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Lessons From an Addict’s Mother: #PRC Testimonial Series

Thinking back to September 2015 I can still remember the pain I felt as I fell to my knees in the hotel room.  “NOOOOO!!!!!, I screamed.  This can’t be happening again!!!!! I was filled with fear, and I felt like my world was coming to an end.  “I want my son back!!!”That was the last memory I have of visiting my son down in Delray Beach, Florida.  At that time, Kevin had been battling an addiction to opiates for nearly six years.  Watching a child battle addiction is one of the most painful, heart wrenching things a parent can go through. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Never in a million years did we think this could happen in our family and more importantly to our beautiful son.  Kevin had everything going for him. He was intelligent, athletic, good-looking, kind, honest and loyal.  He was everything we had hoped our son would be, and we were excited to see what the future had in store for him.   Raising him was easy, and he brought nothing but joy into our lives.

That brings me to the first hard lesson I learned about the disease of addiction.  Addiction does not discriminate.  It affects people from all walks of life and once it rears its ugly head into your life, things will never be the same.

Being so unprepared and not knowing how to handle what was happening to Kevin, our first action was to pull him out of college.  We thought once he was home we could fix him with our love and support.

That brings me to the second hard lesson I learned about addiction; there was no way to fix Kevin.  Kevin had to fix himself.  Helping him was hurting him.  I needed to get out of his way. 

I prayed every waking moment of every day that he would have the will, the strength, and the desire to take his life back from this insidious disease. Kevin started attending a local out-patient facility but after a couple of weeks, we got the dreaded phone call that he failed a urine test and had to leave the program.  Next came an in-patient facility in New Jersey and then a facility in Florida.  It seemed that just as things were looking up and we had hoped he was getting better, another relapse would occur.  Each relapse broke us to pieces and we became paralyzed with the fear of losing our son to this disease.

Kevin’s drug use was progressing. He had his arms wrapped tightly around his drugs, we had our arms wrapped tightly around him, but it seemed the drugs were winning.  During his darkest times, Kevin had lied to us, stolen from us, and it had gotten to the point where we couldn’t believe anything that came out of his mouth.  It was one lie after another, and one false promise after another that he would stop using and change his behavior.  He had become a master manipulator and it had gotten to the point that we didn’t even recognize our son anymore.  We continued to pray that he was still in there somewhere and he would find his way back to us.

The more the drug use continued, the more unmanageable all our lives became.  My husband and I decided our only option left was to ask Kevin to leave our home.  It was the hardest thing any parent could have to do, but we felt there was no other option.  I remember looking into Kevin’s eyes as he stood at the front door.  My heart was so broken.  I remember saying to him, “I love you, but I hate this disease. I can’t watch you do this to yourself anymore and cannot allow this to go on in our home “.  That was our last words and he walked out the door.  Tears poured down my face and I felt like I was going to die.  Where will he go? What is going to happen to him? Will I ever see my son again? My heart was broken and I didn’t know if I had the strength to go on. The next six weeks were a living hell.  Every time the phone rang I feared it would be that “dreaded call” that he had gotten arrested or worst yet, that we had lost him.  It was only by the grace of God and the support of Al-anon that we made it through. During this time my rosary beads became my constant companion and I prayed to the Blessed Mother every chance I could.  I would visit a local church that had a beautiful statue of Mary and I would kneel in front of it for hours on end and pray.  The words I recited were simple but meaningful:

“Help him to become the man You intended him to be.”

Deep down inside, I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God had bigger plans for Kevin.  He had created him for a purpose far greater than dying in active addiction. It was then that I put all my faith in God, my higher power, to help Kevin find his way.

Weeks passed and finally one day the phone rang and our prayers were answered.  It was Kevin and he had decided he wanted to go back to treatment. Was this the “bottom” we had heard so much about. Was it finally going to be different this time? Kevin went back into treatment, completed the program, and decided to stay in Florida and work on his sobriety.  Things were looking up and we felt like we were finally getting our son back.  But hope started to fade after we got a call from Kevin and we had a feeling he was struggling and his sobriety was in danger.  Fortunately, we had planned a family trip to go visit him in Delray, and we felt the timing couldn’t be any better.  I couldn’t wait to get down there to be with him, but I was filled with anxiety as to what we would find when we got there.  We drove to where he was living at that time and once we saw him we knew that our worse fears were coming true; Kevin had relapsed.  His year of sobriety was over.  Stolen by the disease we had learned to hate so much.  My beautiful boy was gone again and I didn’t know how to get him back.  I was heartbroken, paralyzed with fear. I remember screaming as I fell to my knees in the hotel room, NOOOOO!!!!!! This can’t be happening again.  Help us, please!!!!!!

What happened next in the pits of my despair was the answer I had been praying for. Call it what you like, but to me, it was a divine intervention.  I felt like God was showing me the way out of this desperation. I picked up my phone and searched for the number of Kevin’s old sponsor from back home. I hadn’t spoken to Chris in years, but I felt like he would give me the help I needed.  My body was still shaking as I heard the voice of an angel on the other end.  It was Chris’s wife, Leyane, and like a babbling idiot I hysterically explained what was going on with Kevin and asked her for help.  She gave me the number of the therapist both her and Chris had used while they were in treatment down in Florida years before.  That was the first time I was introduced to my other two angels, Eileen and Joanie.

Joanie answered the phone at Principles Recovery Center and as soon as I started speaking with her, I knew that was where Kevin needed to be.  Joanie calmed me down, gave me the support and guidance I needed.  She offered to speak to Kevin and see if he was willing to go get help.  No matter how badly I wanted Kevin to go, it was he who had to make the decision to change his life and give recovery another chance.  Knowing his options were running out, Kevin decided he would go to Principles.  That is where Kevin met my third angel, Eileen.  Eileen would be Kevin’s mentor and therapist during his stay at Principles Recovery Center.  There was something different about Principles that set them far apart from any other treatment center we had dealt with.  Most of the staff members had battled an addiction at some point in their life, and some had celebrated over 20 plus years of sobriety. They knew the destruction addiction causes because they lived it.  Since recovery, they made a conscious decision to give back and help others find their way to a clean, healthy way of life.

With the help of the wonderful people at Principles and a devotion to a twelve-step recovery program, Kevin will celebrate two years of recovery this coming September.  Principles gave Kevin the roadmap to recovery and with that map, he found his way and took his life back.  I had the pleasure of meeting Eileen, Danny, Frank, Scott and other members of the Principles Staff while down in Florida a few months back.  I can’t even put into words the gratitude and respect I have for this group of individuals.

Not only did they play a big part of us getting our son back, they have helped Kevin become “THE MAN HE WAS INTENDED TO BE” as nearly 2 years later Kevin is currently employed by Principles and has begun his own journey to help others by giving back and sharing his story.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of my son, Kevin.  I sincerely believe that those who battle addiction and get sober are some of the strongest individuals that have ever walked on this planet, They have done the work, fought the fight, and turned their life over to a Power Greater than themselves. They give back to others effortlessly and are there to support each other by example one day at a time.  I pray that Kevin continues on his road of Recovery and lives a long, healthy life filled with the peace and serenity he has worked so hard to find.  Kevin is a living, breathing example that there is Hope in addiction and I am blessed to have a son like him.

My heart goes out to all those who struggle with addiction. I pray that when they are ready to do what it takes to get their lives back, they will find the help they need at a treatment center as wonderful as Principles.  That is where they will find the gift of Hope and Recovery.