will do this on his own. He can't. He had to say "yes" to checking in to a treatment center. I am now 110% convinced, that an addict cannot heal themselves. Addicts must accept the first step-- that they are powerless over their addiction. They cannot keep this a secret. They need love, support, encouragement and help. We need to educate ourselves on how to help them, without enabling them.

Addiction is a dirty little secret-- from the addict's sneaky ways of feeding the addiction-- to a loved ones shame that they feel. Addiction is a fact-- it's that 1000 pound gorilla that was always with my son and me, whenever we were in a room together. We couldn't talk about it. During the time he was lying to me about his problem, I felt as though we were completely disconnected, as mother and son. Now I know, that B had a dirty little secret he couldn't talk to me about. I didn't know just how far he had spiraled--to the point that he was pawning his personal items to afford the drugs his brain craved. I didn't understand how afraid he was of the pain of withdrawal. I though the the prescribed drugs he was taking was going to help B to stop using oxycontin. The dirty truth has come out, now that he has confessed a lot of things to me in recent counseling sessions at the treatment center.

I wish that I had known then, what I know now. Now that I've sat through three group classes-- with family and the addicts, I am hearing the raw truth about withdrawals. I finally understand how dangerous withdrawals can be-- and potentially fatal. I am told, by the addicts, that the pain can be son excrutiating that they fear withdrawal more than anything else.

I truly believe, that the only way an addict can begin to find a way out of this terrible cycle is to detox, and then begin to learn how to deal with the cravings that are inevitable. They need to do this with the help of the 12-steps and professionals who specialize in addiction.

Now that this dirty little secret is out in the open, that 1000 pound gorilla is gone between us. B and I are beginning a new path together. I am there, to encourage him, but I remain an imperfect human being. I might blow it and say something wrong, but I am trying to understand him. He has a lot of habits that go with addiction-- mostly lies and not keeping promises. I love him, and that will never change. I have good days and I have bad days. Today, I'm happy to see him tonight...but I am ready for battle stations. It won't be easy to stand up against manipulation. It's all part of the territory.



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