He’s Home. Now What?

Cc photo Kevin Steel on flickr-28912555-original

Creative Commons photo by Kevin Steel

My son was released from jail last week, much sooner than either of us had expected. I wasn’t ready for this. I’ve been doing so much reading and research on addiction and recovery since his last overdose, hoping by now to have mapped out some course for moving forward.

But I have nothing. No clue what to do.

The more I read, the more confusing it becomes, the less decisive I feel, and the more hopeless it seems, at least for finding a clear-cut path to recovery.  At best the path seems murky, fraught with pitfalls, forking out in a dozen directions.

What I’ve learned is this: There is no clear-cut path to recovery for the addict and his family. Every addiction is different and so is every recovery. Outpatient programs, it appears, can work as well as residential rehabs.  And some addicts recover miraculously “on their own” with no program, no treatment, not even a “come to God” moment.

Abstention isn’t always on the road to recovery either. Some never stop using, they just learn to manage it better, learn to moderate and weave their drug use into a productive life. NA and AA while helpful for some can be harmful for others. The only definitive answer I could find was that Suboxane, a drug that blocks opoids and eases craving, is the safest and sanest path to recovery for heroin addicts. Yet its use is almost unanimously frowned upon by most of the “affordable” and state-funded programs.

The only thing I know for sure is that we can not afford the kind of science-based long-term residential rehab program I had hoped to find. We’re stuck with that cluster of worn-out, already-tried, faith-based, less-expensive options. The ones that treat addiction not as a disease but as a moral failing and treat addicts as weak-minded losers who need a huge dose of “tough-love” (translate stern lectures and a cold back) and “humility (translate debasement).  The kind of programs that kick you out if you relapse, or miss meetings, or commit other minor violations. Or they send you to county jail for the same mistakes if you happen to be “on probation.” The kind that prohibit Suboxane.

That’s where my son has ended up (again), on probation and mandated to a Prop 36 program: a well-intentioned program that is completely lacking any scientific or medicine-based or therapeutic style of treatment. Mostly it consists of group meetings, a few films, once a month one-on-one counseling, random testing, and weekly visits to court where he will sit for long hours on wooden benches waiting for his two-minutes before the judge, who will either say “good boy,” or “need a little time-out in jail.” This “treatment” didn’t work the first two times he was in Prop, but hey, maybe it will this time.

So no, I’m not hopeful.

The only hopeful thing I had going was knowing that at least he’s coming home clean and sober, optimistic and enthusiastic, ready to make a fresh start.

But no. That wasn’t to be either.

When I picked him up at the bus station I had the uneasy suspicion that he was already using, or maybe he’d never stopped. Maybe he was using the whole time he was in jail. Maybe the packets of extra food and coffee that I purchased for him because he “was starving” went toward drugs.

Or maybe, like so many times when he was released, someone saw him walking down the road toward the bus stop with his little paper sack and, identifying him as a kindred spirit (they’d done time, they knew how it felt to get out), they pulled over, offered him a ride, shared their stash. Their good deed for the day.

Maybe I should have picked him up from jail rather than making him catch the bus to where we live. Maybe.

So many maybe’s. The only thing I know for sure is that I know nothing for sure.

And when it comes to addiction, no one else does either.

15 thoughts on “He’s Home. Now What?

  1. It is a disease, one that he didn’t sign up for. There presently isn’t any medical cure. Will there ever be? I think there will, but it’s off in the future somewhere. Even with such medication, addicts will probably never be able to use safely. It’s not just a matter of will-power, either. There is no single answer, but Al-Anon Family Groups (AFG) has been around for sixty-some years and has learned a lot over the years. You might consider tapping into that knowledge for your own sake.


  2. I was on suboxone for four months and just celebrated 3 years clean on April 23. I know each person and situation is unique, but I have been on both sides of this: the addict and the one who loves an addict. My heart aches as i read your posts and reaches out to you. I wish you and your son peace and recovery.
    I would be glad to share my suboxone experience with you privately if it might help.


    • Thank you. It’s good to hear that the Suboxane helps from someone that used it. I might take you up on that offer to talk privately. Now I’m waiting to see if my son will make the appointment we’ve long been waiting for today to get the suboxne. He disappeared yesterday and I don’t know where he is.


  3. First I need you to know my heart feels your pain. I too know the horrors of which you write.I have 2 daughters who have 2 children each.They both have “The Meth Demon”, Wreaking havoc in their lives. To the point of homelessness, prostitution, C.P.S and temporary guardianship being granted to me. The difference between your story and the dynamics between your son and you and my daughters story and dynamics with me is, they learned their addictive behaviors from me.
    They try to lay the guilt trip on me from time to time, i use to fall for it too. Dont get me wrong Im not proud of my role in that, in fact the guilt quite frankly at times is immobilizing.
    Sept 21 2009 I took my last hit of heroin. I smoked 3 grams a day or Id be deathly ill. I did that for 5 yrs, everyday. What made me realise it had to stop was I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Of having noone . my family completely rejected me , my mom was not there to enable me,she didnt accept calls,give me money, have me over for holidays. or even let me in the door of her house. She couldnt, worrying about me and taking the manipulation and verbal abuse I put her thru was literally killing her. She had to cut me off in order to maintain her own well being. Then, I hated her for it. Now, I thank her for it.
    I was raised without religeon, God was for other people, to each their own, my mom would say.
    I owe every ounce of my recovery to The Lord. I was at a respite house the first 3 days of my recovery. The first day so so so sick. I filled up a tall kitchen garbage can throwing up so much I couldnt even lift my head.I thought I was going to die. I remember outloud beggingg God to make it stop, to please take away the sickness and pain I was enduring. He did… at that very moment. No more throwing up , no cravings of having to smoke heroin. To this day, almost 5 yrs later no cravings and I havnt even had heroin anywhere near me my eyes have not seen any. So please dont blow off or downgrade programs that are faith based because after leaving the respite house I went to a faith based program, without it and the wonderful people I met there who taught me how to turn things and problems over to The Lprd. Who knows whered Id be??
    Definately not living and taking care of my mom…….


