Get off of the addiction roller coaster

Joey Garcia

My 18-year-old son is falling into an abyss: Vicodin and Oxy, and probably worse, plus the dangerous, seedy crowd that goes with it. He’s probably selling, too. He was a great kid, smart and kind, an athlete and a youth camp counselor. He had a promising future, solid friendships and has siblings who love him and who don’t have drug problems. I got my son to start rehab, but he quit and every time I bring it up, it’s a battle. He’s an adult now. I worry he’ll end up in jail, but that may be better than letting his habit kill him. What should I do?

Stay sober. Don’t get addicted to saving your son from his addiction. Focus on confronting your fears about him, and sweeping your mind free of drama. Like this: Stop telling yourself that your son might end up in jail. You are scaring yourself under the pretense of preparing for the worst. But that justification is actually a means of rationalizing fear. When so much of your mind and emotions are forecasting your son’s future, little is left to support his recovery.

It may seem heroic to attempt to save your son but it is more likely an act of self-preservation. Do you fear others will think you a failure as a parent? What they think is none of your business. Your real work is to support your son in saving himself. You can’t do that if your help is tempered by opinion polls.

Addiction is complicated. Sometimes, people who are compulsive by nature use drugs compulsively until they get sober and discover a healthier compulsion, like art or triathlons. Other people crave the roller coaster lifestyle that addiction offers. They might not be diagnosable as bipolar but are close. These individuals struggle until they learn to manage their brains, instead of allowing their brain to drive.

There are also people who use drugs to blot out traumatic memories. A competent psychotherapist would diagnose them with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from childhoods in violent households or neighborhoods. Through talk therapy, people with PTSD heal old wounds, shake off addiction and learn the skills of self-care so they can handle any future conflict. And, then there are people with profoundly dependent personalities who use drugs recreationally because that’s what their squad does. But, unlike the rest of their friends, these people develop addictions. Oh, and there are teenagers whose parents are so controlling, the teens check out from life through an addiction, rather than becoming who their parents demand they be. Do any of these paths to addiction sound familiar?

Years ago, I trained with a Mayan healer from the same lineage as my great-grandmothers. Traditional Mayan healers believe that everything has a spirit and those spirits take corresponding actions. The spirit of an illicit drug pushes a person’s spirit out of his or her body. So the more drugs someone does, the more common it becomes that we are talking to the drug (or its spirit), and not the person. The healer’s work is to lure the person’s spirit back into the body. I think of it this way: A drug’s career path is to kill. If we want to free someone from a drug addiction, we must inspire that person to trust their own capacity for creating the life they want to live. That’s why you should hold a vision of hope for your son. He deserves to have someone cradling his spirit until he can will it back into himself. Keep your thoughts and emotions clean. Be honest about dysfunctional family dynamics and change them. As you clear yourself out, you will be available to hear and see your son and to support him in saving himself.

Meditation of the week
“The journey from teaching about love to allowing myself to be loved proved much longer than I realized,” wrote Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and author who struggled with depression. What does your life journey tell you about yourself?

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