Cleano’s Father’s Thoughts
I cannot speak for my other family member’s innermost feelings because they are impossible to truly know and share. I can only express my own as a father:
I grew up as a 1970s child and confess, notwithstanding my efforts, I was never great at drugs as I was never happy about surrendering control; this always frightened me. Therefore, early on, I could not really understand my son’s issues. I liked to think I had the willpower to ultimately control potential vices, whether the vice was alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, prescription drugs, gambling, even egotism. So in the beginning I didn’t truly get it. ‘Get a grip!’ ‘Use a bit of willpower!’ ‘What I would do…’
But I came to learn it is like the expression that surfers use to describe the feeling of riding a wave to someone who has never surfed: ‘only a surfer knows the feeling.’ That’s one thing I feel I have learned about addiction: ‘only an addict knows the feeling.’ But I think this lesson does not bring much enlightenment. If it is not you doing it, or it is not happening to you – then you will never really get it. You may think you understand, but you never really feel or experience it.
I always thought my son, from about age 14 or 15, for reasons I was not qualified to understand, was ‘not quite right’. With the benefit of hindsight, I would now say it was undiagnosed depression but, despite his mother and I discussing the issues, nothing was done, nothing formally done. Like with many things in life, discussing it was made harder by my son’s adolescence: the easier and more explainable ‘hormonal’ storm in teenage behaviour, distracted us and provided excuses. Through the progression of time and circumstance, the problem worsened and became more obvious.
People who are close, start sending alarm signals. In the family, one by one, we seemed to go through stages of frustration, concern, helplessness, annoyance and ultimately, resentment.
And, ultimately, we arrived at Grandma’s famous saying: ‘Because they are your children, you have to love them; but you don’t have to like them!’
Of course, by this time, the problem had manifested itself in its full-blown glory. We realised it was way too late for untrained family intervention and management. The child in question was, is middle aged.
My anxiety and stress at not being able to help, to control, to influence the situation, worried for his safety, sending people around to the house to check he was alive… This regularly woke me at 3 or 4 a.m. I decided the father’s perspective truly was ‘the love and worry for your child’, the sort of love I believe that mothers generally more possess. Failed family interventions, the attempts at forced rehab, and the meetings with counsellors, raised their anxiety too. But a discussion with one counsellor stuck firm:
‘What do you do for your son?’
‘I used to give him money to live, but I don’t anymore.’
‘What do you do for him now?’
‘I only pay his mortgage.’
‘Because I love him, and want him to have a roof over his head.’
‘Because I don’t want him to be living under a bridge.’
Then the whole idea of getting to rock bottom, and the enabling, hit me like a sledge hammer. Questions of my role – did his mother and my divorce trigger this? Did I not spend enough time with the kids as youngsters? Was I too absorbed in my career? Was I to blame? If not, who then? – evaporated. I saw that my son had a full time job of work requiring total commitment and tremendous inner strength. I have never been more proud of anything that my son has achieved. And guess what? It never was about me!
I do not feel that I have contributed, nor can I take one ounce of credit, for what has been a remarkable, life-saving and life-changing result. I know my sons, two loving brothers, saved his life by taking things into their own hands and enabling my addicted son to get to proper help and rehab. I did not think he was ready. His brothers guess one major contributing factor was the introductory interview with the rehab staff member: the staffer’s own story resonated with my son; maybe, they say, that got him on board, flicked the switch. If so, I would love to be able bottle it for all humanity.
My son is very intelligent, strong willed and could not easily be told what to do. I watched him as he became prepared to surrender, to embrace a drug-free life, to commit and work hard at the program. Sure, he is in constant remission but he’s a healthy, functioning, contributing and loving person. Can things really change? Absolutely.