    • Thank you for sharing your story! I know I’ve been a great enabler of my son. I feel horrible guilt when I do that and horrible guilt when i stop helping. I’m trying to let go of that guilt, knowing that all I do comes from a deep hope of helping him. We got into a fight yesterday–me trying to manipulate him into coming out of his room by taking away his (my) laptop, where he lay in bed watching movies and visiting people on FB all day. I’d let him do that the day before. But I didn’t think it would be healthy for him, his spirits, his depression, to allow that again. He was so angry. And just walked away. We live about 20 miles out of town, so I suppose he hitch-hiked. He had no money. No place to stay. I’m waiting to see if I hear from him. His doctor appointment was this afternoon. Don’t know how he’ll get there (in another city) if I don’t take him. Why do we hurt each other this way?

      I am so glad you make it! I love to hear that. I’ve always believed that he needed to find God to find his peace, but he’s rejected the Christian God that he’s heard about in fundamentalist churches and rehabs he’s been to. He seems to be more open to ideas of God that come from Native American or Buddhist traditions, so I’ve been encouraging that. I’m glad you and your mother have reunited. Bless you both. And thank you so much for sharing your story. It helps.


      • Don’t beat yourself up for the enabling you’ve done. Whether it’s a spouse, parent, sibling, child or friend that’s addicted, our automatic, instinctive reaction is 180 degrees off the right course. We’re dealing with something we’ve never experienced before, something that defies normal logic, so of course we enable. We think we’re helping. When we know better, we do better. Maybe not perfectly, just better. “Progress, not perfection.”

        You don’t have to face this alone. Find a Twelve-Step support group today: ACA, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon. Tap into their experience, strength, and hope. Personally, I prefer Al-Anon and have been attending meetings continuously for 24 years. Go to meetings regularly, get a sponsor, work the steps, read the literature, pull out all the stops and use all the tools available in the program.

        There’s a chat website that I’ve found helpful: http://stepchat.com/
        They’re open 24 hours for chat (Room 3), and you may find some kindred spirits there. I do recommend live (“f2f”) meetings, but on-line meetings (e.g., Room 2 on stepchat.com) can help a lot.


        • Thank you, Jeff. It’s hard not to beat myself up, especially today, I feel like I’ve done so much wrong that has only made things worse. He tried calling earlier today collect but by the time I got the credit card out I’d lost the connection. Today was his doctor’s appointment to hopefully get on suboxane, and now he’s missed it. My whole body feels like one big knot.

          I did find a Nar-Anon group online and have been reading through some of the “chats” and think I will register and see what help I can get there. All of you who have been responding to this blog have been a tremendous help too. I’ll check out the stepchat group as well.


  4. Pingback: Am I Crazy? Or Is He? – How Addiction Warps Us | A Walk on the Wild Side

  5. Your posts really bring home the hard truths about the damage caused by addiction in relationships, and I appreciate that. I was a daily heroin user for 5 years and have abused alcohol and other drugs for 10 years before that. I’m in recovery now, and I work a 12-step program. I’ve been clean and sober for six months (in a row!) and I am still firmly atheist. I think the main reason for AA’s effectiveness in my life lies in the specific group of people that live in my area. I go to some meetings that are attended by up to 200 people on a weekly basis. The amount of support and compassion is overwhelming. Note that I still have to do the work involved in recovery, but having this community really helps a lot. I also suggest you check out Al-Anon, if nothing else they will hear you out and be able to relate to what you’re going through. I hope this helps you.


  6. I think the addiction is so much more than any of us not in those shoes can even comprehend. I thought I understood addiction. After all, I used to smoke…and it did take several attempts to stop…and I know I could easily start again. Just have to really want it…right? Try a little harder…right? Lazy, weak, defiant, spoiled…right? No…for the addict…all the want in the world and all the try in the world is often not enough. No child ever declared “When I grow up I want to be an addict and prostitute myself or become a criminal to get off”. Nope…no sir, they did not. Their addiction is their demon. It steals from them all that they love. I makes them destroy all that they love. And in the throes of passion…they do not care. But beneath it all…where your child resides…is love, caring and a whole lotta shame (with each event the shame grows and grows). Your best…is your love, your understanding, your faith and your hope that one time he will see the way out. For you..it is ok to want to try to help…to worry…all of it. I think it is fine to be there, and help within set boundaries when he is clean and working through things, but also to let him experience consequences for his actions (i.e., the bus is his ride if DUI’d). I am so sorry you are going through this with your son. My heart aches for him. For you, and for the many who are affected, or simply do not understand. Thanks for sharing.


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