My Son is an Addict
My son is an addict. It's not the first thing you’ll hear me say if you ask me about my kids. Truthfully, I’ve never said it until now. I usually skirt around the subject, saying my oldest son has had some struggles with drugs and alcohol.Not because I am ashamed or embarrassed, but in my eyes, my oldest son is not one thing. He’s a million things — an amazing living, breathing, walking, talking human being with a "heart so big it could crush this town," to borrow a few words from Tom Petty. (For future reference, my mind is prone to bust out in a song lyric at any time.) Yes, I’m his mother and his biggest fan, but I’ve never liked the smallness a label dictates. I don’t even like to label myself as a writer, songwriter, musician, wife, or any other word that defines a role I play. Instead, when someone asks, I say I write stories and songs and do stuff. That pretty much sums it up.
I’ll be the first to admit that I like to look at the bright side. I see the good in others and especially my children. At times, I’ve been accused of being too damn optimistic. But I’m a believer. I know, that's a label, but it’s also what I do. I believe there is always a way, a solution, a miracle waiting around the corner, and that things will get better. This doesn't mean that behind these rose-colored glasses, life is always beautiful. I've spent many sleepless nights and cried rivers of tears. I've also had times when it felt like my heart was physically being ripped out of my chest. But most times, I try to “keep on the sunny side.” I did tell you about the song lyrics. Right?
Being the mother of a son who is an addict has taught me a lot of things. But first, what is an addict anyway? There is such a stigma attached to the word. When I used to hear the word addict, my mind conjured up the image of a guy lying in a dirty New York City back alley, fighting off rats, surrounded by syringes and needles - thank you,Al Pacino. But now, I know better. Addicts are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, nieces, friends, acquaintances, and ancestors. Many have very successful careers. Some give TED talks, climb mountains, play big stages, and shine bright…at least for a while. Recently, when my son lost a close friend to addiction, I wrote a song to try and bring some comfort into the raging sea of heartbreak.
Some stars shoot across the sky and light the world on fire as they go by
Some fade out of sight, while others still burn bright and keep on shining,
They just keep shining, I’ll shine on for you, and I’ll shine on for me
- lyric from Shine On
Addiction is painful on all sides. It's not something you can sweep under the rug and talk about later or chalk up to “sowing a few wild oats.” I wish I would have known that a long time ago.Addiction is real. It’s not some phase that people go through with a clear beginning and end. It’s a disease, a dragon that can bare its teeth at anytime. And it runs in my family, in my blood, a gene that can be “on or off.” I didn’t know any of this back then.
I just kept believing. I believed my son when he said he didn’t leave the pipe in my glovebox. I believed him when he said he was camping in a blue tent on the Colorado River. I even went to the place where he said he was with a care package of food and supplies and a guitar for him to play. There was no blue tent. The other people camping there said they hadn’t seen or heard of him — I believed them, maybe. For a year, I didn’t know where he was. I thought I saw him everywhere — the face of a homeless man in San Francisco, or hitchhiking on the side of the road. I believed I could help. What I didn’t know was that my love wasn’t enough to save him. He needed more than I could offer.
When he did surface again, I got a phone call from jail. Letters followed, and I began to understand. I’ll never forget the first time I went to visit him and saw him behind the glass, dressed in orange. I couldn’t stop crying. I wish I could have held back the tears and offered an encouraging word, but I wasn't that strong. I just bit my lip, tears streaming down my face. He apologized over and over. I didn’t need an apology. I just wanted him to be okay. I studied his letters and tried to read between the lines. When he decided to goto an addiction/behavior modification treatment center, at a cellmate's suggestion, I took him there. The 24 hours between the time he was released from jail and admitted to the treatment facility felt like an eternity. He was so fragile, fractured, and torn.
As his mother, I wanted to take the blame, and for a while, I did. I wasn't a perfect parent. I have a laundry list of things I could have done differently. I tried to mold my children into what I thought they should be. Ouch, that truth still hurts. To top it off, during a crucial time in his life, I walked out on my marriage of 18 years, shattering the illusion I had created of the perfect "Leave it to Beaver" family. I often wonder why children are given to the young, who don’t know what they’re doing. But as I get older, I realize age doesn't matter all that much. I still don’t have all the answers. I know more things, but for the most part, I’m making it up as I go. However, what I do know is that my children never suffered from a lack of love.
So what has all this taught me about addiction? Forgiveness is key. Always. Every day, all day — especially when it comes to forgiving myself. And to never stop believing. Ever.
Trisha Leona Sandora
Words & Music
At Foundry, we know that addiction is a problem that affects every area of your life and therefore requires holistic solutions. We don’t just teach skills to help you abstain from drugs and alcohol; we teach skills to help you live a happier, more purposeful, more connected life. To learn more, call us at (844) 955-1066.