Kristen's message of hope for families with addiction

Published Dec. 8, 2022

Kristen Goettsch doesn't have addiction herself, but it controlled her life for years. Her son, Caleb, started struggling when he was 14. She grappled with the pain, isolation and confusion that came along with addiction for years afterward.

"Loved ones of those with addiction deserve understanding, compassion and, most importantly, effective resources," she said. "This disease hurts everyone close to it, including friends and family members."

When her son’s opioid addiction was at its worst, Kristen's day-to-day life was full of worry, stress and sleep deprivation. She was constantly trying to prevent her teenage son from making poor decisions, from making calls to ensure he went to school to sleeping outside his bedroom on an air mattress to prevent him from sneaking out.

"My goal each day was just to make it through any given moment without experiencing too much pain," she said. "I felt alone, afraid and at a complete loss of what steps to take when my son was deep into his addiction. I believed I needed to hide what was going on from most everyone in my life. There was an irrational fear of having our story come to light. Hiding was easier to endure."

As a single mother, she was also afraid about losing her only source of income, which led to more stress and guilt.

"My time, thoughts and energy were constantly being pulled in two directions: my son and work," she said. "I was so, so afraid – afraid of being fired, afraid of being judged as a parent and worst of all, afraid my son would die or harm someone else. It was a devastating cycle for my mental and physical health and undermined my ability to do well at work."

Since that painful time, Kristen has learned the power of sharing her story. She wants to let others – especially other moms – know they’re not alone. She believes connection is critical for loved ones grappling with the challenges surrounding addiction. Connection leads to empowerment, which is key when it comes to making healthy changes.

“As his mom, I know I’m the constant in Caleb's life, regardless of where he is in his recovery. I care deeply for him and work to show him love and compassion in ways that aren’t harmful to me," she said. "I garner my strength to do this more effectively from my higher power and the people around me who are there to lovingly support us both. I’m so grateful I’ve learned this lesson in my life.”

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