Dear Addiction: You have been around for centuries. Way before I was born. You can appear in many shapes & forms. You can be a cigarette, a joint, chocolate cake, a bottle of beer, French fries, pills, sex or white powder. You ruined many holidays for me. You made me feel different from all the other kids at school. You made me feel ashamed of my family. You caused me to do poorly in school. You made me keep so many things inside-fear, shame, anger, worthlessness. You made my mother distant & cold. You made my father negative & unlikable. You made my childhood miserable. You made me act & think like an adult when I should have been playing kick ball outside with my friends. You made me who I am today. Because of you, I am strong & confident. I can handle any crisis that comes my way. You forced me as an adult to tackle many difficult emotions. I am still standing. I am who I am because of you… But, that’s me….
You stole my son’s youth. You robbed him of his innocence. You made him feel like he wasn’t normal. You made him steal, lie, & cheat. You always were, and always will be a part of his life. Even when he was in my belly, you were there. As much as he doesn’t want you-you will always be there. You’re that annoying person riding his tail on the highway. He looks in the rear view mirror & there you are. He can speed up or slam on his brakes but that won’t get rid of you. You’re that ex girlfriend he can’t shake, the annoying, possessive, controlling, all too consuming person, he can break up with a girl friend; he can’t break up with you. You will always come back to haunt him. You’re that first pimple, on his perfectly, clear complexion-that never goes away. He doesn’t want to go to school because kids will stare at his pimple, everyone notices it but no one says anything. He looks in the mirror & there you are. You are always lurking. You’re that big Biology test we all had to take. We studied for hours on end, sleepless nights lying in bed worried, stressed out about how I will do? Will I pass? Will I have to re-take it? What if I fail? What if I let myself down? But you’re not a Biology test that goes away at the end of the semester or school year. You are so different. You cause my son stress & anxiety every day. You never go away, not even for a minute. You are air, water, a constant nagging reminder. He looks in the mirror, opens the frig, puts gas in the car, goes to work, watches the Super bowl, goes to the mall, church, sees a pretty girl & there you are. He can’t even get away from you when he’s sleeping, he dreams about you. You are his skin, his soul, his heart, worst of all, you are his mind. Everyone deserves a break, but you, you don’t give up.
You are cruel & evil. You don’t care whose lives you ruin. Doctor’s, lawyers, plumbers, pregnant mothers, there is no discrimination or age barriers with you. You invade 13 year olds & continue haunting them well into their 90’s, if they live that long. You confuse many people. You make others think that my son is weak. If they only knew how strong he must be to keep you away. It takes stamina to keep you out of his life. More people would feel comfortable asking me how he is, if he had cancer. How’s he doing? Is the chemo working? What do the doctor’s say? would be questions I would hear. Few people understand you or believe you are a disease. You’re not concrete, not everyone can grasp you. But me, I have lived with you in one way or another, my whole life. If you weren’t my grandfather, you were my father or my brother, now you are my son. Since we have lived with each other for so long, we should be friends by now. You used to be my enemy. Now, I accept you. You won’t ruin my life any longer. I am a fighter, remember?-you made me that way? You made me a survivor. You have made me be able to cope through the most difficult times. I have watched my mother & my 39 year old brother take their last breath. Because of you, I am still standing. You made me drop my 18 year old son off @ rehab on that cold February morning. The Steelers had just won the super bowl 12 hours before. My son should be at college celebrating with friends. But no, you made him go to rehab for heroin……..
