Dear John

Advice to My Younger Self


John holding a picture of himself from several years ago.

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Dear John,

Trust the feelings and impressions that come to you—feelings that will cause you to check on your son early one morning to find him overdosed in his room. Your call to the paramedics will save his life and give him an opportunity to recover from his heroin addiction. In the days that follow, you will receive a lot of advice from family and friends about what they think should be done. Be patient, particularly with those who do not know what they are talking about. Everyone will respond differently to your son’s addiction. Your family will be angry and scared. Take the time to talk openly and honestly about what everyone is feeling.

You can feel strength when you are united with your wife; divided, you are no good to each other or your son. You and your wife need to remember to take care of yourselves first. You both need to be healthy to be able to help your son. Educate yourself, read, attend meetings, and counsel with addiction recovery professionals and your Church leaders. You will draw strength from others who have struggled with their own loved ones’ addictions. A weekly connection with a family support group will be an important part of keeping your perspective. Find a group that you can share your story with.

You won’t realize until later that your son’s addiction makes him part of a wonderful, caring community. Having your son spend so much time with others who are trying to overcome addiction may not make sense now, but it will become a vital part of his recovery. Be grateful for those who want to help your son; they know what he is really going through. It is a sure sign that he is struggling whenever he wants to pull back from this community. Your son’s addicted mind will cause him to continue to lie to you, others, and himself, so be optimistic and realistic at the same time.

The first of the 12 steps of recovery is for your son and you to accept that you are powerless to overcome his addiction. Remember that God is the only one who knows the end from the beginning. He, not you, knows what it will take for your son to change. Try to not worry about things you cannot change; choose to be grateful no matter what. Be grateful for every day you have your son; don’t be tempted to look too far into the future. Learn how to appropriately respond—not react—to the ups and downs of recovery, including the lapses your son will go through in the months ahead. Watching your son figure out who he really is will be both a wonderful and terrifying experience. Even though at times you might feel full of fear and trembling, remember his divine potential as a son of God, and be grateful for a faith that reminds you of that truth daily.

Love,

John

Dear John