Debbie became a teacher because she wanted to help other people, especially kids. On a typical weekday, she would drop her son off at the high school then go to her own classroom of fourth-graders, where there’s no typical other than the subjects.
Well respected by their small town and church, Debbie’s son had his sights set on Yale University with a GPA to match. He knew his mother, a teacher, and father, a carpenter, couldn’t afford to send him to the Ivy League without scholarships. One day, dream in mind, he borrowed a friend’s ADHD medication to stay focused on a test.
“That was the beginning of the end,” Debbie says.
First the Search for Drugs
At first, the signs were subtle: new friends, later returns home, excuses. Her husband suspected drugs, but when they turned the house upside down searching for evidence of marijuana, they never found a trace of any drugs.
About a month later, their son told them he was using pills, what Debbie calls the “battle you don’t see.” They tried to talk to him, ground him, whatever they could do to prevent him from using – but his addiction had grabbed hold.
Debbie quickly lost the typical she once had with her family. “For a long time, when my phone would ring, I would literally want to throw up,” she remembers. “I never knew what was going to be on the other end of the line—what kind of tragedy I was going to have.”
Gateway Carbondale Adolescent Program
Then she received the phone call that would change the course of their lives. Her son was arrested for bringing drugs to school and sent to court, where he was recommended to Gateway’s Carbondale adolescent program.
In the days leading up to the start of his Residential Treatment program, Debbie’s son sat in their living room and told her, “Mom, I just wanted you to quit loving me.”
“I’m never gonna quit loving you,” she told him. “I don’t love what you’re doing, I hate the drugs, but I love you.”
When her son began treatment, she found help. While her son began his recovery journey, so did she.
Her son’s Gateway counselor told her about Nar-Anon, a 12-step support program for families and loved ones affected by someone’s addiction. The catch: The closest meeting was 85 miles away. Debbie decided to seek help for herself – and, once again, to help others. She founded a local Nar-Anon group.
Nar-Anon Great Support for Families
“I don’t know what to tell people other than to seek help, seek help for themselves,” she says. “I know when people come to Nar-Anon, they want us to tell them how to change the addict, and the truth is we can’t. But we can change some of our things and we can support them and we can love them but not love the disease.”
Today, Debbie and her family have a new typical. Her son is living at home and in college. Nearly every night is a meeting. Her relationship with her son has improved and is only getting better.
“I know it gets frustrating sometimes,” Debbie says, “but the family and a good support system are so vital to their getting better. Don’t give up.”