My Son’s Recovery
Genevieve, a support worker at Hader Clinic Queensland has battled addiction. So has her son James.
Hi everyone, I’m Genevieve, and I am a support worker at the residential rehab facility at Hader Clinic Queensland. I’ve not only worked in the field of addiction for several years, I’ve also battled with addiction.
I’m coming up on two years’ clean this time round, however, this story isn’t about me, it’s about my son, James.
James did a thirty day program and has been clean, and engaged in our recovery program for the last five months. He’s also about to head back to university.
I’m sharing a bit of my story with you, to give some background and context. I wanted to say that I believe that there’s a mixture of both genetic and environmental impacts that drive the disease of addiction.
My son grew up with me in the height of my addiction, so he was exposed to it, and the drama that goes with it, warts and all, from an early age.
As an adolescent, he developed some mental health issues. He struggled with depression and anxiety and was diagnosed with Attachment Disorder.
By the age of fourteen or fifteen, James was smoking weed.
Eventually he went off to study at university – he was by now living in Florida, USA, with his father. During that time, he did two years of university and sunk from being an A student to barely, or if all passing.
He had become addicted to partying, weed and had developed a gaming addiction.
You could say that he was repeating a pattern he had seen in his childhood.
At 18, he was in and out of hospital because he had suicidal ideations. During this time, his father found out that he’d been abusing prescription ADHD pharmaceuticals, like dexamphetamine, as well as illicit psychedelic drugs and weed.
As fate would have it, we decided to intervene and bring him back to Australia when COVID-19 hit. To be honest, I didn’t realise that things were that bad. When he came back, he was clean for about eight weeks. Then he started using. This coincided with three to four visits to the ER and mental health unit.
His mental health was declining and one day he assaulted me. I immediately drew the line at that behaviour and kicked him out. It made me realise that I was in denial about my son’s addiction.
Being in denial about my son was enabling him – he ran with his addiction until I put up that firm boundary.
There was a week or so of couch surfing. I just couldn’t engage with him in active addiction.
Desperate, James called the Hader Clinic Queensland himself and organised his rehab.
Because I work at the residential rehab, I made a big effort to stay out of James’s clinical treatment, and my colleagues supported me in this.
I wanted this to be James’s story, not my story and I wanted to give him every opportunity to experience rehab in his own way.
I attended the Hader Clinic Queensland family nights as a parent, rather than an employee – it goes without saying that I enabled James by being in complete denial about the level of his addiction and he ran with it.
Once I set a firm boundary with him, he came to the conclusion he needed treatment himself. He was in quarantine for two weeks after an interstate visit – he was losing his life skills, his sleep hygiene was taking a big dive, basically – he knew he was unwell.
We both work the twelve step program. Again, with the tremendous support of the Fellowship, they made me take a step back with James – they told me that it was not my role to “rescue” him and I agree. If he is in trouble, I say, “call your sponsor”.
Now, nearly six month’s clean, he’s about to go back to university full time, majoring in social sciences. His lived experience and issues with mental health will enable him to help others.
James has terrific insight into why he picked up and found himself in addiction. Now that he is clean, the constant suicidal ideations and his mental health overall are more manageable. He is seeing a psychologist regularly and his medication is on track.
Our relationship has improved as he also sees me as a recovering addict as well as his Mum – he knows that I have to work my program just as hard as he does!
I’m proud of my son and know that he is proud of his journey as well.
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