Finding Hope

Dawn Arismendez

Feeling Hopeless
Hi, my name is Dawn. I want to share some lessons that addiction has taught me…and no I am not suffering from addiction! I am of the mindset that our experiences shape our worlds; the lessons I have learned, I hope will help others, maybe, even, help YOU.
I am a mom to two wonderful children, the mom that loved her children more than life itself. But has learned that God loves them more. I am the mom that wanted everything good for her children; I wanted them to be happy, healthy, kind, and to love their Lord as much as she did. This mom would have done anything for them to achieve that in their lives. So, what did this mom do? She took them to church to learn to love Jesus; she took them to practice and was on the sidelines for all their games; she yelled from the stands and was their biggest and best cheerleader!
We were you typical, normal family. We ate dinners together, played in the yard together, flew kites together and loved one another very much. Our daughter was a wonderful big sister and she always protected our son from the world. Most people could not understand our son because he had a speech impediment, so we would always ask her what he was saying, and she always knew! Life was very good for us. Fast forward to late high school. Our son was a follower and kept to himself. Little did we know, that the friends he had were into the drug scene. That is where our nightmare began, his senior year.
After many years of our sons addiction, my best friend would repeatedly tell me that, one day, I would have an amazing story to tell. I hated when she would tell me that. Because, I didn’t want this story to be my story! I wanted a story of a child that had a purpose in life, a normal life. But, this is my story. I want to invite you into a long 13 year journey with me. You see this mom is a mom of a boy who found hope after 13 years of opioid drug abuse. Yes, I am a mom of a son who suffers from a drug addiction. It took me 13 years to say those words out loud to someone because of the shame it caused us. Even though I had plans, dreams and hopes for my son, the drugs still found their way into our home. Drugs don’t discriminate; they can find any loving family no matter what we have taught our children.
My sons addiction has brought me great pain and some of my deepest sorrows. His addiction has brought me moments of tears, worry, of brokenness, and has left me vulnerable, exposed, shameful, hurt and hopeless. And of course feeling like a failure. In his addiction I was always afraid; afraid that he would never get well, so I would always try to keep him close and “help him” however he needed it. I was afraid that if he got too far away we would never get him back. If he needed money for gas, food or to pay his bills I would do it. (Yes, even behind my husband’s back.) I thought by doing this he wouldn’t have any stress and this would help him get or stay clean. But really, by doing this, it freed up his money to buy his drugs. I always knew my boy was in there somewhere and if I just tried hard enough I could get him to stop using. I could save my son!
I would pray for him, give him to the Lord, but never trusted God enough that if my son fell He would really catch him. So, I would be the one that always caught him and made sure he was safe. I was easily manipulated by my son. His dad and I were the ones who took him to work when he lost his car for not paying his payments. We did things we said we would never do, just because we loved him so much. We took him to two long rehabs; one in Florida and one in Arizona, thinking they would fix him. Yeah, he was sober for a while but always turned back to the drug. Nevertheless, we continued to enable him. When they wouldn’t take him in the ER anymore to help him come off the drugs, we had him come home so WE could do it. WE watched him be in pain, WE watched him cry, WE watched the demons chase him, WE watched our boy become so shameful and broken that he couldn’t handle it, so just as soon as he was sober he used again. WE were always there to dry his tears and calm his fears and love him through it. We always thought we were helping him, because that was our boy and we didn’t want him to hurt. WE did what every parent would do, we enabled him, and we enabled the drug. Did we love him too much?
One Sunday, I was standing in worship with tears streaming down my face crying out to God asking him where He was! I couldn’t feel Him, I couldn’t hear Him, I felt alone and so isolated. My heart was broken into so many pieces. I remember, after the sermon, the Pastor got up and said, “I know someone here is wondering where God is; well, he is standing right beside you-holding you up.” I was so consumed with my failures as a parent that I couldn’t hear God any longer. Even through my feelings of failure, my sons addiction had always brought me to my knees, where I would find Jesus waiting on me. God gently reminded me that I couldn’t save him, only HE could. And this is where all my hope has been found- God was there, protecting my son and getting him ready to, FINALLY, be sober…happy… and saved.

