first steps

IMG_7679 (1)I just got off the phone with my son Jack. He touched in as he often does these days after school, to say hi, to tell me about the few questions he missed on a test, to let me know he’s going to AA tonight, where he’ll receive a 30-day sobriety chip.

It’s been a month since Jack had a beer or used any other substance, 80 days since he last smoked pot, his drug of choice.

At 23, he is meeting his own sober adult self for the first time. In a way, so am I.

These have not been ordinary days. But in all my years as his mother, I have never been so proud.

A month ago, on his 50th consecutive day of not getting high, Jack told me he was going to write a status update on Facebook to share what he’d been going through. My first response was concern for him, for his privacy and for the fragility of his still-new sobriety.

“Think carefully before you do that,” I said. He already had. He’d led a double life for years. And he didn’t want to do it anymore. So he put it out there, for all to see:

These last couple months some things have happened for me that really forced me to step back and look at myself objectively. After countless past attempts and failures I have finally committed to confronting my deep-seated patterns of addiction. After today I will have successfully stayed sober for a full 50 days. This is the longest time for me since I began smoking weed when I was 15 years old. I am writing this status because the reason I fell into this pattern was because I neglected to be open and honest with people about how I was suffering, and instead opted to portray myself as someone who had all their shit together and was always happy and enthusiastic. The truth is I was so ashamed and guilty about how I could not control myself, that it was too frightening to let people see what was really going on. I can’t think of a better way to facilitate a change than by being honest right here on FB for everyone I know to see. So there it is. Thank you to every one of my friends who are supporting me through this drastic life change.

I’m not yet well versed in the twelve steps of recovery. But my sense is that these early days are a particularly vulnerable time – a kind of tender, bare-naked limbo between the old, ingrained ways of numbing and escaping and the delicate beginnings of new coping skills and healthy habits.

For Jack, a huge part of this process has been about stripping away the layers he’s hidden behind for years.

Smart, funny, creative, athletic, passionate, my son has always been a natural leader and a loyal friend. He has prevailed, almost effortlessly, in many areas of his life — on the pitching mound as a kid, on the tennis court in high school, in challenging AP classes, in the sound engineering program he’s now completing in Atlanta, and most recently in a physically and emotionally demanding job that requires deep commitment on his part.

At the same time, he’s lived another life, one he’s put enormous energy into keeping hidden from many who know and love him. There was the charismatic, easy-going, self-confident young man who could inspire a team to victory, improvise a guitar riff, or step out on a stage and juggle five balls without breaking a sweat. There was the nonchalant student who could always pull out a decent grade at the last minute. There was the defiant, impulsive teenager who acted first and regretted later. And there was someone else, too: a boy who found his own chaotic emotions too uncomfortable to bear, who numbed his feelings of inadequacy with hits of pot, who lied to cover up his feelings of weakness, who found himself increasingly powerless to live the life he dreamed of, and who felt like more of a fraud and a failure with each passing year.

In recent weeks, Jack and his dad and I have been engaged in a painstaking process of getting to the truth of things. A necessary reckoning, a first tentative step toward healing.

Hard as it was to look back on some of the darker moments of these last few years, we each wrote letters – raw, no-holds barred letters — that gave full voice to our memories, our worries, our fears. We let our true selves be seen, in all our sadness.

For his part, Jack gave us a full accounting. Coming clean was a step in his recovery; absorbing all he had to tell us was part of ours. None of it was easy.

But I can say this: each of us told the truth. Each of us listened. Each of us was heard. And dismantling the old walls, on both sides, was a relief. There was nothing more to separate us. And so we could reach right back out and touch each other again, for real — with love, with forgiveness, and with a commitment to move forward from here. Together.

IMG_7677 (1)Truth, as Jack is discovering, is a powerful antidote to shame. It takes such courage to step out of hiding and be seen as we really are: imperfect, striving, hopeful, scared. And now he is widening the circle. With each new day of sobriety, with each 12-step meeting, with each conversation in which he shares his struggle, his network of support grows larger. Bit by bit, the loneliness and isolation that have been his secret prison are transformed — into both accountability and connection. But as my son reminds me every time we speak, it’s a slow, at times excruciatingly painful process.

The other day, I suggested that hard as this is, he has much to be grateful for. “The thing I’m most grateful for,” he said, “is that I don’t hate myself anymore.”

Hearing the son I love so much speak those words nearly broke my heart. But it also made me think about the profound value of standing tall in all our vulnerability, allowing our deeply flawed, most authentic selves to be fully seen.

I can’t help but wonder how many other teenagers and young adults are living lives that look good on the outside, while suffering on the inside. I know there are many who can ride life’s ups and downs with ease, who can enjoy alcohol and marijuana without ill effects, who experiment with drugs without becoming dependent or addicted. But I also believe the fear of being not-enough, of being unlovable, of being inadequate runs deep through our culture. And no, a loving home and caring attentive parents are no guarantee against either inner suffering or self-harm. We are all wired for struggle, and some of us are wired for addiction. That is a battle no one can fight alone.

Jack has a long road ahead – recovery, as we know already, isn’t a destination but a lifelong journey. But he’s put his feet down on the path. He’s walking it. I can’t clear away the obstacles in front of him nor take on the work that’s his alone to do. I can be here, though, listening each day, sharing both his struggles and his victories. I can let him know how proud I am of his progress and of his courage. And, with Jack’s permission, I can follow his example by telling the truth, entrusting each of you reading this with the first chapter of his new story.  Thank you for sharing this journey with us.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart. Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ordinary courage.”   ― Brene Brown
for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. Oh Katrina, I had NO idea. I’ll be sending you a private email. I have a son who is struggling in similar ways, and no one in our life knows about it. It’s humbling as a parent. I’m rooting for Jack. I’m rooting for you and his dad. Hugs from CO.


