Kristi Wesbrooks Tinin-Hodge is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
When A Loved One Is Addicted, Do You ‘Choose’ To Worry?
I’m the mother of an amazing son, who is also addicted to drugs. In the last year, he has graduated high school; started vocational school and dropped out; been in jail once; and in two rehab facilities. He has also continued to love his family and struggle with addiction.
At the first rehab, he got his hands on some heroin – to sell to others in rehab; and, like any good salesman, he tried it so he would know his product. (His words.) Thankfully, he got caught by the staff at the center. He was evaluated, and allowed to stay in the program. He also chose to stay in the program and was moved to a different location, in another state, and even farther away from home.
The second rehab seemed to be more productive. He was at least participating – even if it was just to get through the program. Still, I worried.
While he was under the wonderful care at Swift River, my husband and I were able to visit with him. Under the excellent supervision of his care team, we had the first civil communication we had had in quite some time. Our conversations and time together had become so sparse, strained and tense (understatement of the year), any form of civil communication was a welcome gift. During our session, I explained to my son what his choices were doing to those of us who loved him and how his choices affected others. My son listened and, then, he said to me, “Well, Mom, you choose to worry.” There was no arrogance in his tone. No drugs talking. Just my teenage son. This is what he believed to be truth. Could he be right? Was I making the choice to lay awake at night physically sick to my stomach wondering if my child is alive? Was I making the choice to have panic attacks? Was I making the choice to obsess over his addiction? It was a statement that has really stayed with me.
In the last year, I had been in a constant state of worry and fear. Not even while he was in rehab could my heart and mind get any rest. My initial thought was that at least while he was in rehab, I wouldn’t worry about him being safe or abusing. Wrong. Lesson 1001 of a Gazillion: Addicts are resourceful. For a time, the worry literally consumed me. The thought of what my son was doing was all I could focus on. I could barely work. My relationship with my husband of four years was suffering. My health was deteriorating. All my brain and heart understood was that my son had an addiction, and I felt helpless. I seriously thought I might die from all the worry.
One would think with the fact that my high school sweetheart, first husband and father of my child became an addict, I would be old hat at coping with addiction. Wrong. Nothing with my ex-husband’s addiction, as much as I loved him, prepared me for the worry that drown me with the fact that our son, before age 19, would have a drug problem.
Still, I pondered, do we as mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, friends, loved ones choose to worry?
I’ve asked a couple of mothers, both who have sons who are addicts. One’s son is in recovery and has been clean for over two years. The other’s son is currently incarcerated on drug-related charges. Here are their responses:
I did not choose to worry. It was natural for me to be concerned about my child and his safety. He has been clean for more than two years, recently married, and has a beautiful son of his own, but I still worry about him daily. ~ DG
I don’t believe it is a choice. I believe some of us inherited the worry wart gene. Mine came from my mama. It seems like I have no ability to stop. In some ways, it is my addiction. If I could turn my worry off and on, I would. ~SS
My thoughts after much obsessing:
For me, becoming a Mother was where my choice was made. Worry is a natural consequence of that choice and a part of the way a mother loves. Worry indeed may be one of the deepest, and greatest forms of love there is. Worry involves self-sacrifice and loss of peace of mind. So, yes, I did choose to worry when I chose to become a mother.
With the encouragement of my husband, family, and friends, I sought out professional help. I was prescribed a low dose of Prozac, and I talk to God… a lot. With God’s help, I am also choosing daily not to let worry control me. Like the love I have for my son, it is still here big time, but I know God is and his plans are bigger.
Kristi Wesbrooks Tinin-Hodge. Like my name, my life is complicated…. I’m a 40-something-year-old mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend who has had personal experience in loving someone and dealing with addicts and their addiction. Currently, my struggle is learning to cope with my 19-year-old son’s battle with addiction. Through God, family, friends, counseling, Prozac, and humor, I will find a way to survive.