At the end of 2018 my son went into the best rehab our money could buy. We thought this would be the answer to our prayers but the truth is, it’s not that simple.
We had 3 blissful months of not having to worry about where he was sleeping, if he had any food, or, I hate to say it, but if he was even alive. I had not slept that soundly in at least a year. When the end of the third month came, we were told he was not ready to be in the real world yet, and would benefit from a fourth month in rehab. No doubt so would we. Another 30 days of not having to worry that he was doing the right thing or if he was being taken care of. What a blessing!
We all thought for sure this was the answer we had been looking for. You think that when your loved one goes into recovery everything is going to be unicorns and rainbows. Unfortunately, we realized that could not be further from the truth. Now that my son completed his time in rehab he has a sober living coach that meets with him weekly to keep him on track and help him learn life skills. He reports to us how he is doing and this gives us peace of mind since he is now living on the other side of the country.
After about two months of being out and living in a sober house, my son started having problems with anxiety and depression. He had not been sober since he was 12 years old, so being a 22 year old living a sober life was nothing he was accustomed to. We all think just because someone is not doing drugs or drinking, things will just fall into place. But a lot of work has to be done post rehab to adapt to being an active member of society. Things that the person struggled with before using their drug of choice are still looming when they are no longer relying on the substance to numb them from their feelings. That means the underlying problem crops up and they don’t know how to cope with it. When this starts to happen and you get a glimpse of the panic the person is starting to feel. The panic and fear creep back in quickly for those of us who have to sit by and watch it all start to unravel one string at a time. Of course we beg, plead and bargain for them to either go see a psychiatrist in our case, to be put on some kind of medication to help with the feelings of depression and anxiety that make them want to start using again and most importantly keep them in recovery. Every day we face the fear that a relapse is looming in the near future and we just sit by and wait and worry.
One day while I was sitting at work trying to think of ways that I can help my son. I realized that my son needed to focus on his recovery and I need to focus on mine. I am always so concerned that he isn’t taking care of himself but truthfully I wasn’t taking care of myself either. No amount of wanting, wishing, and worrying is going to make my son do what needs to be done. He has to want it for himself and all I can do is love him. The thing that has saved me from going back down the rabbit hole of despair is to fully engulf myself in the support groups that have now become like family. Relying on them and opening up about our families struggle with addiction has brought me back from the brink of depression and heartache more than once. I also learned that I needed to stop acting like my son doesn’t have a problem. It is not shameful for your loved one to struggle with addiction and the more we talk about addiction, the more of a support system we develop.
Please remember that you are not alone on your journey and they are not the only ones that have to keep on track. Trials and tribulations can and will rear their ugly head at any given moment and we have to be strong for our loved ones. It is essential to do whatever you have found to be helpful to not fall back into the dangerous habits we so easily start again because of the love we have for our addicted child, spouse, or friend.
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.