Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The dreaded "sixth sense"

When you're the parent of an addict, over time you tend to develop a "sixth sense." You just have a feeling when things aren't right with your addict child. Even when they're not around. It's hard to explain, but if you're reading this and happen to also be the parent of an addict, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm referring to. For the rest of you, I guess the best thing to compare it to is "mother's intuition."

I've had a feeling over the past couple of days that something wasn't quite right with my son. I hadn't heard from him, either via phone or online. While that troubled me a bit, I tried really hard not to focus on it too much. I just went on living my life, knowing that I have no control over what my son does.

Well, tonight my wife and I were sitting in the family room watching TV, the phone rang, and the dreaded sixth sense of mine kicked in. "Uh-oh," I said. "This can't be good. It's gonna be [my son's name]."

Sure enough, it was our son calling. He talked to my wife for a few minutes, and everything seemed fine. Then my wife said, "Do you wanna talk to dad?"

She handed me the phone and I asked my son how he was doing. He said he had just gotten back from a meeting with his sponsor, and that they had stopped at Chick-fil-A for dinner. They had also done some reading from the "Big Book." So far, so good, I thought. But then my son volunteered some more information.

"I relapsed last Thursday," he told me. "I went out and drank a few beers and I felt like a fucking idiot after I did it. I was one day short of 90 days, which I've never done before."

While I was disappointed to hear this news, I was not completely surprised. Like I said, I could sense that something wasn't right when we hadn't heard from our son for a few days. The difference this time, though, was how I reacted. I did not get angry. I did not raise my voice. I did not chastise my son. Instead, I told him things would be OK and that he just needed to get back on the right track. And that he shouldn't be too hard on himself.

I could tell he was truly remorseful. One sure sign of this was simply the fact that he told me about his relapse. I mean, think about it: he's in Georgia and we're in Michigan. He could very easily have kept the whole thing to himself, and my wife and I never would've known. But he was honest. He also reiterated how upset he was that he didn't make it to 90 days. "But I've got five days now," he told me. I told him that was great, and that he just needs to make good choices and take it one day at a time. (You know, that "one day at a time" thing really is the key.)

After we were done talking, my son asked to talk to my wife again. She took the phone in the other room, and when she was done with the call she came back to the family room. "Did he tell you?" I asked. She said he did. We chatted briefly about the relapse, but we didn't dwell on it. We've simply learned to handle things like this better.

Life has been pretty complicated and unfair lately. My dad is still in the hospital and is not doing very well. He's been hospitalized for 12 days. He's been diagnosed with delirium and doctors think the cause of much of what he's experiencing could be alcohol withdrawal.

The mixed emotions I'm feeling about my dad's situation alone are enough to wear me down. But when you throw in some other things that have happened over the last few days involving some other family members...well, sometimes I wonder just how long of a test God has in store for me and my family.

I love my son so, so much. Unconditionally. And I told him that tonight. I'm also incredibly proud of him for having had the courage to call and be totally honest about what happened. Lastly--and this might sound strange--I feel sort of "special" because he chose to tell me first, because I'm usually the last one to know.

I truly believe my son will make that 90-day mark.  Five days down, 85 to go. One at a time. Stick with it, son. I have faith in you.


  1. Loved your post! Wish my daughter was recovering. I know she had it in her....just hope she succeeds before the drugs do her in. Like you and your wife, my husband and I are not surprised by anything that happens with our daughter. Good luck and I hope your son makes it ninety days and far beyond!

  2. Dean, what progress! i am SO PROUD of you for your reaction (non-reaction?). It sounds like you have taken some baby steps to take yourself off the roller coaster ride.

    What a milestone for you and your wife. I think you see now that rage, reacting, or retreating do nothing to change your son. Only your son can change himself. What you can do is stay calm and offer your love & support. This is happening, I am sure, because your son is living in GA instead of right under your roof, where it would be impossible for you to be lovingly detached.

    Keep up the good work. So sorry to hear about your father too. I will keep all of you in my thoughts & prayers.

    I know 90 days is within his reach. 90 will turn into 180, 180 into 360. Yes, I believe!

  3. Sounds like everyone is doing exactly what needs to be done, especially you, dad and mom.

  4. Great post.I too am feeling that "sixth sense" or mother's intuition as I am the mom. My son is still in rehab but something "feels" not quite right. I don't like this feeling but I still havent reached the point where I can't not worry. I have however, stop asking if all is ok, so I guess thats a start.

  5. Love you so much Dean - God has a plan - always know that when you have faith the plan will always be right...keep the faith cuz...keep the faith

  6. This is SO true,that sixth sense really develops from our experience of patenting an addict. It's developed in me so strongly that it sometimes floors me as to how accurate it is.

    Glad your son told you about the relapse. You're right, it's a positive indicator of his progression of honesty. Honesty is key in his recovery.

    Also, sorry to hear about your dad. You have a lot on your plate. I'm keeping your son & you in my prayers.

  7. And it will happen again. The world didn't end, did it? It's a process, and you just have to keep the long-term picture in mind.

  8. I appreciate your story. I do believe we become very tuned in when our children have become addicted or are abusing drugs. We can sense when things are not quite right. It sounds like your conversation went well and I hope your son can continue on to his 90 days, but it is a day at a time and it sounds like he is headed in a good direction. Take care.

  9. I am also dealing with the uncertainty of my son's addiction/recovery. Unlike you, my son is not in a place of truthfulness. You are blessed that your son was so open with you. And your response is a good example for me as I struggle to keep my reactive behavior in check.

    Prayers for you and your family.