I have been reading stories of recovery from addiction and eating disorders for a very long time. When I joined the staff at Turning Point of Tampa, part of my job was to find people who wanted to share their story with us. In turn, we share those stories on our website and social media platforms so that others can find the experience, strength and hope they are searching for. There is a certain kind of kinship that people seeking recovery feel with those who have found recovery. I cannot explain it any better than to say that we all just “get” each other. We have walked the same long, treacherous roads and we know the paths lead to nowhere good.
The family members of the people who struggle with addictions are also affected. Family members are often in pain after years of doing everything in their power to help their loved one. Living with the effects of someone else’s addiction is devastating and for most people it is impossible to bear without outside help.
For this series, I interviewed the family members of people who struggled to get sober, people who are sober today, as well as people who have died as a result of their addiction. My hope is that as a family member, you can find that same experience, strength and hope that you are so desperately seeking.
Family Interview with Lori P.
AN: What crisis brought you to recovery?
LP: In December 2017, my son checked himself into Turning Point of Tampa. I picked him up 24 hours prior walking the streets in a highly known drug area, he was high, exhausted, broke and hungry. I had spent the last decade begging, negotiating, bargaining, and finally realizing there was no more I could do or say. I drove him home that night and didn’t deliver my typical speech, I wasn’t mad, I felt hopeless. I dropped him off where he was living and simply said there is no more I can do or say, I’ve said it all. I love you. He got out of the car and went inside. I sobbed all the way home, because for the first time I had seen him in the midst of his drug addiction. Up until that point, he stayed away from me when he was high.
I went to bed exhausted and tired and truly hopeless. Late that night he called and said he needed help. I asked him if he wanted me to come and get him in the morning or now and he said now. I picked him up and he called Turning Point the next day and I dropped him off. I was hopeful, but this was his second attempt at sobriety. A year and a half prior he had spent several months at another facility on the east coast and in sober living. He was sober one year following that treatment.
Thankfully, our story has a good ending. He is still clean and sober as of this interview! Upon completing residential treatment, he attended IOP and went to sober living. It was during IOP, when I attended the family nights and small groups, that I realized how good it felt to talk to other parents and to verbalize what his addiction did to me. The first night I went, they went around the room and his counselor asked me how his addiction impacted me, and as I opened my mouth I just started crying. Honestly, I don’t think anyone had ever asked me how it affected me, and honestly, I never thought about it. The family nights during that period really helped and I enjoyed hearing other families share their stories. A few months later I saw an announcement on the Real Recovery Facebook page that a Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL) group was starting in Tampa. I have been attending ever since and have enjoyed it immensely.
AN: Had you ever heard of any type of Family Recovery Program before this crisis?
LP: I had heard of Al Anon and had attended one meeting in Polk County where I live. There were only 3 people there and were all spouses of alcoholics. I did not feel I had anything in common at that time.
AN: What have you learned about the importance of family member recovery, meaning the family member(s) of the person who is addicted.
LP: I have learned that taking care of myself is critically important in the recovery of my son. It was important that I learned I couldn’t control his addiction, nor could I cure it. Enabling is a huge issue especially when you are talking about parents, because that is our natural instinct.
AN: Did you have any reluctance in accepting your need for your personal recovery? Meaning, did you ever have thoughts of “I don’t have a problem so why do I am I the one who needs help?
LP: Actually after 12 plus years of heartbreak, I was happy to accept any help I could get!
AN: What would you tell family members who are considering their own recovery?
LP: I would tell anyone who is involved with any alcoholic or addict to seek help for themselves even if their loved one isn’t getting help. If you get help, there is a greater chance your loved one will, because you will know the appropriate ways to handle their addiction.
AN: Have you experienced any stigma surrounding addiction and recovery?
LP: The shame and guilt you feel as a parent when your child struggles with addiction is often overwhelming. To add to the already overwhelming guilt, I was a career law enforcement officer and couldn’t figure out how this happened to me, and how I missed the signs. Speaking to other parents, who felt this same guilt and learning that it wasn’t my fault and there was really no way I could have stopped it gave me a sense of peace I had not had in years. I pray that my son never has to live that life again, but if he does make that choice, I at least will have the knowledge and the tools to better handle any decisions he makes.
AN: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
LP: The only thing I would like to add is if your loved one is in recovery or still in active addiction, reach out and make sure you get help and talk to people who are going through or have gone through what you have experienced. I have met some of the nicest people, who just like me raised their children in a loving family and found themselves dealing with a child they didn’t even know anymore. Taking care of yourself does not mean you have given up on your loved one, it actually gives them a greater chance of recovery. I am so grateful for Turning Point and the staff who work there.