RELAPSE: WHAT’S A PARENT TO DO?

Jeff - BKA mom wrote to me, My son relapsed, again. After eight months of sobriety, his love affair with drugs overpowered his strength to fight the urge to use again. After I received ‘the dreaded phone call’ that unfortunately we all know too well, I was strangely able to remain calm…that is only after I heard his voice and knew he was safe.

What is a mother to do? His father and I offered him a safe environment for the night and life resumed with the clear expectation that in the morning our son would return to work and come clean with his boss. All we could do was to tell him what we would offer him and allow him to make his choices.

There was no chaos, no yelling, no blaming or judging…no ‘drama’ this time around. In fact, my husband and I did not give our son the forum to disrupt our lives (or our other sons’ lives) as we have so often in the past. Addiction and relapse are not new to us, but this time what was new is that we did not give addiction the power to disarm us and our family.

My reflection: This mom’s response reminds me of something Dr. Kevin McCauley, Institute for Addiction Study, told me years ago, “Relapse is part of this disease and parents often respond to it with a kind of ‘I caught you’ mentality, a way of saying, ‘you messed up again, you loser.’” Instead, he encouraged me to remain calm, to give Jeff clear boundaries and to provide and options for recovery. The mom and dad above did just that. This inspires me.

Today’s Promise to consider: Relapse happens. If it does, I will respond with a calm attitude and provide clear boundaries for my addicted loved one. The fellowship of Al-Anon and my daily practice of the 12 Steps remind me that I can’t cure addiction, but I can stay close and try to keep myself and my family safe.

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TJ Wood
TJ Wood
8 years ago

Thanks for posting this Libby. I’m not sure what’s happening with my daughter. She seemed clear on Thanksgiving and even on the weekend. Last night she came for dinner and after being in the bathroom for awhile, came out, said she wasn’t feeling well (female cramps) but then proceeded to get kinda out of it. I know she was on something, don’t think it was pot. Maybe an extra dose of methadone–we’ve seen it affect her like that before. But she goes to the methadone clinic every morning. Bottom line is…I guess it doesn’t matter what she’s using, but in her attempts to stay clear of the heroin, she’s filling the void with other substances. I’m so frustrated; guess I just needed to vent. Yes, relapse is part of the process of recovery, but is it relapse when they are using something different than the initial drug of choice? I’m so glad this site is here–thank you.

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

Yes relapse is part of the process. Some are chronic relapsesers, also, and as in my experience, it becomes so hard to keep dealing with that insanity. This Mom’s calm came from experience with the issue, acceptance of what was in her life and realization that action sans drama was needed. Boundaries that do not enable but respect everyone’s needs, especially the needs of the other family members to not be drawn into the chaos of the disease. This kind of reaction is from someone who has regained self from program or good counseling.
Takes lots of practice, program and acceptance to react like this.
God keep all in your calm embrace while fighting this complex. Disease
Love
Jane

Laura
Laura
8 years ago

I guess my son would be considered a chronic relapser because he has been in and out of so many programs and half way houses over the years since he started using as a teenager. (But is it really relapse if he was only clean for 28 day programs?)

Last night he left detox and chose not to continue with their inpatient program so he could return to a halfway house that has allowed him to use suboxene in the past. I am not in agreement with his decision, but I know now that it is not my decision to make. I have begun to detach after not being able to for so long. When he called to tell me that he is OK, I did not answer the phone because I do not trust myself to set clear boundaries and stick with them. I think and hope he knows that I care deeply, but can no longer live my life on the other end of his see-saw. Now I have to make a difficult decision-do I continue to give him financial support for food and shelter while he is back in the halfway house where he was taking Xanax and using alcohol until last week? I feel like I have come a long way since the days of yelling and making empty threats and taking him back into my home after a relapse, but I feel like I need more work before I really am where I need to be.

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

Laura I can relate. Sometimes we just need time to think and clearly come to decisions about what is best for us. Use the slogan Think, easy does it and live and let live. Oxygen mask on us first.
Hard decisions and complex situations. You are not alone
Thoughts and prayers
Jane

Frances
Frances
8 years ago

Laura, You ask should you continue to support him financially? He made the choice to leave the facility that he was attending because he didn’t want to follow the rules they set, and chose a place that lets him bend or break the rules. Now you can make a choice. When I was faced with this with my daughter, she wanted to know why we would not continue helping her. Our response was that what we were doing was obviously not working so we needed to try something else. Although she hated us at the time, she now credits us with saving her life.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Frances

Jane and Frances, I appreciate everything you said. I am tired of relapse and want to do it differently this time.

Pat Nichols
Pat Nichols
8 years ago

I was able to use my son’s relapse to strengthen my own recovery which also allowed me to be in a better position to help my son in appropriate ways.

I would take my fear and disappointment and sit down and write out questions like, what can I do differently, how can I do a better job of communicating with family and friends, am I trusting God & how can I allow this relapse to strengthen my faith in God.

I would take all my questions and talk to my sponsor and my counselor.

This gave me the courage to face the enemy of addiction and not allow it to defeat me as it has done so many times before. I became stronger and more determine to be the person I was meant to be before my child’s addiction.

