A Mother's Story

A Mother's Story, Anon

I grew up in a very safe, tidy family. Or so I thought.

I grew up with the knowledge that my Grandfather was an alcoholic. I never heard his name mentioned with any warmth or love. He always seemed to be a source of great disappointment and anger to my Mother. She never had any nice stories to tell me about him. He died as the result of an alcohol infused car accident the year I was born.

Later on, my two brothers started their drinking and drugging around the age of 13. I was beside myself with worry at their behaviour and the friends they were keeping.

By the time my brothers where 18 my parents divorced. I blamed my brothers drinking and drugging for my parents’ divorce. I treated my brothers with distain and distance.

I got married to a wonderful man. Had two beautiful children. They were not going to grow up and become the sort of people my brothers had become. I made sure that they knew all about the dangers of drugs and alcohol use.

My son was a great student at school. By Year 13, very much a member of the party group. We educated him about sensible drinking and he always made sure that he slept over if he was going to a party where there was drinking involved.

He started university at the age of 17, he loved the social life at university. Unbeknownst to me by the time he was at university he had very well developed drinking and marijuana habit.

The stresses of university started to show. He had a very bad reaction to synthetic cannabis in his third year at university. It was the first we knew about his drugging.

We whisked him away from university and got him in front of a psychologist within 7 days. The psychologist told him not to smoke anymore marijuana but that it would be good idea to relax with us at night with a glass of wine!!

Our son returned to university within a month or so. However, we also tried to shadow his every move and monitor all his comings and goings. By this stage the entire family was consumed with our sons behaviour. I became hypervigilant and totally untrusting and he was really starting to loathe me. My actions were based in a combination of love and fear.

I went to Tough Love. I was taught about consequences and how to follow through with them. It broke my heart when we cancelled his 21st birthday as a result of a consequence we said we would bring to bear if we found anymore drugs in the house.

I couldn’t work out why, when even with all the punishments we were bringing to bear, he was still not making any attempt to stop drinking or drugging.

It got to the stage where I was set to leave my marriage and the family home. Our son and daughter were given this news. Our son said that he would go to Community Alcohol and Drug Service (CADS) if I stayed . I stayed. The next morning we were sitting in the CADS rooms. They asked why my son was there, he said, “ because Mum was going to leave home” – not because he had a problem with drugs and alcohol!

He completed a CADS programme and importantly there I was introduced to some Al-Anon Family Group members. I related to their stories. I realised that I had grown up in a family affected by alcohol. I wanted to get what they had. I was over hearing about the constant, acute stories in the CADS rooms, I know now that I wanted Recovery.

So, November 2008 I attended my first Al-Anon meeting.

By this stage my son was working in the farming industry. Out of the blue we got a call from him saying he wasn’t too good.
We went and collected him from the farm, he was not well at all.

The next day when I was sitting at the table with him yet again trying to find another job for him, his Dad said bluntly ” your problem is not a job, its’ your drinking”. Miracles, he agreed.

That afternoon he contacted CADS. He spoke with counsellors there. He got to a rehabilitation facility for an appointment. He went into Detox on Boxing Day ( I will never forget that). Within 2 weeks he was in rehab.

At the first family and friends meeting at rehab I attended I mentioned that I was attending Al-Anon. I remember vividly someone in the room saying how lucky our son was that I was attending Al-Anon, I didn’t get the significance of that at the time but the comment stuck with me.

I was also struck at how few residents actually had any family members there to support them.

I had learnt through Al-Anon by this stage that addiction was a disease. Things started to make sense for me then. I was learning that I didn’t cause it, I couldn’t control him and I couldn’t cure him. I learnt that my “addiction” or drug of choice was my son and his behaviour, I was completely obsessed with what he was or wasn’t doing and full of fear and resentment.

I had to do a huge reassessment on what my role as a mother was. I also learnt that I did not have to sever all contact with him as my family had done with my brothers. I was allowed to still love him but I was learning to detach (from his behaviour) with love.

After about 10 weeks he left rehab. He didn’t graduate. He initially went back to his old friends. My heart nearly broke. I learnt then that I had to find my own form of a Higher Power. I realised that I had handed him over to rehab to keep him safe not a Higher Power.
That he had his own Higher Power and that it wasn’t me.

I knew that the experience and knowledge he had gained at rehab was life changing and that when he needed help he would have to do it himself but he would know what he had to do and where he had to go.

I really had to start working my Al-Anon programme. I learnt to live my own life, one day at a time, to its fullest potential. That worrying about what my son was doing was only making me feel worse and not altering his behaviour one jot.

He went overseas and has travelled extensively. He came back to New Zealand and did a few geographicals.

Recently he has found sobriety and is attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. One day at a time, he is working his programme. Al-Anon has taught me that alcoholics and addicts in recovery can help other alcoholics and addicts. I need the help and support (fellowship) of family members of alcoholics and addicts in recovery.

I am able to love and support my son on his journey. I attend at least one Al-Anon meeting a week. I work the Steps, Traditions and Concepts. I have a sponsor.