“It’s hard to be the mother of a drug addict.”
-A Mother’s Love
There are so many things that I wish that I didn’t know. For most of us that find that we have a son or a daughter who uses drugs, it usually blindsides us. For many years I denied it. I look back now at the ever increasing chaos of our lives and wonder how I was able to brainwash myself into such denial. Now, of course, I know more than I ever thought I would want to know about drug abuse. The price of this education was financial, emotional, and physical.
I am the mother of David and Kevin Lee, founders of Intervention Services. I am the mother of a drug addict who couldn’t stay sober for many years of his “trying”, who dragged our family through years of hell.
I spent so many years agonizing over some of the choices and decisions that I made as a mother. “Where did it all go wrong?” In looking back now, my head says that it couldn’t have turned out any other way than it did. My heart, however, wondered, especially when I think back with the fear and doubt and the guilt that only a mother can know.
Growing up, both of my boys were very intelligent and it showed in their academics. I was always so proud. They were put in accelerated classes and each was president of his senior class. David participated in the Jets Test, the Academic Decathlon, and the Computer Quadrathon. It seemed that his life was set. Strangely enough, at first I worried about Kevin. But, as time went on, Kevin threw himself into sports and popularity. David, the smart one…began to change.
They talk about addicts being manipulating experts. Don’t get me wrong, as David spiraled into drugs, he became better and better at manipulating. But I did a pretty decent job of manipulating myself. When his grades started to go on a gradual downward slide, I convinced myself that it was the accelerated classes and class load he was taking.
When he let his hair grow to a length I disapproved of and showed a preference for black attire and trench coats, I decided he was just showing his individualism and that it was a phase he would grow out of. (This was long before the Columbine shootings would cause alarm for that attire.)
I pondered over the idea that he might be using drugs but my husband pushed that idea aside because he had a relative who abused things like LSD and David wasn’t showing the same signs. I was so naive I didn’t know there were different behaviors for different drugs. “Maybe pot,” he said. I bowed to his experience.
I grew more and more upset with his behavior and lay in bed at night wondering why he seemed to be so rebellious and what could I do to get him back on track. There was never any answer. The only conclusion that kept haunting me was that I was to blame because when I was a single mother I had worked many hours and wasn’t home enough. One of the ways I beat myself up was wondering if it would have been better if I quit my job and had gone on welfare so I could have been home more.
Then came the stolen checks. I called my husband home from work and when David returned, we had a confrontation. I wasn’t angry. That would come later! I was heartsick, sick to my stomach, scared — and hopeful because now I knew what was going on and we were sending him to treatment.
The insurance his father had only covered half of his first program so when he went back to using soon afterward, I mentally cussed out the insurance company. To me, it was like paying for a surgeon to open you up but not to close. More of my self-manipulations. I found a lot of people to blame throughout the years. Everyone except David.
The wonderful part of the frequent rehabs and even jail was that those were times when I could breathe a big sigh of relief and relax because I felt he was safe. I didn’t have to worry about a drug dealer blowing his head off or the fact that he might O.D., or that he might just disappear and I would spend the rest of my life wondering what happened to him.
Those interludes gave me time to worry about Kevin. I wasn’t concerned about drug abuse; I had begun to realize that he was growing more and more resentful of the “attention” David was getting. In speaking with families who have been through similar situations with their loved ones, I have found that it is common for siblings to grow resentful and even hateful. It’s just one element of how a family gets torn apart.
I’m sure all families like ours go through similar phases. My husband and I clashed often. We seemed to take turns with the enabling. Once when I had had enough and decided to throw David out, my husband went behind my back and told David that if I did he would leave the porch open. Families go through so much turmoil. People used to tell me “He has to reach his bottom”. But what does that mean? Throw my son out into the cold weather to die? Sometimes I was willing, other times I’d give anything just for him to call and say that he was ok.
Now, when I look back on it all, it seems like a bad dream. And now, just like the mother who stayed up at night looking back at where it all went wrong, sometimes I think about where it all went right. That maybe the years of praying, of inspirational cards, of long nights on the phone telling David that he could do it might have contributed the way it all turned out. That maybe, in the grand scheme of things, a mother’s love helped to save her son.
In my mind, I know that intervening on David, learning how to stop enabling, and working together as a family helped to get him sober and to stay sober. But in my heart, I’d like to think that it all turned out the way that it did for a reason
I feel so lucky now that I still have two wonderful boys (men now) who are becoming the brothers I always wanted them to be and that they are working together to make the families that have been fractured by addictions whole and saving the lives of those with the addiction.
I truly sympathize with the parents of someone who begins to abuse drugs or alcohol…who is beginning to change. I understand the fear, the uncertainty, the guilt, the denial and the feelings of helplessness.
But today, I now understand hope…
–Sharron Van Kooten
Mother of Kevin and David Lee, Founders of Intervention Services