Our son died in 2018. He would have been 28 years old this month, but had struggled with addiction for more than half of his precious life. He wasn’t the only one who struggled. We all did. He may have been the addict, but the journey belonged to us all… P.J., myself, my husband, our youngest son. Some of my readers know that both our children were adopted. We chose to be their parents. You might ask whether knowing what we know now… knowing what turmoil his addiction would bring to our lives… if given the opportunity to make that choice again, would we still choose him? You bet we would and I would imagine that many parents of addicts would answer the same way. Here are three things we want you to know about our son and we think every family would want you to know about their loved one who is struggling with addiction:
We love our addict… Just because our son or daughter is an addict, it doesn’t mean we love them less. They are still the same baby that giggled when we made funny faces at them, the same kid that got excited over over Christmas presents, and the same teenager whose heart was broken when his grandpa died suddenly. We love our addict as much on the days that they’re broken and/or unconscious as we do on the days they seem perfectly normal, so comments about using tough love and excluding them from our lives (which is not love at all) are not welcomed or warranted. And when we tell you positive things about our addict, we want you to be happy for us. We cherish the good moments with them as much as we do those with our children who are not addicts. Don’t rain on our parade by rolling your eyes or reminding us of their addiction every time we mention their name.
Holidays are hard… The reason many addicts are addicts is because they’re self-medicating because of other problems such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. Like other people who suffer from these disorders, they don’t handle holidays and special occasions well. And holidays are especially hard on the addict’s parents because at a time when we gather with extended family, the addict is not often welcomed because of the drama they bring with them, so sadly we are forced to choose between our addict and others. We understand your need to exclude them. Please understand our sadness as a result.
Losing them is painful… In the event our addict dies, it doesn’t hurt any less. We grieve as much as any parent who has lost a child. While there may be moments of relief knowing our son or daughter is no longer in pain and we don’t have to worry anymore, the grief is debilitating at times. Never for one minute think we are better off without them and don’t miss them.
The bottom line is that for us, the addict and the person are separate. The addiction does not define our child any more than any other affliction defines any other person. The parent and child relationship still exists regardless of the struggle.
Yes! We would choose him again. Every… single… time.