Kristi Wesbrooks Tinin-Hodge is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
YOU CAN HANDLE THE TRUTH
All of my life, I’ve heard that a mother always knows when there is something wrong with her children. Well, I didn’t, and that is a hard pill to swallow. (Should I even use that analogy being as we are talking about addiction? This is just one of the many things addiction does. It makes you question everything!)
For me, the realization and acceptance that my son was actively involved in addiction were a process. Maybe it was mind’s way of protecting me for as long as it could; or, maybe it was my heart’s way holding back what my head already knew. For whatever reason, I fought this acceptance. I fought hard because I didn’t think I could handle the truth.
Here I was thinking I’d been a decent mama. Active in his life; I knew most of his friends; I was involved, but not too overbearing. I was the mama who said, “Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Don’t drink and drive or ride with someone who has been. Call me. I will come get you. No questions asked.” (And, for the record, he did that one time too. I picked him up and asked no questions. He was grounded the next day for two weeks and we had that talk again.) I was the mama giving freedom and who trusted my son. Yes, I knew he was doing some things he shouldn’t be, but I truly had no comprehension just what that actually meant. I mean, he talked to me. He told me things that most kids wouldn’t dream of telling their parents. I had no reason to believe there was anything deeper going on than what we discussed. It was a phase I convinced myself. This was normal. Believing that he and I were working through “stuff” together, I thought I was “in the know”. I was pleased and protective over what we had as a mother and son; and, frankly, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I still am.
My thoughts were that once we had these pesky teenage years out of the way, we’d be sitting pretty. After all, we’d survived the worst during the adolescent and teenage years: Our family splitting up due to his Dad’s drug addiction and my ignorance and poor decisions during that time; losing loved ones; surviving illnesses; relocating; his fraternal grandparents both dying in a murder/suicide that none of us saw coming; losing my mother just the next year to cancer; high school and hormones. We had this. We talked openly. We grieved. We fought. Graduation was in sight and he had already and enrolled and been accepted to auto and diesel college. Together, with the love and support of family and friends, my son was going to have wonderful. He was going to learn from all of these hardships and make better choices. I didn’t factor in that his choices would not be the ones I would make for him.
The relationship I thought I had with my son was totally obliterated when my heart got on board with what my head had acknowledged long before. His character had completely changed. My once respective son, good student, and fun loving boy came home drunk (more than once). He was hateful and angry. He totaled my car. The list goes on. Now I know it was because he was living a double life. Trying to be the son he knew I wanted him to be, all the while making poor choices he was trying to hide from me. He did a bang up job for quite a while too. I had wanted to think, and allowed myself to do so, that it was just that he was caught in that place between being a boy and becoming a man. A month before high school graduation he turned 18. Things continued to get worse. I continued to make excuses. After graduation, well, that’s when all hell broke loose. The lying. The disrespect. The fighting. The mood swings. I could no longer stay in denial that this was not my son. All the signs were there. I knew them all too well from experiences with others. I just thought I couldn’t handle the truth.
Never in all my years had I been at such a loss to help someone I loved so deeply – not my ex-husband who battled addiction; not my father who suffered a massive stroke; not my sister who is still dealing with her son’s addiction; not my mother who fought cancer for five years whose hand I was holding when she took her last breath – there was nothing I knew to do to help my son. I’m a fixer. I’m a control freak. Very Type-A personality here. Yet, there was nothing I could to help my son until he wanted help; and I also had to realize that there was nothing I did that caused his addiction.
By turning to God, opening up to family, friends, and professionals, there is a way to handle the truth. Some days, the struggle is still easier than others. Some days, the struggle is still almost too much to bear. I had to realize that the truth was too much for me to handle on my own. No one fights addiction and wins on their own. Not the addict who finds recovery and not the family who loves someone who is addicted. There is some form of intervention, be it divine or by design. Thankfully, my son and I have an amazing support system. I have to remind myself that I am not alone. I only need to reach out to the Lord and to my support system to carry me when I cannot carry myself, which is exactly what my son will need to do when he is ready to handle the truth.
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.