- Friends & Family
My son recently relapsed.
Not with heroin, which was his most recent drug of choice. Not even with pot, which was his trusty companion for a very long time. But with alcohol.
My son battled addiction for several years before finally getting clean and sober. After a long and arduous journey, something finally clicked, and it was magical. The days started adding up and turned into months; and the months accumulated and turned into years. Three of them, in fact. More than 1,100 days of complete sobriety. It was such a relief.
Then my wife got a text from our son last week.
When my wife came downstairs to tell me the news, my heart sank and my mind raced. I immediately wondered if our son had used heroin again. As my wife proceeded to read subsequent texts to me, we found out that our son had been drinking the night before. He said it was “stupid,” and that he didn’t know what came over him. He also told us he was okay.
When the texts stopped, my wife and I hugged each other and talked about what had happened. As the parents of someone who struggled with addiction for so long, we knew that another relapse, even after a long period of sobriety, was a possibility. We tried not to think about it, of course, but the thought did cross our minds from time to time. How could it not?
But this relapse wasn’t the same as the many relapses our son had experienced earlier on in his addiction. This one affected my wife and me differently, because we are different people than we were several years ago.
Back then, we were completely consumed by our son’s addiction. Our lives and moods revolved around how he was feeling and what he was doing. If he was miserable, we were miserable, too. If he had a few good days in a row, we had a few good days, too. And when he was actively using? You don’t even want to know how that affected us.
Today, though, my wife and I are firmly entrenched in our own recovery. We finally learned that we had to live our own lives, and that being sick as a result of our son’s illness wasn’t doing anybody any good. Sure, we continue to love our son unconditionally. We just know that we can’t control or cure him. It’s his life, not ours.
Four or five years ago, this relapse would’ve absolutely devastated me. I would’ve been angry and upset with my son. I would’ve projected that anger onto innocent people. I would’ve been a total mess for who knows how long. And I wouldn’t have been able to function in my day-to-day life. But that’s not true today.
Yes, my son’s relapse concerns me. But I’m not going to let it devour me. We talked about it, and he told my wife and me, “I don’t want you to worry about me. I’ll be fine.”
So that’s the approach I’m taking. I’m not going to worry. I’ve learned that a relapse is not a monumental failure; it’s a temporary slip-up. It’s not the relapse that defines someone who struggles with addiction; it’s how they react to it. Recovery is a journey, and there will inevitably be bumps along the road. This is one of those bumps. My son knows he made a mistake, he’s learned from it, and he’s going to try like hell not to let it happen again.
I have to trust the process.
Meanwhile, I will continue living my life and hope that my son starts to pile up sober days, months, and years again. Because he’s the only one who can do that for himself.
He may have slipped a bit, but my son is still my Hero in Recovery.