When my son was in high school, I was suspicious of you. I agonized about your control over him. I had him evaluated on different occasions, I had caught him drinking, found weed. You are very sly. He was able to keep you from me & the therapist. You had become his secret now. You made me feel crazy at times. I worried on a daily basis that you had control over my son. Worrying is worse than knowing the truth. The “what if’s in life can destroy you. Once you know something, you are able to face it head on, deal with it. It is what it is…. The worrying & crazy thinking made me search my son’s room, desk drawers, or back pack, turning his room upside down every time he left the house. Sometimes my search came up clean. This is when I tried to convince myself you were not present in his life. Other times, I found Visine or a lighter. Funny thing about you, is even when you are right in front of me, I was able to tell myself it was normal teenage use. I chalked it up to normal experimentation. He lied about his “new friends”, always told me he was going out with the kids I liked. Sometimes I am madder at denial than I am at you. You both seem so powerful at the time. I grew up with you, how could I not see you? Funny thing about being the mother now, not the daughter or the sister of you, was deep down I knew you were lurking. I had an uneasy feeling, gut feeling, mother’s premonition I guess. Then one day, I realized HE was one of the “potheads” at school. The kid that everyone dismisses, looked at in disgust, as a no good loser. My son was not a loser, he was MY son. The same little boy I brought home from the hospital as a newborn, my first born. I rushed him to the pediatrician when it was just a stuffy nose. I stayed up with him when he had the flu, I was there when he hit his first homerun, threw his first touchdown pass. I talked to him about girls, making good grades, he cared about life, and he wanted to succeed. He was not & never will be a loser in my eyes. You are the reason ignorant people judged my son. I had a feeling you were there. Yet, to some degree, I was wearing blinders. Now, looking back you were as clear as day. The red eyes, the lies, the late nights, sneaking out of the house, the smell of marijuana, but still, I believed the lies that came out of my son’s mouth. I grounded him when he broke the rules.
The day I was unable to continue burying my head in the sand or continue pretending life was normal was when my husband called & told me I had to go to the school, there was disciplinary action taken against my son. Many reasons for the call would normally run through a frantic mother’s mind. Not mine; my first thought was my son was caught smoking weed at school. It was more, it was much worse than that. There was a police officer, the principal; my son was in a separate room. I was told he had stolen property from the school & if he had been 18 at the time he would have been handcuffed & taken to jail. The thought of my son in jail made me cry, call my husband trying to speak between sobs so he knew what was going on, but what was really going on? That was the beginning of my new life. This was his senior year; he should be excited as this is his last year in high school, playing baseball, going off to college soon, lasting memories forever. There would be no baseball; he was not permitted to play. New words filled my son’s vocabulary, clean & serene, sobriety.
Life is about choices & with every choice comes a consequence. Today, my son is choosing life over you. There are really only three choices when it comes to you, jail, death or recovery. I prided myself that I was different from my mother, I am open & honest with my kids about you, I don’t sweep you under the carpet like she did. We actually talked about you at the dinner table, in the car driving to baseball games. The fact that you ruined my childhood was known in my family. My kids were aware of you-almost to the point they may have tuned me out. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a martyr, I was just very open & honest with your affects on my father & brother. You were a part of our gene pool; I felt I had to talk about you to my children.
He is not the only young person whose life you have contaminated. No one is exempt from you. You affect nearly every human beings life in some way or another, a loved one, a friend or a neighbor knows you too well. I’m not angry at you. The best revenge against someone or something is simple- LIVING WELL…… I live with you, I learn from you. You have become my driving force, my passion, my purpose. I won’t run from you or keep you a secret as I did when I was a kid. I will embrace you, I will scream from the rooftops about you. I am only as sick as my secrets. You have been exposed. You are out there for everyone to see. My son won’t hide either. He did for a few years but he’s on to you now. He is so bright, so intuitive. You made him become a man. He is a man at 19 years old, wiser than most adult men I know. I am seeing the good side of you. I always try to see the bright side of what initially appears to be a dim situation. Again, that is because of you, when I was young you forced me to look at a bad situation and say, “Hey, it could always be worse.” That’s how I have survived many hardships in my life. I realized other people had it worse than I did, so who was I to complain?
I know that’s how I was able to handle myself when my son told me he needed help. As I watch my son cry and tell me he wished he was normal. He said he needed help. “It’s worse Mom, its heroin….” There YOU were when the worst moment of my 18 years as a mother had just smacked me in the face. I said to my son, “Eric, it’s not cancer, WE will get through this”. I hugged him & we both cried. As I held him, I wondered how I was able to utter any words; I didn’t think I had air in my lungs. Finally, you were out in the open!!!! The other shoe had fallen, the “what ifs” was now reality & it was time to confront YOU…… I called one of my sisters, the nurse, the strong one, and the one that holds her emotions in. I told her I needed to get my son, her nephew, her godson into rehab ASAP. As I heard the gasp & the whimpers she tried to hide from me, I thought, “Wow, if this rocks her, this is really, really bad. I am a “fixer”, a results oriented person, I believe I focused on what to do next, who to call and where will he rehabilitate. I was in overdrive. Because of you being a family member of mine, I also knew I could support my son, but this was his battle. There was no simple fix, no band aid to place over the wound. No antibiotic would cure this in 10-14 days. Hearing these words come from my son’s mouth, not the district attorney’s office or the coroner, was extremely encouraging to me. I knew that night, at that exact moment; I would stand by my son forever and ever as he worked on his life without you. I later, had received a note from a dear friend that said, “Parenting can be easy when things are going smoothly, as they should be, it is when we are faced with difficult situations that we put our skills to work.” You taught me these skills as a child. I never doubted my ability to cope with this situation.
