One evening in May of 2008 the phone rang. Nick, the eldest of my five children, was on the other end of the line. What transpired during that phone conversation quickly, and definitively, altered the course of my life.
At the time of the call, Nick was living in Wisconsin doing what all “good” 20-year-old young adults should be doing: attending college/working/socializing with friends. I assumed he was calling with his weekly update on how life was treating him in those areas. I was wrong. My son was calling to tell me he had just had an awful day recovering from a two-day binge with alcohol. He was scared about how quickly his life was spiraling out of control. That call was just the beginning of more than two years of struggle for my child to regain his life.
Nick’s use of alcohol began when he was fifteen years old. Alcohol and marijuana allowed him to “have fun” and “feel more comfortable.” He also used these substances to get a good night sleep. You see Nick, like many of us, experienced a great deal of anxiety while going through his teen years. Although he tried other substances, alcohol was his drug of choice. And his recreational use had turned into something he could not control.
My initial reaction (other than to immediately attempt to put a plan in motion for how to help him as well as to learn all I could about binge drinking), was enormous guilt for being a “bad” parent. Over and over in my mind I thought, “What have I done wrong?! Why did I not know this was taking place?! For the first three years he was using these substances we lived under the same roof for Gods sake! We are a middle-class family, this does not happen to people like us.”
I could not have been more wrong. As I began to get educated about addiction, I came to the understanding it is an equal opportunity disease, one which knows no gender/racial/economic/religious boundaries. And it is hitting our young people earlier than ever. My initial guilt, coupled with shame and embarrassment about the situation, was staggering. On top of that I had no friends who could relate to my experience.
By the grace of God, I “got over” those feelings and began the challenge of doing all I could to help my child achieve a healthier state of mind.
Unfortunately, I realized very quickly how little control I had. Helping Nick was not easy, but I knew it was part of my job as his parent to do what I could so he would not self-destruct.
The two years following that phone call included detox, outpatient rehab, a DUI and inpatient rehab. There were some relapses, public intoxication and domestic violence tickets, and yes, even some jail time. I did all I could to love and support him through it, but I never enabled him. He was accountable for everything that went on (even if he was in a blackout), for it was his journey. I understood clearly that if I bailed him out (of a bind or of jail for that matter) it would be detrimental to his long-term recovery.
The shame and embarrassment dissipated when I spoke to others about our situation. You see, there is only shame in what you don’t share. It is the secrets that eat us up. If you have a child who is using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, or who is unable to stop using despite consequences, you are by no means alone. Don’t bury your head in the sand. There is hope and there is understanding. If your family is like mine, and you would like some support, it does exist here in the area. Reach out and ask for the help you need.
Kimberly Muench is a married mother of five from Flower Mound. She is author of the book “My Mothers Footprints: A Story of Faith, Calm, Courage, Patience and Grace.” Learn more at www.mymothersfootprints.com.