Am I Crazy? Or Is He? – How Addiction Warps Us


From the film “Silver Lining Playbook” about mental illness

He was already high when I picked him up from the bus station to bring him home.

I’d hoped after a month in jail he’d be clean and sober and ready to make a fresh start on the road to recovery. That’s why we were letting him stay with us. He had nowhere else to go, and we wanted him to be safe until we could get him into rehab.

But it was already too late for safe, for clean, for a fresh start.

I could have refused to bring him home, of course. I could have left him at the bus stop. But I didn’t. I had my suspicions, but I wasn’t absolutely certain he was high.

I was sure a couple of days later though when, after I refused to give him a ride into town, he disappeared in the middle of the night for a couple of hours. Then the next morning he came bouncing out of his room full of sunshine, slathering me with kisses, enveloping me in big bear hugs, feeling good, feeling motivated, feeling like he could move mountains.

And seeing him that way, I wanted to drop to my knees in tears.

When I shared my disappointment, when I explained how his hyper-happiness was like a punch in the gut, he asked, incredulous: “Would you rather see me depressed?”

Would I? I had to think about that. Would I rather see him depressed?

I can’t explain to him why seeing him high is so traumatic for me. It would be too hurtful. It’s already hurtful to him, that I’m crying while he’s feeling so good, so hopeful, so motivated. He’s working out, getting in shape. He’s sorting through all his old bags of clothes stored in the closet, organizing them, doing laundry. He’s reading his spiritual books, The Four Agreements and The Tao of Sobriety, listening to Ram Dass and other gurus on YouTube. He’s calling the Medi-Cal office trying to get a doctor’s appointment so he can get a prescription for Suboxane.

He’s doing all the things I want him to do and should be praising him for doing. But I look at him and just want to bawl. Or scream.

He doesn’t get it. How could he?

In a way, it’s like I have my old son back, my real son. That tender, sweet, intelligent, humorous, fun-loving, energetic guy. I see the son I love so much, but it’s like I’m viewing him through a veil of flickering flames, and he’s a twisted, distorted, fun-house version of himself.

For the drugs make him twitchy. All of his movements are jerky, disjointed. He’s bouncing off the wall, knocking over furniture, breaking things he touches. His facial expressions and body movements are exaggerated, wild, out-of-control. He looks, seems, weird, bizarre, even while he’s hugging, helping, talking about important things we need to talk about.

In fact, he can’t stop talking. He talks to me from behind the bathroom door, from down the hall, from across the house. And when he isn’t talking he’s making weird noises, moans, laughs, grunts, excited exclamations, and incoherent muttering. He’s giving me or himself a running commentary about everything he’s doing, every thought that pops into his head.

I want to hide in the closet with a pillow over my ears and a fist in my mouth to keep from screaming.

But I don’t. He’s happy. My son is happy.

He’s feeling good about himself, hopeful about the future, trying to do what he thinks will please me. He’s practically begging for approval, for affirmation. He’s constantly looking for me to agree with him, to nod my approval, to say “that’s good, that’s right, what a great idea, aren’t you wonderful.” And if I don’t make the right noises at the right time, he’s hurt, wounded.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you love me? Aren’t you happy I’m happy?” I can almost hear him saying.

“Do you want me to be depressed?”

It’s not a matter of “wanting” though. It’s coming. Whether I want it or not. Dangerously Depressed lives right around the corner from Hyper-Happy, and it’s coming.

Within the next few days, rather than bouncing out of his room full of sunshine in the morning, he’ll be curled like a fetus in his bed with the covers pulled over his head. One bare foot will be sticking out jerking like a jack-hammer. He’ll pull the covers down far enough so I see his hot, hard, furious eyes peering out like an angry rooster, as he shouts at me to get out! out! out!

But even this is better than what comes next–Mad Maniac. This is when he roars up and storms around the house, and slams doors and curses, and gets into my face and tries to get me to take him into town so he can get another fix.

Or not. Maybe all that won’t happen this time. Maybe it won’t be that bad. Maybe.

But I’m worried. It’s the old pattern re-emerging, the way it’s played out too many times before. The crazy times, I think of them. That’s why this Hyper-Happy son makes me want to cry, because it reminds me of those times. Episodes of my life that are so bizarre and unbelievable, remembering them is like re-living a nightmare, or being in some alternate universe where crazed people do crazy things to survive and to save the ones they love.

I’ve never told anyone about those crazy times in my life. The things I’ve seen and done and endured, trying to help him.

During those days it was as if I lived in a secretive, shadowy world where I became someone no one would recognize. On the surface I was the same old person everyone knew–quiet, responsible, reasonable. But when I walked on the wild side of addiction with my son, I was anything but that.

