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8 Personal Conclusions I’ve Reached as the Parent of an Addict in Recovery

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

My son stopped using over two years ago. For seven years he was addicted to drugs and, by the end, was a heroin addict. Today he is drug-free and working to put his life back together.

There are countless books and websites about addiction, rehab and recovery. Most of them are filled with valuable information that helps both the addict and the parent. I won’t discredit anything on these sites or in these books, but I want to share what I have learned about being the parent of an addict in recovery, not from reading but from experience — no long-drawn processes or lengthy explanations. These are just some realizations that seem to help me.
father and son talking outside1. Recovery is hard. Sometimes your child needs a hand. Make sure your hand is out for them to grasp when needed. But don’t hold on too long.

2. Addicts dig deep holes for themselves. Contrary to what you may think, filling the hole is faster when only one person has a shovel. If you help to shovel, it will take longer to fill the hole.

3. Forgiveness is for me. The sooner I understand, the faster I heal.

4. “Believe” or “doubt?” I choose to believe. Have you ever had someone tell you that they believe in you?

5. Normal is right. “Fragile. Handle with Care” is not stamped in big red letters on a child in recovery. To stop using drugs or alcohol means he or she wants a normal life again.

6. Nagging, suspicious looks and reminders of past mistakes really irritate me. Addicts in recovery probably don’t need them either.

7. His recovery is his to manage. I know that for the last seven years, he hasn’t been able to manage ANYTHING. But we all have to learn and begin someplace.

8. I love you. That is a reassurance we ALL need.

Posted by  |  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Forgiveness, Hope, parenting, Patience, Recovery, Self-reflection, Substance Abuse, Writing About Addiction



10 Comments on “8 Personal Conclusions I’ve Reached as the Parent of an Addict in Recovery”

Dawn Marriott says:
December 14th, 2012 at 2:37 am

Well said my friend. If the addict is willing to give himself a second chance then so should we , as his community, and honor the accomplishments!



Liz says:
December 14th, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I wish you would have given more specific examples and personal experiences of what worked for you as a parent dealing with this and what didn’t. As a parent of a child struggling to stay clean, I could really use some real first-hand knowledge and wisdom from someone who has been through this. I was so looking forward to reading your blog, but instead I read numbered words of wisdom that just brushed the surface but really didn’t say much.
Sorry, but it was disappointing.



Ron Grover says:
December 16th, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Dear Liz,

Thank you for your comment to my essay posted on The Partnership website.

I am sorry you are disappointed in my essay.

Parenting an addict in recovery is like parenting during active addiction. There is no instruction manual for every situation. I spent several years looking for a 1,2,3 step guide early in experience with Alex’s addiction. It only caused me anger and frustration. I never got better until I began to understand that my personal values are the guiding principals on how to deal with this disease. As I began to understand what I felt, knew and believed I could more easily understand what my role was to be parenting my son.

Hard fast examples are difficult because they seem like answers. When your child enters recovery, do you help them by buying a car or not? Circumstances are different for each family. Yes, I bought my son an “old beater car” he had a job, there is no public transportation, he had a family to support. That is not an answer for every person. He has many thousands of dollars of fines, I could go to each jurisdiction and easily write a check and pay them off and then he would be off probation too, I will not pay a cent towards his fines, only one person shovels to fill in this hole. He and his family would not go hungry, we packed many “care” packages and delivered them. Yes, I gave him a job. I manage a manufacturing plant and the owner of the business knows my son and strongly believed a job was critical to his recovery. Not everyone can do that but work is important.

If you noticed in that list many items were directed at myself. Forgiveness is important to me. I can figure no way to change the past but I can allow it to remain in the past. It’s easy to look at my son expecting the relapse preparing for terror once again. It is almost like post traumatic stress, but We all must live today and tomorrow, living in the past harms us all. I believe in success. That is how I manage, give everyone the tools to succeed and get out of the way. I have learned to apply to to my son and family as well. I am a control freak but that is what I must work on it is not someone else’s responsibility.

You see it is hard even when your child is in recovery. It is a life we didn’t ask for but must live.

