You know you’re in a dark place when sending your 14-year-old son away to an inpatient treatment program feels like a relief. We could finally sleep knowing he was safe, but those feelings were mixed with deep anguish at the thought of sending our baby halfway across the country for an unknown length of time.
We knew we had to take drastic measures when his two states of mind were either numbing out on medication or suicidal ideation. After four months in treatment, he returned home and the real work began for all of us.
What followed was years of intensive family counseling, so we could all change the relational dance that had become reactionary, toxic, and driven by fear. If our son was to have any hope of a recovery, we had to do our own work as parents. This was the hardest part of the journey, but the most important.
For me, it meant I had to stop policing so much and start getting out of the way to let my husband play a bigger role in our son’s life. I was afraid his parenting style was too permissive and would allow our son room to spin out of control again. For my husband, it meant he had to be more present and intentional and not bury himself in work to avoid the hard stuff.
Together, we had to learn to be a united front, which was tough because we had different parenting styles and philosophies. We had to learn to work as a team and always be on the same page.
While we were learning how to create this paradigm shift, we were also nursing the trauma of what just happened to our family. It was a dark and lonely time and often felt as though we could barely keep our heads above water.
One of my survival tools was attending Al-Anon meetings. It was there that I learned how much I was trying to control and play God. I needed to let go and completely put my trust in Him. I spent many Sundays at Cornerstone with tears streaming down my face, but I always left with more hope than when I came.
As if our plate wasn’t full enough, our then 16-year-old daughter was just starting to push the envelope. She was the one we thought we didn’t have to worry about, but her world had also been turned upside down. Her anxiety was skyrocketing and she began to rebel. She turned to alcohol, and so began a new problem. Three years later, she entered an inpatient program for alcohol abuse.
This time, we were dealing with an adult, and that requires a different level of engagement as parents than an adolescent. We couldn’t be as involved as we were with our son, and that requires a lot more faith.
It was also tough to swallow the fact that we had to send a second child to treatment. Shame had me feeling embarrassed and wondering what we’d done wrong as parents, but I knew better because as we learn in Al-Anon, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.” In many ways, it was easier to let go and not micromanage because she stayed in California for aftercare.
At this point, I started looking for a support group that was specifically focused on parenting an addict. That’s when I went online and discovered Parents of Addicted Loved Ones.
I got trained as a facilitator and started the first Dallas meeting at HPUMC in the fall of 2017. It is a faith-based support group with a curriculum written specifically for parents. This group has been such a blessing to me as I’ve watched it empower parents and transform lives. I am so grateful to HPUMC for making room for us to meet every week.
If I could share some insight with other parents who have a struggling child, it would be that you are not alone and there is hope for them to get well. The key when they’re young is early intervention and the willingness for parents to see that even though they didn’t cause the problem, they can contribute to it if they’re not careful.
On the surface, the problem might appear to be the child’s, but the solution involves the whole family.
By the grace of God, both of our children are doing well today and thriving in their lives as college students. We are finally back on track as a family, but we have learned a lot about the toxic mix of anxiety, depression and substance abuse, and why they say it’s a family disease. I hope by sharing our story, we can help remove the stigma and inspire others who are struggling to reach out for help.
At HPUMC, we believe that alcohol and drug addiction is a disease that can lead to devastating social, economic, spiritual, and physical consequences for individuals, families, and entire communities.
We believe that grace and acceptance are necessary in order to live a healthy and whole life based on sobriety and understanding. We believe the church should be a safe, shame-free space for individuals and families who are seeking transformation and recovery. God loves everyone, including those suffering from addictions and those close to them, and calls the church to respond.
We support individuals struggling with this disease through groups and studies, referrals, staff support, and community. We also provide care and support for loved ones and families of addicts.