To Be The Mom Of An Addict

Welcome Sandy Swenson to Magnolia New Beginning’s Blog

Photo Credit: Randy Mason

Photo Credit: Randy Mason

Once upon a time I was just a mom.
A regular mom.
When I held my little miracle in my arms for the very first time, I rubbed my cheek on his fuzzy head and whispered, “Joey, my beautiful son, I will love and protect you for as long as I live.” I didn’t know then that my baby would become an addict before becoming an adult, or that the addict taking his place would shred the meaning of those words to smithereens.
When Joey tumbled into my world, he arrived without an instruction manual, but I was the best mom I could be as someone with good intentions and no experience. I stumbled through parenthood like everyone else — rocking my baby to sleep, kissing the scraped knees of my little boy, setting unwelcome limits for my sometimes testy teen, and hoping I was doing things kind of right.
Then, slowly at first, came the arrests and the overdoses, the needle marks and the dealers, interspersed with big fat lies. My loving child was turning into a monster, manipulating me and using me and twisting my love for him into knots, but I was befuddled by this scary new world I didn’t even know I was in and that I knew nothing about. You see, I thought I was still just a regular mom stumbling through regular parenthood like everyone else. (You see, a mothers trust and belief in her child’s inner goodness aren’t easily cast aside.)
Addiction is a disease, but not even the professionals have it all figured out yet — and they aren’t trying to figure it out while in a blind panic, running through the fires of hell with fears and dreams and maternal instincts tripping them up. So, I shouldn’t feel like a total failure for having missed so many clues and for not being able to love and protect my child as I promised… but still, sometimes I do.
Joey became an addict in his teens, lured to drugs and alcohol by a culture that glorifies substance abuse — the same culture that later, so ignorantly and harshly, passes judgment on him. And me. I am judged for helping or fixing or pushing (or not helping or fixing or pushing enough) the sick child of mine who won’t be helped or fixed or pushed. I am judged for over-reacting and under-reacting, enabling and letting go, and, most hurtful of all, as a mother whose love must be somehow flawed.
Once upon a time I was just a regular mom, stumbling through parenthood like everyone else — and then I had to figure out how to be the mom of an addict. I had to figure out how to love my child without helping to hurt him, how to grieve the loss of my child who’s still alive without dying, and how to trade shame and blame for strength.
To be the mom of an addict is to be an ambassador of truth and understanding.
No more shame. No more silence.
Sandy Swenson is the author of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction. She has a forthcoming book and app published by Hazelden Fall 2017.

About Sandy Swenson

Sandy Swenson is the mother of two sons—one of whom struggles with addiction. Author of ‘The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction,’ Sandy lives in the place where love and addiction meet—a place where help enables and hope hurts. Sandy is a voice for parents of children suffering with the disease of addiction, putting their thoughts and feeling into words. Sandy lives in suburban Austin, Texas, where she has just finished writing her second book—to be published by Hazelden in the fall of 2017—and an accompanying app to be published in the spring of 2018. When she isn’t writing or traveling to speak with other parents coping with the disease of addiction in their family, Sandy volunteers at a local maternity home teaching the girls to cook healthy family meals. Sandy also loves to garden, read and travel.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to To Be The Mom Of An Addict

  1. Tammy says:

    I read the Joey song and loved it .my son past from an overdose.i met you at a PABA meeting

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy Swenson says:

      Tammy, I’m so sorry that addiction has stolen away your son. My heart aches for you. I remember meeting you. Sending big hugs to you.


  2. Donna Krall says:

    I would like to meet you someday.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Liz Knopp says:

    So true! I went through all those moments. However, my son died. I can’t believe how the time passes so quickly. Did everything she did. Went to to dr’s. Rehab, in patient out patient. PAL meetings. Never thought I lose him. There were close calls, I found some of my journaling in my desk the other day. So sad, that I was documenting all this to see it again 2 and a half years later.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rhonda Faraone says:

    I too am a Mom of an addict, my son is 27 and we are now on round 4 of treatment.He too overdosed hit a tree head on and was beaten beyond belief and left for dead, somehow he survived all this. This is the life of an addict, my heart is beyond broken and my fear is out of control. I have faith and hope this time he gets it. I hope I live to see the day he succeeds at this rotten disease.It destroys the whole family not just the addict. I would love to meet you one day, we sure have a lot in common.
    Thank You
    Rhonda F.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lavinia Shepherd says:

    I am not ready to admit to my friends that my son is an addict. But thank you for being strong.In time. In time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Deborah Solesky says:

    I am currently in the throes of this experience with my son. It is indescribable. This content is so close to how I feel. He is in California, while I am in Florida. He began in his teens, as well, when we lived in Ct. I was vigilant, but helpless. Adam left home to live with his father, who did nothing. He was also an addict. Adam had ten years without using. Since his father went to California, his addiction has begun in full force. A death wish, as I see it. I may go there as a final effort to save him, but will seek counsel. This is tearing me apart.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Laurie says:

    Thank you for this. For making me feel less alone. My son is in recovery now, has been for 5 years, but our relationship is changed and my heart breaks sometimes when I think of “what might have been”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy Swenson says:

      Laurie, addiction is such a devastating disease. Hopefully time will allow for healing and peace in your heart. Sending hugs.


  8. Lisa romberg says:

    I have an adult son who refuses any type of inpatient treatment. I know that is the only thing to save him, but I can’t force him to go. He is withdrawn, losing weight and will not admit there is a problem. My husband still treats him like is 10 years old so that doesn’t help. At a loss on what to do before we find him in his room dead.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Becky Prosser says:

    I know your pain. Reading your article was like saying all the things I have felt for so long. My older son is an alcoholic and addict and has been for over 20 years. It has been such a sad journey and so very long but I will never give up hope for his recovery. My younger son has major depression and anxiety. It is so hard to have both of my beautiful, wonderful children not living the life I so wanted them to live. I feel your pain. I have felt the same. I did my best to be the best mom that I could, but it happened anyway. Thank you for your article. It helps to know there are others who understand what it is like.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Deidra Bralley says:

    I have requested to join a couple of groups that I’ve seen posted on here. I hope I am able to enter these groups, as I have a son that struggles with addiction. Five years ago I went through the detox procedure with him at home and it was truly a struggle. My ignorance with addiction didn’t lead me to outlets to further his recovery. He recently relapsed and is using Heroine. He has so much to lose, a lovely girlfriend and two young daughters. I’m always the one that is there for him, yet he continues to lie and deceive me. It breaks my heart to the point of getting cold and I know I can’t do that. Being a part of these groups I hope will help with my healing and give me some insight as to avenues to take to keep my son alive.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sandy Swenson says:

    Sending hugs and hope, Deidra.


  12. Kim says:

    This is beautifully written and accurate. You managed to put into words exactly how I feel. Thank you for this, I shared it on my Facebook page. I also read your book months ago and could identify with many things you and your family had to endure. Love to all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s