‘If you are not the parent of a heroin addict — you are lucky. Say a prayer and stop judging.’

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When you become a parent there is something in your very core that changes. I don’t know what it is exactly, but suddenly you realize there is this human you are responsible for. You sleep lighter. It’s as if your brain is always sending out waves to connect with your child. As a mother of four, I find myself waking up and sending out these signals like, number one-check, number two-check, number three-check, number four-check. A mental roll call to reassure myself everyone is okay. They are adults and on their own mostly, yet I still find myself doing the mental inventory of my kids.

When you become the parent of a heroin addict, something in your very core changes. I will never forget the day my son came to us and told us he was struggling. We knew he was struggling with substances. I was holding out hope he was going through a wild phase and that he would calm down one day. I felt his words in the pit of my stomach. “Mom, I need help.”

When you are the parent of a heroin addict you don’t sleep as well. Your brain is in constant overdrive hoping your child is okay.

When you are the parent of a heroin addict you are afraid of phone calls. Any phone call at an odd hour, any phone call with a strange number, any phone call from my ex-husband and my stomach is immediately upset. You are always afraid the call is going to be jail, the hospital or the morgue.

When you are the parent of a heroin addict you are afraid when your phone doesn’t ring. If days go by and your child hasn’t checked in you are terrified. You need the connection. Even if your child is struggling you just need to know he is alive.

When you are the parent of a heroin addict you feel so much guilt. Nonstop “what should I have done differently?” goes through your mind. Should I have spanked him more? Should I not have spanked him? Should we not have moved? Should I have been paying more attention? The self blame is constant. The questions are endless.

When you are the parent of a heroin addict you find you can do the unthinkable. You realize you are capable of sending your child away to be homeless. You realize you are strong enough to administer Narcan. You look in the mirror and wonder, “how did I get here?”

When you are the parent of a heroin addict you learn new terms the rest of the world doesn’t know. DOC (drug of choice), SUD (substance use disorder), Narcan (naloxone), Al-Anon, Co-dependant, Enabler. The list is long and foreign to those not in this world.

When you are the parent of a heroin addict you know people judge. They offer comfort, but you’ve seen their comments on other posts. “Why would they even try it?” As if it is that simple.

When you are the parent of a heroin addict you learn to pray. If praying wasn’t your thing prior, it definitely is now. This is the moment you feel so helpless you start to turn all your worries to God.

If you are the parent of a heroin addict, you are not alone. With 467,000 people self-reporting as regular users, heroin dependency has doubled in the last 10 years. More than half of the individuals who use heroin are women, and most of them are in their late 20s. While it used to be considered a street drug commonly used in urban areas, the trend has shifted dramatically. There are forums for parents, there are Facebook groups and pages all set up to offer support to each other.

If you are not the parent of a heroin addict — you are lucky. Say a prayer and stop judging. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bobbie Tipton Kaltmayer, author of ‘My heroin addict.‘ Has addiction affected your family? We’d love to hear your story. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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