  2. Continued progress to Jack as he takes steps to reclaim his life and handle his illness. The journey will be difficult at times, but he will be reassured by the love of family and friends as he navigates each new day. Prayers go out for all of you as you deal with this together.

  3. Katrina, I am your classmate from Smith although I don’t believe we ever met. You have inspired me in many ways, including finding a second career in my fifties as a yoga teacher. But none of your books, or “meditations from the mat” have hit as close to home as this most recent entry. My 22 year old daughter has been sober for 2 years and 9 months. Prior to that, she had been sober for 2 years and 11 months. It has been and continues to be a journey with many bumps in the road, but as you said, there are no secrets, and I am of the mind that anything mentionable is manageable. AA has been an integral part of her life since her relapse. I wish Jack and you Godspeed. The serenity prayer is for all of us, not just the addicts!

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Hi Olwen, I feel as if I DO know you. And now our paths cross here with such similar stories. “Anything mentionable is manageable.” What a perfect motto for where we are right now. And I agree about the serenity prayer; I’ve been saying it since my kids hit adolescence. Thank you.

  4. This is so beautiful. Wishing you all the freedom that truth brings, especially for Jack. I have a 22 year old son, the happy kid everyone loves, who has struggled secretly with depression the last few years. I do think that beginning to tell the truth about that has been the first step towards healing for him.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Yes, it does seem that healing begins with revealing — I love what Olwen said in her comment, “What is mentionable is manageable.” Words to live by. Blessings to you and your son.

  5. Thank you for your continued honesty and openness. I wish Jack all the strength and courage he can muster through this difficult, awe-inspiring journey. And I wish you and your family all the strength and courage you’ll need to love and support him on his journey. He’s taken the most difficult first steps in recovery….facing this head-on. Congratulations and best wishes to you all.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you all courage and strength in these healing days. I am the mom of a 20-year old who is at college. He is also the son of an alcoholic whom I divorced. My son is doing wonderfully well but I worry so much about how he feels about himself and hope he doesn’t use weed or alcohol to numb any pain he may or may not be in. Your story is an inspiration….all the best to you.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Amy. Worry seems to be part of the territory, especially through these young adult years. Hope you and your son continue to keep the lines of communication open.

  7. anna grimes says:

    Katrina: My husband got sober when he was 21. It was scary being one of the youngest in the meetings, but many of those early sobriety buddies are with him still. He’s now 47 and lives a life of joy and – mostly – contentment. If Jack ever wants to talk to an older AA buddy, let us know. I too wish Jack and your whole family strength and courage as all of you take this walk. Congratulations and best wishes to you all, as Chareen said.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Anna. I think the ones who find AA at a young age are the lucky ones. It’s great to know your husband’s story. I am humbled and grateful for the words of support from so many, and especially grateful for the stories of others who have walked this path before us.

  8. I’m so happy for Jack that he’s found AA. It’s been the cornerstone of my life since I began living sober one day at a time 28 years ago. Before this day, in my 20’s, I played a game with myself of not drinking but continued to smoke pot. But an addiction is an addiction and so I finally became willing to let go of all substances, all my crutches. You spoke of these early days of sobriety for Jack as a vulnerable time but it’s a very magical time as well. I hope you’ve heard about “the pink cloud” of early sobriety found in the heartfelt shares and laughter in AA meetings. I’d never felt so loved or accepted by people who so understand me. The principles of the program contain so many universal truths and happiness, a brilliant road map for life. Those that find AA are the lucky ones. I’m very excited for Jack and sincerely hope he grows to love his new sober adult self. We addicts are so hard on ourselves and time and the fellowship found of the program and working the steps is the answer. All that is good in my life stems from my sobriety including my dearest husband of 25 years who I met in the program. As the say if I’d made a list of my wishes for a wonderful life, I would have short changed myself as sobriety has been more beautiful then I ever dreamed it could be. Much love to you and your family Katrina.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      I love what you say here Marilyn. Yes, this is indeed a magical time as well as a vulnerable one. Your journey inspires me a great deal and gives me hope for the future, especially for Jack’s future.

  9. I have followed your blog for years, reading as you have logged both your sons’ paths in their joys and sorrows. My two sons (and daughter) are a few years younger, not by much. I, too have a son struggling with online gaming addiction – or at least it looks like addiction to this mom. I cannot echo your words more – that as parents we check off all the boxes of parenting – if I stay at home, if I drive them to all the after-school activities, if he’s taking all AP classes, if my husband and I have a healthy marriage, if if if… then the math should add up to raising healthy young adults. If I only knew then – what I know now… My son is in therapy now, and at times my husband and I join him. We have no idea where this road will lead us – feeling hopeful. Thank you, Katrina for your Brene Brown level of courage and vulnerability and sharing your story. We are called to the margins of love where we find love is much deeper, much broader, and always expanding. Peace to you and your family.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Sandy, your mother’s instincts are right on. Video games were the first addiction in our household, and helped us begin to identify the entity we were dealing with. Glad you are following your gut and intervening now, hard as that is. The strength of your family is a tremendous gift to your son. Thank you for staying this long course and for being such a faithful reader here. Appreciated more than you know.

  10. Sarah Russell Warrington says:

    Thank you, Katrina. I have at least one young woman in our family who is on this journey and fear for others. Honesty is the way to go in these circumstances, I’m sure of it. God bless you and yours

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      We are honest about so many things — and yet honesty is still quite a challenge when it comes to our own struggles, especially when we think everyone else has it all figured out. Sending hope for your loved one. And thank you.

