There came a tipping point when my husband and I decided to seek a residential rehab program for our teenage son, who was addicted to alcohol and opioids.
This decision was made after many painful years for our entire family of six, as addiction is a disease of the family system.
It required us to completely change the way we were trying to help our son, who was living at home deep in the disease.
Our family’s back story is a familiar one.
In his early teenage years, our son struggled in school and with his own sense of happiness. At that time, we did not realize he was wrestling with substance use disorder. Not surprisingly, he was not forthcoming about his escalating use.
Ironically, I was about 20 years into living a 12- Step recovery program. The disease of alcoholism grew quite rampantly on both sides of our family’s tree. But I just didn’t see that addiction, which our son was genetically predisposed to, was hijacking his life.
That’s what is called big time denial.
The team of experts we put together to help our son – doctors, counselors, psychiatrists and education professionals – called his struggle many different names: anxiety, defiance, depression, learning issues, etc. etc. I believe many of these contributed to his self- medicating with alcohol and opioids. But no one used the words substance use disorder.
We spent years running from one “answer” to the next – different schools, tutors, PINS programs, educational tests, summer programs, spring break study sessions, medications, counseling, wilderness programs, etc. etc. etc. But none ever hit the bull’s eye on what was progressively eating our beloved son alive.
Pursuing these “answers” drained our lives and our finances with the same result: the chasm between our son and the rest of our family growing larger, darker and deeper.
After several years our son’s life was in shreds. He dropped out of high school. His behavior was angry and aggressive. He was jobless and living vampire hours.
We believed it was the right approach for him to live at home with the big reach of our family’s love available to him. But life at home became so derailed there were periodic visits from the police to quell very heated exchanges between us and him.
Nothing had worked. But we weren’t going to give up on him. It was time for some serious strategy changes.
And that was the tipping point: our willingness to completely re -think what we had to do.
My husband reached out to a well- respected doctor, knowledgeable about addiction issues, who recommended our son meet outpatient with Dr. Bill Cipriano, the head of a local psychiatric hospital and rehab center’s adolescent counseling unit.
On the day of the appointment, upon entering Dr. Cip’s office my son announced: “I don’t need any of this sh#*!”
And stormed out.
I sat there hoping a hole would immediately open in the floor that I could disappear into.
But Dr. Cip acted like this was the most natural way to meet.
He said he was always willing to work with anyone who wanted to do the work of change.
I was shaken, but felt some hope rise inside myself. I told him I was ready to do that work.
It was a turning point, ultimately leading to our son, now more than nine years sober and co-founder of a treatment center, going to a residential rehab program, for help.
It was the beginning of a new beginning for us all…
The Tipping Point Series:
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