From A Mother's Point of View
After a rather tumultuous last two years of high school in which he almost didn’t graduate, our son attempted suicide in our house just a few days after graduation. He had been to a couple different counselors for anxiety issues, but neither counselor identified anything serious or that there might be an underlying drug problem. After the attempted suicide he spent a week at Carolina Behavior Center where a drug screen revealed marijuana in his system, which came as a complete shock to us as parents.
What we really needed, and had not received through previous counselors up to that point, was someone who understood the craziness we were living in and could give us practical steps to deal with it. I could not even come close to articulating what was happening to us.
As parents, we had no idea what our son was dealing with, let alone how to help him. The advice we got from friends and family before the suicide attempt was along the lines of “just typical teenage behavior – he’ll be fine.” My intuition was screaming that this was something much more than just teenage rebellion, but with no validation of those intuitions, I started to feel like I was becoming an unreasonable and crazy mom.
What I didn’t know then is that marijuana might be “no big deal” to the majority of kids who try it, but it is very addictive and dangerous for kids prone to addiction. I needed to know that my fears were valid, that we weren’t the only family going through this, that having a son with a mental illness or an addiction did not mean we were bad parents. We needed to understand that addiction is a disease that our son did not choose and we did not cause, and that like any disease, it affects the whole family.
From the first conversation I had with Amber over the phone, I felt relief to know that I didn’t have to articulate all our craziness to get her to understand our situation. She actually articulated to me what was happening in my house (I wondered if she had a way to spy on us!) and with that understanding and validation from her, our healing journey began. Hope for Families was not yet in existence when we started – it was just Amber with her intern, Campbell. Our story evolved along with Hope for Families!
The best way they helped us was by treating the whole family, not just our son. We all received a comprehensive understanding of addiction which has been crucial to recovery. The staff at HHF busts myths and fears with education, understanding, acceptance and most importantly practical advice in dealing with every situation that might arise. We learned why “normal” parenting skills (which we used to raise 2 other boys to productive adulthood) did not work with our youngest son.
The HFF staff was always one step ahead of the disease, predicting what might happen next and helping us form a plan to deal with it. When the parent group was formed, we found a most wonderful support system of others who literally walked every step of the journey with us and us with them. I truly believe the practical guidance and help we received from HFF saved our son’s life and saved us from frantically running down a lot of expensive but empty rabbit holes trying to help him.
It was not a linear path to recovery and it was messy most of the time, but as of this writing our son has been 18 months substance free. He’s making good choices, working full time and living on his own. The anxiety, bipolar and ADHD behaviors all but disappeared along with his drug abuse and he’s now prescription medication free as well.
My husband and I are in our own recovery, no longer trying to control or shame him, which we learned was only hindering him from taking responsibility for his own recovery. We continue to attend parent group at HFF to keep ourselves accountable for our recovery and to share help and hope for families just starting their journey.
When I made that first phone call to Amber, I thought we were just signing up for a few sessions and then our son would be “fixed.” I had no idea of the journey that lay ahead or how our lives would be changed forever… for the better! I would not have chosen this path and would not wish it on anyone, but I can honestly say I would not trade our journey for anything.
We live life with more gratitude for the little things, much more understanding of ourselves and our son, a better appreciation for what’s really important in life, more compassion for and less judgement of others. Our son is not only healthy but he also has a deeper understanding of himself and his addictive tendencies.
We are confident that should relapse happen, he has been given the tools and the skills he needs to deal with it; and we have the tools and skills we need to find joy in life regardless of his choices. We’re enjoying a restored relationship with our boy, and for that we feel nothing but gratitude that God led us to Hope for Families.
We had talked with our son about drugs and he had assured us he would never be “stupid” enough (his words) to do anything like that. Our fears were somewhat relieved when the staff was unconcerned, saying we should be thankful it was “just marijuana.” He was sent home with medication for anxiety, possible diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder or ADHD and a recommendation to follow up with counseling.
When our son’s regular counselor was unavailable, someone suggested we call Amber. I’m so glad we did.