  11. So grateful to you and Jack for bravely sharing your stories, Katrina.

  12. Angela Muller says:

    Katrina, this is such a valuable post. Life, as wonderful as it is, is hard work…as parents, as children. Honesty…acceptance without blame…truly understanding the meaning of “courage”, essential. Thank you for trusting your audience with your journey.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thanks Angela. I DO trust those who read here — and these comments tell the story of why. So grateful for all these insights, the words of support, and caring.

  13. Thank you for sharing, very much needed this today, as we are struggling with a similar issue with our son. God bless you and your family.

  14. The biggest love and respect for you both.

  15. Colleen Hess says:

    How many times have I read what you write and been in awe of your faith. Now I am in awe of your courage. I am grateful for your words of encouragement as I walk a similar path with my son. May all those who suffer from addiction be blessed with the strength to recover and God bless AA for teaching them the way.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Colleen. I’m so drawn to Brene Brown’s notion of ‘ordinary courage.’ It’s what I aspire to most right now. And I agree: God bless AA. It’s giving my son the community he needs.

  16. Beautiful. Brave. Both of you. You inspire me to write more honestly. How blessed you are to have a son who trusts you with his raw inside. I worry every day for college age son and only wish I knew his heart better.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you, Cara. Yes, blessed. And I also know all too well those days of worry and of not knowing. Also an essential part of our path as parents, I think.

  17. Katrina,
    Your openness and honesty will help so many people. We can all relate in one way or another. Thank you for sharing and all the best to you and Jack.

  18. Katrina – oh how I know the journey that you are on and I wish Jack all the success and courage in his journey. Every day is one day closer to the light. My boyfriend of 4 years in an alcoholic. He has been sober for three years. Multiple dui’s and jail time. It isn’t easy and even harder for those of us that aren’t addicts to understand. I firmly believe that alcoholism is a disease. I know those feelings of doubt, what will each phone call reveal, what will it be like when you get home and the guilt for even thinking what if they relapse even after all this time. Reach out to others for support. There are so many on this same path – together we can support one another and again, all the best to Jack. There is no shame, nothing but honor in admitting the disease and getting treatment for it. The solution is different for many. Main thing is to just keep trying, one day at a time. It does get better for everyone.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      With each note I read from others on this path I think: this is a really good place to be, sharing the journey with others who know the territory. Thank you for these words of support.

  19. donna attaway says:

    Always open, honest & thoughtful words. Thank you for sharing. Wishing your son, Jack, and you and your family all the best!!

  20. Claire Ancona-Berk says:

    Wow. Wow. I am in speechless awe of your son’s courage and yours, to proclaim the truth of his journey. I mean . . . Wow. Just . . . Wow.
    I am not a person often at a loss for words, and I have never posted a comment about a stranger in my life.
    One of the few things I do know is that doing a “good job” at anything does not mean always getting everything right the first time. It can’t. We are all human and getting everything right the first time is not possible. Doing a good job means having the honesty to see when something isn’t working and the determination to keep trying to make it better. By that measure, you and your husband are exceptional parents who have raised an exceptional young man. Congratulations.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Claire, your words hit home for me: doing a good job means having the honesty to see when something isn’t working. And maybe it also means never losing hope. So glad your voice is here.

  21. Congratulations to you all. None of it is easy work, but as you’ve already realized so beautifully, it opens up new joy and awareness.

    Wishing you all strength, flexibility, and light in the minutes and years ahead.

  22. Thank you Katrina for sharing this, it will bring comfort and hope to many.
    Love and strength to Jack on his journey x

  23. Thank you so much for sharing. Sending prayers of compassion and insight as you all travel this path.

  24. Thank you for sharing this. I am having similar experiences with both of my sons, and I continue to be concerned every day. Life is difficult as parents and as children. Its a good reminder that the truth can help us all be free. Grateful to you both for sharing this, which will help so many. I will share with my sons.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Peg, blessings to both you and your boys. Glad these words resonated with you right now, perhaps they can even ease your way forward in your own household. Hope so.

  25. Christine says:

    This is probably the bravest thing ever to do, to face the truth, speak out and take the first step. I am all admiration for Jack’s courage and for your loyalty as parents. You all deserve the best future.

  26. Thank you for sharing this, Katrina. And thank you to Jack for his willingness to share this as well. I am so impressed by his courage (and yours) and his eloquence in expressing his truth. As the mother of two children who are close to becoming teenagers, I am also grateful for your generosity in sharing this. I believe you are right about the depth to which the fear of inadequacy runs in our culture and your willingness to share your family’s story helps me to bring more awareness to the very real possibility that my children could face very similar challenges.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Wouldn’t it be so great if every one of our children could grow up feeling safe enough to share their most difficult feelings and fears? Not sure how to bring that about, except through more love, more honesty, more conversations about our universal struggles. . .

  27. Thank you for sharing this. Heart-breaking (in a good way) and wise. Wishing you and Jack peace and strength.

  28. BRAVO to you (and your son) for your courage to share what so many others hide. Sending peace and continued strength. 🌟

  29. Bravo to you and to Jack, too. Sending you all my love. xoxo

  30. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  31. Thank you so much for sharing this. You are a brave brave woman, and give so much courage to those of us who follow in your mothering footsteps.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Not so brave. Just a mom who loves her son — and who is really proud of him. It seems a moment to both savor and to share.

