Getting “Stuck” as a Result of Addiction
“You’ve got to get yourself together/You’ve got stuck in a moment and now you can’t get out of it…”
I’m a music geek. I have been since I was a little kid. I love all kinds of music and spend an inordinate amount of time listening to it. That’s probably why the above lyric from the chorus of the U2 song “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” used to play over and over in my head for several years while I was dealing with my son’s addiction.
You see, many experts believe that kids who start using drugs and become addicted get “stuck” emotionally at the age they were when they started using. My son began misusing drugs around the age of 16, and for years after that he acted like a 16-year-old. To say that was incredibly frustrating would be an understatement.
As my son aged chronologically, it was difficult to watch him cling to immature behaviors and ideas. We celebrated birthdays as he physically aged and left his teenage years behind for adulthood, but deep down inside my son was still a 16-year-old.
I had heard about this stunted emotional growth “side effect” from more than one therapist and it seemed so inconceivable to me. As the years went by, though, it became apparent that there was some truth to it. Addiction couldn’t care less what my son’s birth certificate said; it had locked him into his “addicted age.”
I remember watching my son’s peers mature and do things that “normal” kids their age did: get a driver’s license, get a job, graduate from high school, go off to college, etc. My son did none of those things, and I have to admit: it was devastating to me. I would compare him to other kids his age; even to myself when I was his age. He was so different. His life was going by without him even realizing it. As a father, I couldn’t comprehend what was—or wasn’t—going on inside my son’s brain.
There were some flashes of normalcy along the way, primarily when my son was clean for weeks at a time. For example, during his first 30-day rehab stay he was able to get his General Educational Development (GED) certificate. (I will always be grateful for the counselor who made that a part of my son’s recovery plan.) But when he would go back to using drugs, my son was unable to do things that were considered normal for his age.
I’ll never forget the fall after he got his GED. Back then, in order to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan an adult child had to be a full-time college student. Based on his physical and emotional state, I had very little hope that my son would be able to pull that off. But he needed to be insured, so he gave the local community college a shot.
That experience was a complete disaster. I think my son barely passed one class that semester. I later found out that he wasn’t even going to his classes most of the time. My wife or I would drive him to school, drop him off, then drive back home. When his classes were done, we’d go back out to the school and pick him up. Little did we know that we were doing all of that for naught. Our son was just going through the motions. The only thing he was really focused on was getting high. He’d shove everything else—anything having to do with reality—to the back burner.
It took several years, but when my son finally got and stayed clean for a significant period of time, I could see his emotional age start to play catch-up with his physical age. Thirty-eight days in residential treatment, an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and quality sober living homes were the combination of ingredients that helped my son get to where he had to be to start “growing” again.
One incident in particular convinced me that my son was indeed on the right path and getting wiser. It happened a while back when he and I were helping my parents move. We were carrying a large mirror down a flight of stairs and I said to my son, “Be careful. If you drop it you’ll have seven years of bad luck.” He laughed and replied, “I’ve already had that and I don’t want to go back.”
Now that my son has been clean for more than a year-and-a-half, I am experiencing a tremendous amount of joy watching him mature into the wonderful young man I always knew he could be. Chronologically, he’s now 24; emotionally, he’s getting very close to that same number. He has a job, a checking account, lives with his girlfriend (they adore each other), and is pretty much self-sufficient. He’s even talking about going back to school. If he does, I’m convinced that it will be for real this time.
Note: If you are in recovery, or if you have a loved one who is in recovery, please consider sharing your story on the Heroes in Recovery website. Real recovery begins with real people. And real stories. By sharing, you can help BREAK THE STIGMA.
You can share your story in one of two ways:
1.) Go to the Heroes in Recovery page, share your story directly, and let them know Dean sent you.
2.) Contact me on Facebook (Dean Dauphinais) and I can help you through the process. Or we can talk on the phone and I can help you write your story.
I have a couple of stories posted under “Dean D.” I invite you to go check them out. Also, please feel free to share this blog post or leave comments below.
Go forward, be brave, and keep the faith.