Parenting a Child With Addiction–where love and addiction meet

From One Mother to Another (an excerpt from Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children, written by Sandra Swenson)

We may often feel fragile, but we are strong.

And we are many.

As mothers of children suffering with addiction, we do battle with a disease that oozes misunderstanding and shame. Alone and afraid, we try to do the right thing—even when we’re not sure what that right thing is. We try to hold our families and ourselves together, even when it feels like we’re falling apart. We feel every pain our child feels, no matter the distance (in miles or years). We try to carry on, even when our heart is breaking in two. But, as tired and tattered as we may be, like the deceptively delicate dandelion, we moms are made to persevere.

Together, we’re traveling a most unwanted, unanticipated, and unclear journey—for a lifetime. Whatever happens next may or may not follow a neat or hopeful path. So, we all need to find our own inner-dandelion; we all need to take a close look at the things we don’t want to look at—the things lurking around in this place where love and addiction meet—so we’re as strong as we can be. My wish is that the “ponderments” contained within this book—the thoughts laid bare for you to think about—will help you achieve that.

Whenever I sit down to write, I write as a mom, as the mom of an addict, and, specifically, as the mom of a son—a son who has not yet found his own recovery. I write as a mom who has begun her own recovery, though her son has not. My writing comes from deep within this particular mix.
However, while the voice burbling up comes from the well of my own experience, it is intended to be a reflection of the heart and soul of every mother of an addict. It is intended to help put words to your own thoughts and feelings. To help you heal.

Recovery is a process we all share. It’s not only for the health and well-being of our beloved addicts, but for our families—and ourselves—too. On the road to recovery, we pass through several stages—sometimes again and again (and all cattywampus), and in our own good time. The ponderments within, collected as a set of meditations, reflect those stages.

When addiction first takes root in our child, we may be completely unaware, but once we’ve heaved ourselves over the monstrous hurdle of realization, the recovery journey begins: We learn, we grow. We cry, we wilt. We learn the value of nurturing ourselves. We find strength, we bloom. And finally, like fields of frazzled flowers, we scatter seeds of truth and goodness, changing the dynamic of this place where love and addiction meet. One by one, and one after another, we are carried aloft by the hope, the help, and the beating hearts of other mothers who love a child suffering with addiction.

We may often feel fragile, but we are strong.

And we are many.

We have the power to overpower the destruction that addiction spreads.

dandelion | noun | dan•de•li•on \’dan-də-lī-ən\
[from Anglo-French dent de lion, literally, lion’s tooth]
●vibrant golden-yellow flower. under-appreciated. thrives in harsh conditions. shabby tufts scatter the flowers of tomorrow.
●a weed or a wish, depending on point of view.
●strong. like a roar.

Where Love and Addiction Meet
The first time my child reached his dimpled little hand out for mine, I was there. And I’ve tried to be there whenever he’s reached out to me—and even when he hasn’t—ever since. Until, that is, my child became an addict. Addiction has made such a mess of things that I’m no longer sure if I should be within range when he reaches out (or even when he doesn’t).

I don’t know if my help is hurting this child of mine. I don’t know if I should stay silent or speak up. I’m not sure how to love without doing the things that seem loving, or where to put the dreams and conversations and hugs that have gone unused and are piling up. I don’t know how to fill my empty arms, or where to put my love for this child who says he hates me. My heart doesn’t understand this place where love and addiction meet—it’s all confused about what it means to be my son’s mom.

I cannot be there for my child in the way life intended, but my love will always be there whenever he reaches out—and even when he doesn’t.

“I mean, it is the most impossible love… it’s absolutely fine for me to teach you how to walk and talk, and then you grow up and you head off in the wrong direction toward a cliff. And I’m supposed to just stand there and wave.”—Because I Said So

Before My Child Was an Addict
Before my son was an addict, he was a child. My child. But he could have been anyone’s child. Before my son was an addict, he liked to joke around, give big hugs, and work hard and play harder. Sometimes, he also lied, or said things that were mean, sulked, or was crabby. In other words, my child was perfectly normal.

Even though he has done some bad things while being an addict, my son is not a bad person. He’s a sick person. When addiction scooped up my child, it did so indiscriminately; my son, at his core, is one of the least “bad” people I know. Before my son was an addict, I used to judge the dusty addict on the corner very harshly. Now I know that being an addict isn’t something anyone would choose.