I think that’s why I started this blog. Why I named it what I did. Not, as I had thought, had hoped, so I could sort things out and figure out a way to save my son. I want that too. I want that badly. But I think the real reason I created this blog was so I finally could let it all out. All the craziness I experienced. Bring it to the surface, look at it in the light of day.

Maybe then I could come to understand it, this addiction, what it does to us, how it warps everyone around it.  Not just him.  Me too. Me as much as him.

Maybe then I could find the healing I’m looking for. Heal this terrible guilt and grief and dread. Heal the craziness. And make myself immune to it.

I don’t want to be crazy anymore. I don’t want to be drawn into that world. But I don’t want my son to have to walk through that nightmare landscape by himself either. Alone and crazed.

I want all that craziness to be behind us. But I fear it isn’t. I see its face, lurking in the shadows. Waiting for me around the next corner. Curled beneath the covers in the next room. Peering out at me, tomorrow morning, when I open the door.

[For the rest of the story, read the posts below]

Thank God My Son’s in Jail

He’s Home. Now What?


318 thoughts on “Am I Crazy? Or Is He? – How Addiction Warps Us

  1. addiction is such an exhausting thing to attempt to understand. I’ve regrettably witnessed severe cases of it my entire life. My father has been an alcoholic every since I can remember (along with just about every member on that side of the family), and my sister has been a heroin addict for the last 6 or 7 years. I understand your trials to a tee. It is draining to say the very least. Rehab, jail, sobriety, disappear– repeat. From witnessing all the many ramifications it took out on my mother– in just about every way possible– makes your pain so vivid. You, your son and your whole family are in my thoughts.


  2. I have the same with my son although he has not been in jail although God only knows how. I sent him to Dubai to live with his father and that is my respite knowing while he is there he is not using… he created havoc in his own life, my life and the life of my other children… I tried so hard to save him but know now I can’t do that. He has to do it. I stopped enabling him and brought about tough love although that broke my heart. Our relationship is burdened now as I stand between him and what he loves most.. drugs. I blamed myself but I am not to blame… He is sick with an illness few understand. You have my full understanding and I pray everything turns out for the best.


  3. Very well written; you have a wonderful way of wording your thoughts/emotions so that it’s easy for the reader to identify with them. Addiction is a monster, for the addict & the ones who love them. Your son is very lucky to have you as a support system; some addicts have no one to turn to which only intensifies their issues. I wish from the bottom of my heart that both you & your son have the best of luck fighting this all-consuming illness….please keep us posted. And hang in there, you’re a very good Mama….this too shall pass….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s so frustrating to try & understand an addict. I am going through it now with my brother. Best to you & your son


  5. im an addict and have torn apart two families caused two divorces and the path of destruction is endless. I’ve been clean the majority of a year with 5 isolated relapses. its the most consistent I’ve been in 15 praying for you and your son I’m sorry that we are like this. i feel i need to apologize to you because i see the pain and hurt I’ve caused and its usually the same across the board for addicts.


    • Thank you for your prayers. We just have to remember it’s the disease that causes havoc, and you are just as much a victim as the families. I look back and see so many ways I could have helped my son when he was younger, and things even now I should have, could have, done differently. I do not feel guiltless in this. I have much to apologize to him for too. What matters, and what keeps me going, and him too, I think, is that our love for each other is real, no matter what mistakes we’ve made or how we’ve hurt each other. In the end, it’s only the love that counts. And from the message you wrote here, I can tell that you have deep love too for your family, as I’m sure they have for you too. Lean on that. My prayers for your continued recovery. And thank you for writing here.


  6. Thank you for sharing – a courageous and healing thing to do, but not so easy. Blogging has been my therapist, along with fine tuning rusty writing skills. I have found it to be harder to deal with a loved one’s addiction than my own. You have no power to help. And it’s like looking through a horrible mirror of how you made others feel.
    You and your son will be in my prayers.
    Don’t forget to take care of yourself! Your blog is definitely a step in that direction 🙂
    P.S. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!


  7. Wow. I too have walked the road through that nightmare. Only with my husband. We lost everything.. our home, vehicles, friends, sanity, our lives…. I am glad to say he is currently clean and we have started over. It is a long road, full of pot holes and what not. He is bipolar, and even on meds it is a roller coaster ride from Hell at times. I’ll deal with it though as long as he stays off the drugs. Your post really got me. It was like a peek into my own soul. Thank you for sharing. I hope beyond all things that your son finds his way.


  8. I have been through exactly the same situation watching my sister in full flight mania. As a person in recovery for over 20 years I know addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful and as a relative and loved one you are completely powerless over your son. Al Anon is the only place that saves my sanity. My family wont accept that we are affected by multi-generational impact of addiction, they would rather call it by other names. One addict in active addiction affects at least 5 people close to him or her. My sister had tried to take her life once and is now back in hospital on the roulette wheel of the medical model that offers nothing but the back and forth of different rounds of chemicals many of which contributed towards her illness in the first place. I try to keep my distance as much as possible. Cause another person’s addiction can and does drive you crazy as you well know.


