“I just didn’t know how to help him. I let him down!”
by by Ned Wicker
“I just didn’t know how to help him. I let him down,” said Dorothy, as she looked over the lifeless body of her 36 year-old son. “I just wanted him to be happy, to have what he wanted.”
Never thought he would die and become one of the addiction statistics we hear about:
Dorothy knew her son took drugs, but she never suspected he would die from an overdose, or in the case of her son, from a heart attack. She didn’t necessarily like it, but she didn’t think it was her place to interfere with his life.
Her son had been using drugs since high school and never moved out of the house. He never married, held a job for more than six months and had a criminal record, mostly petty thefts. He had been jailed for short stretches on three occasions, but never for any violent offenses.
So many YEARS!
It had been the same for so many years. Dorothy’s husband had died when her son was in the eighth grade, and like so many widowed, suddenly-single moms, Dorothy tried to hold things together by working two jobs and occasionally picking up work on the side.
The boy was one of those “latch key” children, who never saw their parent, so to compensate for her absence Dorothy would try to give her son material things like video games, a mountain bike and sound equipment.
The boy got into drugs early, drinking beer and smoking marijuana. He was suspended from school once for having liquor in his locker, and using that as a little base of operation to sell to other students. Dorothy was never there for parent-teacher conferences, but she would readily get on the phone and curse out the principal if her son failed a class.
Trying to hang on!
Dorothy was trying to hang on to what she had left. If she disciplined the child, he would certainly rebel, or worse yet, leave home. And so it went for 20 years. The son never finished high school. He had a good deal going.
Mom worked and paid all of the bills. It’s not that he didn’t appreciate it, because Dorothy said he would joke with her, hug her and tell her that she was the “world’s greatest mom.” She said he had the ability to be “so cute and charming.”
Every dollar he had was spent to supporting a meth amphetamine addiction, which she knew about, but other than a couple of exchanges with him, never expressed her concern or did anything to “interfere” with her son’s life. She was a role model for enablers. She was a classic co-dependent.
Still didn't really get it
Even his death didn’t help her realize that meth is a killer. She just chalked it up to him having a bad heart. She said she didn’t think he took “that” much meth. Her husband had died from a heart-attack at just 42, so maybe it was a genetic inevitability.
Her husband was a heavy smoker and drinker, but she never thought he had a problem with it. By the time her son died, he weighed 127 pounds and at 5-11, looked like a ghost. She never thought people who were not overweight could have a heart attack, especially young people. Her husband was overweight, so that must have been the reason.
Certainly a family disease
Addiction is a family disease, because it takes the entire family to help the addict realize that he/she has a problem and that treatment is vital. But denial is a powerful force, especially when the addict and the enabling parent fail to see the addiction, refuse to see the addiction, or band together to advance the addiction. Mother and son fed off of each other and nothing was ever done to put either of them on the right path.
Now she is completely ALONE!
Dorothy stood beside his bed in the emergency department and wept. She was in shock. She did not know that she could have been a major, positive influence in helping her son overcome his addiction.
She did not know that she needed treatment every bit as much as her son, and it never occurred to her that something was wrong in their house. She didn’t want to know and at the end, she did not want to know what really happened. Now she was alone.
Never considered an intervention
It never really occurred to her to intercede and try to help her son overcome his drug dependency. She always felt that her job was to be a loving a supportive mom, but little did she realize that being a parent of an adult could be such a difficult task. On the one hand her son was a man, on the other hand, he was selfish, irresponsible and still very much an adolescent, even though he was 36.
His emotional development stopped when he was 16, so she was supporting her man-child and trying to hold the relationship together. She never turned to Al-anon, or sought out the counsel of professionals from a local drug treatment center. She was a spectator.
No one interfered
There were other family members, aunts and uncles, cousins, but none of them interfered. In the interest of discretion, they’d say things like, “It really isn’t any of my business.” They hide behind that statement, as if being distant exonerated them from any personal responsibility. Dorothy was quite alone.
Ever member is impacted
Addiction is a family disease. Every member is impacted. When families communicate and draw together, addicts benefit because there is no weak link in the chain to exploit and short-circuit efforts to go to treatment.
When a united effort is presented, the addict has little room to manipulate and wiggle out of doing what is obviously necessary. Families are so very important in this process and the absolute backbone of the plan.
Parents, aunts and uncles and other extended family need to be a part of the process and band together to help addicts get on the right path. There are no spectators.