What Being a Parent of an Addict Taught Me

What Being a Parent of an Addict Taught Me

I am the parent of an addict. A heroin addict, to be specific. No one can prepare a mother for this kind of lifestyle. However, as moms around the world tend to do, I stepped up to the plate and dealt with the hand I was given. Baseball games and slumber parties were traded for seedy hotel rooms and stints at the local police station and hospital. It’s something I wouldn’t wish for any parent, but it is something I went through.

I Never Thought I Would End Up the Parent of an Addict

When Aaron was a child he excelled at everything. He was a handsome boy from day one, with sparkling hazel eyes and sandy brown hair. He was great in sports and got good grades. The future was so bright. Drugs barely crossed my mind as an issue. I thought that was something that other parents dealt with, and that there would have been clear signs that my son was headed to a world of addiction. I could not be more wrong.

When Aaron was 13, his father and I got divorced. I have spent a thousand nights wondering if this was the cause of his addiction. In retrospect, it may have been a part of it, but no one will ever know for sure if it is really the case. One thing I have learned is that I can’t blame myself unless I want to continue to drive myself insane.

The Early Years Of Addiction

By the time Aaron was 15 he was smoking pot and drinking. Normal for a popular teenage boy, I thought. I warned him about the dangers but didn’t go overboard in keeping him away from it. All I wanted was for my son to have a normal teenage life and this was part of it, so I thought.  I kept open communication with him and thought it was the best way to keep up a level of confidentiality.

I didn’t think anything would ever escalate past that. I’m not overly naive, so I realized there may be some experimentation with other drugs. I talked to him about the dangers and thought we had trust and understanding. This trust was especially reinforced when he told me about how his friends were drinking at school and it upset him. As a parent, I took this as a sign that he knew right from wrong and had good values.

Well, he did have good values. He also happened to break his arm playing basketball after school, and after a hospital visit and getting fitted into a cast he also got a prescription for Vicodin. I wish I had kept a closer eye on where exactly those pills were going.

The Slippery Slope Into A Full-Blown Opioid Addiction

Little did I know that Aaron started taking the Vicodin regularly and that one of his closest friends had a constant supply from his parent’s medicine cabinet. They were crushing them up, snorting them, and doing this on the way to school, during school, and after.

I saw a distinct change in my son’s behavior. His usually sunny demeanor was turning dark.  He was angry with me for no reason and secretive. He slept a lot and barely came out of his room. When he did, the shadows under his eyes said what his words wouldn’t. I expressed my concern and tried to get him to open up to me. In the meantime, his opioid addiction was getting worse. Heroin had entered the picture.

It has been two long years since Aaron first began using heroin and I became the parent of an addict. He has been to rehab twice and stayed sober for 6 months at a time before he started dating a girl who brought him back down a dark path. I love my son more than anything and try not to drive myself crazy by blaming myself for who he has become. I’ve watched his downfall and been there for him 100s of times to pick him back up.

The Necessity for Tough Love

I know that I will not give up. I know there needs to be an end to this addiction because the only other alternative is his death. As a parent, it is so difficult to turn your back. But, the second time I got him to go to rehab was when I took away his car and his place to stay. It’s so much easier said than done, but tough love truly is necessary when you’re dealing with an addict.
Aaron is still using. I think he is close to going to rehab again. I spend a lot of time praying for him – even though I have never been a particularly religious person. No matter what, I know that I am his mother and I will not turn my back on him even in the darkest of times. I want to see him do well and to stop his cycle of addiction; finally attend college, and get married.

I cope by keeping myself sane with my own hobbies. I’ve also obtained Narcan that I keep on me at all times in the event that he overdoses, and I can help in any way. I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone, but he is my son, addiction and all.

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