It happened without notice about three years ago. My 20 something son was in a comfortable recovery a thousand miles away. He was in charge of his choices, occasionally asking for advice. My wonderful husband’s health had deteriorated to a point where he could no longer talk or communicate and it was very hard for him to travel because of his lack of mobility. I was left alone with my thoughts.
Things needed to change.
Parents of addicts needed more help. Maybe I could offer something.
It had never, ever left my mind that when we first needed drug rehabilitation help for our son 9 years ago, I felt as if every door was shut in our face. The emergency room doctor said he didn’t know what to suggest. His health plan stopped communicating with us when he skipped his second outpatient session. I tried to get him into a local mental hospital for three days. The hospital laughed at me. When I asked our son’s psychiatrist to recommend a residential facility he responded that our son was “not that bad”. We tried another outpatient program far away from home and that counselor said our 16 year old needed to attend three times a week. When I asked that counselor about a residential program, he mentioned Caron in Pennsylvania. Thank you! Thank you! Someone heard me!
From my own personal experience back in 2006 I knew that other parents were still going through the same private torture of trying to find help for the challenging disease of addiction, that illness with the ball and chain of stigma attached. That illness that few doctors know much about. That illness that can get a child expelled from school.
So three years ago I started creating resource lists, one by one. I started with a small “preferred” residential treatment list and I’ve always been so glad that Caron is near the front of the alphabet so I can list it first. The second list was a Parent Support meeting list for my region of Washington DC. This list, now grown to two pages, is treasured by therapists, treatment centers and parents. Parents struggling with their child’s addiction are so grateful to find a place to share their concerns and learn from others. I understand, completely.
Around the same time, the Caron Alumni office asked if I would take a few phone calls from prospective parents. I was at first nervous about that, but so honored that Caron trusted me. I enjoyed the opportunity to listen and to share a tidbit or two of my experience that parents could relate to. I felt that I actually helped parents based on their tremendous expressions of gratitude at the end of the calls.
My involvement in the world of addiction and recovery snowballed once I first offered my heart, ears, and resources to other parents. There are now 15 resource lists. With others I have interviewed 22 providers. We’re working on many outreach projects. We now have a second Caron Parent support group in the Washington area, and I’ve been supporting a new one in Baltimore. I recently spoke to a parent who wants one in Richmond. What I have learned is you can make these things happen.
I guess you could say that I have been enveloped by a passion. It’s wonderful to know there are others like me. I see them every year at Caron’s National Alumni Leadership Conference. I’m in awe of what some of my fellow Caron parents do in their communities. Sometimes I laugh at my own involvement. When will it stop, I ask? Maybe tomorrow, maybe never. It’s okay either way, but right now I’m enjoying it to the fullest. We make a difference.