June 23, 2014

Jail and Love

My addicted child went to jail today. It’s such a shame. He had just gotten his life back together since he got out of jail three months ago. He appeared to be doing well, despite a couple of slips. He had a full time job, a girlfriend, a place to live, and a car. Everything was looking good until his stupid addiction got him again. This time he is going to be gone for around seven months to a year.  I am hoping a year in jail brings him home sober and committed to recovery! The first time he was in jail, I visited him, put money into his account, and paid the phone bills so he could call me. The second time he was in jail I still visited him and paid for the phone calls, but I put no money into his account. This time, he will be lucky if I visit him at Christmas! It is hard for me to do that and not see or talk to him, but I think he needs it! He needs to figure this out on his own.

Jail and loveI have been there. My son has gone to jail a few times himself. Fortunately, he was never there more than 110 days andiIt was always in a county lock-up so the visits were local. I gave him very little money and limited how much money I would put into a phone fund.

Having a loved one in jail, especially for addiction related actions, is difficult. I was so angry at the stupidity of it all.  I barely understand the actions of the addiction, so I become even more confounded when someone does something criminal related to their addiction.  It seems and feels so avoidable.  Then again, we are talking about addiction related behaviors, which are always impossible to explain or understand.  Just the same, doing something that can and does land one in jail really, really antagonizes me.

The last time Brandon ended up in jail, I had the same thoughts and feelings this parent did. I wasn’t going to visit him no matter what. I hated going there. I hated the process and the experience. I resented the inconvenience and the reasons I was going there in the first place. If he is going to do something stupid and irresponsible enough to end up in jail, let him sit there and figure it out. I am not going.

Then I had a friend share an interesting perspective with me…

You are not visiting your son for you, you are visiting him for him.  You are not going there to show your support or approval for what he has done to end up in jail, you are going there to demonstrate and remind him that you love him no matter what.

With that, my thinking completely shifted. Visiting him was letting him know that, know matter what, I love him. The first time I visited him in jail after that realization, the shock and surprise on his face said it all. He was convinced his dad wasn’t going to visit him. When I told him that I was here because I loved him and that I wanted to make sure he never forgot it, the rest of our conversation was awesome.  I have no expectations that this visit will change the path to his recovery, for he has to define and find that for himself. However, the more my child knows the love that his parents have for him, the harder it is for him to embrace the hopelessness and despair of his situation. It is harder to give up on yourself when you know that there are people out there who love you and have not given up on your.

A child battling addiction makes a lot of stupid, painful mistakes. We don’t have to approve, enable, or support them. However, there is nothing more powerful than loving them and letting them know how strong and unconditional that love is – including visiting them in jail to demonstrate it.  Going to visit a loved one is not easy, fun, convenient or enjoyable; but, it is probably, possibly the powerful way to demonstrate your love for them. A child dealing with addiction needs to know that more than anything!

Parenting and Addiction , , , , , , , , ,
About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.