  32. Julie Lambert says:

    Dear Katrina, I have always loved reading your words, and looked to you as the mother who’s a couple steps ahead of me. I truly appreciate your sharing and Jack’s sharing with all of us. Thank you for the honesty of your words, and for trusting that this is a safe place to share. I’ll be thinking of Jack and your family. Thank you.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      That sense of safety as a writer means the world to me — and yes, it is right here, both for me and for all who take time to comment, to share their story, to offer words of solace. It means so much, and perhaps now more than ever. Thank you Julie.

  33. I’m so grateful to you and your son for your courage to share your story. This will be helpful to so many I’m sure! Holding you all in my heart.

  34. I admire your son, Jack and your family so much. Admitting the issue is the first step on the journey. Admitting it publicly, that takes courage. My son told us he was gay at age 16. We were surprised but very supportive. We did not have anyone to share this with. No one to talk to as parents. We were lucky to find PFLAG,
    a national support group for families. It saved my husband and me by providing us others to help us to work with our son.
    Being a parent is challenging but we would do anything for our children. My thoughts are with you. I continue to walk beside you on this life journey and appreciate your honesty.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      “We would do anything for our children.” Yes, yes, yes. Gay, trans, straight, addicted, depressed, lost, confused — they are our kids and in loving them we grow into ourselves. Thank you for this.

  35. Lisa Mayers says:

    I often feel that you write to me. I know it sounds selfish but it’s as if I’m sitting in a room with you and we’re having a conversation. This line is resonating so strongly with me– “Truth, as Jack is discovering, is a powerful antidote to shame.” In such a different way this quote is earth shattering to me. Thank you for everything you do to keep real conversations alive.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Not selfish at all — I have to think of my writing that way, as an ongoing conversation with people I care about and trust. How could it be otherwise?

  36. “Hearing the son I love so much speak those words nearly broke my heart. But it also made me think about the profound value of standing tall in all our vulnerability, allowing our deeply flawed, most authentic selves to be fully seen.” Yes, yes, yes, Katrina. Thank you and Jack for sharing this difficult journey. I’m sending love.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Lots to learn. But sharing these lessons helps bring them home. So grateful for readers like you. Thank you Kate.

  37. Wow….thank you for sharing the struggles you all have endured, and a special pat on the back to Jack. Iimmediately before reading your post I finished reading a bare-all post from a family member, also on F/B, who is “celebrating” 18 years of sobriety today. The road is certainly long but with the support from family, friends and those (like me!) who just care, it is certainly attainable. Much luck and good thoughts to you all on this journey.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      “Just caring” is huge! As we all know. Kudos to your sober loved one who is surely shining a light for others to follow. Thank you Grace.

  38. Dear Katrina, As someone who lives with a ‘fellowship’ believer – he ran a rehab for 11 years before retirement and is still involved and committed in counselling and mentoring – I am so encouraged that Jack is walking the 12 step pathway. It will be hard for you all at first – as shown by your post – but the journey will be such a rich time. Love and blessings to you all xx

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Liz. We are at the beginning, but that feels like a good place to be. So much better than the alternative!

  39. I only wish both you and Jack could know the depths at which you are touching others lives with your ability to share. With deep appreciation I say “thank you”. You will all be in my prayers and thoughts for continued progress and hopes that you will continue to share so we can continue to learn and have a sense of not being alone in our common struggles!

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Cindy. I was not certain about the wisdom of writing this post. Now I have no doubts at all, even if it reminded one person that they aren’t alone, it’s worth it.

  40. Can’t thank you enough for this. Gives me the kind of courage I need most.

  41. You are a blessing to others for sharing your family’s journey.

  42. Congratulations and so much love to Jack for stepping out of the shadows of self-doubt and denial into the light of self-respect and affirmation. I applaud and endorse his openness, and yours as well. Thanks to you both for sharing this story, your story – brave words straight from the heart. Thank you also for underscoring the true meaning of courage. Wishing you every good thing as you travel this path together. xoxo

  43. Blessings to all of you. Truth is indeed powerful; it defends and upholds. Thank you for sharing, as it can help many to embrace their own challenges with such courage and grace. This is what is needed!

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Polly. And maybe our kids learn through our example that we all have those challenges and courage is actually in our willingness to ask for help. . .

  44. Such freedom in the sharing. Such gratitude to him, and to you, for helping everyone by living honestly. Many, many hugs and blessings to you all. xoxo

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Denise, there is definitely freedom in simply being true to who we are and how we struggle. So simple. So hard!

  45. Thank you for your truth and thank Jack for his. Strength.

  46. Kathy Wiant says:

    Katrina – How incredibly perfect that you who have shown us the gift of an ordinary day have now shown us the gift of ordinary courage (as Brene Brown has coined it)…both of those gifts are nothing short of extraordinary. Keep teaching us how to speak our hearts, authenticity is what we need more of in this world. Peace and loving kindness to your son and to your family and to you as you travel these crazy roads of being human.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      I, too, loved that juxtaposition. Ordinary courage — something we can all aspire to, right? Thanks for your kind words.

  47. Thank you for your courage. This is the most important article you have ever written as you will have no way of knowing who you may be helping by doing your part to remove the shame and stigma of this disease. Alcoholism/addiction is a family disease and I encourage you to seek your own recovery – it is the most loving and kind thing you can do for yourself as well as your son. Al-Anon is a wonderful program and has saved my life through years of loved one’s struggles. God’s blessings on your family.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Deb. I do believe shame and stigma serve no one, ever. Have heard so many good things about Al-Anon, and yes, I will go.

  48. Thank you for having the heart and courage to share about your son Jack. My son has 200+ days, the most he has had in 15 years. It is a lifelong battle, but they fight it each and every day. I lost another child to the disease of addiction 5 years ago. Living my life with hope and a passion to honor her beautiful life every day. I found you and your words, very soothing to my soul 5 years ago, when my daughter died. The timing was not a coincidence, it was perfect.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Sharon Your words are a gift to me, to every mother who walks this walk. And reading your comment inspires me to hope and passion as well. Thank you.

