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How I Knew My Son Was an Addict: A Mother’s Perspective

At one time, my son was your typical teenage boy. He was always involved in sports, and he excelled in several of them. You could always find him throwing the football around the field with his friends, or playing basketball with his brothers in our driveway. He lived for sports, but they certainly weren’t his own successes in those days. When he wasn’t playing sports, he was always busy. He loved school and he would rush right home and do his homework if he didn’t have a chance to finish it all in study hall. He was quizzical too, and I can remember countless dinnertime conversations when he would ask myself or his father about things that were happening in the news or current events all around the world. He always had an opinion and he was eager to share it, but he cared about our opinions too. Those were precious times. Even though he studied hard and he played sports, he still had time to work a part-time job. When he turned sixteen, he bought his own car after he got his license, and he knew he had to be able to pay for his own gas and insurance. His father and I worked hard to instill a deep sense of responsibility in him from an early age. He looked at it as a challenge he was willing to take on, and we were so proud of him for being so responsible and grown-up.

Then…suddenly everything changed.

Probably the first thing I noticed about him was the way he seemed to withdraw from his family. He started spending a lot of time alone in his room or hanging out with friends. He never wanted us to meet the new people he’d started hanging out with, and he was gone all hours of the night. We tried instituting a curfew, but that didn’t matter. None of our rules seemed to matter after a while. It wasn’t long before he started referring to sports as a “waste of time” and he quit his part-time job without notice. It was probably better for the business actually, because he was late so many times they most likely would have fired him eventually. It didn’t take long before his physical appearance started to change too. He began getting thinner and there were these deep, dark circles under his eyes that seemed to just appear out of nowhere. He didn’t look like my son anymore. He started coughing a lot and he complained about other health problems like headaches and stomach pain and nausea. When I would try to help he would snap at me to leave him alone. Then he would leave the house and come back any time he felt like it. These changes in him were so abrupt, and I couldn’t figure out what was going on…and then it hit me. He was showing the signs of having become a drug addict. I didn’t want to believe it at first. Surely this must only be a phase he was going through; some kind of struggle with growing up. Maybe he took on too much responsibility too soon, or maybe he was just finding a school to be too difficult. Maybe he was being bullied and he just didn’t want to talk about it. There could be any number of reasons for his new behavior. When the denial faded away, I had to come to the realization that it was probably true. My son was a drug addict. A quick sweep of his room uncovered drugs and paraphernalia that proved my theory was correct. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t understand why my son, someone who seemed as though he had it all together could choose this path. What had I done wrong? What could I have done differently? Was there any hope for healing or recovery from his addictions? I knew there was hope. There had to be hope. I just prayed that he would want to find a way out. I prayed that he would see the light before it was too late and want to change things around for the better. Fortunately, it didn’t take long. Sometimes people have to hit rock bottom, and sometimes as a parent, you have to let them. That’s what I had to do, and it was the hardest thing I had ever done. It took years, but he started treatment for his addictions. I’m looking forward to a day when I can see that teenage boy again that I used to know. I know it will come, but until it does, I will hold onto the hope that change is possible.