- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I’m trying to re-establish a relationship with my family after several years of drug abuse. For six years, I bounced around from sobriety to active addiction. By this I mean I was actively using every day and every night.

I’m very fortunate to still be alive. I would live on the street and hang out with my other drug-using boys. I even traded dirty needles and did not care. I’m thankful today that I don’t have a disease that has no cure.

I used to be in the Marine Corps. I joined when I was 19, but I was kicked out because of drug use and theft. The prosecutor was trying to get me a court-martial that included prison. I was only court-martialed.

This was devastating to my father because he is a retired Army sergeant major. He was so proud coming to my graduation from basic training. I can remember graduation just like it was yesterday. I was stationed at Parris Island, S.C. It was in late July, and it was hotter than all get-out.

I was a major screw-up. I lied, I stole from family and friends, and I took no responsibility for any of my actions. I did anything to get the next fix or high. My parents spent a lot of money sending me to different rehabs. I would always go and come as I pleased.

I’ve been clean and sober for a year. I don’t hang around the people I used to associate with, and I don’t go to the places I used to go. I don’t smoke or drink and can’t even go to a restaurant where they serve alcohol. I keep going to my meetings and working with my sponsor. I have a two-bit job that’s enough to keep a roof over my head.

I’m trying to build a relationship with my parents and my siblings. I read some advice from you a while back and you were saying you believe in forgiveness and reconciliation. This is what I’m looking for, for my family to forgive me. I did some things to them they did not deserve and I had no right to do. I wasn’t myself. I see where I went wrong, and I’m trying hard every day not to make the same mistakes.

My grandmother is the only one who will talk to me, by phone only. I don’t have permission to come to her home. I guess she’s afraid I will harm her in some way. Only, I’m not the same person.

How can I patch things up with my family Ms. Vicki? I know I’ve done a lot of things, but I am a better person. I just need my family again. — Dan

Hi Dan,

You are right, I believe in forgiveness and reconciliation. I’m happy you report you have been clean and sober for a year now; more importantly that you are working with a sponsor. Let me encourage you to continue to do those things that provide strength to you.

It may seem like an uphill battle right now, but that’s OK. Just keep climbing and lean on as many people as you can to help you climb. In your case, I know you would like for it to be your family. Honestly, I think it will take time for them trust you again.

You have been in and out of numerous rehabs at your parents’ expense. To them, this may appear to be the same routine. Your actions, from your report, were different from the young man they gave birth to and raised. From a parent’s viewpoint, this can be painful. I believe, however, your parents will forgive you and welcome you again. As you continue on this road of sobriety, they will begin to notice real change, and not your old actions of going in and out of rehab.

Dan, forgiveness is a choice. What you should do is try to find a good counselor who can help you begin to forgive yourself and stay sober. It sounds like you are involved with Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous; keep attending the meetings and working with your sponsor. This is a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute task. I really wish you well, please stay in touch with me.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearmsvicki@yahoo.com.

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