  49. Wow. What a courageous young man your Jack is, and you are also so brave for sharing it with us. Thinking of you and sending wishes for strength and serenity his way.

  50. Incredibly moving and powerful. Thank you Jack. Thank you.

  51. Although my daughter didn’t make it, reading your story of your son’s journey to sobriety filled me with joy and hope. Why do our precious children hide behind masks? I kept asking myself this question as my beautiful young daughter began to slide into darkness. I loved every bit of who she was. She had no need to hide from me. I know now that she hid because she couldn’t bear to disappoint me, because she thought she could conquer her demons on her own and then come clean. I don’t know if she’d have turned her life around had she arrived home safely the night she planned to return home to live. She never made it home. Her death remains an unresolved mystery in the files of the Minneapolis Homicide department.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Beryl I am moved beyond words that my story fills you with joy and hope. Reading of your loss, my own mother’s heart breaks for you. And yet here you are, offering a hand to another mom. There is no adequate way to say thank you for that. But I bow to you in gratitude.

  52. Reading through these comments, it is clear how sharing can reach out and touch others in ways that aren’t easy to predict. Thank you for doing it. Jack is brave and strong and I will be thinking of him and of you and your husband as you each find your way one day at a time.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Betsy. And yes, exactly; these ripples are a bit more than we expected and yet it is so moving to read all these stories, to realize we’re more connected than we knew, that telling a story opens a place for another story. I love that.

  53. I admire your courage, too, Katrina, in opening your own heart to share this story. I am full of respect for Jack for turning himself around and sharing his pain and his healing. I believe he will have so much more depth, so much compassion and understanding to give the world for coming through his own trials this way. I am happy for him and all of his family!

  54. Donna Clary says:

    It does take courage to be so humble and open about your family. Everyone can usually discuss triumphs, the “demons” or unpleasant…not so much. As a mother of adults I can feel your pain and concerns…also your pride. None of us are immune I am afraid. I admire your tenacity to reach beyond your comfort zone and make yourself more vulnerable as you travel a new path of healing. With love. Donna

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Maybe sharing a story is easier than hiding it. . .We are just at the beginning. But I figure we all have demons, and exposing them steals some of their power. Thank you Donna.

  55. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt and touching post. As a Mom of teens, I am hearing tales of drug and alcohol use and abuse amongst their peers with somewhat frequency now. Very scary and concerning as they do keep everything fairly anonymous. I admire your son for accepting and beginning this healing journey at such a young age, he sounds very strong and full of heart.
    “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” Julian of Norwich

  56. Thank you to you and your son for the willingness to be open about this struggle rather than to try to hide it from the world. It is going to help many people and you are in my prayers.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      My willingness comes from Jack’s willingness. And if that helps one person, it’s more than worth it. Thank you.

  57. Our middle son who is 25, has been sober for 16 months. He did not lead a secret life as an addict nor did he have academic success. His charm and charisma seemed to buoy him along even though he was struggling. We watched and waited (and prayed!) for him to hit bottom. Our love for him had to be unwavering and it was hard! When he called us and asked if he could come live with us so that he could be in a sober environment we said that he could. Soon after he went to rehab voluntarily. When a family member goes to rehab his extended family is invited for weekend events. I saw so many relationships torn apart as a result of this disease. The older one is who has lived with untreated addictions, there’s often a lot of painful history in their relationships. Not every family is strong enough to weather another storm with their loved one. Finding sobriety early in life is really huge. We have seven children. I am proud of all my children for all different reasons, AND, I can say that the sobriety of my son is my greatest joy period. He was lost and now he is found. His father and I continue to love him however that may look. Sometimes it’s just plain patience. I am excited for your journey with Jack whose vulnerability and humility is a giant step toward freedom from what has held him down. Thank you for connecting with your readers, again.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Yes, I am just feeling that kind of pride you write of so beautifully. And I’m excited by this new path at our feet, too. Thank you.

  58. Thank you and Jack for sharing your story and your courage. Know that positive energy is being sent Jack’s way and yours as he continues on his journey.

  59. Paula Allen says:

    Katrina ….prayers for you and your beautiful son. You have touched my heart, along with the courage of your Jack.!
    Love and Blessings.!

  60. Katrina…I have been following you for a couple of years now. Because your writing is so intimate and authentic I feel like you are a friend of substance. I admire Jacks courage as well as yours and sending your family love and light.

  61. I hear your pride and fears and I almost understand what you are going through. I have a 36 year old in an unhappy relationship who is drinking heavily, is very angry and i know depression is the root cause. The most difficult thing I believe, for parents, is to stand by and not be able to say or do anything until our sons or daughters are ready to take that first step in healing. Bless you for reminding me that this is not a result of poor parenting. It’s the first place, I as a parent, always go.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      So sorry for your grown child’s struggles. May you both find comfort. And may you be gentle with yourself. Thank you for your words.

