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Addiction. A parent’s perspective

The Three C’s of Nar-Anon: Part One – I Didn’t Cause It

Addiction comes with a stigma of shame. Shhhhh…don’t tell anyone. Unfortunately, the abuse of opiates and alcohol has become all too prevalent. It has reached epidemic proportions. According to CNN, the number of deaths from overdose reached over 47,000 in 2014 the United States.i Too many of those dying are our children.ii

If you had told me back in October, 2000 that my son would someday be addicted to drugs and alcohol, I would have quite confidently told you that you were out of your mind. It never occurred to me, even when it stared me in the face. I also know with certainty I never intended to be where we are today. I tried to give him the values and morals I grew up with. I did as much listening as talking, keeping those lines of communication open and addressing life’s challenges head-on and proactively: From starting school, to puberty, to surviving the death of loved ones. As a single mom, I cannot give him everything he wants (nor should I), but I give him everything he needs, especially my unconditional love.

Thirteen years passed, until he was too old for daycare and too young for a job. I had to trust that he would take the knowledge and life lessons I imparted to him and use them to make good choices. Changes started happening, though, very gradually, and I spent quite a bit of time looking at him after his 13th birthday, wondering, “Who are you and what have you done with my kid?”

I came home from work one day, and my son’s eyes were unbelievably red. I asked him, in rapid-fire fashion, “Good heavens! Why on earth are your eyes so red? Do they itch? Or hurt?” and he innocently replied, “Oh, Momma, I’m just so tired.” “Well, go take a nap for goodness sake!” The possibility that he was using drugs never entered my mind. Since that day if I’ve kicked myself once, I’ve kicked myself a thousand times.

When the sledgehammer of realization hit, I yelled like a lunatic, then talked to (and at) him ad nauseam. I took him to the police station to speak with a detective friend of mine; took him to the county hospital to visit the son of a friend of mine who had overdosed; took him to another friend who lived with an addict to see where life takes you (or doesn’t take you) when you abuse substances. We met with teachers and counselors and doctors, and I took him everywhere with me to limit his free time. The more determined I was to keep him from drugs and alcohol, however, the more determined he was to find ways to abuse them.

During the summer before he turned fourteen, he began both smoking marijuana and drinking regularly. I took him for substance abuse counseling, and he was successfully discharged from the program, THC free. For reasons that were beyond my understanding, he began using again. His mood swings were outrageous; his behavior unpredictable and unacceptable. The good-natured boy I brought into this world had been replaced by something alien.

I took him to the pediatrician, who recommended a psychiatrist, who recommended mental health counseling. After a couple months, he admitted he was using again, and it was strongly suggested I admit him back into substance abuse counseling. He tested positive for alcohol, THC, and opiates. More chaos in my home, frustration, remorse, grief, anger. We could not live like that – I was losing what semblance of sanity I had remaining, and he was slowly killing himself. I admitted him to in-patient services through the Kids Escaping Drugs program in November 2015.

AND I came to a stark realization. That insidious, evil predator, Addiction, had taken up unwelcome residence in my home. I had many lessons to learn, the first being that Addiction does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are suburbanite or city dweller; rich or poor; white or black; male or female; loved or alone; Mensan or not. Addiction sneaks in and destroys lives.

The second important lesson I learned is the first C in the three C’s of Nar-Anon. “I didn’t cause it.” Yes, I made mistakes, and still do. What parent doesn’t? For those who sit in judgment and say, “Well. Where were YOU while this was going on?” I was there, doing all I could to set him back on a healthy path and keep him alive. The problem, though, became bigger than I am, and the solution does not lie in self-blame. Even though my son once relied upon me to teach him life skills, that time has gone. It was not my choice for my son to abuse substances. It was his.

If you are reading this and have a similar story, please take comfort in the fact that there is help available. Remember, too, that where there is life, there is hope. My son is now in recovery and is working toward a sober, responsible life-style that includes plans to attend college. While I have a plan for the worst, I am hoping for the best.

About The Author:
Serena is a mother to a 16-year-old recovering alcoholic and opiate addict. This is a three part series of articles on opiate addiction from a parent’s perspective based on the three C’s of Nar-Anon. She writes these with the hope that her experience can be of help to others.




© 2011 Steven Burton All Rights Reserved
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