Saturday, February 6, 2010

Early warning signs & beginning tips for parents of drug addicts.

I'm going to skip back a few topics--to the beginning, where I began to discuss how I felt, when I first learned that my son was using drugs. Only this time, I'm remembering this 22 months later, from a totally different perspective. 

I've had some interesting chats with parents of students, where I work.  I'm still trying to hone down my story, in as short of a time span that I can.  My job isn't to counsel, parents, but I can't help myself!  I so wish I could share my story with them.  I can already visualize so many of you nodding your heads. Yes, you do, too.

Over a year ago, I sat with with the high school principal, who is also my boss.  I shut his door, and told him that I am the mother of a drug addict.  I wanted M to know that I had a blog, and that he had permission to refer any parent to me.  He offered me genuine sympathy (which wasn't what I was seeking). In short, M asked me a profound question-- he asked me what would I tell a parent who is in the early stages of discovery-- of the Big Evil Dark Secret.  I thought very carefully... and it's hard to pinpoint what the best starting place is.  So, I'm going to write down some key points:

Accept it.  Yes, that's it.  If your high school principal calls you, to tell you that your student was busted with drugs, don't blame the school.

Accept that no matter how seedy your kid's friend(s) are, they did not hog tie and for your kid to use drugs. YOUR kid made that choice!

Learn.  My son had all kinds of concocted stories about the drugs he was using.  I had no idea what oxycontin looked like. I had no idea what heroin looked like-- other than movies and photos of a syringe being plunged into a vein.  There are countless blogs and websites on drugs. Read!

Trust your sources - use your common sense.  Talk to people with common sense.  Believe it or not, addicts who have been clean and sober for a long period of time (years) have been more than willing to educate me.  Addicts, who are truly wanting to live a life of sobriety, want to help others from making their mistakes.  Sometimes statistics and advice can be confusing... just read my comments!

Get on the same page as your child's other parent--  this is really tough.  I know parents, who are living under the same roof-- who handle things differently.  Your drug addict child, most likely, has learned how to manipulate.  Parents need to be united.  In my case, my son's father and I are divorced and lived in separate households. This was one of the biggest obstacles.  My only advice is that YOU educate yourself, find support and learn how to set boundaries.  That's what I had to do-- and it took a few years to reap the rewards.

Find support groups who understand drug addiction-  This is so important! Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, CODA, Celebrate Recovery (church groups) have plenty of websites to help you find one of these groups.  Try different groups-- more than once-- which is exactly what I did.  If you've never been to one, please know that this is not an arena where people will tell you what to do.  The format is that the meeting has specific guidelines, and they will review this at the beginning of each meeting.  First names are only used-- just like on my blog.  This is anonymous.  One person speaks, at a time.  Nobody else may speak. Nobody may offer advice.  The format allows each person an opportunity to "share".  You will discover that you are not alone.  You will make friends.  At the end of each meeting, you can have coffee and chat with those who stay. This is where you can have a personal conversation.

This format doesn't work for me-- and I say this, in all honesty.  I am not saying that I don't like these groups. I am saying that I lack patience with people who speak for a long time.  I have no patience for prattling (says she who writes long posts).  I have an even worse time with people who whine about the same thing ,over and over again.  I'm not giving up, and I will try a new Nar-Anon, that just started in my area.  I live in a small community, where meetings are very scarce.  I also want to say that I know plenty of people who love these kinds of meetings. It has saved their life. So, bottom line, please go-- try it, give it a chance, and I pray this is your answer.

If you can afford to see a licensed Marriage Family Therapist, who specializes in drug addiction, please go!  My husband and I did this, and it was helpful.  My son went, without us.  Then all three of us got together.  That didn't go well, because my son was lying and still using. The therapist knew it, too.  I didn't like her, and didn't go back after a while. In retrospect, I didn't want to hear what she had to say.  You see?  It's very easy to become offended and you can easily have a mental meltdown at the stress of it all.

Most importantly,  it does absolutely no good to yell at your kid, punish, threaten nor belittle them.  I say this, because I've resorted to this.  Odds are, your drug addict child, most likely feels like they are a worthless piece of doo-doo, as it is.  I'm not saying that you need to do nothing!  Of course, there are consequences and we can't enable our kid's addiction.  At times, I felt like covering my ears with my hands, closing my eyes and yelling "na na na na" at the top of my voice. I've lost plenty of sleep and cried many tears of worry and sorrow. 

Understand that, unless your own close friends and family are drug addicts or live with one-- they really won't know the right thing to say.  Some will judge you, because they don't understand.  Most of the judgment comes from ignorance.  I not a perfect mom, but I tried to raise my son with Christian morals.  Still, my son got hooked on drugs.  What works for one addict, might not necessarily work for the other.  Sobriety is hard work-- for the addict and for the parent. 

If you can get your drug addict into a treatment program, that's awesome!  By the grace of God, we had health insurance. It cost $36,000.00 for a 30-day treatment program.  Our share of the cost was $3600.00.  Yes, amen.  When my son left rehab, my best friend let my son stay with them.  "C" is in "the program" with many successful years of sobriety. God bless them, they let my son stay for one month, while we looked for an SLE (Sober Living Environment). The cost was $600.00 per month, plus food and expenses.  It's not cheap.  My son stayed clean for six months.  He was totally pumped up, and so was I.