  62. Polly Kroell says:

    I can never find words to send you Katrina so am sending both you & Jack lots & lots of hugs. I have always been in such awe of your family & continue to be.
    Love to you all,

  63. Marilyn LePan says:

    Your Jack must be a very special person to be able to be so honest
    with what he has been dealing with, I wish others could follow his lead
    and take those masks off and know there is help available for them.
    AA saved my brothers life and by Jack going public with his journey
    he will be helping so many others along the way.
    I admire you Katrina for being such a supportive Mother, and sharing
    this chapter of your life.
    Blessing to Jack and the rest of your family

  64. Natasha O'Donoghue says:

    Dear Katrina
    Thanks so much for being so honest and open. You and Jack are an inspiration to me as I face my own daily challenge of ‘truth telling’.
    Kind regards

  65. What heartbreak you’ve experienced and what hope to have Jack looking towards life rather than the morass of self-loathing that often accompanies addiction of any sort. It is an arduous journey: hopefully the knowledge that others care in the way we do – as humans do for other humans – may give him a boost when things look particularly bleak. He has powerful allies in his family and those of his friends that stand with him, but his greatest ally is within. God bless you all.

  66. Dear Katrina
    How I admire you and your son for your courage and honesty. I wish you all the strength you need in the years ahead. I do hope you derive support and love from all the comments on this post to help you both. I think it is very helpful for many readers to see that even someone who has seemed such an exemplary parent can suffer in this way despite all the love and support over the years and I thank you for being prepared to share your story with such bravery.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Absolutely yes, we are both moved by the comments here. And so very grateful. Jack read them all last night. Quiet, helpful validation to be sure. Thank you.

  67. Thank you so very much for your honesty and courage to share with us your truly personal story. You have no idea Katrina how you have helped me over the years I have been following your writing. Jack and Katrina you have no idea how you are now helping me to find and express the honesty, compassion and support I need to support the son I love so very much.
    You are not alone and thank you for making me feel like I am not a lone.
    Let love, peace and inner strength conquer all.
    Thank you so very much
    I am thinking of you and sending love and good energy your way.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      That does seem to be the lesson right here, today: we aren’t alone. What a relief. Wishing you and your son all the support you need. Thank you Kathleen!

  68. God Bless You and Your Son for sharing this struggle so publicly. As someone who has had her own addiction issues this honesty means a lot. It’s hard to believe how much this type of confession can mean to other people that are having these same problems….unless you are the one with the problem. The sense of being all alone, the only one that is going through this, is overwhelming at times. Learning that other people, people that on the surface have so much going on for them, are fighting the same battle is knowledge that is empowering and gives much hope. I am sorry you, your son, your whole family, have to experience this but I know that your openness is going to help a lot of people. Thank you and once again God Bless You All.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      We are learning this, thanks to comments like yours: honesty clears the path and strengthens connections. Thank you Cindy.

  69. My 23 yo son just completed his second treatment. When he was 17 we had to send him 2100 miles from home to treatment to save his life. He graduated high school with honors and stayed clean for about 15 months. He relapsed but because he was living in another state we didn’t realize it until the evidence became overwhelming.
    He was arrested 3 days before Christmas 2014 for drug possession and distribution. We agreed to post bail for him only if he would go to treatment for nine months. He did agreed to go to treatment but because it was the holidays we could not get him admitted until December 26. That meant our beautiful boy spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in jail. We could’ve gotten him out and brought him home but we did not want to reward the behavior that ended him up there in the first place. It was one of the many hard things we’ve had to do during this disease of addiction. However the pain and the loneliness and the fear of jail may have been just what he needed. He has been clean now for 16 months has a good job and is a young man we are very proud of. My words of encouragement and wisdom to your other parents going through this battle are educate yourself as much as you can about the disease. We learned so much about this from the treatment centers he was in as they always have a parents weekend. We also joined Al-Anon. There are many sad and tragic things about this disease but perhaps one of the most difficult is the way society will shun you and judge you as parents.
    None of us know what tomorrow will bring. This is a disease that takes too many young people early in their lives. I have seen and heard enough to know that my son’s life may be short. But for now I honor and celebrate his sobriety his hard work and his courage. And every day I let him know how much he is loved.

  70. Katrina Kenison says:

    Two years — those words offer hope and inspiration. Thank you so much for your story. I love that you and your son share a passion for yoga and bring your practice to others.

  71. Thank you for opening your heart and for inspiring us all to do the same. So many of us know young people who are trying to balance it all in their eyes to be “right” or “ok”. Good thoughts and strength to your son and your family as you keep taking each day at a time.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Maybe the hard lesson we can take away is that we are all ok — and we all struggle. Thanks for your good thoughts.

  72. Will pray for you and your family. Your son has already taken the first step . Hold his hand and walk with him. God bless you all .Take care and believe that you can overcome it

  73. I admire your courage and strength and value all the comments written by so many caring people. I will think of you, your husband and of course Jack, with gratitude for sharing this journey and know that there are so many others who you have helped by doing this. Thank you!

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thanks Carole. I, too, am so moved by all these comments, all these stories, all the energy flowing. It means a great deal.

  74. Katrina, we have followed parts of Jack’s world through your writing. It is a privilege to be on this journey with you as a parent and him as one who is coming to terms with himself in a tough but powerful way. I admire the honesty and truth you have shared and his willingness to be very public and open. This post is a reminder that we bear responsibility not only for ourselves but to be able to share that part of us with others so we are not alone. I admire him more than I can say and I admire you and your husband for walking with him.

    • Thanks for your insight Jeanie. “It is a privilege to be on this journey with you as a parent.” The power of our personal stories make such an impact on those who read them, hear them, or share them. So much of the anguish the world endures today comes from not hearing and listening to those stories.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Jeanie. It has been my great privilege to write about all these many seasons of parenting — and living — from my sons’ earliest childhoods. It was never perfect, it never will be, and yet there is such beauty in the journey, with all its ups and downs.

  75. Katrina -Thank you for being so transparent of your and your son’s life’s challenges. As I read the many comments, I cannot help but feel you have a wonderful net of supportive people. Perhaps, just perhaps there would be less pain in this world as we know it today, if we all felt this net of being tied to one another? Feeling that we have to be ‘the best’ at everything is a huge challenge. Even the best at hiding our pain.