I wish I hadn’t waited for the worst to happen before I opened my eyes and heart. Before I looked beyond the addict’s dust to the person he was meant to be. To the person my child could easily become. . . and did.

Addiction can happen to anyone.

“Don’t judge, just love.”—Anonymous

To Love an Addict
When I held my baby in my arms for the very first time, I rubbed my cheek on his fuzzy head and whispered, “I will love and protect you for as long as I live.” I didn’t know then that my baby would become an addict before becoming an adult, or that the addict taking his place would shred the meaning of those words to smithereens.

Slowly at first, came the arrests and overdoses and big fat lies. My sweet child was turning into a stranger, manipulating me, using me, and twisting my love into knots. I was befuddled by this scary new world that I didn’t even know I was in and that I knew nothing about.

I thought I was just a regular mom stumbling through regular parenthood, but then I had to figure out how to be the mom of an addict. I had to figure out how to love my child without helping to hurt him, how to grieve the loss of my child—who’s still alive—without dying, and how to trade shame and blame for strength.

To be the parent of an addict is to be an ambassador of truth and understanding. No more shame. No more silence.

To love an addict is to run out of tears.

I’m Not Ashamed
My child dreamed of becoming a firefighter, a fisherman, and a marine biologist when he grew up. Becoming an addict was not on his list. I know the child who dreamed those dreams and he is a child to be proud of. Tender and thoughtful and smart, he should be living his dreams. But my child isn’t here—an addict has taken his place. Someone who looks like my child is hooked to the strings of an evil puppeteer and living a tortured life. Instead of fighting fires my child is fighting demons. Instead of tying flies, he’s flying high. Instead of reaching for the stars, he’s reaching for a bottle. A life full of promise lost to a jug full of lies. Addiction took my child’s dreams, chewed them up, and spat out a nightmare.

No, my child didn’t dream of becoming an addict, and it certainly wasn’t what I dreamed for him either. But I’m not ashamed my child is an addict. I’m sad he’s an addict. By shining the light on addiction I might just get him back.

“Shame is a soul-eating emotion.” —Carl Jung

I Did Not Cause It
I did not cause my child to become an addict. As a parent I don’t possess that power.

When my children were little, I imagined I had all kinds of power. I could decide when it was time for their nap—but they might play in their cribs instead of sleeping. I could serve up a healthy dinner—but if they didn’t want to eat the small mound of lima beans on their plates, They Did Not! I could teach my children right from wrong and good from bad, but my word alone often wasn’t enough, and they experimented to see how those rights and wrongs worked.

It soon became clear that while I could be their guide, my children were going to be who they were meant to be. My real power as a mother was simply to love them. (And to annoy them and make them mad.)

As a parent I was perceived to be too nosey, too clingy, and, on occasion, not clingy enough. I hurt my children’s feelings. I made them feel angry, sad, unheard, and misunderstood. At times I hovered like a helicopter mom—at other moments I might have flown too far away.

I am an imperfect mom. But imperfect parenting does not cause children to become addicts.

If that were so, every child would grow up to be an addict.

“Too many people are spoiling their existence carrying needless guilt and shame.”—Anonymous

Sandra Swenson is the mother of two sons—one of whom struggles with addiction. A voice for the loved ones of people suffering from addiction, she first documented her experiences with her son’s addiction in the critically-acclaimed book The Joey Song. An advocate for acceptance, education, healing, and recovery, Sandra can frequently be found sharing her story. Her first Hazelden-published book, Tending Dandelions, is full of honest meditations for mothers with addicted children.

I’m not sure how to love without doing the things that seem loving

☼ Crying Is Okay Here

crying, addiction, grief, mom of addict

Photo by SSG Robert Stewart

A child has died. Not my child, but the child of a friend. Technically, he was no longer a child. But still, he was her child. She was supposed to have her child forever. Except forever didn’t last.

I didn’t know this young man. My friend’s son. I don’t know if he liked basketball or if he wore his hair parted on the side or how he preferred his steak cooked or on what day he was born. My arms don’t cuddle the memory of his tiny heft and softness as though years haven’t flown by since his birth. I don’t know the feel of his hand — if it was calloused or smooth — or the sound of his voice curled around the name Mom. Like silk. Or wind. Or leather.

No, I don’t know the things, the essence, the him that filled the space in his mother’s universe like stars, filling and fitting like only he could. But I can imagine.

