Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Back in town

Yesterday was a really tough day. Getting the news that my son had been kicked out of sober living (again) via a phone call in the wee hours of the morning was distressing. So was the inability to sleep after that phone call. Then, after all that, I had to work. Thankfully, I was able to do that from home.

But things got more interesting as the day went on. My son barraged my wife and I with phone calls and text messages, asking us if he could please come home. He said the sober living house would let him come back after 10 days, but he had nowhere to go in the meantime. My wife and I stayed strong, though. In fact, I didn't answer any of the phone calls. And my wife ignored a lot of calls and texts, too. When she did talk to or text our son, the message remained the same: You are not coming home and you need to figure things out for yourself.

I must say, it's pretty damn hard to turn a deaf ear to your child's pleas for help, but we've learned over the years--finally--that it's the only way. Enabling and giving in to an addict's wishes and demands doesn't do anyone any good. Believe me. We've been there and done that. It does not work and it actually makes the whole situation worse. For everyone.

The phone calls and texts continued into the night, but we didn't budge. Eventually, at about 9:30pm, my wife got a text message from our son saying that he was staying with a friend of his from his previous sober living house. This guy was my son's roommate at the sober living house in Ann Arbor and had since moved into his own apartment nearby. We were relieved to know that our son had found a safe place to spend the night. We were even more relieved that he had found a solution to his problem on his own. That might sound odd, but having our son figure his own way out of a mess he created was definitely a positive thing.

That brings us to today. Coincidentally, my wife was already scheduled to go to Ann Arbor today to accompany her father to the hospital for some pre-op testing. (My father-in-law is having open-heart surgery to fix a faulty aortic valve next month.) Because my son wasn't able to get all of his stuff out of the sober living house, my wife, who was literally going to be in the neighborhood, offered to take him to the house to get the rest of his possessions; and bring anything he didn't need back to our house. My son was grateful for that.

Later in the afternoon, after her father's tests were done, my wife called me to say she was at the apartment our son spent the night at and that they were going to get his things. Then, a little while later, she called again.

The latest development, my wife told me, was that our son had found someone to stay with for a longer term. Someone he knows through AA who happens to live in a house in the next city over from us. In other words, someone very close to home. This person lives with two other people, and all of them are in recovery.

So now my son was asking a couple questions. 1.) Would it be OK if he stayed with these people? And 2.) If it is OK, would my wife drive him back to our side of town? Needless to say, this came as a huge shock to me. And from the tone of my wife's voice, I could tell it came as a shock to her, too.

My wife and I discussed things over the phone for several minutes. It was such an unlikely and unexpected scenario that neither one of us really knew what to do. We were both uncomfortable with the prospect of having our son so close to home again. But our son is 22 years old. How can we tell him where he can or can't live? That would be us trying to control him, and that's something we can't do. Again, it took us years to figure that out, but we finally "got" it.

In the end, we decided that if moving in with people who live close to our home was what our son wanted to do, we'd have to be OK with it. No matter how uncomfortable it made us feel. So my wife agreed to drive our son and his stuff back home.

Our son came to our house for a couple of hours. When he first walked in, I asked him how he was doing. "I've been better," he said. Then he walked over to me, gave me a big hug, and said, "I love you." That felt really good to hear, and I told him, "I love you, too." He then took a shower, packed the stuff he wanted to take with him, and ate dinner with us. After dinner, he took his duffle bag, backpack, and guitar and walked to the place he'll be staying at.

The only weird thing about all this is that our son wouldn't tell us where the house he'll be staying at is. He told my wife that he didn't want her driving by all the time, checking up on him. She said she wouldn't do that, but our son still wouldn't spill the beans. We told him we'll have to know where he's staying eventually, just in case of an emergency. He acknowledged that, but for now I think he just wants to make this transition on his terms.

And we just have to let him.


  1. Sounds like you did good mom and dad.

    I am hoping your son is taking a step. Sometimes they are very small but anything in a forward direction is good.

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  2. Wow. I'm glad you both stayed strong on him not moving home, and unfortunately, you're right---you can't tell him where he can and can't live (except not with you!), because the point is he is an adult and needs to make his own choices and deal with the consequences. I pray that his close proximity won't be a slippery slope to him moving back home, for everyone's sake, including his and his brother's. I'm sending even more strength your way. But who knows? Maybe this is the situation that will allow him to, as my recovering alcoholic brother puts it, "figure it out."

  3. So wise to understand we are out of control, took me a long time to get that. As always, I'm hoping the best for your son and praying for all of you.

  4. I hope for the best for Sam. He clearly doesn't want to stay in treatment anymore based on events from last fall until now. He is an adult; let him live on his own. Pretty soon he will have to think about rent money, a job and other real world issues.... Staying as a guest with friends will only last so long. This is all so good for him. Obviously, living in the "real world" now presents daily temptations to use without the monitoring system of the sober living house... This I worry about (as I know you do). Mom and Dad, continue to stay strong, so proud of you for not "enabling"!