A dear friend of mine is taking his son to rehab today. His story is nothing unusual but it’s worth telling on the hope it helps another family. And, I’m optimistic his story will have a good ending.
Over a decade ago, I joined a men’s (support) group. At the time, I knew my marriage was ending and I knew I didn’t have the kind of (male) support that I needed in my life. I stayed with that group for a long time and it was invaluable in supporting me through the inevitable divorce, helping me help my boys through that horrible period, and re-entering the dating world.
I made some good friends and, naturally, the other men had their own problems, which prompted them to join the group. What was special about this group was our honesty with each other. Over time, when a man would bring a problem and resist the group’s collective feedback, we would all laugh deep and hard.
Why: because if every man in the group saw the folly of one man’s story, it was comical that this man would resist and stay defensive. Over time, each man would quickly “let go” and allow the other men to truly counsel him.
One man came with the common problem of disagreement with his wife about how to raise their children; an adopted boy, a girl they had later, and a grown child from a previous marriage.
Their adopted son is a super bright and talented kid with a stubborn streak. When he was a tween, he began sneaking into their liquor cabinet. Dad and mom were clueless for years.
He enhanced his drinking taste and began stealing good wine from their modest wine cellar. When “mom” discovered one of her beloved bottles missing, she looked in his room and found empty wine and liquor bottles in nearly EVERY drawer in his room.
When their son was in middle school, a neighbor introduced him to marijuana. Cool stuff. And, he was “cool” about covering up any symptoms because mom and dad wanted to believe they’d already licked the problem with a stern lecture and a long grounding after the discovery of the stolen booze.
What most parents don’t realize is that our teens are tough SOBs and their son “took” his confinement without complaint but found ways around it when at school.
Things escalated in high school where he got in with the “perfect” peer group of drug users. By now, he’d perfected the cover-up. His grades were adequate and he was the Eddie Haskell of polite to his parents and other adults.
In his junior year in high school, there was a horrible tragedy in which three boys died. One by stealing his parent’s fancy car and driving off a cliff, and another by over-dosing on drugs at a friend’s house who mistook his “passing out” and thought he’d sleep it off, which he did – permanently. And the third jumped off a bridge – also high on drugs.
This was a huge shock to the community, and mom and dad attended the candlelight vigil along with their son and so many other parents and kids. They were very moved. Their son used this tragedy to further convince his parents of his sobriety and the dangers of using drugs.
Their son had a large group of friends and they would hang out at his parent’s home. Most were drinkers and drug-users but they all channeled their inner Eddie Haskell and were oh-so-friendly with my friend (his dad). My friend believed he was the cool dad to his son’s friends. He liked that. He even went to some rock festivals with his son and their friends, reliving his own teen years. At these events, he later learned that his son and all his friends were stoned out of their minds the entire time. Dad had a beer.
Their son loved photography and was accepted at a prestigious arts college back east. Boy, things were turning out well. My friend and his wife could kvell to their friends about how well their son was doing. “Progress Reports” from college were abundant because their son could play the game so well simply by staying in touch.
However, he didn’t like this particular arts college. Their son escalated his drug use. A photography friend introduced him to heroin. By now, he’d tried everything else, including LSD.
One of his masterful tricks was telling his parents about the descent into dangerous drug use among some of his friends and how he could no longer hang with them.
Finally, mom and dad could no longer be fooled. They found drug paraphernalia in his room when they were cleaning up in anticipation of a painter coming over to repaint their house.
Their son fessed up. He’s heading to 28 days (or longer) of rehab. I share my friend’s hope things will turn around. Time will tell, but I think my friend and his wife will never fully trust their son again. Very sad.
What lessons can YOU take from my friend’s experience? Simply, do not believe that it cannot happen to you. Stop thinking your “precious” son or daughter would never do such a thing. Stop being their friend and be their parent and that means a little tough love now and then. Don’t be naïve.