If you want to read a more personal account of what we did with Alex in recovery feel free to read our personal blog. It more of a day to day account. I hope this helps. http://www.parentsofanaddict.blogspot.com

Good luck and be strong. Feel free to write any time.

Sincerely,
Ron Grover



Kate Bracken says:
December 22nd, 2012 at 6:49 am

Ron, I agree with your “conclusions” above. My son (age 33) is an active alcoholic & meth(IV) user. He is living?(existing) out of state,homeless and a Deadbeat Dad. BUT… he is my son SO, I do what my Mother did when I CLEANED UP: I tell him I LOVE YOU (and mean it)-I let him know I BELIEVE IN YOU (and I DO) and I remind him that I am available 24/7 if he is ready to change his life. After many years of “experimenting” with the various methods that we PARENTS try, Tough Love is my only choice. You see, I can’t fix him, I will not do it for him. He is responsible for his ACTIONS & REACTIONS.
How do I know? At 13 was popping pills 2 get that Buzz,had my 1st Blackout at 16 on NewYears(& I DROVE). Was Sober for365days!! I was hellbent to prove I didnt have a PROBLEM…I showed them! Today I have +15yrs, I am 52 & A GRATEFUL,CLEAN & SOBER very “imperfect”, Open Minded Member of the WORLD! My thoughts to anyone who expected you to provide the answers: NOTHING WORTHWHILE IS EVER EASY.



Kate Bracken says:
December 22nd, 2012 at 6:53 am

Ron, I agree with your “conclusions” above. My son (age 33) is an active alcoholic & meth(IV) user. He is living?(existing) out of state,homeless and a Deadbeat Dad. BUT… he is my son SO, I do what my Mother did when I CLEANED UP: I tell him I LOVE YOU (and mean it)-I let him know I BELIEVE IN YOU (and I DO) and I remind him that I am available 24/7 if he is ready to change his life. After many years of “experimenting” with the various methods that we PARENTS try, Tough Love is my only choice. You see, I can’t fix him, I will not do it for him. He is responsible for his ACTIONS & REACTIONS.
How do I know? At 13 was popping pills 2 get that Buzz,had my 1st Blackout at 16 on NewYears(& I DROVE). Was Sober for365days!! I was hellbent to prove I didnt have a PROBLEM…I showed them! Today I have +15yrs, I am 52 & A GRATEFUL,CLEAN & SOBER very “imperfect”, Open Minded Member of the WORLD! My thoughts to anyone who expected you to provide the answers: NOTHING WORTHWHILE IS EVER EASY. Ron, keep on loving yr kid(s) & yourself/spouse as well. That is a whole “nother” story ….. Oh, I don’t care who I offend: You must have Faith in what is unseen: EASY: PRAY



Russi Arden says:
December 24th, 2012 at 6:03 pm

My son started using drugs at 17. He has been in and out of rehab many times. Three stints in prison (all drug related)I did everything in my power to help him. On Sept 23rd he was found in a parking lot dead from a drug overdose. He was 34
There are no walks for addiction, no pretty ribbons, no fundraisers, no telethons. I had lung cancer, and had surgery to cut it out of me. There is no surgery to cut out addiction, yet they are both a disease.
Ben’s tortured life is over, but I cry for everyone afflicted with this terrible disease.



Bev says:
December 28th, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Russi, my heart goes out to you. My son started at 17…he is 32 and is struggling still with addiction. You are right there are no fundraisers, ribbons or telethons..I feel the same way you do. And I am so sorry you lost your son to this horrible disease.

Ron, I love your conclusions..I finally learned that it really does take longer with two trying to ‘shovel out of the hole’. I love you, I care about you, I believe in you cannot be said enough. The hard part is the waiting, hoping that your loved one will find the strength ‘to get out of the hole’ – to turn their life around.

I believe also in help… in medicine…in counseling…in support of those who have recovered and help from the family. It’s difficult to know when to offer that help and sometimes you make mistakes but don’t ever give up trying or give up or your loved one. Where there is life there is hope.

