Not Alone! What a relief! The boys are both off to college and all is well with the world!
It’s time to enjoy the Empty Nest Syndrome and relish in the fact that the kids are gone and survived. We signed up for and were enjoying our Tuesday night Ballroom Dance classes with a lovely dinner date afterwards. Only the beginning, we thought!
Yes, it was only the beginning. The beginning of a nightmare that would change the way I think forever!
So, I was the typical mom who suffered from the “Not My Kid” disease. I heard and saw all around me the devastating effects prescription drug abuse and heroin were taking on so many teens and young adults in my area of South Florida, but really felt removed from it.
My kids would never get involved in this stuff! I was a great parent and they were great kids. Too bad for these families who just weren’t paying attention.
Then it happened. My two boys were very much alike, yet so different. They were a year apart in school and 19 months apart in age. My older son graduated from high school number one in his class, got accepted at the university of his choice early decision (Princeton) and continued on to Columbia Law School to become a lawyer in Manhattan. My younger son graduated at the top of his class (12/500+), got accepted early decision at the university of his choice, and became a heroin addict and drug dealer.
Life, as we knew it, quickly turned into a “secret” world. It was a world of near death, mistrust, anxiety, constant stress, and fear. We suffered alone. Really, I suffered alone. This should never happen to anyone. None of it. While living with and loving an addict I lost myself. I lost my soul. Focus was always on keeping the addict alive and changing him. Who really cared about anything else?
One day I had an epiphany. Being a positive person, I thought that my son as well as others in my life who were making bad decisions, would become well, happy, clean and sober, and I would be too sick (or maybe even dead) to enjoy them and their great futures. It was up to me to not let this happen.
That was the day of my transformation. I was about to change everything I did, everything I was. It didn’t matter that everything else around me was the same, I was about to change. The dynamics of my world changed with me. Some changed for the good, some not so good. It didn’t matter to me. I felt a shift to some control of life.
It is important to say here that one of the major shifts in my thinking was the fact that I was embarrassed and ashamed about what was happening in my life. We kept it all secret. We withdrew from the world as we knew it. That changed. I looked for support. I wanted to share this nightmare with others. There had to be others who were going through the same things. It was very difficult to find them at the time, but when I did it changed my life. Did it get my son clean and sober?
No. Did it change the anxious moments and fears I had about my son? No. But I was no longer alone and this made a big difference in my perspective on things. Some people offered experience and others just support. It was something. I was not alone.
This brings me to the reason I’m writing this today. Over the course of years of trying to navigate through my son’s addiction and trying to keep things “normal” for our family, I developed tools and strategies for myself so I would be able to love my son and still be a happy and peaceful person myself. It was very hard work and it took lots of discipline and baby steps. People in my support groups began to see changes in me and ask how this was happening. They wanted to try some of the tools I used and slowly they began to change also. It was after almost a year or more of sharing what I was doing with my groups that they asked me to write it down in a manner that would be easier to use and to share.
Although it never crossed my mind to write a book, this all did evolve into a book “Sweat: A Practical Plan for Keeping Your Heart Intact While Loving an Addict”. This was the beginning of my own quest to help others to have good lives while dealing with this nightmare of addiction in the family.
It took a long time for my son to begin making good choices. I always say that my own recovery from being addicted to my addict began way before my son chose his own recovery from addiction to drugs. It all began to happen because I reached out for support from others. No more secrets. No more doing this all alone. What a relief to share this with others!
From my book, came my radio show “Addicted to Addicts: Survival 101”. I wanted to do whatever I could to help others get support, information, resources and see and hear stories of hope. I knew how much people kept this a secret. I did it myself. I also knew how damaging this was to my well being. Not all people are willing to “throw themselves under the bus” so to speak, and share what is happening in their world with others, yet support is what we all really need. Let’s face it. People judge. I judged others until this came into my world. The general public still believes addiction is someone else’s problem. I get that it is easier to keep this secret and try to deflect some of the judgement, criticism, and pity. I experienced it all. I know what happens to a family when addiction enters the arena.
To accomplish my goal of offering support to those who are not inclined to seek it, afraid to seek it, or just don’t believe they deserve it, I came up with a plan. No one will ever know they are getting support and all the benefits from it. That is how my radio show came to be. To me it was ideal. I produce a weekly show, interviewing experts and experienced people on topics I know from experience that loved ones and family member want and need answers to, and everyone can access it without telling anyone who they are or where they come from.
Yes, it is a marketing nightmare. It would be nice to know who is being helped and how else I could help. But I developed just what I wished I could have had when I needed it and now others can make more informed decision for themselves and their loved ones and know, with support available every week, with information, possibilities and always hope, they can cope with the drama and chaos and know they are not alone.
This takes me back to the beginning of the nightmare of addiction in our family. When I first learned about my son’s addiction I immediately looked for answers to my many questions. What did this all mean? Who knows what to do next? What is the right plan? Why did this happen? What did I do to make this happen? Is this just a phase and will it just stop soon?
Since this happened to us, there have been some changes in the world of addiction. There are more resources and people willing to talk about them. Like in this magazine, people who “know” are willing to reach out and offer their experience and support. When parents and spouses, grandparents and children are abruptly scooped up into this world of addiction, being informed and supported from the first moment on can be the difference between life and death, serenity and chaos. When/if this happens to you or someone you know or love, seek resources and get/offer support. It might seem a small thing. It is huge!
Denise Krochta is the author of the book “Sweat: A Practical Plan for Keeping Your Heart Intact While Loving an Addict”, host of the radio show “Addicted to Addicts: Survival 101” and a public speaker on the topic of support for loved ones of addicts and alcoholics. She is the mother of an addict in recovery.
You can contact Denise at www.addictsfamilylifeline.com Or phone her at (442)333-9236.