Published March 7, 2023
“As long as he’s using drugs, don’t talk to him.”
“You have to wait for him to hit rock bottom.”
“It’s bad to help him; you have to detach.”
Angela Hyde heard all this and more during the years that her oldest son struggled with addiction.
“I just couldn’t do any of that. I couldn’t cut him out of my life even though I knew he was using,” she said. “I look at this person and I see a 3-year-old little boy. I understand the need for boundaries, but I’m not going to cut him out of my life.”
Addiction runs deep in Hyde’s family. So deep, in fact, that she didn’t keep alcohol in the house while her two sons were growing up.
Despite that precaution, her oldest son began coping with undiagnosed mental health issues by using substances when he was a teenager.
“He didn’t tell anybody about it,” she said. “I think it’s important to talk about it and get it out of the shadows.”
As her son’s issues progressed, he got in trouble with the law. Hyde worked in the social services field for nearly 30 years and was all too familiar with the criminal justice system.
“It was still an absolutely terrifying process,” she said. “I never thought I’d be visiting my child in jail, and there I was visiting my child in jail. Sitting in a court room watching him go through that was heartbreaking.”
Hyde did her best to help her son navigate the legal system.
“I knew from my professional life how complicated it is and how easy it is for someone to get caught up in all that, but it was very traumatic for me as the parent to go through,” she said. “That advocacy was hard and painful and frustrating; it was a hard dark time in our lives.”
Terror was a constant while Hyde’s son was struggling.
“I would tell him if he kept using, he’d end up dead or in prison,” she said. “And as a parent, neither of those outcomes were acceptable. They were terrifying and horrible.”
It was at that time, when everything felt out of control, that Hyde was introduced to Face It TOGETHER.
“I was very much struggling as a parent. I was driving myself literally crazy wondering what he was doing,” she said. “I was just really, really lost with all of these feelings of guilt and blame and how to help him, what I should do, what I shouldn’t do.”
Through peer coaching and a weekly SMART Family and Friends group, Hyde got a new perspective on addiction, how to help her son without enabling and the importance of not feeling guilty for helping him get well.
“To have a program and some research behind it to say, ‘You don’t have to wait for rock bottom, it’s actually helpful to stay connected,’ – that was life-changing for me,” she said.
After Hyde started coaching, her son’s addiction came to a head.
“I knew he was struggling a lot; he was very, very sick,” she said. “He made the decision that he needed to get help or he was going to die.”
Helping her son get into treatment was an experience Hyde will never forget.
“I’ve never seen someone be so brave in my entire life,” she said. “It was terrifying for him to make that decision, but he still did it.”
Since Hyde’s oldest son started his wellness journey, another son realized he needed to address his own drinking.
“It’s been eye-opening and interesting because they are learning new ways to cope and be in relationships with people. I realized I needed to learn a new way to be in a relationship with them,” she said. “They’re growing and changing – I wanted to grow and learn too. It takes the entire family and their support system to stay healthy.”
The biggest change Hyde has seen in herself since reaching out for help is peace of mind. Even before her oldest son sought treatment, she worked hard, reminded herself what she could and couldn’t control and protected her own peace.
“I don’t think I would’ve gotten there without my connection to Face It TOGETHER. It’s given me peace of mind and the understanding that I have to be in recovery too,” she said. “It’s the whole family system that needs to be in recovery.”
Still today, Hyde is sometimes afraid to have hope that her sons are OK. She experiences periods of anxiety, especially when the topic of relapse comes up. Through Hyde’s work with her peer coach, she’s been able to reframe those thoughts and not “invite tragedy.”
“It’s still a work in progress. Any time you love someone who’s been in active addiction, trust is pretty easily destroyed. I’m learning I can depend on them and it’s OK to have hope,” she said. “I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know them, especially my oldest son. He’s been in active addiction so long, most of his adult life, now that he’s sober I’m getting to know him as an adult. That is such a blessing and a privilege. I try to take time every day to be grateful that I have him in my life.”
Hyde’s coach also helped remind her the shame her sons were likely already feeling.
“I was upset with some of the stuff they did. It’s hard to process because they weren’t raised that way,” she said. “But I know when you’re living with addiction, you feel a lot of shame. It was important for me to remember they were feeling that way; I certainly didn’t want to add to that.”
Similarly, Hyde believes it’s important for people to understand the hurt parents of those with addiction experience.
“We blame and shame ourselves plenty on our own,” she said. “Any support you can provide to a parent going through this is so helpful. Instead of giving that shame, the judgement – believe me, I get plenty of that.”
“It’s hard to talk about and say yes to help, because it’s easy for people to blame and judge,” she said. “But there’s no shame in getting help. This disease doesn’t just affect that one person; it affects all of us.”