Ivy and Noah


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The trouble with addiction.

There are two things I know for sure about addiction.

The first is that once you have it,

it follows you everywhere you go.

As you grow up,

into the community,

when you are seeking employment,

until your death -

it’s there.

It sits in your throat like an insatiable thirst

and dares you to stray.

I know about it because of my father

and my brother

and my sister.

I’ve watched it define them

and then destroy them.

The second thing I know about addiction is that it is familial

and the ability to become addicted lies strongly within the genes.

There are traits you notice,

small at first

but soon it’s undeniable.

He is a good kid

but his parents are both addicts

and he has been off his face drunk twice this year.

Out of control.

Both times while Ivy has been in the hospital.

The first when her artery was hit while in surgery

and the second when she was septic.

Both times I found out through the community grapevine

and Facebook.


for the love of all things holy -

because I wasn’t there.

Fool me once,

shame on you

Fool me twice,

shame on me.

I will never turn my back on him again.

He has all the excuses under the sun;

that it’s the done thing in our small, rural town

all the kids are doing it

and the parents condone it, willingly breaking the law.

We are the uncool guardians who won’t allow it

but I am wary of addiction crouching in the shadows.

I don’t want it to chase him down too -

catch him,

devour him.

He says he is not his mother

and yet when asked why he did it

I heard her voice spilling from his mouth.

The very same words.

‘I wasn’t coping and the alcohol helped me to relax and forget’.

That’s how it starts.

That’s where the rots sets in.

I  so want to break that cycle.

I know some of you will  think that I should cut him some slack -

he is sixteen after all

and I am being unfair and unrealistic.

His life is not ideal with a sick person in the family,

it’s peer pressure,

the poor sweet boy has had to live with his horrid Aunt and Uncle for the majority of his life -

that he hasn’t had his mother.

I will have to disagree with all of that.

I’ve already heard it  before from the boy himself

and it just doesn’t fly.

Life is all about choices.

The other two sixteen year olds in the house deal with a lot too

but alcohol is not an issue for them.

Sometimes we make a choice that is less than ideal

and we have to own up to the ramifications of those decisions.

It might mean that you lose the respect of your people.

It may mean that you will never fully have their trust again.

Whatever they are, you must own them

but an addict doesn’t.

An addict plays the victim

and lays blame to absolve his actions.

An addict will always have an excuse.

I want him to own his choices

and I will own mine -

there is a party coming up and as much as he wants to

he won’t be going.

I will have to suffer the consequences of my actions

but I accept them because I love him.

I think this;

when he has left home and is a fully grown adult, able to make his own decisions in this life,

when he’s making his own rules

if he wants to iron himself out with drugs and alcohol just as his grandfather and his uncle and his mother did

if he wants to ruin his body and his brain cells

then so be it -

that is his choice

and his right as an adult

but while he is in my care

I will keep him safe (as safe as I can)

from as much as I can.

That is my right as his parent.



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29 Responses to “The trouble with addiction.”

  • Sally (2 comments.):

    I think you’re doing the right thing! It would be one thing if he got carried away having fun one or two times. That’s still not OK in my opinion, especially at 16, but it’s less dangerous than facing stress and sadness and trouble with alcohol. That combination – that reasoning – will absolutely lead to addiction if not stopped early. He sounds like a good kid and he’s lucky to have a concerned and strong mother. Just wanted to let you know that I support you.

  • Ruby McGill:

    Your message is repeating what has been on my heart this week. Our RJ has been in our care since she was 4 days old. She is now 22 and currently in a mental health facility where she is being treated for bipolar disorder, drug abuse, etc. From the time she was small I have tried to teach her the dangers if drugs and alcohol, knowing the patterns in her parents lives. This week I learned that her drug and alcohol abuse began much earlier than I had known about. When she was a young teen I thought the behaviours were bipolar related. Now it turns out I was wrong and she was lying to me. She cannot understand why I am so upset and feel such a failure because I didn’t know and stop her. She says it was her choice and does not understand why I am angry and disappointed. I know she is still using drugs .. until her admission… but she is now an adult and not living in my home.
    I hope you are able to keep your boy from travelling the same road as his parents, but ultimately they all make their own choices.
    But my daughter still wants to lay the blame on me.. it was because I did not let her grow up.. the neighbourhoodshe grew up in.. etc. I hope he will accept your help and realise how lucky he is to have someone who cares about him..

  • tricia (169 comments.):

    Praying for you all. I can only imagine what this struggle is like and the dynamic it adds to your already stressful life.

  • Tash:

    And you’re absolutely right!! As parents we have to make the decisions that make us unpopular… But you are definitely making the right one. And one day he’ll understand!

  • Rachel:

    I think heist very fortunate to have 2 family members that care so much for his welfare, as some in his case lucky to get 1 stranger to take them in, let alone give a damn about them.
    It’s the choices that he makes that get him into grief, and he thinks he knows, most of us did at that age… But he doesn’t so yes you get the right as his parent… To take the reins!

  • Leah (18 comments.):

    I know you aren’t asking for advice so I hesitate to suggest this – but do you think it would be helpful if he understood what he’s up against biologically with addiction? (If he isn’t already) Like how some people grow receptors in the brain for addictive substances when exposed to them and others don’t, hence why some can dabble and some cannot get free – I myself only know about this stuff from heavy podcast listening, I can’t even recall where to point you in the right direction. But just this week I listened to a Dr Karl one which was about tobacco paving the way in the brain for cocaine addiction -using them simultaneously makes it far more likely for addiction to occur because of how the brain responds chemically to cocaine after tobacco. I think for a child of addicted parents this information is crucial, to help them draw lines in the sand that are particular to their own circumstances. I think it could take the focus off morality and the peer pressure of participating, and offer a counter balance to the (compelling biologically) reason to drink for relief/pleasure.

    I am glad he has you guys offering firm boundaries, because surely as much as you manage to limit his exposure, it will be a positive thing for him. I feel for him, because getting drunk around that age was a relief for me too. It seems my brain was primed for caffeine and chocolate addiction instead!

  • Dianne Nunn (38 comments.):

    Tiff, this is one of the most beautiful, sad and courageous posts I have ever read. Hold firm, be strong and take care of yourself too.

  • Rosie T:

    No words of wisdom ……just sending love to each of you, and support and encouragement to you and David …… xoxox

  • jeanieinparadise (6 comments.):

    Well done, Tiff. What sort of education do they get about alcohol addiction at high school? Children of alcoholics are 4 times more likely to become addicts. I know many adults who chose to not ever drink because of their parents choices. It may be harder for your boy, because he has been buffered from the bad choices and therefore hasn’t seen the stark repercussions, but perhaps someone who has been there – an AA member or recovering person – might be able to impart some wisdom.

    A small google wander found many great links USED to exist for advising youth about the realities, but government funding may have been impacted… Here is the one that I did find – http://www.tuneinnotout.com/

  • Anne:

    You are so right. All you can do is exercise your parental rights till he is 18, arm him with all the info you can and pray that he makes wise choices later. I have a young friend who is an alcoholic and been in rehab many times. She too has a genetic predisposition, suffers with depression and thankfully she is from a strong, Christian and loving family and has great support. If he can learn not to start down this track now, he will have a happier life later and not lose many chances for happiness while making the bottle his source of comfort. Prayers heading your way x

  • Fiona:

    The hard part of all this is that he is a 16 yr old boy. By default he will be full of excuses & ‘it wont happen to me”. Just like speeding in a car. They have no fear of it being them wrapped around a tree. Because it wont happen to them.

    I personally would probably stick with the simple fact he is underage & drinking is not an option for him simply because he is 16.
    If you were to keep on him about the higher risk because of his family history, I imagine he could become resentful. I remember when I was younger my step dad saying in a heated moment “She is just like her F***ing father” . I can’t even remember what I had done, I think me & my half brother were fighting or something. I was about 13. His words cut me so deeply because I hold my bio dad in the lowest of low. I grew up with my stepdad. How could I have been just like my bio dad? He is an abusive deadbeat. It was hurtful that he compared me to that man.

    While I don’t think you are comparing him to his parents, and that you are simply concerned about the increased risks that his behaviours now could result in. Find a way to educate him about the increased risk & why it concerns you so much with out mentioning his parents too much. Be it a across the board talk with all the teenagers. The girls are also in the same boat as far as the risk goes. They too have that family connection. Make sure the boy knows that your concern is not just on him.

    I think its a good idea to look up information to share with them about the biological links & how it all works. Don’t assume it will be shown at school or that they will pay attention the day it is. Stick to the facts. Knowledge is power, arm them with that power & hope they make the right choices.

  • Kathy:

    This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read, tears are rolling down my cheeks. As a mental health nurse and a parent I know exactly where you are coming from and I understand your fear for him. I hope that you show him this blog, I really think he needs to read it.

    Good luck xxx

  • Watershedd (58 comments.):

    Stand your ground, Tiff. Love does not always bend, in fact it sets boundaries, out of respect for the relationship, out of respect for each other. Love protects, love denies what harms, love sacrifices personal gratification if it will harm another. You’re doing the right thing.

  • Jan:

    So brave of you to share this. You can only do what you think is right – how he chooses to live his life as an adult is up to him. He is a very fortunate young man to have had the care and love of your family – I hope he chooses the right path to go down. Thoughts are with you.

  • Pixie (213 comments.):

    Being a parent means not being the child’s friend.
    It’s tough and it’s hard

    Hang in there

  • SassyCupcakes:

    You’re a good Mum.

  • Glowless (53 comments.):

    You are awesome, Tiff. You are doing a fabulous job xx

  • Jacki:

    Being a parent is hard, being a GOOD parent is so, so, so much harder! My mantra through the difficult and challenging teenage years (and beyond actually) was “It is my job to protect you and guide you, it is not my job to make you happy by allowing you to behave in a way I find unacceptable” I took the tough but fair approach and I have to say my older kids, now aged 27, 24 and 22, survived my rules and I am proud of their choices and the wonderful adults they have become. My twins are now 11.5 and with a family history of drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues, I am hyper aware that they will need even more attention and guidance.

    It isn’t easy but you are right to be concerned for him, even without his predisposition, at 16 he needs to be aware of the dangers of alcohol, drugs and addictive behaviours. Keep fighting for him, he is lucky to have you xxxx

  • river (194 comments.):

    Absolutely do NOT cut him some slack. He cannot use alcohol as an excuse for coping.
    I don’t envy you one bit for the hard road that is coming your way with this, and I don’t have any helpful words either.
    Is there an AA support group that you and he can attend a couple of times so that he can hear for himself just how bad the lives of the addicted can become? Perhaps a counsellor who can help him find other ways of coping when the stresses get to be too much.
    Perhaps he would listen more readily to someone who is not as close as family.
    At the same time, let him know, always, that you are there for him, to talk, to hold him while he cries, anything at all.

  • mum:

    I know how hard it is to practice ” tough love”, it is the hardest thing any parent ever does but tough love is exactly what is needed to keep this boy safe from the torment of addiction.

    Heaven knows I can’t give you any advice, I failed with both your brother & sister but you are absolutely doing the right thing to try to save him from the temptations of drugs & alcohol.

    Maybe the solution lies in hearing all the pre cursors to addiction from someone else that he trusts & respects (footy coach?) rather than you or Dave.

    Peer influence can be such a problem, too but ultimately we can only hope that in the end they will learn to appreciate that we only have their welfare at heart because we love & care for them and hope they will make the right choices as adults.

    As parents, we are obliged to keep our kids safe while preparing them hopefully for all that adult responsibilities entail. While AJ may be resentful now, he should realize that learning to cope in difficult times is part of becoming an adult and is not an excuse for excessive under age drinking.

    As hard as it is, stick to your guns on this. xoxo

  • Fiona (115 comments.):

    Your boy is me.


    *hugs for you all*

  • Katie:

    i have the same discussions with my brothers. my mother has an addictive personality (shopping, alcohol…everything to excess), her father smoked himself to death, her mother committed suicide with drugs. my dad’s uncle was a compulsive gambler & alcoholic…i myself have suffered back & forth with the addictive nature of anorexia & self harm…& so i try to educate them about our genetics.

    that’s it’s not our fault we got caught up in this. that’s heredity for you. but that we need to know & understand that our bodies are made different to our friends. that we don’t have the physical or psychological capacity to CHOOSE when we start or stop. that our body or our minds will make that choice for us.

    my brothers have watched me suffer for over a decade. in & out of hospital, near death, short periods of recovery, resumption of the same old behaviours. & they grew to understand that i wasn’t actually choosing this. that i had a problem; a sickness. that yes i had anorexia nervosa, but that i’m also wired to seek that addictive pathway. it’s hard for them to understand how this relates to their drinking. they are teenagers, it’s what they do. but i think at the back of their minds at least they know i’m watching out for them….& at least they know they’re not drinking on a level playing field. their bodies & brains are wired to go back & back & back to that alcohol, to help them feel good, deal with their problems, opt out.

    it’s hard though. they’re my brothers, so i can’t physically forbid them to do anything….they have no obligation to obey me. but i know they respect me, & i know they would come to me if they started to feel out of control. & i think your boy knows that too. deep down. even though he’s resentful of you right now. teenagers hate being different from their peer group. it’s all they want to do – to fit in. for one of my brothers he had to get seriously unwell for him to realise that his drinking was a problem. he’s nineteen & had a very bad experience…my parents were away, so i had to deal with it….& i think i allowed him to feel sufficiently bad enough that it knocked some sense into him. sometimes i think it’s the only way to get through to boys. to let them suffer the consequences, & THEN appeal to their common sense.

    argh. sorry, i’m rambling. but you are doing an amazing job.
    don’t you dare let yourself felt like you are not being the best mum. you are.

  • Dr Hell:

    Stand your ground! You have gathered this child (yep – CHILD), into your home, and you owe it to your future selves to be a growling mother bear. An innocent night out getting drunk could be “okay”, or it could be the first night of something dreadful, or it could be the night that someone is hurt or killed, or it could be the night that something happens that lands him with a criminal record that will follow him around for the rest of his life. You have every right and power to stop him from taking the risk, however small, that a “okay” night might not be “okay”.

    I do not envy you your position, but your tales of dogged advocacy for Ivy and for your family suggest that you are a strong, rational and determined chick. And to be honest – doctors are much harder to manage than 16 year old boys.

    Big fat wishes and good luck!

  • melbo:

    I cannot believe those parents – what the hell are they thinking? Do they not read the papers? Do they not understand what happens when children drink at parties? That makes me so damn livid and I don’t know how anybody who is responsible for children could condone this.

    That said, I know what it was like growing up in a small community where people did regularly drink (and do other things) while underage at large parties, sometimes supervised, sometimes not. It’s been going on forever it seems.

    I think you’ve done the right thing by not letting him go. It really is the best thing at this point, even though I know it isn’t easy for you. Fortunately for him, you are here to take him in line now before things get out of hand. You love him and you care for him. I’m sure he knows that.

    This boy will be okay – he really will and you have to believe that. He will remember this as he grows. He will remember that you did this for the right reasons. One day when he is older, he will probably come and thank you for it.

    Love to you all.

  • Mary:

    You’re on the money, Tiff, don’t listen to anyone saying you should cut him some slack. You’re a great parent, you’re absolutely absolutely doing the right thing – and you’re right – when he’s an adult, he can make his own decisions. Strength come and live with you and blessings rain down on you. Hugs!

  • Michelle:

    Hey Tiff, hope this doesn’t offend but i have 2 views. 1. yes i agree whole heartedly with you on the young ones drinking themselves into oblivion and parents allowing it to happen at their place and buying their kids massive amounts of alcohol to drink sometimes more than any adult would be able to drink in a week! very sad that the young ones these days have to completely rite themselves off pass out vomit and have no memory of what they did! it’s scary to think what can happen to them in this day n age, there are so many people out there to take advantage of these kids at this weak moment, thugs that will knock them out and could permanently harm them or kill them! addiction at an early age is a waste of a young persons life that could be so full especially when there is so much to gain sober with brains fully intact! could go on and on! we (well most of us) would like to protect our children from all the bad unsafe unmoral things that we have seen growing up or as an adult, things i did as a teenager and what i saw worries the hell outta me for my children! a sad thing of late i know a few parents that allow these drinking binges to go on under their supervision and think it’s funny to watch the kids drunk, laugh and joke about it, but these parents also drink themselves most days and see it as ok??!! 2. kids have to be kids get up to no good and realise there is a life out there more than what is safe at home, parties are a part of growing up. i can remember (my mother being a strict catholic) not being allowed to go to year 10 parties, something i wanted to attend so baddly to be one of the group and not be left out socially, but no was always the answer, so i use to go to “friends” houses for a sleep over and go with them to the party (yes defiant) and to this day my mother doesn’t know. but i always found my mother judgemental of everything i did, if i made a mistake (still to this day) she doesn’t let me forget, we as people have to learn how to make our own mistakes and live with them! i drank at an early age went to the pub under age (but must remember i was working full time supporting myself basically) yes i made lots of bad choices and do regret somethings i did or didn’t do! alot of it came down to the “friends” that i chose to hang around. i also think that i am abetter person today from my experiences (to some degree). with my boy(s) i have been totally honest about what i did and the consequences, thank god at this stage they are responsible, i sometimes think they are a little too straight to have come out of me and their father, and need to let loose and enjoy themselves a bit more but in saying that they don’t have alot of spare time to get up to what i did, they all do lots of sport work and have a good sense of getting an education! not to run myself down but i always say “look at what i have got myself, yes i have a great husband with a great job, a beautiful family, a house and live an ok lifestyle, but if i made different choices i would have alot more, i wasted lots of money on drugs and alcohol, buying stuff i didn’t need just to keep up with the social scene, and didn’t want to better myself, yes i have a trade always worked till i had kids but don’t have a great deal to show for it (still in lots of debt) and dream of having more, but i was too busy wanting to enjoy life and try everything. now i don’t drink, don’t take drugs but am an addict to cigarettes. when my boy asked for a drink of alcohol i always gave him a sip of mine or a sip of his dads beer, and told him if he ever wants to drink he must ask first and we might let him but if i find out he has done it behind my back there will be hell to pay! he was critisized lately from me for not going anywhere and not enjoying life he is always online playing computer games his whole life revolves around the internet never wanted to go to parties or get drunk like most of the kids as he said whats the point they get drunk pass out vomit and miss half the party no fun! (thank god) but lately he has gone to 2 parties one was without adult supervision (didn’t know that at the time) and ask could he have a drink, his father and i discussed it and decided to let him take some but was under strict instruction that he only drink what we buy him and nothing more and we picked him up at midnight, all went well he took 4 cans of pre mix and a large bottle of water, on the way home he was alittle chirpy and as always has to tell us every little thing, he told us of the kids taking drugs drinking and spewing some had passed out one kid had to go to hospital to have his stomach pumped and the damage the kids did to the house where the party was held, he has vowed never to do that as they looked stupid and was appalled at what some kids do to others property no respect he said they are just so destructive, the second party was his cousins 18th this time his father went with him again he had a couple of drinks and i picked them up at midnight this party was fully supervised and he said everyone was well behaved, my husbands comment was all the kids had a great night but they are all a little quiet for an 18th when we were that age we drank copious amounts of alcohol, my boys reply was why? we all had fun just having a couple and some didn’t drink and they still had fun! (i think my boy is wise) yes sometimes we all drank to excess and looked really stupid when we thought we were cool! my thought is don’t hide him from the big wide world let him experience it not with alcohol but with his presence give him some rules and allow him to gain trust and responsibility for his own self! if he destroys that and can’t contain himself that is his fault and his loss of freedom! i have told my boy honesty is the key and choosing the right friends also the best thing he can do! it’s peer pressure that brings alot undone! what amazes me most is that some of these kids and families that allow the binge drinking sessions think they are the best people and look down on others! another thing that has made my children wary of the perils of alcohol and drugs is they have seen (probably too much) adults and kids acting off their face and looking like total loosers and i have told them thats what happens to people that abuse alcohol it totally screws their minds and body! and thats what you will look like if you do the same as them and let me tell you it has scared the shite out of them! ALWAYS remember you must do what you feel is right, you are lucky your girls have choosen good friends, just lets hope your boy can do the same, as i know lots of his friends and while they seem like they are nice and come from nice families, they are quite desructive people. you are a great mother and do such a great job be proud of yourself and your decisions!

  • Katrina (3 comments.):

    I think you’re doing the right thing….isn’t it funny how people can say oh let it go it will be okay….but be the first to point the finger if things really go pear shaped…still to your guns….people who have never dealt with addiction have no concept about it, let alone knowing that certain things are hereditory so people can be predisposed to it….I can only offer you my support on line, but know if I lived where you lived I would be at your side supporting you 100%

  • Michelle:

    I’ve been mulling this one over in my head, trying to come up with some good “advice” or ways of taking to the young man (!?) about the nature of addiction.

    You’re not your mother. This is true. You make better choices than she did/does. You have better support. BUT, and this is a huge BUT… because your parents are addicts, we know that you have a BIOLOGICAL predisposition to addiction. Biological. Not personality, not weakness, not because you want to be addicted, biological. And no, it’s not fair. Unlike your mates, many of whom can drink a few (or more than…) and that’s the end of it, there’s a chance that you won’t be able to stop. Because of how your body is — not because of anything you’ve done, or from not trying hard enough — your body/brain may sabotage your mind, and you’ll find you can’t stop. Not fair, but true.

    As for “not being able to cope,” help him come up with strategies for coping when things get tough (as they do in the lives of all teens, but for him doubly or triply so — difficult early childhood, being adopted/in care and therefore “different” from his mates, sister with fragile health/multiple hospitalizations.

    Stand your ground. Just like you don’t unecessarily expose the girl to illnesses/risks because the stakes are too high, he can’t be allowed to expose himself to the risks of drugs and alcohol — the stakes there are too high, and for much the same reasons.


  • valarie k.:

    I agree with you. My family legacy is wrought with alcoholics and addicts, and bc of that, I do not even allow alcohol in my home. I have teenagers, and yeah, they think I’m “mean”, but the fact is, I am the parent, and its my job to keep them safe, to do all I can to protect them, and everything in my power to set them up for a good future.
    Yes, my kids might go out of the way and do something they shouldn’t to get them in trouble, but it WONT be because I handed it to them, or bc I made it easy to do.
    My sister used to say that she would rather the kids do it in front of her than behind her back, and allowed that kind of thing in her home when they were teens.
    Now she has five adult children who all abuse drugs, and alcohol, and have been in and out of jail.
    I love them all dearly, but that is not the life I want for my own kids.
    You are doing a good job.

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