☼ I Will Honor My Son, Not The Addict

Sandy Swenson

Sandy Swenson

I have the power.

The power to change the way I react to the disease of addiction.

The power to stop its destructive spread.

For too many years I was consumed by the poison my son was consuming. I snarled and yelled and argued and begged and cried; I re-negotiated the non-negotiable; I rationally discussed the irrational; and, at night, I either paced the house―holding vigil for Joey’s life―or dreamed of growing octopus arms to squash down all his problems.

There was no room in my head for anyone but Joey; that’s just what happens once an addict starts wearing a beloved child’s face.

So, while Joey was the one consuming the poison, the poison seeping into our household was passing directly through me, sneaking in on the umbilical connection. I was a carrier―the Typhoid Mary of addiction―spreading misery and destruction through our family. Helping the disease to do what it does best.

You see, for too many years, I was trying to change something that wasn’t mine to change: Joey.

The truth is, the only thing I can change is me.

(And that has real power.)

Addiction is horrible enough without me making it worse, so I’m done with that. There will be no more ripping apart of hearts and lives―not by my actions (or my neglect). Not by my words, thrown around like poison darts. I will not blame or argue. I will not get sucked into dramas or force issues that don’t belong to me. I will protect my boundaries, making room in my head for all the people I love. I will be calm not crazed. I will be positive. I will have reasonable expectations. I will change the tune and change the dance; I will change my family’s chance. 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 will honor my son with my words and my actions―not the addict.

The destructive spread of the disease of addiction stops with me.

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

See also: ☼ I Did Not Cause My Son To Become An Addict and ☼ I Will Not Help The Addict To Kill My Son

 

24 thoughts on “☼ I Will Honor My Son, Not The Addict

  1. Christina

    Hi Sandy,
    I found out last year my beautiful daughter, 31 has been addicted to pain, anxiety and alcohol for over 6 years….it has devastated me and our family to the point where I couldn’t eat or sleep (2 hrs a night) for over 3 months.
    She hid her addiction well until last year when she kept getting beat up and arrested for drunkenness on the pills…
    I tried to help her, let her live with me, took her to many Dr.s where they diagnosed her with bi-polar. Then they put her on more meds that made her violent as she kept drinking alcohol. She tried to beat me up….I had to put her out of my home….her dad took her to a year re-hab center. (Victory Outreach)
    I’m still scared for when she gets out. It is comforting to read all these post from other parents. Thank you Sandy for your strength that gives us all strength thru this most horrific time in my life.

    Reply
  2. Donna

    Susan,
    I really like your new blog and can relate, my son is a addict and is in rehab again for the 6th time even after long term treatment 2 times but relapsed again and got himself right back in to get back on track. This time for the first time I didn’t freak out cry,scream,yell at him….. I softly said you know what you have to do. I love him and my daughter who also is a addict with all my heart but I will not take me down again or the other people in my life that care and love me and my family for who we are.
    It is so nice to read your blogs keep them coming.

    Reply
  3. susan minor

    Hello Sandra, I ran across this post while trying to connect thru FB with an old friend Marissa Sison. I love your message as I too have been down the path with my son. He sadly passed away July 29, 2011, not from an overdose with his drug of choice – he had been clean for 7 yrs but was on anxiety meds, anti-depression meds and methadone to stay clean from the other. He was so unhappy and I could not help him find any happiness. He believed he was not entitled to happiness due to the mistakes he had made years earlier. I went thru the same emotions you wrote about – became a woman obsesssed with saving my son. His death was due to a late diagnosis of Crohns disease – too severe to save him. I believe that the 2 years he was using heroin and then the 7 years of other meds along with his frame of mind killed him. I struggle daily with wondering if I had just been smarter, just been stronger, more determined, would he be with us and happy. It is a slow recovery and I am so happy to have found your post this morning on Group 24 site.
    Blessings to you, Susan

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Susan, I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. I hope that you can find some peace by remembering that addiction is a disease; you did not cause it. (See my blog post “I Did Not Cause My Son To Become An Addict.”) Your loss is painful enough without second guessing yourself. If we could love our children out of being addicts, there would be no addicts. Sending warm hugs to you.

      Reply
    2. Jeannie

      Susan,
      My heart aches for you. I am so sorry for the loss of your son. I am also a mother of a beautiful daughter who suffers from alcoholism and mental health issues. Every day of living is so hard for her. She has been sick for so long but I never gave up hope. She found help and I am grateful for that but know each day is a struggle. I do hope you can remember the beautiful memories you have of your son and know that he truely loved you.
      Jeannie

      Reply
  4. Maggie

    I am new to this terrible journey of having a child on meth. He has been in treatment for almost three weeks and we go to family program Monday and Tuesday. I pray I have the strength to do what I need to do to work on myself. I never thought I would be in this place. I started reading Codependent No More…yikes…eye opener. Thanks for your words of encouragement, I’m going to need all the support I can get.

