DescriptionI interviewed my mother, Leila Halligan, about her son and also, my brother, Blair, about his use of drugs and mainly alcohol. We discussed the history of his addiction and how he is doing in the present.
Transcript of interview:
Holly Halligan: Who was the person misusing drugs in your family?
Leila Halligan: The person who was misusing drugs was my adult son.
Holly Halligan: At what age did you notice the substance abuse was a problem?
Leila Halligan: Actually quite young, probably in the early teens and that point I wouldn’t say it was really a problem. It was just suddenly finding out that he was using drugs, marijuana and alcohol.
Holly Halligan: Okay, did they ever lie about their addiction to any of the family members?
Leila Halligan: Oh yes, definitely in the beginning, it was total denial. Many addiction.
Holly Halligan: Was he very stubborn about it?
Leila Halligan: I think that when it got to the point where it was getting really bad is a couple years had gone by from when he started using marijuana and alcohol. I think the alcohol was the first substance to really get to him and he was really abusing more than anything and he wasn’t really stubborn about getting help, actually. He started going to an outpatient counseling that was the first step for him.
Holly Halligan: I’m guessing did you or anyone else in your family see them misuse drugs?
Leila Halligan: Well, being that we weren’t with him all the time he wasn’t, actually, living with us full time. I think, when I first started noticing it, it was mostly talk to him on the telephone, by his speech.
Holly Halligan: Did they ever steal from the family to get money for their addiction?
Leila Halligan: I did notice, definitely, some stealing and of course, when I approached him with it, he denied it. But, yes.
Holly Halligan: So, how did their addiction affect the family?
Leila Halligan: The addiction affected the family in a very negative way. I think he had a lot of people reaching out to him and the biggest issue in the beginning was trust, not being able to trust him. But, his father and I were separated and then we’re divorced and so he was kinda between two parents struggling with and not really admitting the problem. It made for a very, very difficult communication with him to really what was going on.
Holly Halligan: As a parent, how has the substance abuse affected your life?
Leila Halligan: It affected my life in a huge way. To this day, he’s been in and out of recovery, In-Patient treatment, and as well Outpatient, counseling, and even though we’ve not always lived in the same state. I’ve always followed him to where he was in In-Patient and to help by attending meetings, group meetings, that families were invited to attend and it puts you in a position of, as I say, the trust factor is very hard and you just kind of carry this black cloud over you with being sad and wondering if it was something that I did as a parent or his father. So you’re always self-examining the situation to what the cause is.
Holly Halligan: How did their addiction affect relationships with you or other family members, and then, if so how?
Leila Halligan: His relationship with me was always very close and we can talk about it openly about the problem. But, at the same time I don’t think he was always honest about it; I think it gets to a point after a while, where they’re so many promises broken and you start to wonder what’s really real going on in his life, what is he really doing to help himself that’s truth and you get to the point where you just kind of start giving up, I hate to say it. They say, you know that you have to put in some tough love into the situation and as you go on and things breaking down and failing the treatment, you realize maybe tough love is the best solution.
Holly Halligan: I know you said, he was very stubborn or lied about his addiction, but did he ever get into any fights or arguments with the family members and including you?
Leila Halligan: Not sure about getting into fights with his father; he also has a stepfather, who is now my husband. There were no fights with either fathers, but definitely yes fights with me. I think there is a fear factor with his male fathers, while with me he looked at me more as a friend than a stern parent.
Holly Halligan: Did anyone else help them with their addiction besides you?
Leila Halligan: Well, definitely the counselors he was seeing and definitely in house patient rehab was the best thing he could’ve done for himself. Addiction although never is really gone, but it is under control after in house treatment and I think it lasted for the longest period of times. More so than doing just counseling, outpatient counseling; he would really stick to the program for a quite a long period of time. I believe a year was his longest time frame before he relapsed.
Holly Halligan: You said he was in and out of recovery, so it could’ve been better or also gotten worse, but do you know right now if it’s worse or better?
Leila Halligan: It has not been good recently; the alcohol is the main problem right now. Prior to probably three or four months ago was clean and sober and once again I noticed in phone conversations I could tell once again he was drinking.
Holly Halligan: How did you cope with the abuser’s addiction and the events that came with the addiction? Did you go to therapy and I mean you probably talked to many other people, but was there any hobby or interest that also that maybe helped?
