Recovery Blog Post – Trudy

It was a late summer day, 2006, on Cape Cod where I’ve lived for over 30 years. My third of four sons was supposed to be home with the family car. He had visited his therapist, and three hours later he still had not returned. I was starting to get worried. Suddenly, the phone rang. It was my son, who told me, “Mom, I’ve checked myself into a detox. I’m going to beat my substance use.” To say I was shocked, was an understatement.

I am the granddaughter, daughter, sibling, niece, cousin, aunt and mother of the disease of substance use. My paternal grandmother died before I was born of stomach cancer associated to her alcoholism. My maternal grandfather got sober after many years of drinking. My father was a very high functioning alcoholic working as a banker on Wall Street, while my uncle, his brother, died homeless in the Bowery. My three older siblings and every cousin of my generation abused alcohol. Thankfully they all have found recovery.

I was lucky enough to escape the disease personally. However, substance use is a family disease and with the news about my son, I realized, unfortunately, that I had passed that family gene down to the next generation.

How did it happen? As my husband and I raised our four sons in Sandwich on Cape Cod, we educated them about their predisposition to alcoholism. My third son was the one who struggled starting in ninth grade. My husband and I both thought he had a mental health issue as the professionals were telling us, but in the end, it was a matter of heredity, with substance use being present. Who would ever think I needed to teach the lesson, “don’t shoot heroin” to my sons, but I did!

When he was in one of his many treatment programs, my husband and I did an in- patient family program that included three days together as a couple, and one week separate, so that we could each work on our own inner struggles. During that process, I learned just how much of my childhood I brought with me into my adulthood, both as a spouse and as a parent. I still found myself trying to be that perfect child, to not rock the boat – not when my dad was drinking and angry or when my mom was crying and withdrawn. I strove for that picture perfect life, white picket fence and all.

With the help of professionals, we found our way through our family recovery, even though each member, as an individual, looked at the disease differently. In addition to my son doing his own work, we, as family members, had to do our own work, or we would never have made it through the journey.

My personal education and experience with the disease in the family made it easier for me to make very difficult decisions in both loving my son, but also not enabling him. It was critical for him to feel his consequences, even though we had the financial resources to take care of his struggles. He stumbled quite a bit along the way, and I chose not to pick him up every time he fell.

Our life today is by no means perfect, but our son has eight years of sobriety, one day at a time. His struggles have made me a better human being and have brought friends into my life with whom our paths would have never crossed otherwise.

As a result of our journey, I ended up bringing my many years of fundraising into the world of substance use, first at a non-profit inpatient treatment program and now for a nonprofit that focuses on mental health and substance use parity.

And for all of this, I am grateful…