by Kim Humphrey, PAL Board Chairman
As we close out 2016, I cannot help but be reminded of how difficult the holiday season was for my wife and me for so many years.
In the beginning, the suggestions from PAL including setting boundaries and not putting our lives on hold seemed preposterous. But now, we have seen how important these choices and changes were to our sons’ recovery, as well as our own. After all, as role models, who would want to grow up and be miserable just like us? We learned through PAL that we must focus on our marriage first, and at all costs, stay on the same page in order to have a united position working as a team. Without that unity in place, the addiction would divide our family.
We began implementing boundaries and consequences, and we started to cut the strings that were preventing all of us from growing. My wife and I began to go on trips again and plan fun things to do with friends. PAL taught us that no matter what either of our sons did, we knew what to do or who to call. We were not alone!
Those boundaries were put to a test each and every holiday, especially around Christmas. Both of our sons were active in their addiction, they had been arrested, they had been living in parks and who knows what else. As Christmas was approaching, we decided we just could not bear to sit at home another year staring at a Christmas tree that we felt obligated to put up. We decided to get away, to take a trip over the holiday. We had never been to Santa Fe, New Mexico and we decided it might be a place we could relax. And maybe, just maybe, we could refocus over Christmas.
Then as if on cue, the day before we were leaving – we get a phone call from a hospital, telling us our older son is there. They said, he is very sick and we should come to the hospital. We debate about it, as trips to the hospital had not been that uncommon. We decide to cancel our trip and visit him.
We spent Christmas and the entire next week going to the hospital daily and sitting with him. He had serious lung issues, and other problems that kept him there for nearly two weeks. Through all of this, he promised us he was going to change, he kept telling us he could not live like this any longer. All the while, we watched him contact the nurse every hour asking if it was time for his pain medication. At the end of the hospital stay, he decided he wanted to go to a program in California. He asked us for a one-way plane ticket. We decided to pay for it. Only to find out, he flew there and supposedly “stopped by the treatment center” but he didn’t stay, he left. He started a 3 month-long stint of living on the streets of Los Angeles.
Fast forward…Christmas is approaching again. We have re-booked our trip to Sante Fe and are not in contact with either of our sons. You guessed it, the day we are leaving on our trip the phone rings. It’s the hospital, saying they have our son and we really should come see him. However, this time, I simply asked the nurse, “Is my son dying?” I doubt this was a normal question, because she evaded answering and just said, you should come. I repeated my question, “Is my son dying?” She said, she could not answer that. I asked her if there was someone there who could answer my question. I could hear someone in the background asking “what is going on?” It turns out the doctor was in the room and the nurse handed him the phone. I asked the question again. Although he also tried to dance around the answer, when I persisted, he said, “We are going to do the best we can to take care of him. I think he will survive.” I took a deep breath and I said, “Please tell our son we love him but we are going on vacation and won’t be coming to visit him.” Only to you, my PAL family, can I share this and know that you will understand. We could not do this again, for our health and for his. We left for Sante Fe and cried much of the drive…but we knew it was the best decision for all.
I heard our son speak at a meeting not so long ago. He shared his story and that experience, from his perspective. He told the group as he laid there in the hospital all alone for nearly two weeks over Christmas for the second year in a row, he could not believe we would not visit him. He said it made him start to think that he did not want the life he was living and he wanted his family back. He said it was at that time that he prayed for God to help him to break this disease. When he was released from the hospital he checked himself into treatment and began his journey to sobriety in recovery.
That was three years ago. I still cannot believe where we are today. We have our son back, he is engaged to wonderful woman, and we now have the most beautiful 18-month-old granddaughter. This year, they will all be here for Christmas. There is "hope" – but it took courage beyond us to set those boundaries and it took our PAL family to help us hold to them and stay the course. THANK YOU.
PAL supported many families before Michelle and I turned to PAL. PAL will continue to support and provide resources and education to families who are working every day to make tough decisions for a healthier family. We all know this is not an easy journey.
Please support PAL as PAL supports so many families across the country. Consider making a donation in honor or tribute of your family during this holiday season. We are appreciative of any gift - no amount is too small. (click here to be redirected to our secure donation site)
Michelle and Kim Humphrey (Board Chair)