I don’t know what dreams her child had for today and tomorrow, or what dreams my friend kept polished up for her son. I never looked through their window of hope to the future. But I feel the slam. And the crumble.

He was, now he isn’t.

His mother has to find a way to live with that.

This mother is a puddle of tears.

 

Sandra Swenson is the author of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction . Her forthcoming book, Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers With Addicted Children will be published by Hazeleden in October, 2017. An accompanying app will be released spring 2018.

‘ASK’ Documentary–Addiction, Codependency and Love

Addiction is only a maze if you don’t ASK for help.

“I’m the mom of an addict, and I’m not ashamed to say that anymore. There’s a time when I was…..” My interview with the ASK team about love, learning, and letting go.

Sandy from Kurt Neale on Vimeo.

Please watch and share this beautiful documentary with anyone who might benefit from it—anyone who might need help navigating the maze that is addiction: “ASK is a film about how both the addict and co-dependent relate to one another, love, and how both need help.

ASK – Can Love Survive Addiction and Codependency? from Kurt Neale on Vimeo.

☼ Love Is Pretty Quiet

IMG_0660One hug, once a year. That’s all that’s left of my relationship with my son (for right now), but it’s a powerful thing, this hug.

It carries a quiet message.

This year, faced with Joey’s (very loud) silence, I made the trip to Florida anyway, hoping to show him that I will show up every year, full of love and open arms, no matter what.

Hoping to show him that my love is constant. (In case he ever wants to come back.)

I stayed for four days, even when faced with more deafening silence, sending out messages, letting him know where I would be having breakfast or catching sunshine in case he wanted to join me. Finally, on my last night, Joey met me for dinner. I didn’t ask questions about drug or alcohol use (I never do, anymore). Instead, we enjoyed the moment, and made a new memory to hang onto.

All I can do is love my son.

And love is pretty quiet.

———–

I’m giving away ten signed copies of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction. Enter to win via Goodreads! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/135217-the-joey-song-a-mother-s-story-of-her-son-s-addiction

☼ Addiction: Letting Go Is Not The Same As Giving Up

Sandy Swenson

Sandy Swenson

One hug.

Once a year.

I hold you tight, my son. Probably too tight, but I need the strength of my love to soak into your soul, and my arms must absorb the love I know you have for me. I memorize this moment.

As you grew from boy to man, child to addict, I had to let go of the things I could not change and the things that weren’t mine to control (after trying for so long to change and control them). I had to let go before the ugly words and behaviors slithering in on the underbelly of addiction did irreparable damage to the relationship that had once been so good. Or killed the boy I was trying to save.

My love is all I have left to give you.

(That, and one too-tight hug for each of the past seven Aprils.)

I hold you tight, my son. Wrapping you in my arms, I feel the power of our dusty bond. A silent exchange of hope and strength and eternalness, of a love that has been bruised but never broken. I kiss your cheek, leaving a lipsticky mom mark, and now, again, I must let you go. I open my arms — empty but now full — arms which will keep you snug and close to my heart, until next time. Next year.

In letting go of you, Joey, I’m holding on tight to so much.

In letting go of you, I’m letting you know that I believe in you. I believe you will find your way back.

One hug.

Once a year.

I’m keeping your place warm.

Letting Go is NOT the same thing as giving up.

Enter to win one of ten signed copies of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/135217-the-joey-song-a-mother-s-story-of-her-son-s-addiction

 

☼ My Son Is An Addict (Sometimes I Feel So Alone)

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

My son is a stranger; an addict wears his face.  Everyday I must wake to the loss and horror of this and still put one foot in front of the other; everyday I must climb a mountain no mother should ever have to climb.

Sometimes I feel so alone.

My son is now invisible, but my heart still holds his place. Rarely does anyone mention Joey’s name. After all the trouble and trauma no one knows what to say anymore; no one wants to ask when I last saw my son or spoke to him or if he’s still alive. Family and friends want me to be okay, so I act strong for their sake (and mine). But I hurt. Time doesn’t heal all wounds… at least not yet.

Sometimes I feel so alone.

My son is an addict, relegating us to a shamed and lonely place. Ours is a world where drunken car accidents, intravenous speedballs, and drug overdoses are not understood. A world where addiction is hushed and shushed and hidden away, snug and comfy in the illusion of sweet dreams and happy endings and the power of a mother’s love. A world that believes — because it must — that children do not self-destruct randomly and therefore this mother’s love must be tremendously flawed.

