Fingers of addiction
June 28, 2009
Preventing, stopping or explaining chemical dependency is often the focus of stories about addiction. Seldom does anyone consider the parents who suffer. Injecting hope into a world where parents are dismissed and disparaged, this message paints the bigger picture of addiction.

Commentary by Karla V. Garrison,
Bonney Lake, WA

When I discovered my son was using drugs, our world imploded. In spite of the best efforts, our son smashed every value laid before him. He was a star athlete and scholar, a kind and loving magnet who drew people to him with an electric smile as big as his warm heart, a sweet little boy who left love notes on my pillow and hugged me hard and long. But meth captured him and like any type A carcinogen, the monster invaded our son and rendered him morbidly useless. As he disappeared into addiction, it took us with him.

Although my husband and I were happily married and faithful stewards, addiction swallowed us whole. At first we kept the secret as it coiled on our chests while we slept. But slowly, we came to grips with the savage truth: our beloved son was a drug addict. Meth transposed him from a competent and gentle soul to one absolutely insane.

Dropped into hell, my rage over this whirled me loose wanting to destroy everything in my path. This was supposed to happen to troubled kids, not kids from stable families, but I learned quickly that you can love children but it doesn't guarantee they will love themselves.

Substance abuse leads our nation in more deaths and illness than any other disease. Every four hours an addict takes his or her life. Every two hours an addict is murdered. Every four minutes one dies of an overdose. There are millions of addicts and millions of parents also doing hard time.

Once I truly understood my son was physically and mentally ill, I could act rather than react. And I could love him but also love myself, knowing I was powerless over something that was bigger than both of us.

I could talk to him without hurting him. I could show compassion without being enabling. Now I answer the door rather than run and hide. I could tell people my story and allow them to tell me theirs.

Brazen bulletins won't stop this epidemic because it's not about saying no to drugs or bashing parents. It's about a genetic code. From the beginning those on the road to addiction feel different. Ask any of them. One can preach and teach, but they're going to do what they are programmed to do. No amount of warning, begging or chiding will affect an iota of difference.

Addiction invades every race and stratum of society. And when it affects a child, parents hold their breaths and cross their fingers that he or she will recover. For parents newly initiated to this fraternity-or for those convinced their lives are over-please remember you can recover even if your children don't.

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