Pray.  Ask people to pray.  Spiritual Strength = Spiritual Fitness.  You will need all the strength you can find to get through this.  This ride goes on for a very long time-- years...even a lifetime. 

It is so frustrating that families who cannot afford a treatment program are left feeling helpless.  There are places that can be affordable, so don't give up!  Teen Challenge America is one of them.  Most "free" or "reduced" cost programs tend to be Christian based.  If you don't want to do the "Jesus" thing, hopefully you can find a non-denominational place.  Overall, most of these Christian programs don't force you to be a Christian. Ask.

I cannot stress enough, how crucial it is for you to be a safe place where you drug addict can come to. By that, you need to learn to listen.  If your drug addict can begin to feel that you are listening, and you are wanting to understand, it's a step in the right direction.  I attended four-hour classes on addiction, at my son's treatment center.  I learned so much! 

I will close for now-- and next talk about some of the worst case scenarios of living with with drug addict....from stealing to jail.  I count my many blessings that my son never got arrested-- and believe me, he's had close calls.  My son never resorted to stealing a LOT-- but he certainly conned me into giving him money, and he's dipped into $20.00 here and there.  He's not Mother Theresa!

My son's treatment center told us that B had about a 3% chance of not relapsing.  Opioids are a bitch of a habit to break.  I will never fully understand what that's like.  I do understand that the odds of my son relapsing again....still... over and over again... are very high.  I've known addicts who were clean for 10 plus years, and they relapsed.  Fortunately, the longer they stay clean and understand what to do if they relapse-- they usually clean up and move on.

One of the the biggest misunderstandings/misconceptions that I had so many months ago-- I thought my son would be "cured".  By that, I figured he would go to meetings, get a sponsor and he'd make it.  I pray that drug addiction/alcoholism can find a permanent cure.  For now, we all hope that our addicts will find a treatment program that will help them to find an escape hatch-- when the overwhelming need to use comes knocking.

Drug addiction is a demon-- that waits to pounce, and tempt, and lie and steal.

It's the devil.

SIDE NOTE: It appears that the general consensus is that my son might do better to stay on methadone for an indefinite period of time.  Know what?  It's my son's decision to make.  I have to step back, and let him find his way.  I can never fully understand what he's going through.


Tom at said...

I think the posts and comments on methadone have been very good. Medication-assisted treatment doesn't get talked about enough.

It's not a good thing that a parent who cares deeply and has made a lot of effort to become knowledgeable about opiate dependence is just now getting a real working knowledge about medication-assisted treatment.

The four hour class at the treatment center didn't do it. The many 12 step groups didn't do it. The counselor didn't do it.

I'm not finding fault with parents at all. Far from it. I'm finding fault with the programs and professionals.

I work with people who are opiate dependent and their families all the time who have been involved in treatment and recovery programs for years, and still don't have a basic understanding of medication-assisted treatment.

Why is that? Especially when MAT is the most effective type of treatment for opiate dependence.

How can people make informed decisions about treatment and recovery without understanding all of their options?

Kudos to you for making the effort to learn about MAT and provide a place where other parents can learn with you.

And Amen! to your statement that the decision about how long to continue MAT with methadone is your son's decision to make.

The only thing I would add is that his ability to make an informed decision depends on his learning about how methadone treatment works, and what research shows about likely outcomes.

He will then be able to consider his own situation and experience in context, and make his decision.

No one choice is the right choice for everyone. In my work, I don't make choices for clients. I educate them about their own choices so that they have the information they need to have a true choice. And then I support matter what.

Methadone treatment has its own limitations and problems (something I am writing about on my own blog...the bad along with the good).

My suggestion for any parent is to learn, help your son or daughter learn, let them make their decisions, and support matter what.

Angelo said...

Great great great blog. I don't know to many people who are not addicts or studied addiction behavior that really understands addiction as you do. Maybe not understand addiction but "the behavior of it". I'm sure B is going to take the choice to stay on methadone once he feels the withdrawel of the detox. This is great that he doesn't make much money and just enough for the rent because IMO extra money would be a setback. IMO is is OK that you help him with food items especially because of the diabetes and I believe it is not enabling at all. Your saving his life. The longer he is clean (even on methadone he is clean) because he is functioning and his time isn't consumed with the obsession to use. The methadone is only a medicine like his insulin is. It is not substituting one drug for another like people say. I hate that statement. Once again, a great blog post.

Cheri said...


You have such a wealth of information here. I want to encourage you again that your blog is such an incredible "ministry" to parents on this journey.

Once again, I can relate to everything you said, and I thank you for sharing it. I have placed your blog on the sidebar at Glass House Ministries so that anyone who drops in there will have an opportunity to find you and be blessed as I have been.

Thanks for your transparency and openness.


A Mom's Serious Blunder said...

Oh My...I am in trouble. I am so glad I have found your blog. When and if you decide to read my blog, I think it will bring back memories of how bad things must have been. I am currently living your "old" nightmare and I can not tell you how hopeful it makes me feel to see that things can be different. That your son has made progress.

LisaC said...

It has taken me so long to learn, to accept, to understand, and not to enable. And day in and day out, I feel like I'm fighting an addiction...the addiction to love him into recovery (codependency). What a wonderful amount of information you provided here. Thank you.