To tell or not to tell? That is a difficult question to answer.
I remember when I found out my son was first smoking marijuana. Everyone said its a phase kids go through and it is no big deal, so I didn't tell my friends or family. After all, I did not want my son to be labeled an addict and have them think poorly of him. My son would sometimes act erratic when my family was over for a special occasion. Luckily, or unluckily he is a Type 1 Diabetic too, so, many times they would brush off his odd behavior as his sugar being too high or low and would leave it at that. I was more than happy to let them think that instead of telling the truth, my son was high. How do you tell your family or friends that your 12 year old son is smoking pot? We all think at first that it is a reflection on our parenting. What did we do wrong, how could they do things like this? We gave them all of the warnings about what drug use can do to you and yet here you are, making up stories or excuses for their poor behavior.
It's just a phase, that's what we tell ourself.
We think why tarnish their reputation with family and friends when they could stop and be like the rest of us in a few months. Unfortunately, those months turn into years and you find yourself avoiding questions about how your kids are because you might have to spill the beans that your child is an addict. I went many years without telling a soul about our problems with our addicted son. His pot smoking turned to him taking other drugs: antidepressants, pain pills, mushrooms and then our greatest fear heroin. That's when it got much harder to hide the truth, but still I hoped if he went to rehab and straightened himself out it could just be our secret. After a while, it was impossible to hide his absences at family gatherings, Christmas, you name it, he had no interest in doing family things. If he did show up, I was a nervous wreck wondering how he was going to act in front of everyone or if he would show up high.
After a while the burden of keeping the secret was just too heavy to bear alone.
I told my best friend first. Not having to make up stories about how good he was doing or where he was was a relief. I no longer had to make excuses for him. I eventually told my parents and my siblings. Of course they just want to know why he just doesn't stop. He knows its wrong and it could kill him. It has taken many years explaining that addiction is a disease and no longer a choice. It took me awhile to understand this myself. When you see your child living in a cheap, dirty hotel room because he has been asked to leave your home, you realize that no one would choose to live like that.
Joining a few support groups in my community has helped me realize that I was not a bad parent and had nothing to be ashamed of. Addiction can creep into any family, both good and bad, rich or poor. Talking about my son and his problems helped me to open up to others outside of my group. I told close co-workers which was a big help. In fact, one of my friends at work told me her daughter was an addict as well after I had the courage to tell her about my son. Now we support each other when we have bad days and sleepless nights worrying about where our children are and some days if they are even alive. It has been a blessing to me to have the courage to open up to close friends, family and co-workers about how addiction has rocked our family to the core. There are days it is hard to even get out of bed in the morning knowing what the day ahead brings. Having people around you that understand what you are going through and support you through the hard times is invaluable. It is not a reflection on you. You did not fail, it is a choice your loved one made. The only thing you can do is find support where you can. Sometimes having someone to just ask how you are doing and are willing to sit and listen to the heartbreaking details of your loved ones downward spiral is what you need to get through the day. My friends and family rejoice when things are going well and pray for us when they are not. There is not enough support in the world for parents, wives, children and friends of people caught in the web of addiction. If it is the right thing for you to do, you will find courage and more support than you can imagine if you are willing to open up to those around you who care for you and your addicted loved one.
I will leave you with a post I saw recently that I found that I resonated with:
“Some of the most comforting words in the universe are, “Me Too”. That moment
When you find out that your struggle is also someone else’s struggle, that
You are not alone and that others have been down the same road.”
Karen Damian has a son in recovery and feels that it is a privilege to share the ups and downs of addiction with other parents.