Sometimes I feel so alone.

My son is in the grips of a tragic disease, even though it may look more like a disgrace. I’m afraid for Joey. He is sick, maybe dying, yet I can’t hold his hand.

Sometimes I’m not as strong as I look.  Ask how I’m doing and I won’t feel so alone.

The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction  is available in bookstores and libraries.

☼ The Addict May Hate Me, But He’s Not The One Who Matters

addiction, rock solid

There was a time when I was tricked and manipulated and hated into helping (loving) the addict. Desperate, placating, and fearful, my love crouched behind a mirage of wishful thinking. But not anymore. My love is no longer confused by delusion. The addict’s hatred no longer has the power to get me all muddled up.

It’s not the addict I hope will be grateful for my love. It’s my son.

My son is the one who needs my support. My son needs to see my strength. My devotion. My resolve. My son needs me to face down his worst enemy, not help it.

My son and the addict may share the same shadow but they will not share my love. My son is the one I want to see live beyond tomorrow.

Once I stopped caring if the addict hated me, the addict hated me even more. He didn’t like the word ‘no.’ He yelled and cursed and threatened, viciously pulling on heartstrings and fears, trying to trick me into betraying my son. But I didn’t. My love is a rock solid foundation for my son to stand on (or take his next step), not the addict. And now they both know it. Eventually the manipulative gyrations completely stopped, but that’s not the end of the story.

“Hi Mom. I was thinking of you and just wanna say ‘I love you.’ I feel like I’m missing out on my amazing mom because I don’t call very often. Hug toss.”

For seven years, the only thing I’ve been able to do for Joey is love him.

Love him.

The addict may hate me, but my son doesn’t. And my son is the one who matters.

                                                                           * * * * *

The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction  is available in bookstores and libraries.

☼ All I Want For Christmas Is My Son Back (From The Addict Who Stole Him)

All I want for Christmas Is My Son Back

Joey, with visions of sugar plums…

Do you see what I see?

A child, a child, stolen from my life.

Do you hear what I hear?

A very silent night.

Do you know what I know?

My son drags around his addiction like Marley’s chains, but only he can turn things right.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and I’m trying, but while roasting chestnuts and jingling bells, I grieve for Joey and his very tortured life. The joy of the season and the pain in my heart are like a tangle of tinsel, or competing garlands of flashing lights. 

This year, yet again, my youngest son will be home for Christmas, but my eldest son will not.

Joey’s stocking is no longer hung by the chimney with care, and none of the gaily wrapped presents tucked under the tree are for him. Long gone are the days of toy trains and blocks, pjs and robes, iPods and iTunes. Long gone are the days of giving gifts safe for an addict―gifts Joey couldn’t sell for cash, or fall off of while drunk, or cut himself on while high. Gone, even, are the days of giving a gift certificate for addiction treatment; Joey refuses to go to treatment ever again (and has repeatedly walked away or been kicked out in the past).

The last time Joey was in rehab, I collected photos of the people and places Joey loved more than anything in the world (well, until he loved the things that fed his addiction even more). Happy memories, warm memories, I carefully placed them into an album, hoping my gift would touch something deep inside Joey. Hoping to pull him back. But, before I could send my Christmas gift off in the mail, Joey walked away from the addiction treatment program, turning his back, yet again, on the help and the hope and even the order of the court. The album sits on a closet shelf collecting dust.

Sadly, visions of sugar plums are no longer what dance in Joey’s head. On Christmas, he will be far away. My heart cracks a bit just thinking of this. But Rick, my younger son, will be here; we will tear wrapping paper and toss bows and eat too many cookies and watch movies and play games―we will be making new memories, and these gifts of time are the ones that really matter. I don’t get to make new memories with Joey, though. The memories I have of him, of us, are old and dusty like the photo album abandoned on the shelf.

All I want for Christmas is my son back from the addict who stole him, but that’s not a gift I expect to find under the tree this year. Instead, I will wrap myself up in the peace of the season.

My wish is for you to do the same; find the peace of the season.

(And, Joey, if you are reading this, I wish the same for you, too.)

The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction  is available in bookstores and libraries.

