MAHOPAC NEWS – Thursday, July 25, 2013
ABUSE vs. ADDICTION
By Susan Salomone
Mahopac resident Susan Salomone lost her son, 29-year old Justin, to a heroin overdose in May 2012. The following piece is an introduction by her to an article she recently read that she hopes will help others in the community who may be going through the same issues as a family.
My life goes on even though my son, Justin, does not. I still spend a lot of my time thinking about what happened and why. In retrospect, the many years that Justin spent addicted to drugs while still living in our house was hell. It was not challenging or a cross to bear; it was hell. Every day brought another crisis. When there wasn’t a crisis, we were just waiting for the next one to occur.
Although my family went about their lives as if everything was normal, there was nothing normal about it. The anxiety that families experience when living with a drug addict or an alcoholic is too much to bear. Other family members often become sick, displaying symptoms such as compulsive behavior, controlling behavior, or separating and isolating from the family so as to protect themselves from the pain of each new event. Now that Justin has passed on to a more peaceful place, often times I think how this could have happened–how did my son die not of some terrible illness but of something that I could have prevented?
The truth is I couldn’t prevent it. Although I thought I had control and I could make my children do whatever I wanted, it was all really just an illusion.
I read a great article posted to our website and I want to share it with the Mahopac community. It helped me to deal with the loss of my son, and perhaps it can help others in town before it’s too late.
Salomone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via drugcrisisinourbackyard.com. She will be holding an informational drug-prevention forum in the area at the end of September. Mahopac News will keep you updated.
I DID NOT CAUSE MY SON TO BECOME AN ADDICT
Sandy Swenson, a Maryland resident, is the mother of two sons—one of whom, Joey, is an alcoholic and drug addict.
I did not cause my son to become an addict. As a parent, I do not possess that power. Addiction happens because a renegade sip or snort or sniff crosses an invisible line between want and need.
When my sons were little, I imagined I had all kinds of power. I could decide when it was time to put them down for a nap – but they might play in their cribs rather than fall asleep. 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 sons 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 boys were going to be who they were meant to be. My real power as a mother was simply to love them.
And, of course, to annoy them and piss them off.
Depending on the kid, the phase, the age, the mood and the moment, as a parent I was perceived to be too nosey, too hovering, and, on occasion, not hovering enough. I sometimes didn’t listen carefully when I should have, and sometimes listened in when I should have not. I hurt my children’s feelings. I made them feel angry and sad and unheard and misunderstood. Try as I might to be otherwise, I am an imperfect mom. Imperfect parenting, however, does not cause children to become addicts. If that were so, every child would grow up to be one.
Maybe I drove Joey to drink, so to speak. Maybe he was hurting. Or mad. Or embarrassed of this old gal who brazenly adored him for the sweet boy he was. Or, maybe Joey was insecure and uncomfortable with the process of growing up. Whatever his reason for first using drugs and alcohol, Joey had also been enticed towards the glamorized hole-filler by popular culture since birth. Even though I had taught him to ‘Just Say No.’ Substance abuse and addiction are not the same thing, however.
As a child – a child – substance abuse was a choice Joey made. But, why he started and why he can’t stop are two different things. Addiction snuck up on my son – picked him out of the substance-abusing crowd – and choked him.
Substance abuse is a choice. Addiction is a disease.
As a parent I made a lot of mistakes, but causing my son to be an addict is not one of them.