Over six years ago my granddaughter was born 10 weeks early. Since she was a preemie, she spent the first couple of months of her life in an incubator. It helped sustain her until she could survive on her own. The incubator provided the environment needed to control her body temperature, oxygen levels, and the amount of humidity. While it was hard to see her in there, I knew that’s where she needed to be.
During those weeks I thought a lot about incubators and prodigal children. It occurred to me that our troubled sons and daughters are in God’s incubator.
The dictionary definition of incubator: An apparatus for maintaining an infant, especially a premature infant, in a controlled environment; a place or situation that permits or encourages formation and development . . .
Unlike preemies, our children have already been living in the outside world. But today they’re not well. Extra help is required for their formation and development to continue, so they can survive. They need to be lovingly cared for by the Great Physician in his intensive care unit.
In God’s incubator he wants to do these 10 things:
Welcome to my blog struggling mom, dad, step-parent or grandparent. Today’s blog is a true story. It’s an interview with a mom whose adult son was a heroin addict. He also struggled with mental health issues. (I posted another interview on August 7th with the mom of a teen).
Her name is Katie James, CRU staff member for many years. This is a strong Christian family involved in full-time ministry. This can happen to anyone.
We hope her authenticity and words of wisdom will help you on your journey. At least you will be reminded that you are not alone!
What signs of trouble did you first notice?
We were slow on the uptake for sure. While there were certain things that predisposed our son to drugs (substance abuse and depression/anxiety disorders run in our family on both sides), we still assumed our children were immune to drugs in light of growing up in a strong Christian family. (etc. so silly…). Of course I know now that addiction can affect any family or individual.
Because our children were destined to never go off the rails (yes, that would be sarcasm) we explained away falling grades and other early signs. But looking back, the early signs of trouble were the typical ones: poor grades, cynicism, hanging out with a different crowd. He also stopped going to youth group and attending the Bible study my husband led in our home even though his old friends still went. And then there was the homemade bong I found hiding in his closet. A dead giveaway!
Please tell us your story.
Our son began doing drugs when he was around 14:
Do you wish you could sit down with a parent who’s further down the road of difficult parenting than you?
You’d pepper them with questions and hope to glean something helpful for your own situation when you parted.
Today’s blog is an attempt to do that. To offer hard-earned insights from a mom and dad who’ve been there. They are John and Fair Brocard, devoted Christian parents of a former troubled teen. Like my husband and I, as a result of what they went through over 15 years ago, they started a new ministry—Prodigal Child Ministries—to help other parents who were suffering like they had.
This is a letter from an addict who didn’t make it.
She was somebody’s daughter – their pride and joy . . . a long time ago. She wrote this letter to her sister. The family included it in her obituary to shed light on addiction. They hope something in it will help someone else. It’s difficult to understand if we’ve never been in an addict’s shoes. We have no idea what it’s like for them.
I see five things here for parents of addicts to remember:
These comments were shared by Linda Dahl*, the mom of an addict, after her daughter’s relapse. Linda vulnerably shared insights she’s gained along the way. Even if your child doesn’t struggle with an addiction, I think there could be something beneficial here for you.
Mom: “So you have a choice now, you can give me the rest of the dope, I’ll drive you to a 12 step meeting where you get a temporary sponsor and agree to go to meetings every day you are here. Or you’ll have to find somewhere else to stay.
Because I can’t do this anymore.
Daughter: (brief silence, broken by weeping) “Okay.”
Mom: (also crying) “I’m so proud to have you for my daughter. You’re smart and funny and talented. This is a blip and I’ll support you every step of the way. Relapse happens, especially with young people. I know you’ve relapsed and I’m so very sorry. I know how hard you’ve worked to get well.”
Mom: “So let’s go get rid of the dope and find out when the meeting starts.”
Today’s blog was authored by Richard Larson. It was his response to the suicide death of rock star musician Chris Cornell who struggled with depression most of his life – secretly.
Depression…we talk about it more than those who came before us. We talk about it as a demon or a monster. It’s a dark shadow that shows itself at any point in time without warning. It surrounds us, isolates us, and quiets us.
Depression likes to blame things.
Thank you to Stacy Flury for today’s post. Stacy is a mom who writes from personal experience. There’s no better qualification than that. Her message is to parents of adolescents, but it applies to adult children, as well.
A common thread that unites many parents whose children are affected with mental illness is the unwillingness or refusal to take medication.
It is frustrating, scary and overwhelming. How can you help your teen when all they do is battle you? You beg, plead, bribe, or threaten in every way for them to take their medicine. None of it works.
So what works? There’s only one place to get that answer – from them.
Parents whose children have broken their hearts find it easy to end up in emotional bondage. It feels terrible. So many choices and struggles: alcohol, drugs, same-sex relationships, jail or prison, mental illness, self-injury, pornography, the list goes on and on. Do you want to be free again? I bet you want your life back. I did.
I made a discovery: I could be set free through the power of forgiveness. For me, it was part of the process of gaining back my life. Now that’s something to celebrate!
There is a way to be free. It’s found in these four steps to Emotional Freedom:
1) Forgive our child – for hurting us. We may be furious and resentful over how we’ve been treated. We don’t trust them, can’t believe them, don’t even know them anymore. We’re angry at what they’re doing to themselves, too. We must forgive even if they don’t ask us to. Jesus said, “forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
Dad or Mom, have you heard these statements from one of your children?
“I hate you! You never let me do anything.”
“You don’t understand me!”
“I can’t wait until I turn eighteen so I can get out of here. You have too many rules.”
“Why won’t you help me (by giving money, etc)? Don’t you care what happens to me?”
“What do you mean you won’t _________? I thought you loved me?”
Have you thought any of the following about your child?
I never dreamed my child would grow up to ____________________________________.
On my worst day I couldn’t have imagined my child would _____________________. I haven’t seen them in a long time. It pains me just to think about it.
How can this child I love so deeply hurt me so badly after all I’ve done for them?
Dads were their son’s first hero, “My daddy’s stronger than yours!” and their daughter’s first love, “Daddy, will you marry me?” Moms were adored and clung to. They quit jobs, stayed home, and focused on their child’s welfare.
No one warned us that being a parent could one day bring us this much pain.
Father’s Day is today. Are you a dad with a broken heart? Is it weighed down with pain, worry, fear, and rejection? If so, Father’s Day can be hard. Positive memories from when your son or daughter was young and innocent flood your mind. Negative memories and their associated emotions overwhelm you.
Men tend to hide their emotions, but this is different. Tears are close to the surface 24/7. Oh God, please don’t let anyone ask me about ________, or how I’m doing.
There’s a lump in your throat—but you hold back those salty rivers. You can’t let anyone see you cry. You’re a macho man, right? Besides, if you let them come, you might not be able to stop those salty rivers.
Can’t I get a free pass for Father’s Day? you wonder. Most of your friends have plans with their families. How you envy them. Their children enjoy being with them: cookouts, camping and fishing trips, beach or boat outings, theme parks, gifts, dinners . . . except for you. Perhaps you have other children who will be thoughtful, but not them—the one you ache over and can’t stop thinking about.