☼ Loving An Addict On Thanksgiving: A Different Kind Of Stuffing

Joey and his grandpa.

Joey and his grandpa

When my boys were little, they hovered about the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning, eager to get started with stuffing the turkey. We tied on aprons, washed our hands, pushed step stools over to the kitchen counter, and discussed who, exactly, would need to touch the pale and pimply turkey flesh.

Joey dumped bread cubes into a large bowl and Rick stirred in the onions and sage; they took turns scooping stuffing into the hollow center of our holiday bird before we slathered it in oil and popped it in the oven. Our home was full of pleasant aromas and anticipation and things to be thankful for. 

Norman Rockwell picture-perfect.

But things changed once Joey became an addict.

Thanksgiving became a day stuffed with unspoken disappointment, anger and fear rather than too much pie and good cheer. Joey’s brother, dad and I would wait for Joey to show up (or not show up at all), while our turkey and sweet potatoes shriveled away in the oven. Retreating to different parts of the house, we avoided the sad festivities and phony smiles until tradition beckoned us to sit down at the table across from Joey’s very empty place. Thankful, I was not.

It has been seven years now since Joey even pretended he was coming home for Thanksgiving dinner. (I don’t know where he has turkey. Or if he has turkey.)  I’ve had time to adjust to Thanksgiving the way it is and stop wishing for the way it should be, but time hasn’t taken away the hurt — or the hole where Joey should be. I suspect it never will. Instead, over time, I’ve grown stronger. I’m strong enough to face the hurt rather than stuff it away (more often than not), and I’m strong enough to fill the hole with things that make the day better, not worse. That means facing reality, not trying to re-create what can’t be re-created, starting new traditions, and spending quality time with some happy old memories.

This Thanksgiving I will spend the holiday weekend with my youngest son, Rick, and good friends. I’m thankful for that. And I’m thankful that Joey is still alive.

(This is me filling, not stuffing.)

May your Thanksgiving be filled with things to be thankful for, too.

The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction  is available in bookstores and libraries.

☼ The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story Of Her Son’s Addiction — An Interview

cover

The Joey Song

Cathy Taughinbaugh — Treatment Talk http://cathytaughinbaugh.com/interview-sandy-swenson-author/

I had the pleasure of reading Sandy Swenson’s heartfelt story of her son’s journey into addiction. Her powerful tale of parental love and hope is one of those books that will heal the hearts of others who so desperately want to know that they are not alone. Sandy’s story will resonate with those who love a child. Her strength, determination, and hope for a miracle will remain unforgettable.

Please welcome Sandy Swenson, author of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction.

What inspired you to write The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story Of Her Son’s Addiction?
When I first started to write The Joey Song, I was trying to heal. I was trying to understand the toxic corrosion of addiction eating away at my son, my family, my heart. I was also secretly hoping that one day my son would read the words I had written and be forever changed; I was hoping that by the time I got to the last chapter I’d have a happy ending to write about.

But, as it turns out, my story, like so many others, is a story without closure. So, I started to write the book I so desperately needed to read; I started to write The Joey Song for parents like me, parents whose beloved children remain in active addiction.

For parents living in the place where love and addiction meet—a place where help enables and hope hurts. For parents trying to figure out the difference between helping their child to live and helping him to die. For parents grieving the loss of a child who is still alive. For parents needing to find a recovery of their own.

I’ve heard it said that for every addict, another four lives are affected. That means there’s a lot of suffering going on. And, for too many people, stigma and shame have them suffering in silence.

When addiction grabs a child, it chokes a parent. I know the life-draining squeeze of its grip. I’ve never felt so incapable and helpless, so sad, so lonely. Such fear. My child has been stolen from me—stolen from himself—and I mourn Joey’s loss and suffering from a very lonely place.

There is no broad community empathy or support for the families of addicts. There is no rallying cry of solidarity, no pretty ribbon brigade, and none of the comfort that so often gets baked into meatloaf and muffins. Instead there are closed doors and mouths and minds and hearts.

I want addiction to be understood, not misrepresented, misjudged, and mishandled. Not hushed up or hidden away. Nasty things grow most freely in dark corners; the scourge of addiction needs to be dragged out into the light.

So, I share my story of love and loss and learning. And surviving my son’s addiction while coming to terms with the fact that he may not.

When addiction is understood as a disease, it will be treated like a disease ― but this is an understanding that will happen only when those of us who love an addict stop hiding addiction as though it’s a disgrace.

