I’ve had plenty of problems in my life. Money, relationships, work. I’ve always been able to deal with my issues by making myself face up to them and pushing through. But when my son developed a serious substance problem, I felt powerless. I wanted nothing more than for him to change. He wanted nothing to do with changing in the slightest.
This didn’t stop me from trying to solve his problems for him. As a single parent — his father was out of the picture pretty early on — I always made a point of letting him know that he could come to me with anything. Even as he entered adulthood, I made sure to be someone he could rely on. After all, I was the only family he had.
At first, before I was aware of the extent of his drinking and drug use, I would lend him money. I figured that he was just struggling and needed a hand. But the requests became more frequent, to the point that it was more than I could afford. And the first time I couldn’t lend him what he was asking for, he became incredibly angry, storming out of my apartment and slamming the door behind him.
Gradually, the situation became clearer. He would be visibly high when I saw him. He would slur his words on the phone. When I confronted him about it, he admitted to occasional “partying,” but denied he had a problem. When I sent him a list of resources for treatment via e-mail, he didn’t respond.
As I usually do, I decided to take initiative on my own. I started calling rehab and treatment centres. And they all told me the same thing. My son was an adult, and he would have to call in himself if he wanted help. I couldn’t do it for him.
But when I called Chabad Lifeline, I was taken aback when I was asked if I needed counselling. My first thought was that my son was my first priority — the thought of asking for help for myself seemed almost selfish. I was told that Lifeline offers family counselling because loved ones of addicts often don’t get the support they need. I hadn’t even considered that I needed support, let alone that it was available for free.
I thought about how hard the past few years had been. How impossible the situation seemed. I thought about how if I knew anyone else in my position, I would tell them to ask for help. I told Lifeine I wanted to see someone. I was lucky enough to receive regular sessions from Lifeline’s Family Counsellor, Karen Bresinger. I’m also grateful that I reached out well before the COVID lockdown, which made the situation with my son even more stressful.
My son is still struggling, but I have learned how to set healthy boundaries and express myself in a way that doesn’t make me a hostage to his chaos. I would like nothing more than for him to get the help he needs, but I have come to terms with the fact that I can’t live his life for him. And when he is finally ready, I will be there to give him all the support and encouragement he needs.
*Names and details have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved. Additionally, we would note that the reason we were able to attend to Beth immediately is because we are regularly expanding our staff in order to meet the growing demand for our services. As Chabad Lifeline is sustained through private donations, this entails significant fundraising efforts. Making a donation can help ensure that we can continue to provide timely care that can ultimately save a life or set a family on a better course, creating a positive ripple effect on future generations.