Mother to Mother – How my Al-Anon program lends a helping hand

I panicked at first when a mom who knew about my circumstance reached out to me. Would I be able to help her? How could I smooth things over when I know outcomes may not be great? Was it even my business to try? I have grown a great deal in my 12 step recovery program of Al-Anon Family Groups but I’m not perfect. I re-wound my history playbook recalling my own experience of the “son-in-prison powerlessness”.  He had fainted in the shower room and cut his head. Word was he’d been transferred to a hospital. No one “inside” knew his status or even what happened. That helpless and hopeless feeling of not knowing!  I have uncontrollable mother bear instincts!  Unlike when he was 8 years old at the lake and had fainted on a rock outcropping…the children yelling for help, his dad and I frantically swimming to his rescue…in desperation, I could not help this time.  My fear! My panic! The “must do something” response and immediate reaction to save him! Back to present State Corrections Department and my powerlessness, I later found on the website an inmate/family liaison contact and I emailed them. Days later someone responded! I wanted to know if he was alright and my Higher Power answered me – “he’s OK!”

Having shared with this mom, days later she thanked me for listening.  Realizing there were some options in the prison industry that worked for me, she found someone to assist her situation.  I learned that not being able to do something right away has merit for my life lessons in recovery from the family disease. I have learned in Al-Anon the three A’s: Awareness, Acceptance, and then Action. That “must do something” response is really unfiltered “reaction” and no longer serves me well. Today I have choices once I step back and get awareness of the situation. I had the same feelings to help this mom. I’m aware that my urge to immediately help is an unconscious response and I don’t need to act on it. I can accept that feelings are not facts. It is here that my action, if any, will be more appropriate and often results in positive outcomes.

Please share the Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic documentary to help stop teen addiction before it starts.

Another Mother’s worst nightmare – substance abuse leads to incarceration

She reached out in desperation – “my son’s been arrested and may go to prison!” When I met up with her I recognized the anguish and sleepless, ringed-worried-eyes, once worn myself. This is the look of a parent whose love for their drug addict child and powerlessness leaves them broken.

First there was the guilt – she missed the phone call from him. She had decided to go to the class she signed up for and, then there was regret – she should have stayed home! Martydom mixed with obsessive spurts of energy focused on detective work; late night internet research for arrest records and prisons. Soon she self-consumed into fearful isolation – projecting the worst outcomes. Driven to fuel the fears, news articles: “Life in solitary, Inmates Hunger Strike; Violent, predatory offenders” to name a few. Undeniably a drug addict turned to criminal activity to support his disease, but NOT this and NOT THERE! He is her child, her son – my son, your child, and our hearts break open – we want to rescue. I know this well, I have the T-shirt.

How could I help? What could I do? My co-dependent nature is to rescue and smooth over the fear and sadness because I feel unease in these situations…I wanted to say “it will all be OK!” But that’s not the truth, it might not be OK, so instead, I listened. How does one go from helplessness to powerlessness, the latter being a state of surrender & acceptance, fueled by trust versus fear? Was she ready? Would I be of help or further complicate matters? For me, it took hard work in my 12-Step Program of Al-Anon.

I shared my own experience of being frightened for my sons’ fate. Like when I read about the prison riot which made front page news. I immediately went to that scary place visualizing my son’s vulnerability in what I conjured up. A mother’s worst nightmare – my imagination ran wild! How I then turned it over to my God Box, realizing no amount of worry or fret was going to influence the outcome of this! I later learned he missed the riot because he “skipped” breakfast – all validating why I have to let go and let God! This was a change in the way I reacted to fears about the future and I was given positive feedback – projecting would no longer serve me, reaching out would.

I’m Just Mom

“If you break parole, expect the police to come knocking at your door. If you escape from prison, the police can break your door down!” These were factoids one son shared several years ago. It was on the heels of discussing his brother. Nothing specific mind you, but in generalities since neither he nor us had heard from him for months. We were wondering what would be the next event and while I was concerned about a relapse and his welfare, he was concerned about what could happen to us. “The parents are the first line of offense since our address is the last noted lived-at-location.”

True or not, I reminded my son that we have had plenty of experience with the police at our door. Though it has been several years since the last uniformed visit, much has changed since then. For one, I no longer live in fear of authority. I’m not the one breaking any laws. And for my loved ones, their disease took them way beyond any moral standards they grew up with – it was never about that. So, I’ve learned a lot about addiction and my relation to it. I have to accept new frontiers as I continue to grow and trust in my Higher Power.  At the same time, I get to respect their right to deal with life on the “outside” and not interfere or even begin to think I know what’s best.  Parole may be one of the many phases of recovery, I’m just mom.

Prison for Addicts?

This blog post is reprinted with permission from Bradley V. DeHaven, author and activist on the epidemic abuse of prescription drugs. He contributes with heartfelt expertise for Parent Pathway using his personal experience, strength and hope. For more information, this and other posts on addiction issues, visit his website,

As you know, I went undercover to bust a dealer to keep my son from prison. I didn’t believe then, and I still don’t believe now, that prison is the place for addicts. Murderers, yes. Even dealers, yes. Addicts? Addicts do illegal acts to feed their addiction. Like dealing, smuggling drugs into prison, prostitution, robbing liquor stores, etc. but it is all because they are addicts, so it’s a fine line.

Like my son, Michael Douglas’ son Cameron was busted for dealing (Cameron was dealing meth), and is an opiate addict. He just got more time added to his sentence for successfully having drugs smuggled into the minimum security prison where he was serving his term.

It’s not so strange that a drug addict would risk everything to get more drugs. He is an addict! He needs treatment for his addiction, which one source I read said they were holding him until after his testimony against a drug cartel. How does this make sense?

The Huffington Post, which is outwardly pro-drug decriminalization, featured an opinion piece written by a former addict who spent 12 years(of a 15 to life sentence)in a NY Prison for a first time non-violent drug offense. He, not surprisingly, writes that drug addiction is a medical problem, not a criminal offense.

I think addicts need professional treatment or nothing will change.

I have a whole mess of questions, and not a whole lot of definitive answers.

What do you think? Prison for drug addicts? I want to hear persuasive arguments.


The Revolving Door of my Son’s Addiction

My son returned to prison for another parole violation. This is no surprise really; this State holds the nation’s highest recidivism rate. Substance-involved people have a hard time following rules and it is this reason most offenders go back to prison. According to the Pew Center on the States, State of Recidivism – The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons, April 2011 report, it’s not the commonly held belief that a new crime was committed. Parole requirements that often get broken are not complying with certain technical requirements and punishment is often a short term prison re-sentence.

I’m reminded of when he was in public school. Seemingly simple rules and class requirements were not so easy for him. He’d receive failing grades for not turning in homework and “detention” for not following the rules. With a private instructor, he’d succeed and demonstrate above average competency. Progression. My son’s disease has kept him in a revolving door for a long time.

I’m told addiction is an inside job and that’s understandable to me. I’m told recovery will be an inside job too and I hope my son is able to. One thing is certain, I’m not able to help him in the traditional sense. I have read, listened to and talked to many recovering addicts. Some have been in similar situations like my son. They overcame and turned their lives around. Their mothers were not part of their recovery story but for honorable mention if they had stopped their financial support and rescuing behavior. I’ve seen miracles and know that it is possible. This is the hope that a mother holds onto.  There’s another kind of hope I found; it’s the hope that I can accept my son for who he is and where he is and still find joy and happiness in my life.  He has a revolving door, not me.  I don’t have to go in and out of it anymore.