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Maggie, Codependent No More is a wonderful book. So is No More Letting Go by Debra Jay. Those books carried me through some tough times. Warm hugs to you.

      Reply
    2. Jeannie

      Maggie,
      I am so happy you have found help for yourself. I also have a daughter who suffers from addictions. I became so sick with worry it was only then I knew I needed to get help. I had to leave two jobs because I couldn’t concentrate. It was when I started reading and getting help I knew I knew I needed to help my self and the only person who could help my daughter was herself and God.
      Take care of yourself and know you are not alone.
      Jeannie

      Reply
  5. Penny

    Sandy, your words help me more today than you know. You see, my son relapsed last night and I have his daughter today. I am trying so very hard to keep a positive frame of mind so as not to cause her more turmoil. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt the person I saw last night was not my son, but the disease and drug. I just get more fearful with each relapse.

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Penny, my hearth breaks for you. Addiction is such a horrible, horrible disease; I’m sorry it has stolen your son and your granddaughter’s daddy. I hope, for all of your sakes, that you can find recovery of your own, even if he does not. I will keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers. Warm hugs.

      Reply
  6. joanne

    Thank you Sandy for your beautiful words As our family gets ready for the next phase of my sons recovery we will keep your words in mind He has spent the last year away getting help and we spent them getting to know him again It has been a blessed year to know he was safe But now the test will come as he comes back into the real world and puts this knew knowledge to the test We pray you too will get your son back and have a chance like us

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Joanne, I will keep you, your son, and your family in my thoughts and prayers as you all transition into the next phase of recovery. Thanks so much for writing. Sending warm hugs to you!

      Reply
  7. melissa marchio

    Thanks for being my friend on fb. I started family= fighting addiction because of mmy daughters heroin addiction. Thankfully she re o during addict and has been clean for nearly 2 years. However she and myself want to help u make a difference.contact us 🙂 better days are in front of us. God bless

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Melissa, glad to be your FB friend! How wonderful that your daughter has two years of recovery, and that you started the fighting addiction group to help others. Please send me an email through the Contact section to the right! Hugs!

      Reply
  8. Margaret

    Your writing is so inspiring! I want to be a mom like you! Full of strength and courage. Courage to move forward and create a wonderful life despite the fact that one of our children is suffering and may never have the life we planned for them. You make it ok for us to be happy again and strong and healthy and all the things the addiction tried to steal from us.. I love how you say we have the power to change all of this. No we don’t have the power to change our addict but we do have the power to change our lives and how we respond to the addiction, its like giving ourselves permission to move forward with Joy and purpose. Thank you for writing what I was feeling without realizing it was what I felt….

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Margaret, thanks for your kind words. It means so much to know they might help someone to help themselves on this difficult journey. Change what you can: YOU! Hugs!

      Reply
  9. Connie Doornenbal

    Thank you Sandy! You don’t know how much I needed this today. I have been loving my AD through 18 years of addiction. It gets easier, but through the ups and downs, recoveries and relapses, I still have days I need to be reminded that the addict is not who she is.

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Connie, I’m happy that you found what you needed today here today. It is never easy, but it is easier when we know we are understood. When we know we are not alone. Sending hugs.

      Reply
  10. Sandy Baiocco

    Sandy, such powerful words and ones that more families struggling with a child with addiction need to hear. It breaks my heart to see so many people with anger, fear and resentment towards their child because of the addiction. Self care is so important not just for oneself but for the entire family unit. I have spent the last two years on a journey of introspection and healing, trying to learn all I can about how my behavior affects what is going on not only with my substance using/now in recovery son, but with my husband and other children as well. I can say, that finally, I am at peace no matter what life brings me, and the relationships I have with my family have been strengthened and are we closer than ever. I would encourage ALL parents of children with substance abuse issues to carefully look at their behavior and see if they are helping or hurting the situation/family unit. Thank you for spreading this message of hope!

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Sandy, THANK YOU for sharing your message: The importance of introspection and self-care for the families of addicts. When the family is healthy, the addict has a better chance of getting healthy, too. Warm hugs to you!

      Reply
  11. sheila hart

    as usual, you have written words that i could have myself, if i could only put into words thoughts as well as you! This soo sums up our family for so many years. I am happy to say that right now, my son has admitted himself to Rehab, this time on his own, but not sure if its because he is serious about getting well, or truly homeless and broke and no where else to turn. He called me wanting money for cigs and i told him no, the money train stopped a long time ago…. I will FOREVER love my son, but i WILL NOT let his addiction rob our family one more day of our lives….. Thank You Sandy, as always, for sharing! You are a True Angel. Love, Sheila

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Sheila, thanks for your kind words! And, thanks for sharing the news that your son has made the decision himself to go to rehab! I understand your wondering about his motivation, wondered the same thing about my own son many times. Your strength is LOVE your son can build on his recovery on. HUGS!

      Reply

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