A father wrote to me: Addiction touches many of us. My oldest son was headed down that path. We feel very blessed to have discovered the problem early and much to his chagrin put him in treatment for eighteen months. Pretty hard on the family, but everyone seems to have benefitted in some way. He is now a productive member of society with a wife and child and very committed to his church.
My reflection: Does early intervention stop addiction? There is a body of research that indicates that a fast response is critical and, although it might not stop the addiction, it can bring up the bottom and possibly curtail the devastating effects of the disease.
Today’s Promise to consider: If I had the early years of my son’s 14-year addiction to do over again, I would have taken my head out of the sand, educated myself more thoroughly, talked openly with him and our family, and put him into a long-term rehab program as soon as possible. Jeff’s addiction was like a fire that was left unattended for too long and, before we acknowledged it, the entire forest was ablaze. With all the deaths happening today from drug overdoses, every minute is critical.
I put my son in rehab at 15 years old. He was pretty much in and out of rehabs for the next 5 years. He is now 25 and the last 2-3 years have been much better and he occasionally has some pot and drinks beer. He’s not totally out of the woods yet but at least he knows a lot and we are getting along much better. He still can’t keep a job down for more than 6 months but is self sufficient. I think its a miracle how far he has come. Im not sure if I recommend spending the >100K for rehabs which is what I did but maybe it kept him alive.
Dear Rita, Good for you. Those early years are critical. It takes courage for the parent to act as you did at such an early age. I admire you.
Hi Libby and your followers… The stories and messages that are shared here are often heart rending and sometimes inspirational. I’m blessed that my sons avoided drug use (with the exception of tobacco for the oldest). My youngest is raising two children, 7 year old son and infant daughter and he shared his concern with his mother about how to keep his kids from drugs. There is no magic bullet to keep kids from drugs but having them in positive activities via church, scouts and similar groups is a good start. Having positive friends with good values is very important. Let’s face it, once our kids hit their teens their peers have a huge impact on them that can overshadow the parents. Kids need a solid foundation that includes trust, values, communication and respect along with the knowledge that drugs can cost them in many ways. I’ve known people that turned their lives around and people that have had life long addictions to drugs and/or alcohol and family and friends that lost kids to drugs. Prevention is always better than intervention but the reality is that today, both are needed. Many intervention programs have faith in a higher power as a cornerstone in recovery. A strong faith as a cornerstone of life can make a real difference in keeping our kids away from drugs and helping them make the responsible choice when that day comes… God Bless all!
Dear John, Thanks for sharing. I agree with your thoughts. Prevention is better than intervention, but you’re right that we need both. Honest communication is imperative, and I wish we had talked more openly with Jeff when he was young. Peers often become more influential than parents, and it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. The research also supports much of what you write — that kids need to have many concentric circles of care around them, e.g. scouts, church, teachers, coaches, grandparents. Even with most of these circles intact, we lost Jeff for many years. Thank God Jeff found sobriety and is living a productive life today. That said, I pray every day that he continues to make good choices. Today, I’m grateful. My love to your family.
Unfortunately, our son refused to be compliant at 13 when he was smoking pot every day. Our Canadian system will not allow families to intervene. Privacy laws kill people. Our son is dead, he died two years ago at the age of 25. He died from an overdose of alcohol which he was addicted to after combining it with prescribed ativan and street hydromorphone. Alcohol addiction is just as deadly bye the way as any other drugs and needs also to be taken seriously. The government needs to stop promoting alcohol so they can make money from the taxation on it, just like cigarettes. Alcohol is killing lots and lots of people. Our son suffered from mental health issues for 12 years, after repeat stints in ICU, near death experiences, nothing would convince him to stop. The wait times for rehabs are ridiculous, when he would decide to go, nothing would be available and we, as parents were left trying to keep him sober in our home which never worked. Nothing we did helped. Until parents who can see what their child needs and where they are heading are able to trump their children’s defiance and refusal, many children will continue to fall through the cracks and die. That is the truth. The system is broken.
Dear Susan, I’m so sorry. Your pain is the worst, and my heart aches for you and your family. You’re right that alcohol is deadly and needs to be taken seriously. Of all the drugs, alcohol is KING, and more people die of alcohol detox than heroin detox. The government gives us no rules for dealing with addiction – only incarceration instead of treatment. My love to you.
You were fortunate to have the financial resources to provide 18 months of rehab and that your son was willing to cooperate. Sometimes catching it at the onset can work but only if the addict or potential addict recognizes the problem and is willing to work at it.
