Mom to Mom: The Hole In My Life Where My Child Should Be

The hole in my life

Melancolie–created by Albert György


The Hole In My Life Where My Child Should Be


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 my child’s life―or dreamed of growing octopus arms to squash down all his problems.

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

So, while my son 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: my son.

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 my child 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.


© Sandra Swenson 2014. Author of ‘Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children’, ‘Readings for Moms of Addicts’ App [Hazelden], and ‘The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction’.



7 thoughts on “Mom to Mom: The Hole In My Life Where My Child Should Be

  1. Irene

    I have a son who is 24 and is an alcoholic. He lives over 1000 miles away alone. We have paid for his treatment, IOP’s, uber fees to go to IOP, etc. He never completes an IOP – always quits. Relapses and repeat. He has a job but has now exhausted his FMLA and is on short term disability. I honestly don’t know how much longer his work will tolerate his absences.
    Refuses to do sober living again. He only ever makes it 6 weeks and relapses. My heart is broken. I can’t remember when I had “my son” in my life. Addiction took over back when he was 15ish. He went to college and moved and he just has been getting worse.
    I have let go now.
    They say their brain stops developing at their first use…. That means he has a 15 year old brain in a 24 year old body. He never gives himself more than 6 weeks to heal his brain and I feel hopeless.

  2. Sharon

    The hole where my son should be are beautiful words of wisdom and reason. I let go, truly let go three months ago, but when you get the random out of the blue phone calls asking for help that start with a child’s voice and tears but then regress to accusations and anger… How can I truly know in my heart that I am not ” the one” who maybe just maybe can help my son? We are taught in the bible not to turn our backs on those in need… My son has been an addict since he was 16 he is going to be 30 in April. We lost his father to cancer two years ago and he has had many ” rock bottoms” since then but will still not do a twelve step program…how can I cook eat sleep in my cozy warm bed and justify my actions of not helping my son? I know, I know I’ve read so many books, attended meetings, pray continually, how do I shower put on clean clothes brush my
    teeth shop for shoes live with abundance live with joy knowing my son has nothing but his addiction to keep him company…

    1. Cynthia

      Hi Sharon. I am exactly in the same position you are now. My husband and I have started working on our own recovery since January 2019. We have to let go, and truly let of financial support, shelter and food to our almost 29 year old son. Our son is not only an addict but also has narcissistic behaviors. He has disrespected us, destroy our home when we call on his drug activities right under our roof. We have done this in the past but we always ended giving in by paying for his rent and other stuff, because just like you I cannot enjoy life knowing that my son is out there without food and shelter. We paid for rehab, sober living and nothing helped him to work on his sobriety! Since we let go he has been calling, begging, promising that he will change. It’s been hell since we stopped enabling him. My husband and I have been praying for him every day and night. Just like you I am caught between what the Bible says and our decision to let go. But God said in Proverbs 19:18-19 “Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.. A man of great wrath will suffer punishment; for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” Whenever I acatch myself blaming me or softening my heart, I read these verses until they penetrate my bones. I wish us both healing and strength as we go through our own recoveries.

      1. Sharon Johnson

        Oh my gosh!! Thank you! I will write this verse on my heart! I love it!! God bless and watch over us and our boys…

  3. Lorie Tedrick

    I have 2 Sons ages 27 and 31 that are addicts and its definately killing me. They both have 2 children … each have a boy and a girl. I’m closer to my youngest son because I see his children weekly. My oldest lives further away. I need to follow and listen to your words of wisdom and advice before this ruins my marriage or me being 6 ft under. I just bought your book The Joey Song and I’m excited to read it.
    God Bless

  4. Marcia

    I am sorry for your loss and the grief journey you must now take. I know too well. My son died of an overdose on May 5, 2017. Peace be with you.

  5. Elaine

    My son lost his battle with addiction 11/18/2018. I let him go August of 2017, I had finally come to the realization I could not save him. He knew without question I loved him even at his worst. I prayed to God to watch over him. Perhaps God or the divine universe saw his pain and suffering , knew that his soul was loving and it was his time for a different journey.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *