Yesterday, I posted a link to Seth Mnookin’s review of Chasing the Scream. Mnookin has been open about his addiction recovery for a long time.
In 1999, his mother wrote a piece about her experiences during his years of using. She does a great job illuminating the secret suffering of many loved ones. It’s actually a powerful rebuttal to Hari’s notion that a lack of love and enriching environments are the cause of addiction.
Our fears about Seth absorbed the family’s energies. My husband and I were often preoccupied. It was hard to concentrate, it was hard to sleep, it was hard to pay attention to our other children. We were exhausted, and though we tried to continue family activities, it was often an effort, and they could see this. We became stricter with them, wondering if we had been too lenient with Seth, and also less demanding, thinking that any behavior short of drug use was not worth correcting. They had their own fears for Seth’s safety. Once, when our younger son was in high school, my husband left a message for him to call. He needed to change a plan about the car, but our son could only imagine one reason for his father to call him at school: Seth had died.
When I heard this story, I tried to imagine our younger son getting the message — the blood drains from his cheeks as he leaves the classroom and walks to the office. How many halls does he pass through, clutching his books, thinking his brother is dead? How much time passes before he hears his father’s calm, everyday voice? I had tried so hard to protect my children, and I couldn’t even protect them from each other.
Everyone seemed to have better parenting skills than I did — anyone whose child was not using drugs, anyone whose child could call home without imagining disaster. Leafing through the book review section of the Sunday Times, I happened upon the advertisement for a novel, “Cloud Nine.” Even the reviewer’s words accused me, proclaiming that “the strength of family ties can ultimately set things right.” So why couldn’t my love set things right? Why wasn’t my love enough to save my son?