For 15 years, Kathleen and Brett Moore, of Payette, struggled alongside their son as he battled a meth addiction, that would ultimately land him in prison — twice. As parents, their struggle was in coping with how to help their child as they found out about his addiction about four years in, when he was about 18.
“Drama, chaos, sadness.”
These are the three words Kathleen used to describe what their lives had become for 15 years, as the family dealt with her son’s addiction to methamphetamines.
She didn’t realize so much time had passed, as she “fell into a life of stress.”
That life completely consumed her as she would try over and over to pick up the pieces of her son’s drug addiction that spilled out around her.
His drug habit took more than just a financial toll; the emotional stress nearly cost Kathleen her marriage.
About 18 months ago, however, she found an education and support group that turned life around for her.
“It saved my life,” Kathleen said of Parents of Addicted Loved Ones, also known as PAL. “It taught us how to let go, how to provide healthy boundaries and healthy help.”
It was through the support program Kathleen realized that all the motions she and her husband Brett were going through in trying to help their son were actually hurting him.
“We were keeping him in addiction because we were thinking we were helping him,” Kathleen explained.
She said that in providing support — especially financial support — for their son, he “didn’t have a need to change.” Instead it kept him in a child-like role, where he was still dependent on his parents for basic needs.
Through PAL, Kathleen and Brett say they have now learned how to treat their 29-year-old son like the adult he is, and how to live their lives, regardless of his choices.
“PAL gave us hope,” Brett said.
Their son, whose name they chose to withhold for privacy reasons, is serving his second stint in the Idaho State Prison. He’s in this time for the same reason as the last: possession of meth.
Brett, who worked in the Department of Corrections for 28 years, said it was pretty hard to have a son “doing what I hated.” Furthermore, he said, it was embarrassing to him in his career.
Because of the consequences he knew his son could eventually face, Brett said he took a more tough approach with his son, and at least one time that resulted in physical violence.
“PAL taught me that I need to love. I need to be tough, but still love,” Brett said.
The couple says it also greatly improved their relationship.
“It made a great marriage greater,” Kathleen said, adding that while she was immersed in trying to love her son through his addiction, the stress was simultaneously killing her.
PAL also helped Kathleen and Brett overcome parental false guilt, which came from finding out a relative their son stayed with when he was 14 had introduced him to the drug. Though they have not forgotten, they have forgiven the betrayal, although they have no ties with those family members any longer.
As addiction affects the whole family, PAL encourages parents to go through together, if possible, so they can get on the same page.
PAL is a peer-to-peer support network for people whose children or loved ones are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Educational lessons are woven into weekly meetings that are available by phone for people who live in areas without in-person meetings taking place.
Through their relatable experience, Kathleen and Brett aim to help others who are experiencing the toll of addiction by being facilitators for PAL.
“We can relate and help others find hope,” Kathleen said.
Parents who don’t know if their loved one is addicted are urged to watch for some of the telltale signs. These can include things, such as anger, deception, lying, stealing, deflecting blame and, even, creating drama in their own sphere so it deflects to other people, Brett said.
Because of their personal experience, Kathleen has gone through the training to become a facilitator, and Brett is currently going through his own training, which he will wrap up in January.
Kathleen has been facilitating meetings since mid-September, and attendance has varied at each meeting.
“It takes time. It takes courage,” she said of continuing no matter the pace.
Brett said the classes are integral in being able to move forward, and “teaches us to deal in a healthy way.”
Part of that is learning to differentiate between types of healthy support and that which is not.
“We’re cheerleaders now, not coaches,” Kathleen said of their new outlook on parenting an addicted adult child.
For Kathleen and Brett, this means setting boundaries and keeping them. One boundary she set this time her son went to prison — and has stuck to — is not putting money into her son’s commissary account, used to purchase items in prison. In addition, she has cut other financial strings, such as offering a place to live when he gets out or helping him with a vehicle “until he gets on his feet.”
“We love you, but we’re not walking down that road,” is the message Kathleen and Brett have sent their son, and they say he recognizes the change when he talks to them.
Key to staying successful will be to continue offering vocal support versus financial support.
“We’ve given him his wings, and whether they are broken or one and a-half wings, he can do it,” Kathleen said.
To this, Brett added, “We’ve kicked him out of the nest, it’s time to fly.”
If you go
Parents of Addicted Loved Ones meetings are from 6 to 7:30 p.m. each Wednesday in Room 125, upstairs at the Church of the Nazarene, 1131 Alameda Dr., Ontario. For more information, contact Kathleen Moore at (208) 794-8252, email@example.com or visit www.palgroup.org.
How PAL got started
Parents of Addicted Loved Ones was founded in 2006 by Mike Speakman, a substance abuse counselor in Phoenix, Arizona. As of November, PAL has expanded into 120 meetings in 32 states and offers a website presence and telephonic meetings for those who cannot attend in person.
According to information from PAL, the cost of substance abuse in the U.S. is more than $520 billion annually when things are taken into account such as health care, lost work, treatment, support for family members, etc.
PAL is based on families, and organizers believe that when the family gets health, it often leads to health for loved ones suffering from addiction.