Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
One Mother’s Confession: My Son Is Addicted To Drugs, I’m Addicted To Him
Carrie (not her real name) is a strong, intelligent woman. She and her husband Paul (not his real name) raised three children while working full time. Money was always tight and they often lived paycheck to paycheck.
Carrie was a planner. She liked to keep things neat and organized. She drew up schedules for her children, a weekly budget for their meals and their bills were always paid on time. Carrie had big dreams for her children and she worked hard to achieve them. She wanted her kids to have everything she had missed out on as a child.
Carrie says their life was rolling along smoothly until addiction snuck into their home. Carrie was blindsided when she found her oldest son, Jonathan, nodding out in his bedroom. Carrie says she tried talking to him but he kept falling asleep. However, Jonathan did manage to tell his Mom one thing- he was a heroin addict.
Carrie was horrified.
Denial gripped her. She didn’t believe addiction was a disease. She certainly didn’t consider her son an addict. Addicts weren’t well-loved children, they were the people on the street.
That night Carrie sat in front of her computer and learned everything she could about heroin. She thought if she learned enough, she could help her son quit.
As someone used to solving problems, Carrie came up with a plan. She stopped giving her son money. She locked up household valuables. She took away his keys and cell phone.
Unfortunately, it didn’t matter what Carrie took away- Jonathan still found ways to get high. Carrie’s inability to control her son made her frustrated and angry, but defeat was not in her vocabulary.
What Carrie didn’t know and struggled to accept was that her son has a disease. He can’t stop. If he could, he would. No one wants to be an addict. Substance abusers are just trying to use like everyone else, but the chemicals in Jonathan’s brain are different than the rest of his family.
In Carrie’s battle to restore her son’s health, she did many things right. The most important thing being that she reached out for help, but Carrie didn’t like what she was hearing. It was the same message over and over again – if she wanted to help her son, first she must help herself. Carrie was advised to learn all she could about his disease while practicing self-care and setting strong boundaries.
Carrie didn’t relate to addiction as a family disease. Most families don’t. In the process of saving their loved one, they often ignore warning signs about their own health.
Carrie ignored the warning signs, too. She says worrying about her son began to control her life. Carrie stopped hearing the birds. Sunsets no longer moved her. Her smile disappeared. She lived in a state of hypervigilance. Carrie’s antennae was always up and pointing at her son.
Carrie’s moods became unstable. She swung between tears and lashing out at people. She felt everyone was judging her son because he was an addict and judging her for being a bad Mom. She experienced bouts of rage and depression. Carrie withdrew further into herself and avoided friends and family. While everyone else went about their daily business, she barely had enough energy to crawl out of bed in the morning.
Once an extrovert who loved people, now Carrie loathed leaving the house. One day she just couldn’t plaster the fake smile on her face, so she phoned in sick to work.
Without knowing it, Carries behavior mirrored her son’s- mood swings, isolating and keeping secrets. Her emotional well-being was tied directly to her son’s thoughts and actions. If he was having a good day, she was okay. If he was high, she was miserable and tried to control his addiction.
The afternoon Carrie lost it, everything changed. She asked her son to clean his room, but it never happened. Jonathan was too high to clean anything. Instead he laid in bed as Carried nagged at him until she saw red. While screaming at Jonathan she pushed him off his bed and ripped the sheets underneath him. She yanked open his drawers looking for drugs and hurled nasty insults at him. Carrie admits she called her son a loser and a junkie.
Jonathan appeared oblivious. He was too high to care.
When Carrie calmed down she felt sick and ashamed. She couldn’t believe she’d said such ugly things to her ill son.
That day Carrie became aware of her own declining mental health. She realized Jonathan wasn’t the only one who had changed. Carrie learned you didn’t have to use drugs to get sick from them.
Carrie knows she can’t expect Jonathan to get help, if she’s not willing to accept help, too. So she took the advice she’d been getting and attended a family program at a local treatment center. There she met many parents who were going through the same thing. Carrie found comfort in knowing she wasn’t alone.
Carrie become consumed with saving Jonathan. Her life was chaotic and unmanageable. She admits; my son is addicted to drugs and I’m addicted to him.
Carrie found her strength in surrender. She acknowledges she can’t control her son’s addiction and when she tries, she’s the one who loses control.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.