Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Reflections on my son-- the drug addict and a wonderful and hopeful update on him!

Today, I wrote a tribute to my own mother, who passed on to heaven in 2002, and shared it on my personal facebook. Our relationship wasn't quite as loving as I wish it could have been. There are times when I read magazines articles, that features a shot of a mother and daughter posing cheek-to-cheeck. They are each other's best friends.

I didn't quite have that, growing up. My mother was a good mother, mind you.  I have no doubt that she loved me, and my two brothers. In some ways, she was a victim of her own childhood. It took many years for me to fully appreciate how a beautiful young teenager's life was affected by growing up in a Bavarian town that was bombed by the Americans during World War II. I cannot imagine the horrors of war that my mother witnessed. She didn't have a good relationship with her own mother, and was raised by her grandmother-- whom she loved. My mother ended up marrying an American soldier, who promised her the moon and the stars, as she followed him to the United States. My father didn't quite deliver those promises. He also surprised her with plenty of punches, slaps and both verbal and physical abuse.  I began to realize that this explained why my mother was such an angry women and why she would take it out on her kids, whom she truly loved. She had no problem hitting me with cooking spoons, rug beaters or her fists. Consequently, I developed an inner rage and (misguided) hatred towards my mother.

All of these things left scars in my life. Fortunately, today, I have found healing and forgiveness-- and even redemption, by the faith that I found in Jesus Christ in 1996.  Today, I can fully appreciate the sacrifices that my mother made to make sure that her three children were well educated, fed, and clothed when she finally divorced my father when we were young teenagers. 'Nuff said on my own childhood, because I want this post to speak to the mothers (and fathers) of drug addicts.

While my postings have become fewer and farther in between, I still receive occasional emails from parents of all walks of life-- police officers, teachers, lawyers, secretaries... you name it, I've read their tragic and desperate stories. I feel powerless to give them the hope and solutions that they so desperately need. I can only empathize and I try to share my journey through this blog.

When I first discovered that my son had a drug addiction problem, in 2008, I had absolutely no idea! I missed every single warning, every single red flag and I felt like a failure as a mother. Can you identify with that?

In retrospect, I missed a lot of the obvious signs that there was trouble brewing.  His school grades had plummeted. His attendance was becoming sporadic.  Following in my mother's footsteps, my 17 year marriage to B's father collapsed.  B's father and I had totally different parenting styles. My son learned to take advantage of this. His father would excuse his absences, blame the teachers for his failing grades. I, on the other hand, found myself overwhelmed with trying to keep my business alive, eeking by a living and barely able to pay my bills. The bill collectors were beginning to circle above my head, and my son was giving me a hard time.  I can remember my anger and resentment towards my son's teenage behavior. I felt like I had lost control and at times, I was just too tired to battle with him. At times, I think I just wasn't there for him. Self-blame, I know.

My mother was a very opinionated and judgmental woman.  As a result, I inherited a lot of her traits. I used to judge other parents whose kids had gone down the road of perdition. When a very close friend's son was charged with murder, by shooting a teenager at party that had gotten out of control-- and worse, "gang charges" were added to the mix-- my first thought was "Well, it's her fault. She was too busy working and wasn't keeping a close enough eye on the boy."

I was so wrong. I was too quick to judge that mom.  I take it all back, and I'm sorry. She did everything she could, as best as she could.  Her son, simply got caught up with the wrong friends. He was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. He had never been in trouble before. He had a 4.0GPA.  He says things "just happened".  Only God knows the total truth, but I have relinquished my judgement attitude towards his mom. Her heart is broken, and he won't get out of prison for at least 25 years.

I know a Christian family where the parent have been blissfully married for 35 years. They have three children, who have all grown up to be strong in their faith in God. One even married a preacher! They are all college graduates, and truly very beautiful and handsome young adults, now. This mother posts a lot of photos of her kids, on Facebook. I see photos of her walking, hand-in-hand, with her financially successful husband. They're in Italy, or some exotic island.  I see the videos of her beautiful young grand children, and her pride in them sometimes makes me feel envy.  Then, I remind myself, that's very wrong. I should be very happy for them.

I work with a woman who has three children. They are agnostics.  But, their kids are very similar to the Christian family. They're wonderful young adults and the family is very close. I call them her "stepford children".

Why do some children turn out to be so "perfect", yet, I know families with similar dynamics, and their children take a completely different path? One of my pastors experienced this himself.  My son kept telling me that his daughter is an alcoholic and drug addict. He went to school with her, and said they crossed into the same circles of addiction.  A few years later, this pastor stood before all of us and shared that they just found out the depths of their daughter's addiction. He shared, with tears in his eyes, how they received an emergency call and found their daughter completely strung out-- with pills and empty bottles of alcohol in her bedroom. Praise God, she is also clean and sober for one year.

So, you see? Drug addiction hits all walks of life. Addiction takes no prisoners.

Six years later, I have learned to stop blaming myself.  Sometimes, my memory dredges up some incidents where I wish I had handled things differently. Why didn't I search my son's closet and backpack? My son says I would have found his stash. He says he had thousands of dollars hidden, from his drug dealing days. (Did he? Is he exaggerating? I don't know...)  But, what then? How would I have handled it? Would I have gotten angry and grounded him? Would I have had the courage to call the cops on him?

Was my divorce part of the reason my son "self-medicated"? Did I destroy my son's self-esteem when I'd lose my temper and yell at him? Yes, the behavior I experienced from my parents did affect the way I parented my son.  I wince, when I look back at those moments.

