When my son was in the grip of the illness of addiction – before the miracle of recovery took place – I lived my life feeling pretty desperate.
I was desperate for a recovery solution to bring my son back to me.
And he was desperate because his life was driven by the disease.
We were two desperate people suffering from the family systems illness of addiction.
For a long time, I believed that our family’s love for him would somehow stop the unraveling that was happening in his life.
While family love did initially slow down the progression of the illness, it was no match for it.
JP needed more than what we could offer him to establish a recovered life.
After a few very difficult years, there came a crossroads when I knew the whole situation was on a non-stop collision course.
Facing homelessness, JP agreed to go to a detox and residential treatment center.
He knew he needed help to deal with the illness that was destroying him. It was while at treatment – like countless others who reach a reckoning with their own soul – that JP laid the groundwork for a sober life.
The help JP received at the residential treatment center and structured aftercare program made such an impact on his life that he went to school to become a recovery professional and ultimately co-founded a treatment health care system.
Excerpt from Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message
After a few days at detox, I had a conversation with my mother from the therapist’s office. I told my mother I planned on going back to the halfway house where I had been using once I completed detox. My mother explained to me that if I did that, they were completely finished with me. But that if I went to treatment for several weeks, there was a slim chance I could earn my way back to the family.
I reacted violently. I threatened to leave rehab, I threatened physical violence against the staff members. In essence, I threw an adult temper tantrum on the phone with my mother.
Somewhere very far back in my mind, I heard a sober voice that I hadn’t heard for a long time. The tone of the voice was calm and powerful, and it said maybe you should just do this. Maybe your way is wrong and everybody else is right. Maybe you should just give up and stop trying to win this thing.
I agreed to go to treatment.
Most of me still didn’t want to get sober, but after about a week into treatment I realized that I needed to stop. I had tried everything else but what everyone told me to do. I decided I was going to give getting sober 100 percent, and if that didn’t work, then I was really destined to be a failure.
Following that cluster of thoughts, I felt calm. I felt a different breath of life flow into me. I could almost feel God’s hand on my back.
I was finally going to wave the white flag. But this was a different white flag. I was surrendering for my health, peace of mind, and happiness. I was no longer going to be dragged through the broken glass by my addiction.
I knew I was done.
I had been so full of shit for the longest time and had lied to everybody and said, “I am done” that I decided this time, I wasn’t going to say anything. I was going to show them through my actions.
The help changed both our lives from desperation to restoration and healing.
What help has supported you in dealing the family systems illness of addiction?
Please share here. We can all be inspired by our collective experience, strength, and hope.
Nancy and her son, JP, are co-authors of Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message. Their book tells the true story of JP’s descent into opioid and alcohol addiction, homelessness, and violence to recovery to become co-founder of a treatment health care system.