Even as confident as I was, my heart was shattered. You must love tearing people’s hearts open & stomping on them. You create havoc with all family members. I have 1 brother, 4 sisters, & 21 nieces & nephews. Each and every one of them was affected by you & your control over my son. Dealing with you is very personal. My daughters were angry at their brother. He always got more attention. You caused him to. They are great young girls, extremely bright & responsible. They didn’t understand why their brother, who caused so many sleepless nights & fights continued getting more of their parents attention. They did everything they were supposed to do & it seemed no one noticed. I noticed their valiant effort but I didn’t always commend them for it. You sucked the energy out of me at times. I dealt with you differently than my husband did. You almost caused a divorce but I came to my senses. Believe it or not, realizing I was powerless over you is when I was able to move ahead. I can’t fight you anymore. I won’t fight you anymore.
My son found NA and it saved his life. He now feels normal. He has learned how you can be replaced. The 12 Step program is bigger & stronger than you. I often wonder why the whole world doesn’t follow these simple steps. My son goes to daily meetings & meets with his therapist weekly. You are still present, always will be, but KNOWLEDGE = POWER. He talks about you & reads books about you, works his 12 Steps. The power of addiction is mighty, but the power of recovery is mightier…..
He realizes even though he is not using drugs, many of the same behaviors still exist. Rather than being critical of others, he is taking his own moral inventory. He focuses on his character defects and will make amends to those he harmed when he is ready. He knows a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That first step is the hardest. Realizing your life is unmanageable is the start, a powerful start. Whose life isn’t unmanageable at some point? Each step that is taken away from you gets a little easier. If he could just run as fast as possible from you, it would be easier. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a lifelong marathon. This is a process, a very long & difficult process. Life is progression not perfection. He is well aware you can cause a relapse while he is recovering from you. This happened once. It can happen again & again if he gets over confident & thinks he has you “licked”. That’s why he goes to meetings daily, he needs to be reminded of the pain you caused him that made him get to the rooms of NA. He can’t resent you either, that won’t work. He has to accept you as part of his daily life, part of his every breath. He knows all too well that should he choose a life with you, he will be living on the streets. I won’t stand for you being in my house. Tough love isn’t that tough for me. I made my son leave once; it lasted for 14 days. I love him and will not stand by and watch him die a slow death because of you. I pray you will stay away. Because of you, I take one day at a time. When I have to, I take one minute at a time.
Anyone who has known you and who has survived you is brave. My son is my hero. His strength amazes me. His ability at such a young age, to see you were ruining his life and ask for help takes courage. You may have taken his youth but you haven’t taken his life. He can live a perfectly healthy life. He will be happier without you. He will find a wife & have children. You may or may not be a part of my grandchildren’s lives. If you are, my son will handle it. He, just like me, is a survivor because of you. You have caused us pain but at the same time, you have given us the ability for pure pleasure. Without pain, we would never fully appreciate the joy. I have met some remarkable people because of you. People, whose lives you have touched, are the salt of the earth. There is no phoniness, they are not trying to “keep up with the Joneses”, and they are real people with real stories & experiences to share. They care about living for today & being the best person they can be. You have humbled them. Looking back on my life, you may have caused me great pain, but I am not bitter. I am able to see situations more clearly and focus on the positives life has to offer.
I pray that you will keep your distance. Let’s face it, that’s all I can do. I am powerless. I pray every day; I thank God for everything I have. I have so much more than you in my life now.
I’m sure I will be seeing you around. Mary PS Please don’t take my son from me. He has so much to offer to others. Don’t make me bury him……………