This Is What He Learned

I taught my son how to ride a bike. I taught my son how to ice skate. I taught my son how to tie his shoes. I taught him how to turn on the computer when he was four years old.  I taught him how to drive a stick shift car.  Those are the things I know I taught him. I have memories of teaching him these things. There are a lot of things I worked at teaching him through the years like manners, kindness, respect and laughter. Those are every day parts of parenting. I strive to teach him to be independent, to think before he jumps, to manage his money like he might be broke tomorrow, and to do his own laundry (though I miss doing his laundry because I could steal his sweatpants!).  I’m sure there are a lot of subtle or subconscious things I have taught him through the years but none was more evident than the incident that recently happened.

My son has a friend who is struggling with addiction. Many, many people have been trying to help him, but most of them do not understand the process as well as I do. There has been a lot of really high highs and really low lows lately except that I have anticipated them. When he reaches out for help, I remind them all that its great that he is asking and we should not be discouraged if it doesn’t work because at some point it will. Of course, the friend didn’t stay at the first detox attempt. And he didn’t continue going to his first IOP attempt. And he has called for help several times without following through all of which is really hard for the people around him that want to help. I keep saying just hang in there. I know that people said that to me along the way, through the years, and I know that they are doing exactly what I did: Ignore my advice entirely. I can’t take it personally because everyone hopes that their loved one is going to be the one that miraculously is clean and healthy after their first attempt, never to return to the drug world. I’m sure it does happen sometimes to some people but I can’t imagine it happens very often. I have never heard of it.

I wasn’t surprised when I heard he was going to detox again. I wasn’t surprised to hear that maybe his addiction had reached an all time dangerous level, either. A lot of times addiction will get worse before it will get better. I was surprised, however, to hear that this friend called my son in the middle of the night asking for my help. I was even more surprised when my son said that he didn’t need me because he could help him. And he did. He did everything I would have done. He was kind, and patient, and respectful but firm. Getting an addict to detox, for those who have never done it, is not easy. Most addicts are anxious, and high, and wanting to get more high on their way there. It means helping get rid of any triggers for when they get out, and cleaning up a mess that they may have left behind. It means hoping to hell that they don’t jump out of the car at a red light to run away. Or after getting there hoping to hell that they will get out of the car and into the detox without incident. Sometimes an addict will decide to go to detox, reach out for help, find a bed (Thank you Maureen at http://www.magnolianewbeginnings.org), only to panic at the last minute refusing to leave.  There is a balance of support, honesty, and strength needed by the driver/deliverer/helper. It’s not easy. And I don’t mean physically. It’s mentally hard to see someone you love using, and high, and strung out, and desperate. It’s not a pretty picture.  And my son handled it like a pro.

He did exactly what he needed to do. No matter how traumatizing and difficult and probably scary, he handled it. I’m proud of him for that and I’m so thankful that his friend reached out to him. But I’m also horrified and saddened and a little bit guilt-ridden. Why is that, you ask? Well, that is what my son learned from me. Watching me take care of his sister for years has prepared him, readied him to help an addicted friend. How many mothers can say that? His childhood was flanked with detox, rehab, drugs and a mother who spent a lot of time doing all the things he did but a million times more. Is my legacy to my children how to navigate the drug-rehab world? This… this is the life we inhabit. Awesome. Mother of the year right here.

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