Last week Twitter sent me a notification in my online feed that my son had Tweeted something, for the first time in a while, and attached the quote of that tweet.
He so rarely engages in social media postings, so I was naturally curious.
Without quoting the entire comment, it was a tweet about “falling off the bandwagon and forgiving yourself for the failure”.
I went into an immediate panic!!
I sent a text to my son right away asking if everything was okay. And then I waited, my heart racing, my brain trying to process the possibility of another addiction relapse in our family.
I waited for what felt like an eternity before he replied.
What Twitter didn’t mention was that my son’s remark was a comment he made as part of a feed on someone else’s tweet. They were looking for helpful quotes.
In hindsight, I could be upset with Twitter for sending such an alarming notification to me, but it’s not their fault that it triggered me. Instead I spent time reflecting on what lessons this brought to me.
At that time I was 3,000 miles from home, visiting my aging mother. She required my focus then, so returning home for a family emergency would have abruptly halted our visit. And that would have seemed so unfair.
But this is truly what life is like when you have an addicted family member.
Your life becomes consumed by their addiction.
Parents live in fear all the time and often feel like prisoners in their homes and in their lives. That is exactly how I felt so many times – fearful, overwhelmed, panicked, and focused on one thing – getting my son to admission and then through addiction recovery. That tweet brought this all back to me, so crystal clear.
For so long, juggling my life, outside of his addiction was a challenge.
At times I put my business on hold and said no to many social events, so I could be available to monitor his every move. He had lied and covered up his addiction while away at university, so we were still rebuilding trust. And he was in denial that he had a problem with managing his life around video gaming.
I slept very poorly, often waking in a panic if I heard any little sound in the house, freaking out about the possibility that he was up in the night gaming with his friends again. My days were often spent in an insomnia-driven state of exhaustion, my level of distraction at an all time high.
When I was out with friends, I needed to have my phone available, with the sound on full volume, in case my son sent a text or called, needing me while he was struggling with detox.
Each relapse sent me spinning into a state of defeat; I felt hopeless and, at times fantasized about walking away and giving up. But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t.
There were moments when this all-consuming addiction negatively affected my marriage, as well as my son’s relationship with his older brother. It was life altering for me and my family.
My son is now fully detoxed and follows a recovery plan that includes having a network of support from his family. He understands that if he’s struggling, we are just a text or phone call away. I am committed to this agreement. If that morning’s tweet was a call for help, I would have been on the first plane that would have returned me home to him.
Addiction and recovery are not linear. Just as it takes time to become addicted, it takes time to maintain complete sobriety. And that line is never a straight one. Relapses can happen. The addiction doesn’t disappear. Knowing this is a stark reminder for those who rally around the addict, whether they are fully engaged and unable to acknowledge or stop their addiction, or if the addict are falling off the bandwagon into another relapse.
It is all consuming, it is exhausting, it is a labour of love. And it’s good to be reminded now as I speak to others, sharing our family’s journey and as I coach parents through their child’s video gaming addiction.
I truly understand this and know the level of comfort and support that a parent needs.
It’s been almost two and a half years of sobriety for my son. It’s easy to become complacent and comfortable, as his parent, when his life is moving in a positive direction, free of his addiction.
But my moment of panic helped remind me that addiction recovery is a lifelong journey, and I’m not going anywhere.