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When Your Child is an Addict: A Conversation with Linda Henderson

Parents dream of their children living a happy, healthy life. All they ever want for them is the best of everything. So when their child develops a drug addiction, it can be completely devastating. Drug addiction is a progressive problem and the longer one goes without help, the stronger the addiction becomes. When an addiction is very strong, people will do anything to feed the need. 

The difficult part for families and those who love an addict is that no matter how much they want their loved one to be the person they know, nothing will change until the addict decides that he or she wants to quit.

Linda Henderson, author of the book, Wake Up, Mom!: Can’t You See Your Son Is An Addict?, shares her emotional journey through her son’s addictive years. She chronicles their family’s life and its downward spiral after a prescription drug, meant to aid her son’s ADHD, caused a nightmarish sequence of events that nearly destroyed him.  

In a recent conversation, Linda discussed some of the lessons that she learned.

On recognizing the warning signs:

If your child is taking any prescribed drug, especially those to treat ADHD, pay attention! I spent years missing what should have been obvious signs. I now realize that as a parent I should have been more attuned to the changes in his behavior. My son’s appearance changed, as did his sleeping habits, and his personality. He became secretive and his communication was guarded. He experienced a myriad of health problems and constant financial difficulties. I attributed his recurring, bizarre, and often ridiculous behaviors to not taking his medication. I didn’t realize he was addicted to it. If you’re not sure, seek the help of a professional.         

On the damage addiction causes to a user:

It cost my son nearly everything, including his life. He lost his job, then several subsequent jobs. He was financially dependent on me for years and years. With that comes a loss of self-esteem. His financial situation was abysmal to say the least. His addiction cost him his health; he had multiple surgeries as a result of prolonged drug use. He has lost at least half of his teeth. And he had to regain the trust and respect of friends and families, which was lost as a result of the addiction. 

On what happens to the family:

My son’s words: “Addiction not only held me hostage, but held my family prisoner as well.” This insidious disease can challenge and often ruin even the strongest of families. Addiction affects the family emotionally, financially, and even medically and legally. My son’s addiction, like so many others, caused strain and conflict in our family. My daughters and I disagreed constantly about this, and it led to heated discussions. I always defended him saying he was under the care of a doctor and taking a prescribed drug, which he was. I think my daughters saw the problem before I did. We argued about the money I was spending on him. The close relationship we always had was tested constantly by our disagreements over their brother. The closeness they all had as siblings began to unravel as soon as the abuse began. It is only now, over 20 years later, they are getting back to the close relationship they once had.  

On turning the corner:

This is an interesting topic because when my son first when to rehab and returned home, I knew there was still a lot of work to be done. I knew we were on the right path, and I was determined to have him stay clean. But a recovering addict is always that – recovering – and is never fully healed. They are always fighting it. Every family of an addict needs to know this. Part of my brain told me he was “cured” the first time out of rehab. I had a lot to learn. Every parent of an addict needs to arm themselves with as much information about the recovery process as they can. It is a lifelong process.

On helping loved ones through addiction:

A recovering addict needs support and love every day to keep them on that path. The family needs support groups, as well as the one suffering from addiction, in order to not only help their loved one, but to help themselves. The most important part for me was to never give up. Even though there were numerous setbacks and multiple rehabs, I never stopped losing hope that he would find his way. His recovery was a result of love and support by his family, his girlfriend, friends, and by the Recovery Center of America program he was in, which constantly monitored his actions. 

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