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Finding Hope

I am a wife and mother of three. My son loved riding motorcycles, working on cars, hanging out with friends, trips to the dunes with his dad. Then, in that transition from junior high to high school, he was exposed to drug use. I believe the peer pressure became too much. I believe he was in that struggle that all teenagers wrestle with fitting in and figuring out who you want to become. He was introduced to drugs, and he says to this day, “It just took one time, and I couldn’t stop. I wish I just had not tried it that one time.”

His drug use led to jail, prison, and a year or more of homelessness. I recall his first stay at a detox and short stay for treatment. One of the other residents stated that this was his sixth time in a program. I thought that would never be my kid – that’s crazy. But as we now approach his 12th or 13th go-around for treatment and re-entry into real life, it has become clear how difficult it is to recover from the disease of addiction.

My daughter saw how devastating the actions of her brother was to the family, and how they had been affecting all of us. I am so glad that she shared our story with a friend of hers who recommended we speak with someone from PAL. They were incredibly helpful.

I have learned so much through PAL. You enter thinking, “How can I help my loved one?” Then it becomes clear I can’t change my loved one. I can only change myself – that is the secret sauce! That is where things begin to change and when you apply the tools and tap into those people around you that you start to see the changes! PAL is a gift from God and the friends and relationships I have are an intricate part of my journey and my recovery. I couldn’t possibly have continued on the road I was on, it was leading nowhere fast. There was chaos everywhere in my home.

Before I found PAL  I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t realize what I was doing on a daily basis throughout the last 11 years wasn’t helping my son – it was actually hurting. I didn’t realize how everything changes with boundaries and consequences. Establishing the PAL theories and principles as new habits in my life have not only created change in myself and brought a happiness I haven’t had in years, but it has created change in all my relationships for the better.

My son was so full of life before his addiction, such a handsome young man, charismatic and charming. And now, I can see that slowly returning. In the midst of all this he continues to search for the answer. He continues to reach out for help. He continues to use the knowledge from treatment to step into life. He isn’t quite there yet. But I believe with all my heart that he will make that transition and be all God has planned for him to be, to fulfill a special purpose.

I was asked to facilitate a new PAL meeting about a year and a half ago. I can’t even describe the feelings I get from being able to help other parents on this difficult journey, to see others grabbing hold of that same hope. Please reach out – this community provides so much if you choose it. There is HOPE!

A PAL mom

Finding Hope

Last August, I bottomed out. I was desperately looking for help in coping with my 23-year-old daughter’s heroin addiction. She violated her bail (which I posted), continued to use (while in my home), was sent to county jail where she went through withdrawal and now is awaiting sentencing on the felony charge of drug delivery which caused the death of one of her friends. She and her friend both took the drugs which were laced with fentanyl – he died while she lived.

My daughter, the oldest of two children, started with marijuana around age 15 and moved to pills, amphetamines, opioids and then heroin over a number of years. As a youngster, she showed remarkable talent with art and music, securing first chair in the clarinet section of band, and enjoyed sports, particularly soccer. One night she went to the movies with a couple of friends and came home, acting giddy, slurring words, and stumbling upstairs. I thought she was drunk; but I now know she was high for the first time at age 15.

Then the downward spiral began: possession of a weapon and a ‘grinder’; possession of drug paraphernalia and loitering; serious car wreck where EMTs found heroin baggies; and ultimately, charged with her friend’s death. As I look back with significantly greater clarity (thanks to PAL), there were many warning signs: coming and going from home at odd hours; missing spoons from my kitchen, weight loss; little rubber bands and baggies (I was told these were used to store her jewelry AND I initially believed it), the combative arguments which were verbally and emotionally abusive, shattered glass in the patio door, holes in the wall from punching, cigarette burns in the carpet, thrown dishes and plates during arguments, refusal to be drug tested, several trips to the emergency room for withdrawal … sadly there were many more incidents. Yet I kept thinking she would change. All she needed was more space, more money, more support, and more love.

Addiction was not new to me as I grew up with alcoholism among grandfathers and uncles. I too have addictive tendencies in that I have recovered from anorexia and excessive exercising in my teens. My ex-husband became addicted to narcotics while treating a significant back injury more than 20 years ago, although he has since recovered. So, addiction was not new – but how to truly help and not contribute to the addiction was new. I had hit bottom and felt hopeless, discouraged, exhausted, and overwhelmed – I knew I needed help. And then while searching the internet for support groups, I found PAL. I see PAL as a gift from God to me when I was in my darkest place.

In reading about PAL, I was reassured by the faith-based approach which aligns with my values, so I emailed a local group. The facilitator promptly responded with a warm invitation to the next meeting. I almost cried as we read the preamble – confidentiality, non-judgmental, educational topics, and JOY. I desperately wanted to experience joy again. These concepts were exactly what I was seeking.

The Caretaker Negative Cycle in the lesson entitled “Helping: Unhealthy vs. Healthy” accurately described my out-of-control relationship with my daughter. I felt fully responsible for her, wanting to fix things for her and focusing on the circumstances. During this lesson, it became evident to me that my life was quickly and repeatedly going through this cycle, and in order for it to stop I needed to change and accept that my daughter must make the change for herself. I can’t do it for her.

The enabling lesson was most impactful in identifying how I was contributing to her addiction – the things I thought I was doing to “help” were making it easier for her addiction. I was treating her like the 15-year-old I saw. With PAL’s help, I now strive to treat her as the adult she is and to not be pulled into her drama.

My facilitators promoted a safe place where I could embrace the educational aspects and encouraged me to read books like Smoke and Mirrors and Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. They planted seeds of hope. Romans 5:3-5 describes how suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. The story is not over yet and but PAL and its facilitators have inspired hope in me.

A PAL mom