Amy is the mother of Steven, a heroin addict who recently almost died from an overdose. Steven is now living in a sober house after completing an inpatient treatment program. Amy is hopeful for her recently-turned-18 son. She is committed to his recovery no matter how he chooses to go about it. Amy also struggles with the delicate balance of helping her son and taking care of her other children. She believes in talking about addiction and spreading the word about the current opioid epidemic. Amy wants no more shame attached to the disease of addiction.
Here are excerpts from her story. The names have been changed for privacy reasons.
Throughout our battle with Steve’s drug addiction, I have been so grateful for his sober friends. They are a group of amazing young people. These kids have supported him for 2 1/2 years. Every time Steve has left for treatment, he has been welcomed back into the group with open arms. Many young addicts don’t have any sober friends. When I went to the family weekend at the treatment center last summer, I met so many young people who were literally going back to exactly where they came from after discharge. Their only friends were their using friends. I held so much comfort in that Steve would always be coming back to his sober group. Now that things have gotten this bad and we have chosen the course of treatment we have, things will be different when Steve does return.
I have spent most Monday evenings and many Thursday evenings at the shop for parent meetings for the past 2 1/2 years. The other parents in the group are some of the neatest people I know and so are their kids. They have become some of my closest friends. No one understands what it is like to parent an addict except another parent of an addict. They have given me so much strength and hope. I know they will always be there for me and support me but I don’t really know where I fit in at this point. Lots of changes and decisions I didn’t think I would ever have to make.
If you had told me that I would agree to put my kid on Suboxone, I would tell you that you are crazy. If you think there is no way you would ever put your own kid on Suboxone, you would need to be in my shoes: You would need to have had your kid in 5 treatments in the past 2 1/2 years and done everything in your human power to support their recovery. You would have to almost lose them to an overdose and then sit with them all night in the ER reminding them to breathe, followed by 6 more days in the hospital waiting for placement in a treatment facility.
Once your kid is in a facility that is well known to be one of the best (if not the best) young people’s treatment facility in the world, you would have to get the call from the medical director. He would tell you that you are losing this battle and running out of time. You will be told that if your kid goes out and does heroin again, he will die. The director would implore you to reconsider your stance against Suboxone because he feels it might be the one and only opportunity to save your kid’s life at this point. He would then have to let you know that he doesn’t want you coming back to him after it is too late wondering why you didn’t try this one last thing.
You might still think you would say no, but until you have walked this journey in the way I have, you will never know. I hope you never have to make the decision. I would not wish it on anyone.
Today I will continue to support my son in his journey to recover. Instead of insisting he do it my way, I will recognize that he needs to do it his way.
The financial burden of treatment for addiction can be staggering. We always think that we would do anything to save our kid’s life, no matter what, but it is easier said than done. As I have said, this is Steve’s fifth treatment. Rehab is obviously not a cure all. At what point does a parent draw the line?
Is it fair to tell another child in the family that you cannot get them braces or glasses or even help just a little bit with college because you spent all your money on rehab for their brother? And, God forbid, what if another kid has an addiction issue as well? We would like to think that the siblings of our addict would be repelled by drugs and alcohol. Sometimes this is the case, sometimes it is not. Addiction often runs in families. At Steve’s treatment center, there are several families with more than one kid in the program.
Can we afford to spend every dime on one child? Can we afford to spend our entire retirement on one issue? This is an issue every family with a kid who is an addict is facing. This cycle can be endless. It’s not like a tonsillectomy: Boom, it’s out. There is no certainty. I am sure that every family who has gotten tapped out and stopped treatment and then lost their child wonders if one more treatment would have held the magic.
I don’t know what the answer is. Unfortunately, I can only imagine the financial storm that is about to be unleashed. But Steve is in treatment, he is currently safe, and we will pay our portions as quickly as we can. We have it better than many. Often, families only get the opportunity pay legal and funeral bills when their child has gotten to the point Steve is at. They would give anything for medical bills.
Today, I am so grateful that Steve has been given another chance at recovery and life. Finding balance with his siblings is difficult but necessary. As parents, we need to support our addict the best we can but we have to recognize the limits of what we can do. We need to be just as committed to the health and well-being of our other kids. It’s easy to get so busy trying to save one that we don’t recognize the others need us just as much.