Leila Halligan: Definitely, yes I was in counseling and that to me was very helpful. My counselor I think she had dealt with parents of kids who were having addiction problems and seemed to have a lot of experience in that. There’s times you just focus so on the addiction with yourself can get into constant thinking about it and so, yes you do need some outlets to focus on other things and not put yourself on a guilt trip for being the cause, so other than counseling and yes I do have hobbies, walking especially seems to lift the cloud and knitting different things and music. There are definitely good days and bad days and you have to really the parent work on their recovery too of trying not to totally stay focused on the addiction because they really is nothing that a parent particularly can do other than being supportive.
Holly Halligan: Has he called you or came into contact with you recently?
Leila Halligan: Yes, he has. He has, as I mentioned just previously the phone conversations I could tell that he was drinking and some of the conversations were so long that they started out where he sounded pretty sober, but even in a time span of a half an hour at that point was sounding definitely was drinking while we were on the phone.
Holly Halligan: So, of course, any substance with addiction there is going to be some physical consequences like symptoms of addiction. Like alcohol, what does he have any problems with any of his organs or anything like that?
Leila Halligan: At this point, I believe, health-wise, although it’s hard to really tell after so many years of abusing. I mean he is right now 46 years old, so this is been going on for quite a while and of course there could be liver damage starting, also he’s a chain smoker and he refuses to give up smoking and he has a constant cough. So, I’m sure there’s some lung issues going on of getting breathless I notice at times, but as far as of anything else I really don’t know unless he be tested.
Holly Halligan: Is there anything you wish and you could go back and change?
Leila Halligan: Oh boy, that’s a tough one. Yes, in hindsight, of course there are things that I wish I’ve done differently. I think the tough love approach maybe I should’ve started using that sooner than I did. Sometimes I wonder, you know, you kind of become afraid that if you use the tough love approach that it’s going to make them go out and get themselves into more trouble; he also got into some car accidents, while under the use of alcohol and so, there’s times you’re concerned about suicidal thoughts if you get tough with them, especially if you’re the closest person to them. So, I wish I had just a little more confidence in myself to really let tough love kick in and see if that would’ve worked better.
Holly Halligan: Since he was born in a different year as I was, a couple decades before me, was there anything in his school or academics about drugs and alcohol, any knowing of the symptoms, knowing, as you know of?
Leila Halligan: That’s a great question. Holly, I’ve been able to follow her academics very closely through school and the subjects she’s taken because my son was presently through junior and high school living with his father I wasn’t really able to follow as closely what their curriculum was with health and drug and alcohol. So, I can’t answer that question, but my guess is it wasn’t as fully covered during those years in his schooling as it is today, for Holly for instance.
Holly Halligan: How did his father punish him or whatever the consequences is or did he not care or more lenient or telling him,“Oh, you should have balance with it.” Do you know how was with drugs and alcohol?
Leila Halligan: Well, I do know after being married to him (the father) and knowing prior to getting married he was a heavy drinker and to this day I believe still continues to be a heavy drinker; I don’t believe he did drugs at all, but yet even though he was a drinker himself. I think he was very strict, overly so to the point of being physical with my son. So, he, yeah, he really wouldn’t tolerate anything that was out of the way, but my husband, ex-husband, definitely didn’t set a very good example for my son and I sometimes wonder if that doesn’t a lot to do with today.
Holly Halligan: How about with your recent husband? How has he helped or barely helped?
Leila Halligan: He’s been very helpful. The biggest problem with my son is he hasn’t been able to find a job. His background checks, I’m sure, are not good especially with driving offenses, but my present husband is always eager to help in any way he can in terms of trying maybe to suggest where he could look for a job or even giving him names of places and so forth and when we see my son, it’s not the type of situation in where we sit and lecture him the whole time because it’s his decision ultimately in the end, what he is going to do only he can help himself. We’ve talked so many times over the years that you get to a point where you realize it doesn’t really make a difference, doesn’t seem to make an impact. So, yes, my present husband has been supportive.
Holly Halligan: Has the substance abuser overdosed, if so recently, past, or you’re really not sure when?
Leila Halligan: I don’t believe he ever overdosed, at this time he maintains he is not doing any drugs, it’s just alcohol. But, today especially with all the overdosing and the big problem that really has turned into, I think my son is past that and kind of living more in fear of ever overdosing and not wanting to get involved in drugs for that reason, but the biggest problem I think for him was each time he went into rehab was having to dry out so to speak, the withdrawal symptoms that was always very difficult for him and apparently he had some pretty intense experience with seizures, so forth.
Holly Halligan: Thank you for my mother to have time with me to do this interview, thank you.