Wednesday, July 2, 2014

First Steps

As I mentioned below, for most of the past year, T was living in another city. At first, he was attending community college. Then he left school and he was working. Then he lost his job and he wasn't doing much of anything except getting high. During this time, we continued to pay his rent (he was renting a room from a family friend) and agonized over whether to cut that off. Eventually, that problem solved itself, because he was evicted. When he was evicted, we refused to let him move home.  He crashed for awhile at the home of his older brother. Eventually, he wore his welcome there thin as well.

Having run out of options, he agreed to enter an addiction treatment program. Our insurance wouldn't cover residential treatment, but they did offer intensive out patient treatment. And thus, he has ended up living with us again. He goes to group 3 nights a week for 3 hours, and on other days, he must go to at least one meeting. On Saturdays, we go to a family group.

The program is wonderful and the facility is comfortable. It's a classic Twelve Step program. This is his fourth attempt at sobriety. He was in residential treatment when he was 17, and later did two different out-patient programs. But he has never embraced recovery as he is doing now.

I know, and he says himself, that the difference this time is that he really scared himself. His life fell apart and he saw that he had lost control. And he feels that this time, the decision to seek treatment was entirely his own. That said, he acknowledges that we let him "hit bottom" and made a hard choice not to enable him so he could reach that point. He says he's grateful to us for that and knows how hard it was. As I have been so often, I'm amazed at his ability to recognize and appreciate our point of view.

To be honest, it's (mostly!) a joy to have him in the house, although we were nervous about it at first and we still worry that things might take a turn for the worse. But we also really missed him. It's been so long since we have seen him sober, so long since he was able to focus on anything other than the pursuit of his next high, that we are marveling at all the wonderful qualities that we haven't been able to appreciate during his downward spiral.

I'm also working on not being co-dependent - on recuperating and reinforcing my boundaries. That's been a lifelong project for me - I was bad at it long before we met T. And once we became his parents, and his substance abuse began to take over his life, I found it really confusing to try to parent him while setting limits with him around his addiction. Through the program that he's in right now, I've got the opportunity to talk to other parents and family members of other addicts and reset my own priorities. Last weekend in family group, I cried for the first time in years, and realized that our struggles with T's substance abuse have been harder and more confusing than I've allowed myself to acknowledge.

A Twelve Step program and the close community of recovering addicts that the program creates seem so apt in terms of meeting his needs. In the program, he's able to share his whole life story in a way he's never done with anyone other than us. Many of the other people in the program have had significant struggles of their own. Nobody else grew up in foster care, but there are certainly people there who have been abused or abandoned by a parent, who have struggled with depression, or suffered profound losses. One man who befriended him lost his young son in a tragic accident. Among his new sober community, T is not marked as the kid who is "different", the one with the painful past or the tragic family history. Everyone there has a narrative of chaos and pain. He is able to exercise his natural well of compassion and welcome the compassion that the community extends to him. His recovery plan includes several extended writing exercises, in the form of letters to us and to some of his birth family that he reads at his group sessions. Like me, he has always worked out his feelings in writing, more so than talking, so this approach is something that works really well for him.

He talks a lot about how guilty he feels for the suffering he caused us and the ways that he manipulated us into inadvertently enabling his drug use. He's easy to forgive. I try to remember that it doesn't help him or me for me to minimize his wrongdoing in my rush to embrace his recovery.

All of this sounds unfortunate and upsetting, perhaps. But it's actually a time of profound joy for all three of us. In the same way that another parent might wonder at their child's first steps, we are amazed by his rapid development, his sudden maturity and bravery as he makes this foray into sobriety and, for the first time, accepts genuine compassion and support from a community of friends. He is thoughtful, funny, loving, and emotionally engaged with us and with himself. He feels good about himself for the first time in years.

Once, a long time ago, I wrote a post where I mentioned that a social worker once told us that an infant must go through ten thousand cycles of need and gratification with a parent in order to form a secure attachment, which is the basis for growth and development. We felt we were starting so far behind with T - that he had missed those ten thousand cycles, or at least most of them. In this latest chapter of our relationship with him, we see a huge leap forward that we had begun to feel might never happen. I think he finally reached those ten thousand cycles. He was finally ready to take the risk of respecting himself and moving forward in pursuit of a healthy independence. It's a beautiful thing.

1 comment:

Jenna King said...

This makes my heart happy! <3

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