We have a good life. We’ve been married 33 years, recently retired after successful careers, and active in our church. We worked hard and are responsible with our money. We have two boys who had a good childhood with parents who were active with them. Like most parents, our intentions were to provide the best life for our children.
We felt the time we all spent together, and the example we set, would help our kids grow into responsible adults. When the boys lived at home, we ate dinner together nightly and often spent our time in the evenings together. When they moved out, we still had dinner together weekly. We also vacationed together. A couple of our favorite annual vacations were skiing at Whistler, in the winter, and camping and boating on Lake Roosevelt in the summer. We also skied quite a bit together at Crystal Mountain.
Our house was loving and full of laughter.
Last year, our life went sideways. Our oldest son Tyler, who seemed to be doing good living on his own, started acting strangely. We suspected that something was wrong. He was always out of money, offering to come over and do chores around the house or mow the yard for a few dollars. This didn’t make any sense, as he was making good money at his job and we just couldn’t figure out where he was spending it. It wasn’t only that, but his attitude was off as well. He just wasn’t as cheerful as he once was.
On more than one occasion we asked him if everything was okay.
Why did he always need more money?
Where was he spending it all?
Is there anything that we can help with?
He usually became defensive and even confrontational at times. He said he was fine and gave answers that made sense, but we still felt that something wasn’t right. It was logic vs. our gut, and logic was winning.
Then we got the call.
Tyler had broken into a house and been arrested for attempting to sell a bike that he stole.
Because of confidentiality laws, the attorney could only tell us so much, but he did tell us that Tyler was in trouble and needed help.
He confessed everything. He was smoking heroin.
Once we got a chance to talk to him, he told us that he had tried smoking heroin at a party almost a year earlier and once started, he couldn’t stop. This explained so much. All those little things that told us that something was wrong with our son, things he explained away, now all made sense.
When you’re faced with your child’s addiction, it’s as if every negative emotion collides and attacks you all at the same time.
How could this be?
Did we do something wrong?
How can our son be a heroin addict and a thief?
What do we do?
Typically once we identify a problem, we can quickly get ourselves on the road to solving it. However, this isn’t the case with addiction. This was new territory for us. We were angry with Tyler for making these choices, we were worried about his future, we were humiliated, and felt like we had failed as parents. Mostly we were confused.
We started avoiding our friends, family and neighbors because we just didn’t know what to say to them. We stopped going for walks in our neighborhood afraid of the innocent question “How are your boys doing?” We didn’t want to admit that this was happening and we couldn’t explain how we got here.
Tyler agreed to an intensive outpatient program. But it wasn’t enough, he was still getting high. We took his phone to prevent him from contacting his dealer. It didn’t take long for him to start using his iPod to message him, and then the TV’s internet connection. We had to hide the TV remotes from him! No matter what we did or what measures we took, he was always one step ahead of us.
Heroin always seemed to outsmart us.
Tyler was released from jail on his own recognizance. For the next 6 weeks we supervised him constantly to ensure that he wasn’t going to use again. We figured we would force him clean if we had to. The tension in our house became unbearable. Tyler and I were constantly at each other’s throats while my wife, Lori, tried to keep the peace among utter chaos.
The harmony and joy our home once knew was gone.
We were now prisoners in our own house, fearing that if we left him alone he would contact his dealer and go off the rails again. We had to take turns watching him. This was destroying the life we had worked so hard to build. Tyler was flat-out rude and treated us with a complete lack of respect. I was so mad at him. No matter what I said, it made no difference. He was unmotivated and didn’t seem to care about getting his life back on track.
I had finally had enough, We wanted our lives back.
I went to the treatment center for his outpatient program and told the counselor that we just couldn’t do this anymore. He gave me a Battlefield Addiction business card and said that he had heard good things and maybe they could help.
So I called them. I was surprised by Angie’s compassion and how upbeat she seemed to be as she shared her own story with me. Truthfully, it was much worse than our situation, but it wasn’t dragging her down. After I finished going on about all my troubles with Tyler, she suggested I attend a Solution Group Meeting.
She explained to me that what was unique about these meetings was that they were focused on the solution and only allowed a few minutes to complain about the problem. There was no excavating the how and why this addiction happened to the family, we are there to solve the problem.
After being in a room full of parents that were focused on the actions to take, rather than the problem of addiction, we immediately booked a Private Consultation.
Art seemed to know our story better than we knew it. He had been down this road before and nothing we said was a surprise to him. Having someone who understood what we were dealing with and who was able to guide us out of the mess, made all the difference in the world.
The first thing he told us to do was to stop managing Tyler’s recovery and get him into a sober living house. We are not treatment providers, how can we expect to manage his addiction? Made complete sense. So we did.
Since then, Tyler has had a few minor relapses, but we’re learning how to deal with them. He has his journey of recovery and we have ours. We recognize now that addiction is not something that he’s choosing. Instead, drugs have hijacked his brain and recovery is something he needs to manage everyday. We have learned that we need to support him with compassion and solution-based action.
This doesn’t mean we have failed as parents. Rather, it has given us the opportunity to be better people.
The education and support we’ve received through Battlefield’s Solution Groups and Family Workshops have pushed us to grow as individuals, and as a family, in so many ways. When I look back on the day that we got the call that Tyler had been arrested, I realize how grateful I am. His arrest was the best thing that could have happened as it shined a spotlight on his addiction. We have great faith in a plan greater than ourselves and that faith gives us confidence that Tyler will be fine in the long run. On difficult days, we also know the Battlefield Addiction Team will be there to support us, giving us new tools to incorporate into our lives, making each day better.
-Chris, father of an addict, committed to the solution.
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