Dear Barbara, You are SO correct. Jeff was in 12 treatment centers and insurance paid only once – and only for three days! This was years ago, and I pray things are changing. Nothing is easy with addiction.
Education and working with a alcohol/drug counselor are the two critical steps for parents. We have to pour out all of our perceived knowledge and replace it with the true knowledge of addiction. Unfortunately, due to denial, that will not likely happen for a very long time in the majority of cases. There’s no blame or shame as that is simply the nature of the disease of addiction, it is a family disease for sure. It’s an individual process and our own recovery begins just like our addicted children and that is when “We get sick and tired of being sick and tired (AA).”
The years of dealing with addiction have made you wise. Although I wish that you (or me or anyone) never had to go through this, we can learn together. You’re right – there is no blame or shame. Addiction takes all we know about love and smashes it. It is a family disease, and we need to work on our own recovery. Please keep coming back.
We were well aware of our son’s trajectory early and we took what steps we could at the time. This is not to say we weren’t in the dark at times as far as how deep he was in his addiction. But denial is a powerful force. And he is a very willful person. He refused rehab early on, when we could have possibly thwarted his pathway to where he is now, 15 years later, still not in recovery. I think I am being honest with myself, but I really don’t have much guilt as far as what we did or did not do in the early years. We were loving, 2 parents, healthy, active in our children’s lives. Where we could have changed the tides, possibly (?), likely (?), was when he was an adult and we stopped enabling and thinking we could fix him. If we had the strength and support at this stage I think he might have felt the consequences of his disease sooner and thus chosen his own path to recovery. Instead, we find ourselves now at a critical juncture after years of trying to change him, that we are powerless. We are in a toxic co-dependent relationship, but nothing changes if nothing changes. Today A Better Way.
Thank you for your honest comment. God bless you for all you’ve done for your son. You’re right that the line between helping and enabling is blurred, and each of us has to decide where that line is. I interviewed 50 recovery addicts from across the globe, and 47 of them said that ‘feeling the consequences of my addiction got me into recovery.’ When the consequences of the addiction become too heavy, the addict has an opportunity to change. That said, our fear as parents is always there – that our child will die. At the end of Jeff’s addiction, I surrendered – surrendered meaning that I knew that I had done all I could do. I could do no more; I admitted my powerlessness. You’re right that we get into a toxic co-dependent relationship. Today, you’ve found a better way. I join you in hope and prayer.
Another thought i had as I read my post was that we also struggled with how to parent early on. No road map for that journey except for modeling by our own parents who were pretty strict disciplinarians. Our responses to our son’s behavior early on were, needless to say, filled with lots of anger. We also did not understand the nature of addiction and certainly back then, the disease model was in question. The fact that early choices can lead to addiction was not something we even fathomed. How could we have parented not out of fear and anger but helped him and us face this at the time with openness and honesty? It became a game of cat and mouse, of policing, of bargains and contracts. I tried to “buy” his way out of his disease at one point by getting him a car. Sick, desperate behavior on my part. As with your dedication, Libby, I hope to continue to educate myself so that I might somehow be of service to today’s parents facing addiction early on in their homes.
There wasn’t much literature at that time about addiction. In fact, I remember well swinging between, “He’s just experimenting. All will be OK,” and “This is a problem and I need to come down hard.” How could we have known the ravaging effects of drug use and addiction? My father was a drill sergeant in the Marines, so I, too, was parented in a strict manner. My dad once pointed his finger at me and said, “Tell him to stop, dammit, tell him to stop.” If it were only that easy. We are learning and we will continue to learn. This is why it’s so important for us to reach out a hand to help someone else. There is value in education and experience. xoxo
How do you convince a 21 yr old he has a problem and needs to go away for atleast a year? I can’t make him go and he won’t go on his own!
I wish I had the answer, Debbie. When my son was still living at home, I had some modicum of control – thus the post “Early Intervention.” At that time, I could have ‘forced’ him into treatment. When my son was in college, I pulled his tuition and forced him to go to treatment, and he went (reluctantly) for 6 months, went back to college, and started drugs where he left off. You could do an intervention and maybe that will convince your son. If I had to do it over again, I would try an open and honest discussion, calm and careful. I would have gotten myself into Al-Anon meetings way earlier, and I would have sought out professional help before my son’s addiction became a forest fire. All in hindsight.
On the other hand, my son says the addict himself has to want to get clean – for himself.
My love and prayers to you and your son.