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About a week or so ago, I picked up on something while talking to my son over the phone. His words were a little too clipped when he described the bad dream that he had the night before. He has been plagued with nightmares since childhood. He woke up that particular morning and thought he was in his old bedroom – the one where he spent countless nights wrestling with a real monster: addiction.
He said he didn’t want to get rid of the furniture without talking to me, since I had given it to him a few weeks ago. But the feeling he had that morning was one that he didn't think he could shake.
You see, about two weeks before that day, my son returned home in a U-Haul truck and loaded his bedroom suite, some dishes and kitchen accessories, tables and chairs – items I had saved for him over the years. He pulled away that day to move into his first apartment. It was a day that we had looked forward to for many, many years. I actually took a video of him driving away. He honked the horn as he drove down our street. My husband and I watched proudly from our driveway and laughed at his gesture.
It was a big deal. My son has been in and out of recovery for more than a decade. He just celebrated his one-year sobriety date and collected his one-year chip. THAT was a big deal. But I really couldn’t fully enjoy the occasion because my son has a long history of sabotaging momentous events. His fear of failure has led him to take control of his destiny, and well, fail on his own terms. It doesn’t make sense to someone who hasn’t loved someone struggling with anxiety, depression and a substance use disorder.
I am immensely proud of the hard work that he has done to fight this monster. If available, I would display a bumper sticker on my car that read: "MY son just finished a year in recovery." He has worked toward this one-year mark for more than a decade. So, I tried my best to push down my building anxiety and enjoy the moment.
Because this time was different.
THIS time when he entered detox, it was after a particularly horrifying few days on a meth binge in February 2019. Events occurred during that plunge into relapse that he has yet to tell me about - and he has always told me more than I wanted to hear. I can’t imagine how bad things got. When he called for help, my husband and I told him that we were willing to help him get into treatment again.
We try not to “enable” his addiction but enable his recovery. It’s taken us years to discern the difference.
THIS time he went from detox, to inpatient treatment, to extended care, to long-term sober living. He was willing to do it all without hesitation. He stayed on medication for his mental health, religiously received a monthly injection for Vivitrol that blocks the effects of opioids (to deter a possible relapse) and received the trauma-focused therapy that I was promised before I agreed to sponsor his long-term care.
I know without a doubt that he wants to be free of addiction. So I cringe when well-meaning individuals say, “when he’s ready … he’ll get sober.” I imagine how it would feel to strangle those words from their lips. He IS ready. He has BEEN ready for years! I assure you that wanting to get sober and staying sober is easier said than done.
Around January of this year he found an apartment close to the long-term sober living environment and the support system that he had in place. The apartment is also near the job that he loves. He secured the deposit and paid the first month’s rent on his own. His roommate was also his roommate the past few months while in sober living, so they were sure the transition would be easy.
As his March graduation date approached, rumors of the deadly coronavirus began to grow. In a matter of days all the support that he had built over the past year began to disappear. He had been faithfully working out every other day. He went regularly to AA meetings and surrounded himself with people who wanted to stay sober just like him. He had his best revenue month at his job.
Then the pendulum swung in the opposite direction when the Governor ordered a “shelter in place.” His program graduation was postponed until further notice. The gym closed its doors. AA and NA meetings were cancelled. Business dropped to a crawl. All gatherings were strongly discouraged.
I truly believe that these measures are necessary to save lives. I can’t imagine the pain of losing someone to this deadly virus. Yet, I have watched in horror as friends buckle under the unbearable grief of losing a loved one to a similar disease: addiction.
Where is the order that will save these sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends? Where is the Governor’s order to stop the sale of drugs like Tianna which is highly addictive yet prominently displayed at checkout counters of convenience stores?
I have a lot of questions, but I know one thing for certain: You cannot fight addiction without connection. Connection to people who have walked in my shoes has made this journey more bearable for me. Connection to other people like him has saved my son again and again. Without connection, we are adrift – isolated.
Addiction thrives in isolation. Shame thrives in the dark.
Ironically to our situation, connection is how COVID-19 kills. How could this happen? How could this happen now? Is there some dark cloud that follows my son and so many others like him?
I think it’s just really bad luck.
When people talk about being blessed, I delicately inject the idea that they’re lucky. Otherwise, the person killed by a tornado, for example, was cursed, right? That’s the opposite of blessed in my opinion. To think that God or some Higher Power saved one but allowed another to be taken doesn’t set right with me. So, I think we’re either lucky or unlucky.
I wasn't brought up to think that life is fair or unfair. I accept that. I instilled that message in my son early in his life. Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes there are no explanations as to why something bad has happened. But you keep getting up when you’re knocked down. Grieve, get angry, then move on.
I am hoping, and praying, that he will view this lapse as a bump in the road – not a relapse with the wheels coming off. It doesn’t matter if it’s day 365 or day one. It truly IS one day at a time.
Otherwise I know the disease will eventually kill him and so many others. I’m not willing to accept that.
- By SavingMaSon, April 18, 2020