And I believe that addicts and families of addicts need the support of our communities, government and health insurance companies. Just like any other disease we need help in fighting this disease of addiction.

Thanks Ron for all of what you do and for those who take time to comment on sites such as these. We need a louder conversation, a more public one so that everyone knows the true struggle of an addict. We need more hope.



Pam says:
December 31st, 2012 at 12:57 am

@ Russi Arden, I am so sorry for your loss.

My husband and I tell my son how much we love him all the time. As far as “believe v. doubt,” well we are both guilty. My son is looking at court dates (more money, lawyer) this month, but continues to cop and smoke weed, and then tries to justify it. Let me clarify, my husband believes he is straight, when clearly he is not. He is just starting to read his face, actions and eyes. But even with that, he does not want to see it. My son is amazing at telling his dad whatever he wants to hear. He will say to me “see I can sit and have a conversation with dad, I’m fine.” If I mention to my husband, “he is high,” my husband gets mad at me. I truly feel like I am fighting a battle that no one knows is raging. It’s like he is trying to prove he can do these drugs and no one is the wiser.

I have learned that tough love is absolutely a crap shoot… it may work for some, and not for others. It did not work for my brother in law, and for my husband’s niece (23 and an addict) accidental O.D. Two family members have absolutely changed the way my husband is approaching my son’s addiction. If it is God’s will to take my son, I feel I mourned his loss years ago, then so be it. I know this sounds cold. But we are merely existing right now.

My prayers and thoughts are with all the parents dealing with this demon. No one can possibly understand unless they have been there. We had an abundance of friends. We do nothing now, and speak to no one…. not personal just the way it is.



Linda Smith says:
January 2nd, 2013 at 7:17 am

I see myself in all of these letters. For 15 years I watched my daughter killing herself with drugs. She began at about 14 and eventually became a heavy meth user. Her story is long and I lived my life as you say – just existing. The conclusion to each day was “she’s either dead or alive – if she’s dead, I can’t do anything about it and if she’s alive, I have to go through another day of terrible problems.” At about 30 she was arrested again (after having spent time in prison) and was on parole. She had nowhere to go, but the parole supervisor found her a spot in a rehab center on skid row in downtown Los Angeles. She spent a year and a half there and turned her life around. She is now 5 years clean and has a wonderful family of her own. Parole told me most addicts do not change until their mid-30′s. There is something in the brain that just clicks on. Do not give up. They will steal and lie to perfection for drugs. But love and your strength are all you can give them. It takes 3 years after stopping drugs for the brain cells to regrow and create endorphins for addicts to feel “normal”. It is a disease and nothing but pure hell and a living nightmare that won’t stop. However, it is your child’s life, and as parents we endure and do not give up. Every addict that recovers had to find the treatment that worked for them. There are so many suffering like we did – and the general public has no idea of the extent of the problem and the horrific consequences of drugs on our kids. It’s like a big secret we hide because we feel the shame of what our kids are doing and we feel like failures as parents. As was said – only someone that’s been through it can understand. My heart is with you all and I’m sure my daughter would be open to speaking with anyone about specifics or her experiences.



Susan says:
January 18th, 2013 at 10:02 pm

To Pam
I am at the exact place that you are. My husband the enabler continues to believe my daughter. She tells him she wants to live a normal life again & will get better, he in turn believes that & provides shelter, food, a car and money. I don’t live there anymore because I was always the bad guy. I now live alone but still can’t seem to move on with my life. She has reluctantly has agreed to go to rehab which I refuse to pay for (she’s 19, he pays for her health benefits that won’t cover rehab) & he refuses to put on State Aide. She was also in school (dropped out) told him she will go back & again he believes her – I don’t! So therefore will not see her when she is high nor will I provide money for anything. They both think I’m selfish. When I did live there it got to the point of her punching me in the face & he sat there and said nothing when the cops arrived. She was reprimanded by the police & I ended up leaving for the night. I sold the house & we all had to find a place to stay. She chose to stay with her father! I can’t forget & oh how I would like too. Maybe its too soon but I just can’t forget the years between 13-present of the terrible treatment from both of them.




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