Untangling the Knots of Addiction – Two Steps Forward, One Back

Knots of addiction Naga182 public domainYou’d think once someone decided, “I’m done with addiction! I’m turning my life around,” it would be all uphill from there. Because that’s the biggie. All of us mothers and lovers of addicts are waiting for that golden moment, when the sun breaks through the darkness, scatters the clouds, and shines down upon us.

But it’s usually not like that. For every two steps forward on the road to recovery, there’s one (or more!) step backward, as our loved one begins to untangle himself from all the knots caused by a life of addiction. It’s not just a matter of giving up his substance of choice and staying clean and sober. It’s that, which is hard enough, and so much more.

It’s about trying to create a new life out of the rubble of the old. A life spent in and out of jails and rehab and living on the streets leaves a trail of destruction behind you, as well as a tangle of legal problems, a pile of debt, bad credit, failing health, and broken relationships. Often you lack a car or a home or a job. And you lack the decent clothes and resume and character references needed to smooth the way toward getting what you lack.

Often there’s outstanding warrants, court fines, and back child support payments to take care of. There’s a mouthful of decay, a diseased liver, and undiagnosed mental issues to deal with. And years of bad habits to undo.

Worst of all is the lack of self-confidence and self-esteem needed to move forward when so much is weighing you down, or dragging you backward.

It takes tremendous courage, willpower, faith, humility and plain old-fashioned guts and grit to even wrap one’s mind around all this, let alone force yourself to walk out on that dance-floor and begin all the contorted moves needed to unravel those tangles. Especially while everyone you know and love, and many who hate you, stand by and wait and watch.

Two days after I wrote my last post about my son’s 60 days clean, he was picked up on an outstanding warrant from a neighboring county and jailed. This time was especially hard because he was taking high daily doses of methadone from the clinic, and withdrawals from that are the worst.

On the other hand, this warrant had been an axe hanging over his head ready to drop. And now he could finally take care of it and put it behind him. And he did. He spent 10 days in jail and then was released back into his Prop 36 program, with the promise to transfer his case to this county. A huge relief.

He managed to hang on to his old job too while he was gone, but he lost his spot in the shelter where he was staying. He’s living in a friend’s van now and saving up to get his own place.

All’s well that ends well, so they say, and this ended better than we’d hoped.

But it’s a reminder that he’s still untangling himself from the mess he created while deep into addiction. And we must all be patient as he slow-dances his way free.

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21 thoughts on “Untangling the Knots of Addiction – Two Steps Forward, One Back

  1. I remember being right where he is. A vivid reminder of an extremely difficult but momentum building time in my life. I wish him and your family all the best. You are doing awesome by letting the knots unravel and mend on their own. I’m sure it is excruciating to withhold an extended arm to pull him through the slow flowing sludge of foundation rebuilding. I commend you for that. Your definitely doing it right. Good luck to you and your family.

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  2. This post resonated with me & our daughter. She is out of prison, & is trying to get her life together. I see her still emotionally needy, & possibly headed for trouble in how she’s trying to meet her neediness. It’s a wait & see. I talk with her, pray for her, but don’t try to fix it.

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  3. Be careful on that dance floor. We often find that part of our dance is intended to control someone, like a bowler trying to put body-english on the ball after it’s already rolling down the lane. Dance for yourself, not for anyone else.

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    • Thanks, Jeff. The dance thing was a metaphor for the awkward steps my son must take (and many addicts) to untangle the mess, mostly legal, but financial as well, that he’s wrapped up in because of years of addction. So he’s not dancing “with” anyone. He’s going through the motions needed to get his life turned in the right direction and keep it going that way, which includes some twists and turns.

      Probably not an apt metaphor, because I agree, dancing should be “fun” whether with someone or alone.

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  4. Reblogged this on Our Young Addicts and commented:
    All-important reminders about how delicate the recovery process can be. Wishing this mom, her son and family all the best on this journey, which always is a continual one step forward and two steps back route through recovery. Thanks for sharing your experience and observations. MM

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  5. Wow. You really hit the nail on the head. I have been there, and even though I have over 8 months clean & sober, I still struggle with the damage I did. There is just so much “mess” left to clean up it can be so overwhelming – and much easier to just tune out & get high. I really enjoy your blog, and I am pulling for your son, and you to come through this healthy, happy, and strong. One day at a time..

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    • Thank you so much, Eve! That’s the part that scares me, how overwhelming it can feel and how that could jeopardize everything. My heart just goes out to you and my son and all who sincerely struggled with this disease and all its devastating consequences. Congratulations on your 8 months! I’m pulling for you too.

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  6. My brain tries a million different rationales to get me to restart old habits. Any part of the cycle. ‘You can just do this part, you don’t have to go all the way’. ‘You deserve it after being so good’. I don’t know why my brain wants to go backwards.

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  7. I guess the thing that I have learned from my brother is to always just ne there for them, no matter what. No phone call goes unanswered, no message goes unreplied, and no knock on the door is left ungreeted. We stuck together as a family. If one of us didn’t hear from him, the other did; and if nobody heard from him, we automatically started trying to reach him. Although my brother did die, after 13 months clean, we were there every step of the way. We have no regrets. We tried and we tried hard. Addiction is a lifelong struggle. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my brother. I know, though, that he has no more pain, no more struggle, and he was freed from all his demons that night.
    I send you my love and prayers, for you AND your son.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this story Deborah. You really help me to see and understand the difficult uphill battle so many people are fighting. No one knows what battles are being fought and won every day by the people we know and see and what heroics it takes just to get up and fight. Blessings to your son and you and all in his circle. Know that I and many others are praying and pulling for him.

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