In my work with hospice in the north Georgia mountains, I recently met for dinner with members of a bereavement group following our bi-monthly gathering, and was amazed to learn that the gentleman on my left and the woman on my right each had family members suffering with addiction. I had no idea, after meeting with these people for more than a year, that we shared this common ground.
The gentleman related that his 53-year-old son, who is alcoholic, has been in and out of countless treatment programs, shaking his head in exasperation. He has almost no contact with him even after his wife — his son’s mother — passed away more than a year ago. The woman has a stepson whose addiction to alcohol and drugs has ravaged the family year after year. We understood volumes about one another after sharing very few particulars.
I address this moment of recognition in the second chapter of my book. Walk into any twelve-step meeting for the first time and before the hour has passed you will know that everyone sitting around the table “gets” why you are there and what you’ve been going through. That’s the good news. The sad news is the number of people, like the ones I shared dinner with who struggle with the disease of addiction that they did not cause, cannot control, and cannot cure.
According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), illicit drug among Americans aged 12 and older rose to 8.7 percent of Americans, an increase of 9 percent from 2008. Among those aged 50 to 59, drug use reached 6.2 percent, doubling 2.7 percent since 2002. The prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse transcends all demographics of American society, and has only increased in the last three to four years. Multiply this trend by two parents and that represents a whole lot of people.
I hope that my book will offer resource all parents who have struggled alone with the addiction of their children to relieve the burden, the guilt, and the anxiety so that they may begin to live the lives they deserve. We have not been “bad parents,” nor have we loved our children too much. We are parents of addicts and need to learn how to “love smart.”