LETTER: Drug addicts, alcoholism, ‘it can happen to any family’

One mother says drugs, alcohol use is a choice… a difficult one

My Son… The drug and alcohol abuser

Thankfully, I did not know on Feb. 7, 1974, that I would give birth to an alcoholic drug abuser and that this would happen 13 short years after his birth. I might have poked him back in if I had known. (forgive my dark humour)

I decided to write about this in my column, due to the current situation in Vernon, with the homeless, the drug users and others who are more inclined to criminality than not.

Nobody has drug abuse as a career goal. Nobody has alcoholism as a career goal. Nobody has being homeless and feeling unwanted as a career goal. No parent wants their child to grow up with any of these issues.

As a young mother I had a notion that if I did all the right things when I became a parent that I would have a wonderful child who would contribute happily to society and that all would be well in my world. You know, the fairy tale, “Once upon a time,” with the “and they lived happily ever after” fantasy… and what a fantasy it proved to be.

I married at 23 and you’d think that this would mean I might have some wisdom in choosing a partner. Well, I didn’t, for a whole variety of reasons. I looked for a man with a working brain and forgot that he needed to have a working heart as well. (I got it the wrong way ‘round)

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I was told, long after the fact, that he didn’t want a child. So when our son came along, his Dad was noticeably emotionally absent during most of his growing up years.

As an only child, our son was a very articulate, personable and intelligent young man. From a young age, he seemed to need the ‘on edge’ type of existence and was getting into some mischief or trouble. I was an at-home Mom for many years, and was there to catch and correct the mischief. (or so I thought).

The drug use started when he was 13 or 14. He was a musician (drums) and became involved with older boys and played in their home based band. I suspect this is where drugs became part of his life.

It went from bad to worse in both his life and mine. I had 12 surgeries in five years on my legs due to birth defects with my hips. I lost my husband when he announced he wanted out of the marriage. Our son was 17 when he ditched school and moved to Calgary with a friend. It was easier that way and he did not have to make any effort. All he needed to do was use the drugs that had gripped him and kept him in a euphoric, unrealistic state.

My grief began to layer – one loss on top of the other. I was already grieving for the son I no longer had and then added to that, the marriage I had wanted to save, to say nothing of the health I seemed to have lost as well.

My son is a charming, articulate manipulator of people. He could out charm anyone and with his excellent communication skills, he can keep up with most people he meets, from all walks of life. He always found someone to rescue and enable his choice of lifestyle. He worked for awhile, until the drugs and alcohol prevented him from doing so.

I wrote this just to point out that you never know whose child it might be when you see them on the street. I believe it is a choice to either use or to abstain, albeit a very difficult one.

I’m still torn with the whole ‘harm reduction’ theory. I think I would come down on the side of abstinence and I think we, as a society, could make this happen if there were more treatment centers. It could be your child who is on the street. Do not delude yourself with the notion that you can be a good parent and that it won’t happen in your family.

It can happen to any family.

Never forget that.

Carole Fawcett is a retired Counsellor, Freelance Writer, Humourist.

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