Is my son an addict? It’s a strange thing to ask yourself when you are looking at a little boy who is only days past his first year of life. I am teaching him how to walk, watching him laugh and smile. He is the epitome of innocence. All babies are. So why is it that question will not leave my head? Why is it that no matter what I do, try to convince myself of or ignore it stays. It’s etched permanently in my mind as if it was a tattoo, there for life. I am covered in tattoos but this is one I would like to remove.
Research is starting to show evidence that addiction is hereditary. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But for the sake of worst case scenario let’s say it is. I am an addict, worst case scenario is my scenario. If I plan for anything less it could be deadly. How to you combat the fact that you passed on a gene to your child that could potentially kill him? What can I do to prevent my son from waking the addiction? How do I prevent him from becoming an addict? How do I prevent him from living the life that I did? I would not wish my addicted years on my worst enemy. No one deserves to go through what we as addicts do on a daily basis, Sober or not.
I think back to what events took place in my life that woke my disease. Every negative event in my life from birth until my first needle was the cause. Every pain that I buried, the anger that I suppressed, and the memories that I tried to hide became too much. That’s when addiction started whispering in my ear. It was always there, but until then, it was silent. I run through it all and my worst fear is realized. Almost every event that led to my fall was out of my control. I can’t control the death of loved ones. I can’t control the bullies that picked on me, the trouble I had in school, or the ending of relationships with people that held my heart. So what can I do?
There isn’t really much I can do. I will be honest with my son. I will not hide my addiction from him. He can read my stories, ask me questions, and do all his own research. He will know that he can come to me with anything and I will help in every way I can. Will he take the help? If he is truly like me, No. I was offered the same and I did not take it. I learned my lesson the hard way. I had to almost die to realize what I was doing to myself. I would like to believe that I would see the signs, after all, I am an addict. I tell myself I would notice the change in his disposition, sudden concealing of different areas of the body, weight change, health problems and any of the other many signs of active addiction. I tell myself this, but would I really?
Life gets in the way of a lot. My work hours are long. I am out of the house as he is waking up and as he gets older I am sure I will be out of the house before he wakes up. By time I get home we sit as a family and eat dinner. After dinner his routine will eventually consist of homework, chores and bed. After dinner for myself will consist of home maintenance, unexpected work problems, tending to family and friend relationships and spending as much time as I can with my children and wife. So would I really see the signs? With everything else going on in my life could I look closely enough to catch it? A few hours a day, most of which will be spent in his room, is all I will have to work with.
I tell myself yes but deep down inside I realize that the real answer is probably no. Addicts are secretive and manipulative. They are some of the best liars you will ever encounter. I hid my addiction for years. If I could do it, I am sure my son could also. He is my flesh and blood after all. This is one of the hardest parts of my recovery. I have to sit there every single day and look at my son and fear that one day I will get the phone call my Mom always feared. I have to look at him and fear that one day the disease that almost killed me will take him away from me. I have to live with that every day for the rest of my life. I have to prepare myself for the life of hell that I will live as the parent of an addict. A life of torment, guilt and blame. Will it be my fault? No, but it won’t stop me from blaming myself anyway. His genetics were designed to mirror mine.
So what can I do? All I can do is prepare him. I can educate him. I can help give him the tools he needs to prevent himself from waking the disease and all the tools he needs to silence it if it does awaken. It will be up to him what he does with that knowledge and those tools. I will hold my hand out every day for him to take if he needs. If my son becomes an addict I will be prepared to do whatever I can to prevent his disease from destroying the very man my wife and I will have raised him to be. But in the end all I can do is hope. Hope that his path is different than mine, hope that life treats him better, hope that his disease stays dormant. I have a disease, a chronic life changing disease with a very high death rate. There is no cure for my disease. It is my curse, a nightmare that haunts my dreams every day. Addiction is my way of life, it has made me who I am. I hope addiction does not become my son’s way of life. I have to live every day with the knowledge that I have given my son one of the world’s deadliest disease. I have to live every day with the knowledge that one day my son’s life could end because of my disease becoming his disease. It is one of my biggest fears. It is a fear that I fight every day. It is a fear strong enough to end my sobriety. It is a fear that will never go away. I just hope my son does not have to have the same fear as I did the first time I held him in my arms.