  9. What an awful situation you are in. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Sounds like maybe your son hasn’t quite reached rock bottom yet… the epiphany moment. I hope this happens soon for you, and his life becomes less arduous, and you can stroll in the park instead of walking on the wild side…


  10. I have been addicted in my life, to sex, booze, cigarettes, gambling. Over time I have given up all of those addictive behaviors, but it took time and loving support of a life partner. It is a work in progress. Can I recommend a book? Perhaps you have read it ‘Out of the shadows’ about one addiction but all addictions have the human brain in common, so it applies too to drugs.


  11. i work with substance users/abusers. It is tiresome. but everyone but them gets to leave it at the door step [quite literally for you] each day/night. their torment is different than the torment we develop because of their choices….jail is not a place of healing….for most anyone… i would love to be a professional support. there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. feel free to reach out …


  12. Addiction is said to be harder on the loved ones of the user than the actual user. Whether that is true or not, it speaks to the pain and the emotional roller coaster that you endure. The pain you try too hide to the judgmental seemingly perfect world around us. Hang in there, I hope this outlet helps you find some sort of peace. I hope your son gets the help he needs.


  13. You can’t give up on him. My uncle went through addiction and my family gave up on him. He moved to Denver for 10 years and one day we got a phone call that he almost died of over dose. We got him to come back home. He finally agreed after 2 years back to go into rehab. He just got out January and he is a year sober and every day at 8:00 & 9:00 he goes to NAA and AAA meetings. Yes it will be difficult to convince him to get help but just be patient and talk about everyday to him. He will soon realize what’s best for him. Good luck. I will pray for you and your family you. 🙂


    • I’m so glad your Uncle was reunited with his family and is now in recovery. I agree, we can’t, and won’t, give up on our son. He’s on a methadone detox now and plugged into some court-mandated drug programs, so I’m feeling more hopeful now than when I started this blob. Still, he’s been “in recovery” before and slipped out of it, so we will see. Still, I have hope again, and I need that, and so does he. Thank you for writing and sharing your uncle’s story.


      • Good. I am glad he is finally getting help. I hope that he will take recovery seriously this time around. I’ll say it again, your family will be in my prayers. 🙂 and don’t forget to NEVER lose hope. 🙂


  14. This post was highlighted on the front page of WordPress when I was looking around for a place to start a blog for The Haven. The serendipity encouraged me to put it here.

    We are a group of people in recovery from drug, alcohol and/or mental health issues and we lease a small piece of land from our local city council. We use the space (about an acre and a half) to come together to grow vegetables and flowers, and to have a drug and alcohol free space where we can relax and try to help each other with our problems. Although we encourage relevant agencies and charities to bring their service-users along, The Haven was set up and is maintained solely by people who felt the need for a service-user led project. It isn’t the answer for everyone and from time to time we loose people to relapses or breakdowns, but we have also seen people move on to other projects and/or full time work. For those of us still using it it really helps to have such a space.

    Our blog only has two post so far; one is a 90 second film about The Haven and the other a photo from, and link to, a local radio show some of us took part in earlier this week. Please come over and take a look at it as it will encourage me (and hopefully some of the blog’s other authors!) to keep at it and spread the word.

    All the best to you and your son. Keep on keeping on.


      • Thanks. It is a wonderful place and I think it is unique, at least in the UK. It takes a lot of hard work to keep it that way but it is something we are determined to do. Just had a BBQ up there this afternoon. Good food, good people, good weather, can’t be beaten. Tomorrow we have a lot of weeding to do. The weather isn’t supposed to be very good and we won’t eat like kings, as we did today, but the company will still be excellent.

        We will keep up with your blog and leave comments when we can.


        • That makes me happy, just thinking of you all together, “breaking bread”, creating community. What you are doing may be unique in the U.S. too. At least I’ve never heard of it before. I’ll be keeping in touch with your blog and what you are doing there too.


  15. You could be writing my own story. I too have a son struggling with addiction and mental illness. I salute your ability to write a beautifully raw account of your life. My son has given me the gift of courage, strength and perspective. I learn by loving him and loving myself. Thank you!


  16. Heya, I am in recovery so I appreciate your feedback on being on the otherside.
    its so cool of you to take the time to share, I have started doing that with my new blog and while I am in a good space I want to put it down on paper, I want to be able to read and watch my vlog again, and never forget that I have won my battle. Its taken rehab and aftercare facility, but ultimately without the compassion of my mother i would never ever have got to where I am now. I lost my brother to his battle with alcohol, and I just have such a different perspective on life. There is a lot of happy stuff out there to be enjoyed, and I chose that!


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