Jan 7th, 2011 was the day I realized my son was a heroin addict. That is the same day he was admitted into Las Vegas Recovery Center. So began the journey nearly everyone reading this is on. Shattered does not begin to describe the deep cracks I felt in every aspect of my life. Every belief I ever held, every assumption I had, instantly evaporated. My son had been at college on a scholarship. He was not supposed to be here! This must be some bad nightmare. Being a good mother was the most important thing I hoped to achieve in life. What was I now? My son was sick. Was he going to live or die? It was difficult just to breathe. I could not believe my son was being admitted into a drug treatment center.
Las Vegas Recovery Center is unique in that they believe addiction is a family disease. I was advised by the center on that first fateful day to immediately go to a Family Support meeting. I went because I thought it was the best thing I could do to help my son. When it was time for me to talk, the words did not want to escape my lips. How could I admit in front of total strangers that my son was a drug addict? How could I tell others that my son was smoking black tar heroin in my home, right under my nose? The concept of sharing was beyond anything I had ever had ingrained in me about soldiering on, not complaining and taking care of family business in private. I listened to others speak. It was bizarre. They came from all walks of life but all had very similar stories. Hearing the others gave me strength to tell my story. The group was lead by Craig, a talented, licensed counselor. There is no fee for this extremely helpful service. I was told my son was safe now in treatment. That night, after the meeting, I had a brief glimpse of serenity. Oddly, I felt just a little bit better.
While at LVRC my son had a wonderful counselor named Gail. Gail took endless calls from me, often with me in tears, and never once was she anything short of supportive, understanding and committed to helping me as well as my son. Both she and Craig suggested I go to the Family Renewal Program. One day early on I had a phone call with my son monitored by Hortensia. Let’s just say that she had no problem pointing out things I was doing that did not lead to healthy solutions. She very strongly suggested I go to the next Family Renewal weekend.
The Family Renewal Program is four days long. Four days seemed like a big commitment for me. I run my own business and rarely take even one day off. However, the message was clear, so I went. Dr. Pohl and Dr. Hunter along with the gifted Hortensia and other LVRC counselors did a phenomenal job of explaining the disease of addiction. The amount of information, the professional presentations and the deep caring of the other participants was a life transforming experience. For the first time I could clearly see what my role had been, how easy it is to fall into unhealthy patterns and, most importantly, how to change them. Over and over, I saw that I could not control this situation no matter how much I wanted to. I was not familiar with the terms leverage, boundaries and co-dependency, but I learned. It was educational, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.
Week by week, I learned more tools for getting and staying on track. All along it had been strongly suggested by everyone at LVRC that I go to Nar-Anon as well. After all, my son was going to Narcotics Anonymous. This seemed like another huge commitment but by now I had a taste of my own recovery and I liked it. No longer was I trapped by destructive thoughts about how I should have done things. “Let it go,” became my mantra. It was starting to be less about controlling my son’s addiction and more about taking care of myself. I went to Nar-Anon. It was different and it took a couple of meetings to understand the flow, but I liked that no one judged or tried to fix me. They nodded their heads and said, “been there, done that,” to the most outrageous things I have ever heard. Everyone listened without interrupting. I listened to others. Many times, I did not want to go but a sense of peace would overwhelm me once I got there.
While my son was in treatment I was journaling every day and making phone calls to other family members. Still, I went to Friday night Family Support and Nar-Anon. I thought I was doing everything, but it was then strongly suggested that I get a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who has already gone through the process, has been in the program for some time and helps you work through the Twelve Steps. A sponsor provides guidance through the process of recovery. I got a sponsor and began doing the steps. This has been a huge help in unlocking barriers and learning better ways to deal with conflict.
After my son finished his 12 weeks in treatment he began his intensive out patient program (IOP). This program consists of 20 sessions of about 3 hours each. Even here, there is a family night. I went with my son every Wednesday night while he was in that program. Another huge wall came down as I could see the addict’s point of view and more areas that I could learn about and improve communication skills. Paul, another fantastic counselor, led our group. I learned new meditation techniques and started to learn how important fellowship is for young addicts.
Currently, my son goes to in patient at Green Valley. He continues to work his recovery program and attends NA meetings. While his recovery is not dependent on me, I do believe my own recovery work has some positive impact. At the very least it helps me understand him better and gives us something meaningful to share. Through this whole process I have changed my schedule around several times to fit whatever is needed at the time. I have been able to find ways to adjust so I can make it to meetings and to stay in touch with those who help me and to help those who reach out to me. Much like starting an exercise program, at first it seems just impossible, but after some time it becomes a habit.
To quote Robert Frost, “I have miles to go before I sleep,” but I would have never thought last January that I would ever be where I am today. I cannot pretend that I now “have it.” Recovery is a lifelong process. But it is a miracle that I even know that much now. It has profoundly transformed how I deal with others in personal and business situations. At times, it has been a real eye opener. I truly believe everyone should go through the kind of family discovery work provided by LVRC. I guess most people just aren’t as “lucky” as we are. The gift of recovery, and I do believe it is a gift, would not have happened without the gentle and not so gentle nudges by Las Vegas Recovery Center. Considering I am just a family member and not a patient, it is astounding to me the amount of effort that LVRC puts into helping family members. Let’s face it; family members can be just as difficult as the addict so I commend the entire staff. Thank you to Dr. Pohl and the entire staff from the bottom of my heart. You are a special group that really cares about true recovery.