Addiction and recovery impact the entire family. Every addict and alcoholic has loved ones who have been witness to self-destruction and, in some cases, can encourage recovery. We often share stories of how alcoholics find sobriety, but we don’t usually hear from the loved ones who helped them get there. Recently, we spoke to Linda, the mother of a young man named Jared and his girlfriend, Erin. Jared’s recovery began at Lakeview Health in Jacksonville, Florida. This is their story:
The Little Politician
Jared was an exceptional child. As his mom, I was amazed he was so intelligent and outgoing. One of my favorite memories is of Jared when he was about three years old. His preschool class took a field trip to a dentist’s office. The kids were all standing there waiting. Then the dentist walked in and introduced himself. Jared suddenly stepped forward and said, “Hello, I’m Jared and this is my class.” Then he proceeded to go around the room and introduce all the other kids to the dentist. We called him the “little politician” because he just had such an easy way of talking to adults.
As he got older, Jared got good grades without much effort. He was always on the honor roll and had lots of friends. He loved music and joined the marching band in high school—he even won the Louis Armstrong award in jazz band. He also grew up to be really tall and athletic—he’s 6’7”—so he also played basketball, which was probably more his father’s dream than his own, but he was good.
It wasn’t until Jared was away at college that I started to think he might have a drinking problem. There was one time Jared got caught drinking in middle school. He stole vodka from home and took it to school, but we just thought he was experimenting and didn’t worry too much. He was such a good kid. When it came time for Jared to go to college he got into Ohio State, which is in Columbus, about 100 miles away from where we live in Cincinnati. My other son stayed home and went to a local college and Jared wanted to go away and study mechanical engineering, so it seemed like a good idea.
Around the same time, my husband and I decided to divorce. It was a tough time for our whole family. Jared struggled at college, getting caught up in the party scene and letting his studies fall by the wayside. He was drinking heavily and ended up dropping out because he just couldn’t keep up with the engineering program. He started working in the restaurant industry, got married and had kids. He would go through periods where I thought he was doing okay, but the drinking got progressively worse.
Out of Control
Over the course of the next decade or so, Jared had many jobs and he and his wife got a divorce. By the time he was 35, he’d gotten three DUIs and had made several suicide attempts. I was always worrying about him. I tried everything I could think of to get him to stop drinking. I begged, pleaded, tried to use his children—it was awful. I would get calls in the middle of the night and drive 100 miles to try to find him and help him. One time, his ex-wife told me he was missing and I drove all the way to Columbus to find him passed out in his car in the parking lot of a bar with the motor running. Things got really bad one night when they found Jared’s car totaled, but they couldn’t find his body. It looked like he drove his car into a telephone pole.
I was on the phone all night long, terrified. They finally found him lying on the back patio of his apartment. It turned out Jared had been badly hurt in the wreck, but he realized he would be in more trouble with the law if he were at the scene when the police arrived. He crawled through the woods to get home. He told me he did it on purpose—that he got the car going top speed and aimed for a telephone pole. I always knew depression played a role in Jared’s drinking. I struggled with my sense of responsibility and trying to live my own life. In the back of my mind, I always knew that if Jared stopped drinking, he would need to get help for his depression, too. It was heartbreaking.
Getting it Together
In November 2016, Jared met Erin online. They started dating before Erin realized he had a drinking problem. This is her perspective.
When Jared and I first met, we would drink on dates or while we were hanging out at the house. After awhile, I realized we were drinking differently. I typically only drank around other people, but there were nights I was on the phone with Jared and I knew he was drinking—alone. That worried me a little bit, but life with Jared before rehab wasn’t bad for me. We were a new couple. I knew early on that I loved him and I saw the best in him. He’s a wonderful guy—kind, thoughtful and funny. We were only together several months before he went to Lakeview. When I found out about his alcoholism, I knew he was so much more than that. I made the decision I wasn’t turning my back on him because of his disease.
Jared mentioned past DUIs, but I didn’t really realize what a problem it was until he got the fourth one. When that happened, his lawyer strongly encouraged him to check into rehab. In fact, he said if Jared didn’t do this, he was pretty sure the judge was going to throw the book at him. I realized now this was a blessing in disguise. Deep down I think Jared was ready. He knew he had hit rock bottom and rehab was his only hope.
On March 14th 2017, Jared checked into Lakeview. His mom found the facility online and he knew it was the last resort. It was either get his life together or he was going to jail for a long time. He looked at another facility here in Ohio, but it didn’t seem as intense as Lakeview. I remember telling him if he’s going to do it, to do it 100% and not to look back. Looking back, I know he realizes Lakeview saved his life. The first thing he really learned was to stop beating himself up over the past. He was holding onto so much guilt, it was destroying him. Then they helped him address his depression and recognize how that played a part in his drinking. The staff was so helpful and really made him feel encouraged every step of the way.
Jared really connected with his counselor, Andrew. I think it was important for him to feel like one person really understood him and what he had gone through. We did the family counseling with Lakeview over the phone, so did his mom. That was really useful for helping us understand Jared’s disease and how to support his recovery. I was afraid for his return home, so it helped me a lot.
When Jared came home, it took us a week or so readjust but that wasn’t a bad thing. He had been through such an intense experience and he was changed—for the better. I was a little nervous because I had read about how much people in early recovery change and how relationships are not recommended, but it worked out for us. We now live together. We are planning on buying a house in the future. His kids are with us every other weekend. Life is good.
Jared went back to school in September. He is set to graduate next December with his Bachelor’s degree. So far he has received an A in every class and made the President’s list. After he graduates, he is set to go on for his Master’s; he wants to be a counselor. I know he always regretted not finishing college and I think having a purpose and staying busy has helped with his sobriety so much.
I thank God every day for giving Jared a second chance at life. I will be forever grateful for the staff at Lakeview as well. I thank Jared daily for going and getting sober; the experience made our bond so strong. He knows we are a team. He knows I’m not going anywhere—and I know he’s not either. We’ve been through more in a year and a half than people have in 10 years. In support of Jared, I gave up alcohol. He didn’t ask me to, but I wanted to. Today, because of Jared, I truly believe people can change.