Belinda
Belinda
8 years ago

Thank you for this wonderful bog site. All the above offers me comfort in knowing I am not alone. AsI type this I have a son who came back from a half way house for Thanksgiving and never returned. He relapsed and had a positive drug test. He has done two rehab stints and ended up in a DUI in May putting him on a year probation, Through a lot of support and Alanon meetings last night I locked the doors and turned out the outside lights. We told him he cannot be at home with a positive drug test. This morning my husband packed his suit case full of his dirty clothes from his bedroom floor and together we put the suit case outside the garage door with his bicycle. We have to let go and it has been the most painful experience I have ever been through. In Alanon yesterday someone told me I have to give my son the dignity to reach a personal bottom. Today I just pray that while he reaches this personal bottom God protects him and gives him the power and strength to fight this terrible disease.

pat nichols
pat nichols
8 years ago

Belinda,

We had to do the exact same thing with our son. It was the beginning of many more difficult decisions we would have to make. the good news: each time we made those decisions it moved his recovery date up.

We pray to a God who is just and can be trusted.

In prayer for all who suffer from this disease.

Belinda
Belinda
8 years ago
Reply to  pat nichols

Dear Pat, Thank you for your words of encouragement.

Janet
Janet
8 years ago

I am so thankful to have been shown this site by a friend who is dealing with the same thing I am dealing with. Both our sons are chronic drug addicts. Mine since he was at least 15 years old who is now 25. I too had to make the difficult decision to kick him out of my home almost 4 weeks ago. I have tried everything to give him the tools and support to stay clean but he chose to use again. I set the boundary and have to stand by it for my own sanity. I pray everyday for him and I pray I don’t have to bury him. So sad.

Libby Cataldi
Libby Cataldi
8 years ago

Dear All,

God bless you for being here, as we reach out to help each other. We are not alone, and here is one place where we can stay close and help each other through the trauma of addiction.

Dr. MacAfee, Jeff’s addiction therapist, tells me, “You have to say what you mean and mean what you say. If not, the addict can’t trust anything you say. He or she has to know that he or she can trust you. Without this, it’s too difficult for her to trust at all.”

I often threatened Jeff and then would recant. This didn’t help me or Jeff. Even if my decisions were wrong, I should have allowed him the possibility of knowing that my word was trustworthy. Nothing easy with addiction.

Love to you all. We learn together.

Libby

web site
8 years ago

This is the reason why a person must get admitted in the
substance abuse rehab if he / she wants get completely cured and get back
to normalcy. Helping yourself or someone you love with their abusing drugs is the highest gift coming from all.

It usually takes hold quicker than the usual blink of the eye and not let go.

Debbie
Debbie
8 years ago

Just happened to Google mother of a heroin addict today and found Libby by the grace of god. Been going through this with my son for years and he is only 22. First opiates, past four years heroin what a disgusting turn of events? Rock bottom I truly believe is something that WE have to hit, not them. We are the ones that have to get so fed up with the lying, stealing, dirty needles, over dosing, court dates, so on and so on. it never ends. How many rehabs? how many detox’s? what new drug will he take to get off of this drug? then sell that drug to get the heroin? Ladies it has taken every ounce of my soul. I have Kicked in crack house doors, Threatened dealers, put myself in places I would never have dreamed of going with no fear mind you. all for what? my son is in another state right now in yet another facility. He was living with my ex but of course could not resist stealing from him items and money. so he threw him out. so instead of being homeless he put himself in a facility. I am no dummy I know that’s why he did it. I refuse to talk to him. his counselor calls me once a week with updates and I am on speaker phone, he is in room, but I refuse to talk to him. I cant. He has caused so much pain to his older sister, younger brother, not to mention himself that I have actually detached from the situation. He must be floored of all people he could and did manipulate me more then anyone. I was and I know now so codependent on his drug addiction that I became a recluse for a year, I did not leave my bed. I was his prey. I can see so clearly now that he is not in my house for the past 3 months its like when people have a poltergeist and a priest comes over and cleanses the house, the sun shines again, birds sing… I have blocked his number from my phone. it is so freeing. Don’t get me wrong there is not a second I am not thinking about my son. I cry everyday , my heart aches for him, only now he is not aware of it. I am being strong this time, not caving in. He made every bad choice without my help, now he is going to have to do the right thing for himself without my help. He found the drugs without me, He will find sobriety without me. He is very resourceful. Thank you my dear friends for letting me vent. I ordered your book Libby. I wish your younger son would write a book about being a sibling of an addict. I know I would buy it for my daughter and younger son. And Jeff so proud of you. You let us all know there can be light at the end of this deep dark tunnel. Thank you so much for that. you beat the devil..

Libby Cataldi
Libby Cataldi
8 years ago

Dear Debbie,

Glad you’re here. We all join hands and share our collective stories. There is wisdom in these stories.

I read your message to both Jeff and Jeremy, and they were moved. Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but I remain humble, knowing it’s one day at a time.

We’ll join in prayer for all our children. Stay strong.

With love,

L