    One thing I hope your son discovers, and a whole lot of people young and old, is that we are enough…just as we are. We don’t need a drink, or a joint, or cocaine or any ‘socially acceptable’ enhancer to be liked, loved or enjoyable to be with. Each of us has something to offer this world, without pretending to be someone else. Leave that to Hollywood and the movies!

    I cannot tell you how much I wish the best for your son. His courage to face his demons takes a tremendous amount of strength. As a person of faith, I know God answers our prayers. Maybe not in the time frame we want, or as clearly as the written word, but the answer does come. God be with Jack and you with your husband….and to all your readers that are facing this same trial in their lives.

    As I have told my daughters many times, we feel we cannot disclose what we are thinking or feeling, because no one would understand or would think we are strange or different. But, in reality, if we were to reach out, we would find that we are Not that unique…Not the only one…we are Not alone in this battle called Life.

    The ties of ‘The Net’ are stronger today, because of your story.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Sandi, I also feel the strength of this “net” — with every story, with every comment, with every word of support and encouragement. And such an important message for our young adults: you are enough, you are lovable, and your gifts are needed. Thank you!

  76. What a brave young man you have. I have learned a lot about shame in the past few years and how incredibly suffocating it can be. I appreciate all for the truth and openness, and am grateful for the support system you all have in one another.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Suffocating seems to be the perfect word. Here’s to creating more spaces in which we can be vulnerable, ask for help and receive it. Thank you Michelle; I’m grateful, too.

  77. Bonnie Hinschberger says:

    Your honesty and openness are very inspiring Katrina. Our children are subjected to a complex world, much different from our own generation. Your strength and support will be invaluable assets to your son as he continues his journey down this new path in life. Thank you for always inspiring me and for being an extraordinary parent!

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Bonnie. The quiet strength of this online community around this issue and this post has moved me deeply over the last few days. But I am NOT an extraordinary parent. My sense is that we are all ordinary parents showing up for our kids in ordinary ways — with love and hope and faith in their best selves. And that we all need support and compassion during the inevitable dark times.

  78. There is one more thing I would like to add (I’ve already made mention of my 25 year old son who has now been sober for 16 months) in regards to your concern that Jack shared his struggle publicly on FB. Our son was 14 when a buddy of his offered him his first drink. But here’s the amazing thing. Nine years later, this same young man posted on FB that he had just completed one year of sobriety. My son got in touch with him. Immediately this man responded, drove our son to meetings, brought him to his awesome doctor who specializes in addictions, talked with us, and was completely devoted to our son’s success. Redemption and a rescuing was the result of an honest post on FB.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Michelle, This story gave me goosebumps. A full-circle example of grace and love in action. It IS amazing, and is such a reminder of the power of our stories, of our deep connections with each other when we allow ourselves to be seen and supported. Thank you for sharing this one!

      • I’m glad then, that I shared this story, Katrina and Beryl. I hesitated because I didn’t want my sharing to become more about my son and because I’m cautious (sometimes too much so). Remembering his redemptive story brings consolation to the deepest part of my soul and keeping it close feels really, really good. Perhaps our mothering paths are inside out so to speak. I was having to watch my son’s “outside,” self-sabotaging lifestyle and you will participate now in Jack’s interior world as he reveals it to himself by not self-medicating and to you if/when he chooses. I’m hoping through this process you will experience an even deeper love and joy that this kind of reckoning brings. There is no pressure but maybe one day you will be willing to articulate this journey for your readers to glean from.

        • Katrina Kenison says:

          Redemptive — yes, and so very helpful for me and surely for everyone else to read. Thank you for sharing your story. As time goes on, I do hope to share more of ours; we shall see.

  79. This is such a moving story, Michelle. A miracle sort of story where the one who taught your son to drink became the one to lead him back to sobriety!

  80. “But I can say this: each of us told the truth. Each of us listened. Each of us was heard.”

    ““The thing I’m most grateful for,” he said, “is that I don’t hate myself anymore.”

    “But he’s put his feet down on the path.”

    I so want to resist this piece in so many ways. Particularly as a parent.

    The complexity of loving a child into adulthood is unfathomable from my seat. I am just beginning. I am afraid. I honestly thought there was a graduation at 18, for me.

    But my parenting in the two+ years since then has been so consuming, inside. Different than adolescence but no less engaging.

    In many ways it feels like stepping off a cliff–Into a no-man’s land or no-mom’s land. On the inside, he is still my child, on the outside he is clearly a grown person apart from me. It makes no sense.

    Where are the parenting books? Where are the guides for how to navigate? Healthfully.

    If there was a GPS for parenting, this would be the part where it looks like you’re driving through a field, when there should be a road beneath you.

    I suppose you’ve begun paving. I want to say thank you. But I am too afraid.

    • That is an amazing, insightful piece of writing that sums up this challenging time! Thanks for this.

    • There are a lot of great parenting books out there Kelly but so too are there great memoirs written by mothers in situations like yours. The most recent that I know of is Barbara Cofer Stofen’s A Very Fine House:A mothers story of Love, Faith, and Crystal Meth. There is also a wonderful association called NAMI The National Association on Mental Illness with support groups, literature, advocacy etc, informational meetings. There is usually a hidden component of mental illness (depression is one) in a child’s drug abuse. Don’t lose hope.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Kelly, if I’m paving this road, I’m doing it with a teaspoon! But I know this map-less territory well, of fear and hope and worry and love, all mixed up together. Got to believe we’ll come through, and that our kids will, too. Thank you for the beauty and honesty of your writing.

