Denying denial

Denying denial

The mom’s face gives it away every time.  Her son is using only a little, she tells me.  He smokes weed sometimes.  Well maybe more than just sometimes. Yes, he spends a lot of time in his room, and he doesn’t seem to care about school anymore.  But no, he’s not an addict.

For the longest time I thought my son wasn’t either.

Maybe that set of new friends seemed unusual.  His counselor’s concerns about passing English and History also seemed unusual.  Both were so out of character for Jacob.

A senior in his last semester of high school, he already was accepted into a college honors program.  Shouldn’t I allow him to kick back a little?

During Jacob’s early years of addiction, I got very good at denial.  By denying how deeply his addiction was taking hold, I could assuage the anxiety and avoid facing a reality I had no idea how to face.

A colleague at the hospital where I worked suggested I get Jacob evaluated at our substance use treatment center.  The very idea frightened me.

But on a quiet weekday night, after dinner, I drove him to the nearby center. Accustomed to going with him into exam rooms – hadn’t I done that since he was a child? – I was startled when the placid, stern receptionist blocked me: “No, just your son goes in.”

When Jacob returned, the counselor calmly delivered the next shock: “We’re recommending your son begin intensive outpatient therapy.”

“Intensive?” Where did that come from?  Had we skipped “moderate” and “minor”?

This must be serious.  My heart pounding, I knew I had to follow what the counselors were suggesting and hoped Jacob would, too.

So began the slow, winding, hilly path to my son’s long-term recovery.  And mine, too.

I could no longer deny my son’s substance abuse.

And like the dozens of moms I’ve met since, neither can they.