August 19, 2013 —

In my family, my two sons were always the best kids (aren’t they all)! Everyone commented on how polite, compassionate, smart and resourceful they were while they were growing up. They were in the same environment, schools, activities, only one year apart in age and continued to be resourceful, but in very different ways.
   
My older son was at the top of his class in high school, got into the university of his choice and eventually became an attorney. My younger son was also near the top of his class, got into the university of his choice and became a heroin addict.

When parents discover addiction in a child, their first reaction usually is, “What did we do wrong?” That was a fleeting thought in my mind but I quickly got over it. More important to me was “How did I not see this coming?” I have subsequently found that knowledge is power. Awareness is the key to prevention, action, coping and self-care. 

This is what I learned after I made many mistakes to cope and control:

  1. Get support. Ideally, family members need to be “on the same page” when it comes to a plan. If this can’t be done, it is important to get support, non-judgmental support, somewhere else either in a support group or from friends where you can just “process” your thoughts and get a little experience and feedback.
  2. Remember that there are other loved ones in your family who have made good decisions and be available to them, both physically and emotionally. Work hard (and it is hard work) to not focus all of your attention and energy on the addicted loved one.
  3. It is not always possible to prevent your teenagers from experimenting. I was always one of those moms who felt quite complacent that my kids would never participate in such activities. Not my kid. It is important to look for changes in your kid’s friends, activities, looks and habits. Ask them questions about what they are seeing around them. Follow your gut. Don’t walk on eggshells and be afraid to offend them. Once they are involved with drugs and alcohol, you’ll wish you had offended them! 

Addiction can happen in any family. Be cautiously optimistic about your children and drugs. The key word here is cautious.

Denise Krochta is a mom of a heroin addict in recovery. As a result of her navigation through the drama and chaos of addiction in the family she has become a speaker, author (Sweat: A Practical Plan for Keeping Your Heart Intact While Loving an Addict) and hosts her own radio show to help support those who love addicts and alcoholics ("Addicted to Addicts: Survival 101).