An Italian mother wrote to me. This is part of it: I cannot understand the words ‘hitting bottom.’ My son just came out of an alcoholic coma after we threw him out of our home. Fortunately, his life was saved, but he was not scared. We hoped that this would serve to scare him, but instead – nothing – it is only we who were scared. Like you wrote, “Addicts are not afraid to die. They are afraid to live a life without drugs.”
(She wrote: non riesco a capire cosa vuol dire toccare il fondo. Il mio figlio è finito in coma etilico dopo che noi genitori lo abbiamo buttato fuori casa, fortunatamente si è salvato ma comunque non si è spaventato. Noi speravamo che sarebbe potuto servire lo spavento ma invece niente….ci siamo spaventati solo noi…come dici tu…non hanno paura della morte ma di una vita senza droga.)
My reflection on the passage above: Alcoholics Anonymous says hitting bottom is ‘incomprehensible demoralization,” the dark before the dawn. As a mother, I could not change the arch of my son’s addiction or judge the moment of his abject demoralization, but I could get out of the way and allow him to be accountable for the consequences of his choices while I stayed close.
Today’s Promise to consider: I accept the fact that I cannot change anyone. I cannot control how far down my loved one falls. I will allow him to make his own discoveries, to feel fully the consequences of his addiction and pray he chooses a life of abstinence while I stay close.
My daughter, after another relapse, was sent to a Juvenile rehab faciltiy for 60 days. The end is near, and she will return home the end of July. Back in January, when she refused to help herself, I pressed charges for Jewelry she had stolen – this is her second rehab since that time, except, she is in the courts hands now. I don’t know her Rock Bottom. I understand more than ever that there is no conscience for her to deal with – and she didn’t think as far as the consequences of her actions. I am preparing myself to be strong and I have come a very long way – however, I am still scared. She often said – “If I do the same thing tomorrow, as I did today, I will stay clean” – We will see.
I understand. Jeff used to say the same thing, “I’ll stay clean. I can do it. I won’t be thirty and like this. Believe me, I’ll change. I’ll stop. Please don’t quit believing.”
Jeff’s rock bottom – I don’t know when it happened, but for me it was when I said, “I can’t and won’t help you. I can’t and won’t give you money. You need to make the choice to live a sober life.” He could have died and I knew that and, yes, I, too, was scared, but I think I was helping him kill himself by helping him every time he got into trouble.
A recovering addict friend of Jeff’s once told me, “I know you love your son, but he’s going to die if you don’t stop. You need to get out of the way and allow him to feel the consequences of his addiction.”
Let’s keep each other and our children in prayer.
My love to you,
Very well said Libby.
When I came to “fully” accept the reality of the disease my son had it became “my” turning point. It was very painful but this revelation lead me to a new life, one of peace and forgiveness. I am no longer angry or resentful.
It is a grief process we, as parents of addicted children, must experience to have a life of our own.
In prayer for all who suffer from this disease.
My heroin addicted son is homeless and running the streets of the city committing crimes daily to support his habit. I stopped enabling over a year ago and I wait and pray daily for the bottom to come. I pray for jail because jail is better then dead. I got out of the way and allow him to have consequences for his choices. I stopped helping because I believe I would ending up loving him to death. My life is much less engulfed in addict chaos now – however as a mother – waiting for this bottom is most painful thing I have ever done. Homeless, jobless, no car, stealing to support his addiction – I can’t imagine how much worse it has to get, if this isn’t a bottom what is?
Thank you Libby for the reminder that I’m (finally)doing the right thing by not loving my son to his death.
To all of you Mothers:
Libby is so right. You must allow your children to hit bottom and suffer the consequences. It’s so very painful, it hurts deeper than anything could ever hurt. As mothers, our roles in life are to raise our children the best way we can. We need to guide them through life and not pick up their marbles. It needs to be their decision and their decision alone. Whatever the consequence is, always remember it was THEIR decision. And, not your fault.
Thank you Libby for this meditation. It’s my absolute favorite one!
Love to all of you. You are all in my prayers….
Oh how I relate to every comment said tonight. I pray for all of you and feel like we are all so close even without meeting one of you. There is a thread of sharared experience of pain that we all understand. Yes, my son as well has had so many episodes that I thought weere definitely his “bottom”. The most severe was last summer when he overdosed and alsmost died. He was on a ventilator for 10 days and in ICU for 2 weeks. He has no memory of the episode. I have the fullmemory of days spent at his bedside praying, crying, washing his skin excercising his fingers, helping to turn his body, living for the moments that they lowered his sedation so I could see him open his eyes and respond to stimuli. That was my rock bottom. I never want to be there again. This past spring he was using again, had a DUAI and was arrested. We got out of the way and let him stay in jail. He is now working a program. Was that his bottom? I don’t know but today he is sober and working a program. One day at a time.I am learning not to pick up all the marbles. I still pick up 1 or 2…..but not 20….I am getting better too. It is their decision to get well, but living in my house, he will abide by my rules and he will work a program or the door is open. There is no confusion about that anymore. My thoughts are with all of you out there. May God keep you all in the palm of his hand.
A mom wrote an email to me that I’d like to post here. She talks about the need to balance ‘hitting bottom’ with ‘staying close.’ A tough balance to be sure – staying close but out of the way. Love and thanks to you all. We are not alone.
“My incredible son, Chad, is 28 and doing really well. 15 years in the journey. His survival, based on the extreme nature of his past choices, is miraculous.
“We know that as parents allowing consequences is a requirement for healthy personal growth and individuation. But we need balance. We need science-based, evidence-based, faith-based support in order to increase the odds that we can discover those applications of change that will facilitate increasingly healthy coping and well being, ours and our addicted loved ones’, and sustainable hope and belief that recovery is not only possible but, likely.
“It’s up to us as parents to seek out that education and increase our own awareness about what we can do that will up the odds for recovery. In most cases of addiction, we need to take in information from many sources in order to devise a best practices implementation of change that best pairs with our circumstances and super charges the options concerning our addicted child and our individual family system.”
The mom I referenced above also offers two resources about compassion without enabling:
It’s so very complicated. Isn’t it?
Yes, Barbara, so very complicated. With addiction, nothing is easy. My love to you.
My brother just went through a 6-week program, got out on Friday and relapsed Sunday. Before he got out, an agreement was made that if he relapsed again, all financial help would be pulled. He is now sitting in a half-way house and we are all terrified of the unknown future. This will be the first time he has seen consequences to his addict actions. I pray this will be his turning point, but it is all up to him.
My thoughts are with all parents and family members of addicts!
Jeff used to tell me that the ‘best’ time for him to use was when he got out of treatment – “You were so proud of me and gave me freedom. I still had cravings and picked up.”
I was always afraid that something terrible would happen to him and that he would die, so I kept helping and enabling. In the end, I hurt him more than helped. He used to tell me, “Never deny an addict his pain.”
Nothing is easy with addiction and we all have to make our own decision with our children and siblings, but I wish I had stopped enabling Jeff a long time before I finally did. Stay Close worked for us – “don’t abandon him emotionally, let him know you love him, but don’t give him money.”