For me, the changing point in my life, was the day that I realized I believed that God is real. I began to read the bible, from A-Z and to study the word. I began to, earnestly, seek the truth and I discovered that there is plenty of evidence that validates the truth of scripture.  It's been a difficult battle, because once someone proclaims their faith in Jesus, I had to learn to defend those who considered me to be -- well, let's see... on this blog I've been named "a fool... misguided...stupid..f$$$ed up".  Fortunately, I've grown a thick skin, and so I just let them throw that stuff at me, and it slides right off.

I regret that neither one of my parents learned the healing that comes with forgiveness. My father's rage came from being sexually abused as a child, plus the horrors of war he experienced fighting the Japanese in World War II. It really messed him up.   If only my mother had learned to forgive her parents of their own parental failures, and my father for how he treated her-- her rage might've been diffused. I believe that her anger robbed her of truly enjoying life as it was meant to be.

As for me, God taught me the power and healing that comes with forgiveness.  I learned to forgive both of my parents, and I did not use the physical violence on my own son that I endured.  That cycle is now broken. Amen.

I'm so thankful that I was "saved" in 2006.  Otherwise, when my son's drug addiction came into our lives-- like a Category 5 hurricane-- I doubt that my life would not have changed for the better because of it.

Yes, that's right. My son's drug addiction made me a better person, friend, wife and mother. My son's addiction tested my marriage to B's stepfather. We survived, by the Grace of God.  C has been a supportive stepparent, and I love him all the more for it.

I have learned that my judgment on other parents was very, very wrong. I have grown far more compassionate towards trouble teens, which works out perfect for the career path that God put me in. Since 2006, I now work in the counseling office at a public high school!

The way that I talk to my son has changed, dramatically. That "willful" and bossy tone that I learned from my mother, has been leashed.  I no longer resort to raising my voice to my son, when I'm angry. That doesn't mean I don't try to share my advice, from my own experience. Of course, he's now 25 years old, and that wouldn't work anyway!

Am I a perfect mom now? No, not at all.  Sometimes, my own self-doubt creeps into my thoughts, where I question where I went wrong in raising my son.  Despite these times of self-doubt, my son does know this... he knows that I love him.   I still think I share some blame, but he reminds me that it was his choice to use drugs. He reminds me that I didn't force him to take those first pills, or to buy the heroin. 

Other than seeing our own drug addicted child (no matter what their age) in the throes of withdrawal, or know they are incarcerated (thank you, God, this never happened to my son)  -- or, the worst of all-- losing your own child's life to drugs or alcohol addiction--

Well, the worst part of this ordeal, for me was having to kick my son to the curb in the hopes that he would hit rock bottom.  For me, that was the most painful part of all.  As a loving mother, how can the "rehab experts" advise me that I needed to cut my son off and let the consequences fall onto him?

This goes against the  nature for any mother!  It is in my DNA to protect and nurture my son.  When I think back to the day that I had to tell my son to pack his things and leave, the pain resurfaces. I couldn't even look at his room. My wonderful husband (B's stepfather) packed up his things, so I wouldn't see them.

I digress.

Today, my son is truly clean and sober!  Six weeks ago, he quit taking suboxone, under the guidance of a physician.  Obamacare was the catalyst for this. My son switched over to Obamacare and they will not cover the cost of suboxone. His boss agreed to give him 2 weeks off work (without pay). He packed up all of his prescriptions for anxiety, sleeplessness and the suboxone and asked us to get rid of it. He asked us to, no matter how much he begged, not give it to him.

He went through about two weeks of hell (which took a total of 3 weeks off work), but with the help of Dr. Junig and his website "Suboxone Forum", B was able to get the support that he needed.  B weighed 129 pounds, at 6'4.  He says the suboxone made him feel listless and he didn't really eat much. I was really worried for him, as his cheeks looked sunken in and his long legs looked so bony.

Today, he is up to 147 pounds, lifting weights, and eating like a horse.  His skin looks healthy, and he's beginning to have a social life. He's doing far less online "gaming" and spending more time voraciously reading books.

I got an early Mother's Day present, last Thursday. B showed up at my office (for the first time in 3 years) and I couldn't help but "show him off" by re-introducing him to my co-workers.  The last time they saw B, he was strung out and covering his face with a hoodie. This time, he was dressed in his work clothes, and he was personable and I was so proud of him.

B and I both know that my son isn't cured of his addiction. He says that he has absolutely no cravings for drugs. On occasion, he suffers from "PAWS" and has hot flashes and then cold shivers. He has lost touch with all the "friend" connections that he used with.

Best of all, I am slowly seeing my son developing an awareness of responsibility. He's beginning to understand the importance of being financially responsible, and he's sharing his hopes and dreams for the future.   When he is ready, I hope that one day, a women would love my son for the person that he is-- and that she will become like a daughter to me. But, that can wait. My son's recovery is what's most important to me.

This is the best Mother's Day that I could ask for. That you, God, for setting my son free of the bondage of addiction by ridding him of all the prescription drug "bandaids".  I am thankful that I have learned to be a better mother, by learning how to lift my son up instead of tearing him down.  I have learned to recognize when I'm lured into being codependent or enablling.  I am learning to let my son live his life on his own terms. When he makes mistakes, I cannot fix them. He needs to learn from them. That is not easy for me, because my nature is to teach and lecture.

I pray for you parents, who are at the end of your rope.  Maybe your child is not at that point, of wanting to help themselves.  Maybe you are at that point, where you have to kick your child to the curb.  I do know that anxiety all too well.

May you find the spiritual strength you will need.  I'm so sorry. I truly am.

I keep saying this, because I've lived this--  there is hope. Never, ever give up.