As a parent, I can think of nothing more humbling then to have to watch your child suffer. Whether it is physical illness, emotional turmoil (such as a romantic break up), or mental health challenges, I am convinced the uncertain fate of someone you love dearly is one of the greatest tests of faith we can face in this life.
Four years ago this month I flew across the country to place in my eldest son's hand a rock. Not just any old rock, it was etched with a word. The word was HOPE. To me that physical object represented what he needed to hold on to as he began his journey from addiction to recovery.
I would like to say that symbolic handing off of the rock was all it took to turn things around in Nick's life. How simple, sweet, and quick that would have been. But, at times like these, anyone who has loved an addict knows there is nothing simple, sweet, or quick about the decision to stop drinking (or taking drugs) and to turn ones life around. Part of the reason it can be so challenging as a parent is because really all we can do, for the most part, is to watch and pray. Offering love, encouragement, support and a listening ear will only take your child so far. If you've ever loved someone who is fighting addiction you know the only certain thing is UNcertainty.
Some background...Nick has always battled with a certain amount of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. At the age of fifteen he began to seek (and found) temporary relief in alcohol. Oddly enough, as his mother, I didn't find out about this until he was twenty years old. Believe me, I have often asked myself how does almost 5 YEARS pass by, most of which was spent under the same roof, without my knowing this was going on?! Especially since I honestly felt like the two of us had a close relationship.
It was my desire to believe my child, my desire to suppress the signs that were put directly in front of me, and my optimistic nature that allowed the time to go by. These are not excuses, merely my explanation. When the time came where it was no longer possible to ignore the problem (a phone call from Nick (who was living 1,000 miles away at the time) describing the fact that he'd fought through yet another day recovering from an alcohol binge and was about to lose his job and flunk out of school), it was time for action. And for the past four years that's how I've handled his alcoholism. Through a series of actions (coupled, of course, with a great deal of prayer).
You see Nick's life, in fact, got much worse after he received the "rock of HOPE". A couple of short stints in detox, a 21-day outpatient program, a DUI, then inpatient rehab a few short months after that (these were the bigger events in the process, the details of which were revealed in the book I wrote). After rehab came sober living and a couple of visits to jail which I believe was a direct result of losing his dad to the disease. During all of that time, Nick had a mother who was willing to walk through fire, if need be, in order to get Nick to love himself enough to turn away from alcohol as an avenue to medicate his mental and emotional pain.
I am so proud (if there was a bigger and better word than proud I'd use it here) to say that Nick is celebrating TWO YEARS of sobriety today! As his mom it's been an indescribable blessing to watch his life change direction and to see him begin to achieve the kind of potential I have always known he was capable of.
I have never been ashamed of sharing our story or of admitting my child has had a problem with alcohol. Addiction is a disease that knows no gender, racial, religious, or economic boundaries. If it were as simple and easy as making the right "choice" there wouldn't be so many people in trouble with alcohol and drugs. It is an epidemic, and it is hitting our children at a younger age. Because we've gone through this as a family, I am hoping to be a part of the solution by speaking up and working within the field of addiction.
I love you my son, and again, I could not be more proud of how you've handled yourself through the struggles of the past two years.