  81. Thank you for sharing your struggles- there are so many of us who are dealing with this issue. I think you have no idea what it is all about until you have personally lived it. I know the experience has humbled me, and I have a different viewpoint about addiction. I have a son who has been committed to sobriety for seven months. His growth and insight has been amazing and I am so proud of his journey. I am thankful that he was able to tell me about his problem, and that I could get him the help that he needed. There are days that I am so positive and optimistic for him, and then there are days of fear and intense worry-I am told this is part of the recovery process too. I start every day praying that he will continue to be strong and work on his recovery. I have worked to keep myself healthy and to focus on the present. I have rediscovered the comfort of faith and believing in a higher power.
    Thank you again for sharing-we are all in this together

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      All in this together indeed. As parents, we walk alongside our children, holding on to hope and at the same time letting go of the idea that we can take on their work. It’s a daily challenge. The voices of so many who have walked this path before give comfort and guidance, for which I’m deeply grateful.

  82. For anyone reading this and needing to connect with other mother’s struggling with their child’s addiction, there is a closed Facebook page, “The Addict’s Mom”, there is also a website, “The Addict’s Mom” ( It is full of helpful information and resources.
    Katrina – I appreciate your honesty and thank you for sharing. I have loved your books and your writings. As a mother of a recovering addict son, I live with a chronic feeling of worry and anxiety.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Thank you Barbara. So grateful to witness the circle of support right here, and to you for providing other resources.

  83. I’ve just signed up for the addict’s mom. Thanks so much for sharing.

  84. Katrina,
    Your post, the comments, your responses are all beacons of light and truth. What a gift all of these words of love are. It is so comforting and necessary to know as a parent that there is no shame in having a child or family member who is struggling in any way. It is life. There are too many people and social media sites that pretend everything is perfect. We as parents do our best and we blindly believe our love will save our children from the pain of life, but it cannot. It can hold them up and comfort them and show up for them. My son in his first year of university is struggling with depression and as hard as it was to hear, it forces life to be looked at head on and I am grateful for that. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story. I have followed you from the very beginning and you are a writer I most admire. Xox Debbie

  85. Your three memoirs have changed the way I live– as well as how I parent. I have read them countless times, underlined passages, and cornered pages. They were my constant companions as I have sought to love, guide and support four children into adulthood and beyond. I am still amidst that journey. When my children have felt lost to themselves, to me, or been suffering, I have found your sons’ journeys written here on your blog or on those books’ pages to be lifelines. It feels like I have witnessed your boys’ childhoods and teen years in some small way. I rally for them and feel for their tender, solid hearts. Does that sound crazy? It has felt like a privilege to do so. You have shared your lives with us with such honesty and vulnerability. Your boys and husband are a part of that. I am so grateful for their willingness–in addition to yours. Love to each of you at this time. We rally with you. We reach out across the miles to support you. So much love and appreciation. May you feel it.

    • As an author, I can say that your testimonial to Katrina’s work, Margi, is wonderful. We thrive on such comments. Readers like you are the reason writers like Katrina share in such an honest and meaningful way that their words reach out and touch lives. I can’t speak for K, but I imagine this is a fan letter she might want to frame. I know I would.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Margi, Crazy?? No! I’m moved by your letter more than I can say. To hear this from just one fellow mom — you, here — validates so much of what I’ve tried to do over the last 15 years or so, feeling my way forward with every step. Always wondering, will anyone else find this interesting or helpful? Do others feel the same way, do others confront the same questions? When I started the blog in 2009, it was at the request of my publisher. Of course, I could have stopped long ago. But something wonderful transpired here: this community of readers and far-flung friends. So glad to share this amazing journey with you and with everyone else — those who read, those who comment, those who happen to to land here by accident and find something that resonates. Thank you.

  86. Thank you for sharing this. It is not easy to share these stories of addiction, but it is comforting to me to know I am not alone. I also have a son who is an addict and had to drop him off at a rehab facility on his 18th birthday. He is home now and also in these first steps of recovery. I am still trying to define what my new normal is as I know this is not a temporary journey, but one that will last for a lifetime. This has been the hardest year of my life, but the year in which I have learned the most about life.

  87. I have read this several times since last week and am just so grateful for your beautiful words and the courage it took to write them. Please thank Jack as well for his honesty, authenticity, and tremendous inspiration.

  88. So many moving stories . . . Sisters in a shared motherhood . . . holding one another’s hands, united in anguish, and in hope. Some of us have lost our own children but feel impelled to reach out to those still enmeshed in the agony of their child’s addiction. God bless and watch over you Missy and your son. Bless you Pamela for rereading Katrina’s post and embracing the stories is has released. The coming home from treatment is such a bruising time of hope and fear. Will he/she stay sober? Please God watch over all those children and mothers facing this reentry perhaps the first or 15th time.

  89. I struggle almost daily with my addict daughter who is 31, raising her children while many say that I am giving her freedom to live and do as she pleases. I know she does as she pleases even when the children are with her. I try to protect them from what they haven’t already seen and been through. I am looking for hope and I’m so glad I found the TAM group in which a member mentioned your book.Thank you for having the courage to publish your story!!

  90. Katrina,
    I am hoping with my whole hear that Jack continues to heal and choose sobriety. As usual, your beautiful words help to define my days. I have a nephew, who I love with my whole heart, who is struggling with deciding to be healthy in the face of chronic illness and an addictive personality. I recently found out that he is drinking. Not a good sign. Your honest sharing makes me feel less alone in my struggle to hang on to my hope in the face of my loved one who is not making good choices. Thank you for your honesty.

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