No more shame, no more silence.

How has your son’s addiction affected your life and what did you do to help yourself?
My baby grew up to be an addict. There was a time when I believed a mother’s love could fix anything, but it can’t fix this. So, there’s a gaping hole in my life where my son should be. Falling in the hole or filling it up are my only options, so I’m taking steps to fill it.

I choose to honor my son with my words and my actions―not the addict.

This doesn’t mean I don’t care. Or don’t hurt. Or won’t cry. It just means I will fill the hole in my life where Joey should be with goodness, not badness. Kindness, not madness.

I’m not ashamed of Joey. I’m sad for him. And, I’m not ashamed to be the mother of an addict. I will no longer behave as though addiction is a dark secret and I’m not going to live like a cockroach hiding under a rock.

I will be open and honest about what addiction has done to Joey and to our family, hopefully helping some people along the way, with my blog and my book, The Joey Song.

Like Joey, I have choices. And I choose to live life.

What are three things you’ve told yourself that kept you going during your darkest hour?
“I will not help the addict to kill my son.”

For years, I did everything I could to protect Joey from himself, until, finally, I realized it wasn’t him that I was protecting. I was protecting the addict. Making it easy for the addict. Giving the addict one more day to further consume my son’s body and mind. I was helping the addict to kill the son I was trying to save.

Once I realized this it changed everything; my motherly love would need to be contorted and redefined. There’s nothing about this kind of love that feels good, but I’m not doing it for me. It’s not called Tough Love because it’s mean. It’s called Tough Love because it is tough to do. But I will do nothing, ever again, to help the addict. Because, if I do, I have no hope of ever seeing my son.

I told Joey once to never underestimate my love for him, and this is what I meant—I love him enough to bear the toughest love of all.

To Let Go is to Love. I can do both, and I can survive.

“It’s not the addict I hope will be grateful for my love. It’s my son.”

My son is the one who needs my support. My son needs to see my strength. My devotion. My resolve.

My son needs me to face down his worst enemy, not help it.

My son and the addict may share the same shadow but they will not share my love. My son is the one I want to see live beyond tomorrow.

“Letting Go is not the same thing as giving up.”

The expression “Letting Go” implies, well, letting go—as in dropping or throwing away—and as any mother knows, that’s just not possible. There is no Letting Go in a mother’s heart—not of a hand once held. Even if that little hand grows into a big hand attached to a horrid addict. But that’s not what Letting Go means. I now understand. It means to let go of the things that aren’t mine to hold on to. The things that have anything to do with addiction.

In Letting Go of my son, I’m letting him know that I believe in him. That I believe he can do this. Like a hug, full of my love, I Let Go believing that he will find his way back.

If a parent walked up to you asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip(s), what would it be?
“Sometimes love means doing nothing rather than doing something. “

Our children are not marionettes we can control with words or wishful thinking. Our actions are not their actions. Our pulling the strings isn’t the same thing as them doing the work. It took me a long time to realize that my enabling was giving Joey a stage to go through the motions of recovery and that if he was going to have a chance at real success I needed to clip the strings.

There’s nothing I can say or do to stop Joey’s addiction, but he needs to have a reason to stop. He needs to know I’m keeping the place where he belongs in my life warm. I will not give him advice or a sympathetic ear or even believe a word he says, but as long as Joey is alive I will find ways to leave traces of love along with my Letting Go.

All I can do for Joey now is love him. But he will know it. And that is something.

What do you want readers to take away from your story?
Addiction is a disease, not a disgrace. It is not an issue for moral judgment.

Addiction begins where dalliance becomes disease, and it can happen to anyone who has taken a sip or puff or snort (which our culture entices every young person to do), or even a pill prescribed for pain.

As a parent I made a lot of mistakes, but causing my son to be an addict is not one of them. If imperfect parenting caused addiction, then everyone would be an addict. The reason someone starts to drink or use drugs is not the same reason why someone cannot stop.

The only thing we have control over is our own reactions. We cannot make our addict embrace recovery but we can stop the spread of the disease. We can stop the toxic corrosion of addiction eating away at our family and our soul. Recovery begins with us.

Recovery can happen even if it does not happen within our addict. It is not selfish for parents to take care of themselves. Be the example you wish to see.

The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction  is available in bookstores and libraries.