What was it like living with your son’s addiction before he got help?

I think all parents would say that the time pre-treatment is scary. Before your loved one is able to admit they have a problem, and before they’re willing to go to treatment, you just really don't know what you're dealing with. It's unbelievably intense, because you're so strung out and you don't have any tools.

Back then, I really didn't understand what was going on in my son’s brain. I knew nothing about the disease. I knew nothing about depression. When he was in active addiction, I was on my knees praying to the Lord that he would get help. We hadn’t yet learned from Caron and all the amazing professionals that helped us.

This disease is complicated and makes a relationship really challenging. This person that I absolutely adored with all my heart was suffering from this disease that had hijacked his brain. And during this time it was very, very difficult to get through to my son.

How’d you finally get through to your son?

Me, my wife, and my son were sitting in the kitchen after we found out he had suicidal ideation. He had sent his girlfriend a bunch of texts that he was going to kill himself. We had heard about this from her. I remember I looked at him and said, “I just don't understand why you would want to end your life. I mean, you're just a young kid. You're a beautiful kid. You're a smart kid. And we adore you with all of our hearts”. Then, I actually broke down. I didn’t know what to do, so all I could do was tell him exactly how I felt.

I only found out when he’d been sober for a year, that that moment actually had a huge impact on him. It was beyond intense, but apparently me breaking down had really reached him in some way.

What challenges did you face while trying to get your son into recovery?

The problem my son had, and the problem a lot of people with this disease have, is that they don't see the problem. If they don't see the problem, then they can't see the solution. So one of the things I had to learn to do was to set boundaries, set consequences, and then follow through on the consequences. He had to fully experience the negative consequences of his behaviors when he was in active addiction. And I had to do something that he really didn’t want me to do, tell him he was going away to residential treatment.

How did setting boundaries impact your relationship with your son?

Setting boundaries was one of the hardest things I've ever done because I really felt like I was sacrificing our relationship. But, it was a sacrifice that I needed to make as his father. It was a price I was willing to pay to have him live. I had to set these boundaries and make sure the consequences happened.

One of those boundaries I had to make was telling him that he was going to residential treatment. When I told him that, he said, “if you do this you will have four children and not five.” He actually disowned me as his father. Addiction plays hardball. You know, he’d say these awful things to me like, “you're the worst parent in the world”, “you're the reason why I'm depressed” and “you're the problem, not me”.

In the beginning, those types of things had a powerful influence over me. They’d get me to back off from what I needed to do. But, with the help of other parents and professionals, I got to the point where I realized that in setting these boundaries, I was actually doing my job as his father. I said to him, “I have never been more of a parent than I am being at this exact moment. If the counselors recommend residential treatment, then you are going”.

How did your role change when your son entered recovery?

There’s a certain evolution that has to happen when someone you love is in recovery. At one point he said, “get the f**k out of my recovery”. Being told that kind of sucked as a parent, but it was a change that had to happen. As he started to actually get into recovery, he had to own it for himself. And we, had to get the f**k out. That’s when we started to understand that he needed to completely own his recovery, otherwise it was not recovery.

How’s your relationship with your son now?

After my son was sober for a year, we had a huge celebration dinner. He spoke at a very large AA meeting, six hundred people. My son talked about his one year of sobriety, he thanked a lot of people, and a group of us went out for a big dinner. He wrote letters to all of his 16 guests. When I received the letter, I didn't want to read it. Honestly, I was afraid to read it. I was worried that he’d tell me, despite the fact that he got to this milestone, our relationship could never be repaired.

The next day I read the letter at home by myself. It was just the opposite. He told me that I was his hero. He told me I helped save his life. He told me that he loved me. I just sat there and sobbed like a baby. I couldn't help it. I couldn't even get air. I was sobbing because of the relief that my relationship with my child was not irreparably harmed. In fact, it was quite the opposite. It was just spectacularly beautiful news.

That was just the beginning. Today we’re incredibly close. We do a lot of things together. He looks at me as someone who was instrumental in helping him get healthy and I look at him as my hero. Even after going through what he went through, the way he went through it. I know he came out the other side and is living this wonderful, beautiful life in sobriety.

A man and a woman leaning on each other

Take the next step:

Start a conversation

Start with an online form

Contact us