I've written in this blog on more than one occasion about how I became addicted to my son's addiction. The first time I heard that phrase--"addicted to my son's addiction"--was in David Sheff's amazing book Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction (a.k.a., The Book That Saved My Life). Up until that point, I had never really noticed the stranglehold my son's addiction had on me.
This morning I flash backed to Tuesday, April 17, 2007, which was 10 months before Beautiful Boy was even published. I was looking through my electronic journal and read the entry from exactly eight years ago.
Damn, I was pretty messed up. How messed up? Here's your first clue: The journal entry was actually written from a Red Roof Inn about 10 miles from my house.
Eight years ago tonight, my son started an argument because he wanted to have a friend he had met during a recent hospital stay over to our house on Friday night. My wife and I didn't think it was the best idea for a number of different reasons (timing, our son's awful report card, etc.), but our son would not take no for an answer. The initial fight was between my wife and my son, but I eventually joined in. (Funny: When the argument first started, I told my younger son, "Great. Just what we need. Another fight." He told me, "Just ignore it. That's what I do." I probably should've taken his advice.)
When my son was using, he was full of anger. To make matters worse, I was full of anger, too. I was in the process of learning about addiction, but I was still in that "maybe-if-I-yell-at-him-loud-enough-it'll-make-him-stop" phase. Boy, could we yell and swear at each other. I'm surprised the windows didn't shatter.
The initial argument about having a friend over quickly deteriorated into something more. And worse. As I wrote in my journal:
"We then spent about 30 minutes arguing about school, smoking pot, [my son] wanting to be a rock star, [my son] wanting to drop out, [my son] wanting this and that."
It's amazing, really, how selfish people in active addiction can be. It's like self-entitlement on steroids to the nth power.
The journal entry continues:
"After 30 minutes or so of arguing, I just told [my son] and [my wife] that I would take the blame for everything. For [our son] being screwed up. For our family being screwed up. Everything. All because I likely spoiled [our son] because I wanted to be a better father than my asshole father was. With that I went upstairs, packed a bag, and headed off to the Red Roof Inn. Maybe my going away for the night will calm things down."
That's how addicted I was to my son's addiction. I let it rule my life. My emotional state and so many of my actions were totally influenced by my son and his substance abuse. When things with my son were reasonably okay, I was reasonably okay. But when things were bad, I was fucked up. And then some.
Another thing about that night eight years ago that illustrates my point: My wife and I had tickets to a concert we really wanted to go to. Of course, I couldn't go. At least that's what I thought at the time. In reality, I wouldn't go. Because I had let my son's addiction overtake my entire life. So instead of going to a live music show with my wife that night, I ended up in a Red Roof Inn all by myself.
I said in my journal that I went to the hotel so things at home would maybe calm down a bit. But deep down inside, I knew that wasn't the real reason I left the house. I left because I was running away from the problem. I had simply had enough that night and wanted to escape the pain. It was probably the coward's way out, but at the time it seemed like a damn good idea.
Addiction is a family disease. When a family member is struggling with substance abuse, every person in that household is deeply affected. That's just the nature of the beast. The trick is learning how to live a relatively "normal" life while all hell is breaking loose around you. Is it easy? Hell no. Is it possible? Yes, but it takes quite a bit practice. Thank God I eventually became reasonably good at it.
"Angry people are not always wise." --Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice