Is drug addiction a disease or the sign of a weak mind? Who has control? What to do when a loved one continues to make wrong choices.
Recently I read a book titled, “Stay Close: A Mother’s Story of her Son’s Addiction” by Libby Cataldi. The honesty in expressing her feelings of hurt, pain, anger and love is authentic. As a principal of a high school, I can image how difficult it was for her to teach students about making right choices in life when her own son was making the wrong choices while attending the same school.
How did it happen? Libby questions her own responsibility in seeing where she missed it. Her most painful experiences can be felt as she describes her life in raw truthful honesty. Writing had been her way to keep her sanity and deal with the issues when no one was by her side. The drug addiction in her family was their secret. No one could understand what she was going through with her addict son.
She had another son who was not an addict, but lived the life of a protector for his brother but could not save his brother. The younger son bottled a lot of anger and hurt inside for years. He did not want to talk about it…ever! Although all family members, mother, father, and brother loved their addict, love was not enough. Libby writes that if love was the answer, her addict son would have been saved from the realities of a destructive lifestyle.
This mother watches as her addict son journeys towards death. Libby opens up her heart with honesty in the hope it will help others. She recalls the events in brutal detail from her journals. She is transparent about her mistakes and what she said to her son and what he said to her. They talked a lot, mostly on the phone, as he was no longer living at home. She could no longer have him under her roof, but she stayed close.
Enabling or Helping?
The main thrust of the story is that this mother remained in her son’s life….wavering between enabling and helping. Her roller coaster of emotions parallels her son’s life of one crisis after another as a result looking for the next fix.
Manipulation, lies, deceits, and theft are a part of an addict’s life. He cannot control himself, the same way a mother cannot help herself from believing all the lies until she hits her ‘bottom’ and must admit her denial. It took her years to understand this. She believed he was telling the truth since he was excelling in education, jobs and living on his own. There was no reason to doubt as her son lived a seemingly successful life. There were red flags, but she ignored them through her denial.
That is what happens with this complex disease. Unless you are an addiction professional or have been educated, it’s difficult to recognize addiction until it’s too late. Some drugs make addicts feel normal so they don’t display negative signs. But it does catch up, especially when harder drugs are required to keep up the appearances of normalcy.
When Will the Next Shoe Drop?
When substance abuse leads to a life of car crashes, prisons, broken relationships, lost jobs, homelessness family members suffer in silence and live in constant fear. When will the next shoe drop? What to do? Do something or do nothing? There seems to be no right answer!
After getting help for herself, Libby learned that her enabling behaviour would destroy her son’s life if he didn’t get help. He needed treatment but would he accept it? She did what many parents of addicts do….get him into treatment. After six or seven stays at rehabs and detox centres, one would think it was enough to live a sober life.
The Love Way
Throughout Libby’s story with her son’s addiction, she keeps up hope, and never gives up. That is the love way. Love your son even when he is unlovable! Frustration, shame, fear and anger were her companions during many years of her turmoil. Yet she kept up her faith in God, one day at a time!
I encourage everyone to read this book. It will educate and give hope. Find out what happened to her son. Although it’s nonfiction, it reads like fiction. The complexity of addiction is undeniable.
There is a point in the downward spiral of substance abuse when a line is crossed and the addict cannot live without the fix. This can be compared to a cancer patient who needs the medication to stay alive. If one can heal cancer by willpower, every cancer patient would do it! In the same way an addict cannot control his desire for drugs without help.
Is drug addiction a disease? I would love to hear your opinion on the subject. Leave comment for or against.