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I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?


Posted on July 10, 2015 by Patricia Byrne

It has been a very interesting month. Since my first post I have connected with old high school friends who have active or recovering addicts in their families. I have been contacted by people who are living the nightmare of Addiction as parents, spouses, children and friends of addicts as well as addicts themselves. Many have shared powerful stories of recovery.  I have written or spoken the words ‘I am sorry for your loss’ too many times to count, though we really do need to keep counting…  Every person we lose leaves a gaping hole in the world. That hole will swallow us all if the tide is not turned.

I did not intend to start a blog, and I am a bit unsure of where to take it from here. I am, after all,  just the Mom of a recovering addict who posted a bit of a hissy fit to her Facebook after learning of another senseless death. I don’t think I can keep tossing out hissy fits, it would get old pretty quickly. I have decided that I will post when something is swirling around in my head enough to make me sit down and write about it, since that’s what happened the first time. It may be a few things in a short amount of time, followed by a lull. We’ll just have to see where this blog leads me.

This is a new journey and I’m glad for the company of all who would like to walk this path with me. We have certainly walked it alone for far too long.

Today’s thought: What could I have done differently?

This question haunted me for many, many years. Should I have taken him back to school to get a forgotten book? When he left his report on the counter in fifth grade should I have left it there instead of bringing it to school? He had ADD so organizing was hard for him. Did I do too much? Did he never learn to be accountable for his own actions? Was I too worried about him failing a stupid sixth grade math test? Should I have let him fail and learn the result of not putting in the work instead of making him study against his will? Should have, would have, could have were constantly swirling in my head. Tiny voices blaming, blaming…

Yes, I should have let him fall on his face when he was little. The consequences of their errors grow as they do. I didn’t have to catch him when he fell —- I was holding on so tightly he never really fell.  And when he went away to college he fell hard. So yes, I should have let him fail more when he was young.

In all honesty, that is the one thing I feel I could have changed. I don’t know what else I could have done differently that would have gotten him to ‘just say no’ to drugs. Above is an old newspaper clipping of my son and his friends from the neighborhood with their ‘just say no’ signs. They marched around the neighborhood chanting. He wore his D.A.R.E. (Drug Addiction Resistant Education) T-shirt forever. We spoke about drugs and drinking and sex. Once, when my son was a freshman in high school he had some friends over. Two of the girls brought booze into my home in soda screw top bottles (OK, lesson one: no outside drinks allowed in my home). They also had some joints on them. My son and his friend came to me and told me what was going on. THEY CAME AND TOLD ME. Parents were called, girls cried, drama ensued. BUT HE TOLD ME. How, then, did this kid end up a freakin’ heroin addict? The one who told. The one who knew better. No matter how much we think ‘they’ve got this’, they don’t. Life is not black and white, and adolescence is the murkiest of grays.

2 thoughts on “I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?

  1. Regarding D.A.R.E –

    It’s been proven D.A.R.E. PROMPTES drug use, by introducing a full range of drugs (and their interesting effects) to curious children. (a good idea that did not pan out)

    But that does not matter… once a decision has been made to implement a FEEL GOOD PROGRAM, it will never be removed… even if the facts prove it to be ineffectual or harmful (or even if it was successful and is no longer needed) … and don’t even try to remove it unless you plan on being viscously attacked.

  2. What was the point of that? You answered all your own questions.

    Yes, you were a helicopter parent, and now your kid is dependent on something else since he’s outgrown you. Maybe your all or nothing intolerance to alcohol and weed made it easier for junior to pick up the harder stuff. It’s all the same right? Did you think of that?

    Blame the drugs if it makes you feel better, but you are part of the problem. I hope your son gets better. I have a family member that was on H for the better part of the 90s, and around 2004 he cleaned up. Now he just smokes weed and drinks every now an then. There is a middle ground you know.

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