Our journey began when our son was around the age of 14 although we believe some life events may have challenged him at intermediate which contributed to his journey. He started with marijuana, then ecstasy (as a party drug) then meth.
By the time he was 18 our family was in crisis. We believed we had tried everything (we now know we hadn’t). We were not communicating effectively (or at all), our younger son was bewildered watching his brother change and there was so much anger and grief. As parents we were divided, conquered and broken. The final straw came when we witnessed our son screaming at police while being pinned to the ground and handcuffed outside our house.
At that moment the only thing left to do, and a decision I made was attend FOA- Families Overcoming Addiction, a support group in our community. I sat with a small group of parents who were so much further along in their journey with much older adult children. Although many things were hard to relate I could see that this could be my future in 10 years time if I did not do something different. I learned that there was no hand out sheet of 10 steps to fix this and my son could continue on the path for some time. What was very clear was that I could not do the same thing for another 10 years and expect a different result. And so it began…
I made a personal commitment to attend this group every single week to learn and gain support. Each week I set myself homework to practice techniques. I read every book in their library- these books are not found in mainstream. Slowly, by changing what I did, our family began to heal and cope better. I learned about dealing with stress and self care. For me, a fortnightly massage with a trusted friend where I could offload the stress by crying and relieving body tension was extremely important. I also used supplements and herbal remedies to ease my raw and tattered emotions. Nature plays a huge part in my wellbeing so I walk almost every day.
There is a great deal of judgement around addiction and people are quick to offer useless advice. ”Kick him out”, “kick him up the bum”, “you just need to..” are common of what we hear. We learned to be selective with whom we shared our journey, choosing those who would give us support and we also had times where we chose to be “discussion free” of the problem to allow ourselves time to breathe and give our brains a rest.
While our son’s life continued to spiral out of control, we gained strength and focussed on setting boundaries and keeping ourselves well and safe. It is important to note this is a long and challenging process. We virtually had to learn to re-parent because you are dealing with a substance that has taken over your child. But it works. It allows us to have them in our lives but not spiral down so deeply with them. We wanted to keep our bond on some level so that when our son chooses wellness, we are there to support and champion him to a better life.
Our son went to Australia and did well for a while but then returned home unexpectedly, deep in meth addiction. Crime led him to prison. He is currently completing a 6 mth drug rehabilitation course in prison while serving his sentence and we have slowly seen our gentle, caring, hard working, fun loving son emerge.
It is a joy and a gift. It is early days yet and he has much work still to do. We know addiction is a relapsing condition. But we will celebrate every success with him and continue to have faith, hope and acceptance as we travel on this journey that we never expected or would have chosen to have.
This journey can break you. But you can also gain strength, wisdom, confidence, compassion and patience that you never thought you could have. That is a gift. And so is our son.