I’m a pretty good liar.
At least when I lie to myself, which I did often while my son was in active heroin addiction. I would look at my son and KNOW, deep in my soul, that something was very wrong—before his overdose and before his addiction was named. Yet, instead of trusting my instincts, my gut, I chose to embrace the two companions of crisis: denial and distraction.
It’s an instinct, possibly based on some sort of self-preservation, that causes humans to turn a blind eye to trouble, even if it’s barreling towards us. We can’t fathom what we see coming; it terrifies us. So, instead of acknowledging it, or creating a plan to deal with the coming onslaught, we deny it. Then, in order to keep it from taking up residence in our minds, we distract ourselves with something we can handle and control, rationalizing away the approaching disaster.
That was certainly my pattern when David was using drugs—all but in front of my eyes—and I couldn’t or wouldn’t admit the truth that my son was an addict.
I wanted to believe his lies so badly. I allowed him to lead me into the land of make-believe because it was so much easier than admitting that my son, my child, was a drug addict.
But I knew.
Deep inside, I knew that David was in trouble. Serious, potentially life-threatening trouble. Still, I waited, calling on denial and distraction whenever a calm day would allow me to think, Oh, he’s just having a rough time. He would never do anything so stupid as drugs.
It wasn’t until David overdosed on a pain killer and landed in the hospital that the truth was undeniable. And as terrible as that day was, I count it as a blessing. You see, it was on that day that I finally threw denial and distraction out of my life. My son was an addict and needed help. And I was the one who had to get it for him, whether he liked it or not—and he most certainly DID NOT.
I realized several truths that day—one, that my child was a heroin addict, and two, that my gut, my instincts and my heart were right all along. There was something seriously wrong, and I knew it, even though I couldn’t admit it.
I got lucky. My son overdosed, but he lived. Had things gone ever so slightly the other way, he would have died, and I’d have to live knowing that I ignored what I KNEW to be true.
Trust yourself. TRUST YOURSELF, TRUST YOURSELF, TRUST YOURSELF. If you think something is very wrong, IT IS. Do not let denial and distraction turn you away from the truth. Believe it and DO NOT WAIT to confront the demons. It won’t make anything better, and it may put your loved one’s life at risk.
Ask the questions, and if you think the answers are lies, TRUST YOURSELF. Seek help, seek guidance and act on it. Your instincts may be your loved one’s best hope for becoming well.
Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at www.maryfranbontempo.com.
Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon.