by Carol Sokolsky
My dear friend called me in tears -in a panic. Her son wasn’t answering his phone…she hadn’t heard from him in days….her car was missing…the news chattered about a batch of bad heroin that killed several that week. She knew this nightmare entirely too well. So did I.
We both lived in an agonizing world, trying to present a normal family picture; yet, we were anything but normal. We actually had forgotten what a normal family looks like. Our “from the outside” life that looked so together was spinning out of control and about to come off the rails. Both of us – and neither of us – could stop the ultimate destruction of the very ones we loved the most….our sons.
There is almost 20 years between our sons, mine being older, so don’t think that addiction strikes only teenagers. Addiction attacks families you see every day. Yet, you have no idea of what they live with, unless they share that pain; sadly, most don’t. I’ve chosen to share our story- with my son’s full approval – as together we walked through years of addiction – lies, anger, fear, pain, and ultimately healing and recovery.
Addiction grabbed my son in adult life. He is so talented; he can do just about anything. He has so many God-given talents. I always knew he could do anything he truly made up his mind to do. Years ago, while working with heavy equipment, he badly shattered his arm forcing a seven hour surgery to repair. The pain was so severe, and soon he became addicted to pain meds. I had no idea. None.
He began stealing to get money for pills. I still had no idea. None. He stole pain pills we legally had in our home- one and two at a time – so we wouldn’t notice. I still had no idea. And I certainly had no idea my son had moved on to heroin – yes, heroin…which was much less expensive yet created the same high.
And then one day…at my home…I found him unconscious with a needle in his arm; I screamed at him – I couldn’t wake him. As the 911 response told me how to try to keep him alive until the EMTs arrived, I knew my son might become a victim of a heroin overdose.
My heart was shattered; my life stopped in its tracks. Who was he? Who was I? What was happening? How did we get here? I screamed to God for help.
The police arrived with the EMTs. He was given meds to offset the heroin; he woke up, and was placed in the ambulance. Prior to leaving the house, he was given one chance to assist the police. He willingly complied. He was in tears, scared, ashamed, and afraid he was going to die. He looked at me with tears in his little-boy man eyes, and my heart shattered all over again.
Then something beautiful happened. As he laid in the emergency room bed, tears wouldn’t stop as he told me everything. He said he could not promise that things would be ok, but that he would do all he could to get help. He had finally hit bottom. Complete rock bottom. He realized that within only a few more minutes, he would have been dead. Yes, God somehow guided me to check on him, and I found him just in time. God was already at work in both of our lives.
He was booked under several charges but released to me. My life was still a tornado of emotions every day, even though I knew God was in control. I confided in only a few people, because I felt ashamed….like it was my fault this had all happened. Everyday we had issues to deal with, first was his withdrawal from heroin. I took vacation time so I could concentrate only on what had to be done. Then we got another miracle. The magistrate ordered him to a recovery program – and if he stayed clean for several months and had proof of program attendance, he would remove the charges since my son had no previous record. My son knew he needed more than Narcotics Anonymous – he had tried that before and could not stay clean. That very week, he found Celebrate Recovery, which is the 12 step program aligned with biblical principals. He agreed to go, and I agreed to go with him.
One year later, we celebrated together as we acknowledged that only by the grace of God, putting God first, we were both healing. We were both sick, both in an addictive cycle – he the addict, me the co-dependent. Both of us had to give the entire situation over to the care of Jesus, who took us both from the depravity of addiction to the safety of His care every day. That first year was anything but easy. Anything. It was painful. Brutally painful. I was angry – way too often – and had to ask for forgiveness way too many times – both from God and from my son. But we were not going to quit. We were going to Celebrate Recovery every week, and for the first time, God was changing our lives. Both of us. We prayed together and promised each other to be honest – brutally honest. Yet, most times I still questioned everything he told me. I had to get past that and allow God to change my thinking, too. And He did. My son got the job he absolutely loves. He started to play in the worship band at church. These are huge steps for a recovering addict. He was taking responsibility in all areas – and when he made a mistake, he no longer made excuses. His eyes sparkled again; his dimples got deeper because he was smiling again! When we had words, or when I slipped and didn’t believe what he was telling me, we each apologized, and we prayed together. It wasn’t just the recovery program based on the powerful 12 steps. It was the grace of Jesus that changed our lives.
For an addict, developing a “normal” way of life takes more than just willpower and a program. It takes a committed relationship with God – (12 steps says ‘Higher Power’) – but we both found that higher power to be Jesus Christ. Period.
He is open and honest about his addiction; he has made his mess his message to those that are still suffering. We are stronger now as mom and son because we both love God first, and we now have an honest relationship…we laugh and share the good, bad and ugly in our daily check-in; we coach each other! I love to hear him pray and treasure every moment shared with him.
Do not think that addiction affects just the addict. It suffocates the people that love the addict the most. There is help, true help. Even if the addict won’t get help, we can get help. Finding Celebrate Recovery changed our lives forever…
Yes, I know the horrible roller coaster ride of emotions and shame that hold us hostage when we love an addict in action. No longer do I feel ashamed; God used our pain and our story to prepare me to walk this journey with my dear friend, who is walking the same path with her son. My friend and her husband are professionals, they are active in their church and community; they are normal people – except they are in gut-wrenching pain because addiction has taken hold of their son.
Addiction is an equal-opportunity monster.
Addiction is not a poverty-driven disease. It hits doctors, lawyers, professors, CEOs, athletes… I know that to be true because I know someone in each of these professions in recovery from addiction. If you know of someone who loves an addict, remember that they, too, need to know there is hope, there is recovery, and there is healing. My son and I are living proof that God can heal the broken-hearted and make life beautiful……..I’m so very thankful…there is hope….and there is healing……#forever changed
First United Methodist Church is committed to helping people journey the hard road through recovery. Every Tuesday night, Celebrate Recovery faces life’s challenges head-on. And every Thursday, a co-addiction group meets to offer support to those whose loved ones suffer from addiction.
Carol Sokolsky is a newcomer to Tulsa. She relocated from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in October, 2014 after retiring from FedEx Services, Global Account Management. She spent most of her 33 FedEx years as a road warrior, leading a large global management team and serving one global customer for over 20 years. Her passion for blogging began in 2010 as she launched a two-year blog that chronicled the journey of her husband’s valiant fight with cancer and ultimately the end of his journey. Her blog became a book, “Sid’s Journey”. She continues to journal daily on just about everything!