Finding Hope
My husband and I, near the end of our sons addiction, knew that WE needed help to learn how to deal with this addiction. We always thought he was the one with the problem not us- Well, we were wrong. So, we set off in search of help. We had done this before with no luck. We just couldn’t find other parents that were going through this, but we knew we couldn’t do this alone anymore.
God heard my cries and one day at Life Church, an organization was there handing out information about helping those with addiction and THEIR FAMILIES! My husband and I decided to reach out to them for help and we found their name to be so fitting- Hope is Alive (aka HIA). We reached out to HIA, since we were feeling hopeless and didn’t know what the next step needed to be and also got a brochure for our son to check out the next time we saw him.
The first class with Finding Hope was the hardest to walk into. We didn’t know anyone, we didn’t know what to expect or what was expected of us. Needless to say, I cried the whole time. I couldn’t pull myself together, our son was in the worst place he had ever been in and we just couldn’t help him anymore. After that first class, we decide to go back to the next class and then the next one. I wasn’t crying as much any more, but I was soaking up every bit of information they could offer us. Then, not too long after we started getting help, our son reached out to us and said HE wanted help. One of the tools we learned through Finding Hope was that he had to do the work this time. He had to make the calls to find help. We gave him the number to call from the brochure and he started his journey to getting well by moving into a sober living house run by HIA on May 19, 2016. He also started an out-patient program with Valley Hope at night.
The Lord started putting people in both of our paths. Our son started going to meetings and church too! He finally was doing his journey with Jesus. But we had been down this road so many times before. It would take our son at least 6 months to prove that this finally was him wanting to get sober. His laugh and his smile started to slowly come back. Our son was returning to us. He was working his program and we were working ours.
His dad and I learned to set boundaries, for the very first time. We learned that the word “No” would not make him return to the drugs that once held him captive. And if it did, it wasn’t our problem anymore. Sometime along this path, my husband and I realized that we had never really known our son as an adult. We had only known him as our 17 year old son with the addiction. For 13 years, as he dealt with the ups and downs of his addiction, he made poor decisions. Now in his 30s and in recovery we began to see him make better decisions, small ones at first, but better than he had ever made before.
We learned to trust God with his sobriety and that it wasn’t our problem if he stayed sober or not, it was his. What freedom we had found!
Found Hope
I finally realized that I couldn’t “love my son enough”, until I truly knew what love really was; unconditional love. All this time, all he needed was Jesus. My son fought Him, but Jesus finally won in the end, because he found Jesus deep within his heart.
My son was sober for the best year of his life. My husband and I were free from thinking we could heal him, and free from trying to save him. Jesus changed his whole life and we just had to let him go and let God take him. It was the hardest, and yet the easiest, thing we ever did. We felt so much freedom. We knew if he didn’t stay sober that we had the tools from our Finding Hope class that we could pull out if we needed them. It was still hard to trust our son, we had to trust God more than we ever had done so before. We had to trust God with everything we had, no matter what happened we knew that God had our Son and that he loved him more than his dad and I ever could.
We saw happiness return to our son during his sobriety- I never knew my son could be so happy. It was like we were getting to know a man we never knew but I knew was always in there. I knew he was a true man of God. We laughed, loved and cried with him during his year of sobriety. We watched him help anyone he could to get sober. Our son poured his heart out to anyone that would listen. Yep, that was my boy, the boy I raised to be kind, loving and humble. He knew he had a long way to go but was willing to do the hard work to get there. During his life, I would often pray for a wife for him- funny thing is, he never found her, until he finally asked God to find him someone to share his life with. And he did find her. After church on June 4, 2017 we went out to lunch with him and his “new” girlfriend and were finally able to meet his lovely girl. She was everything we had prayed for; loving, kind, and most importantly she loved Jesus and she truly loved our son. As we were leaving, I got a hug and kiss and told him again how much I loved him. We were all so excited because that night, he was getting his one year of sobriety chip. My son was getting ready to speak in front of his brothers and sisters in the HIA program about living a sober life. He was nervous because my boy was an introvert. He really had a love-hate relationship with speaking publicly; he loved telling his story but hated to do it in front of a crowd of people. I told him he would be fine and off he went with his new “Mom approved” girlfriend.
That night, around 9:00 pm, after talking to his friends about his triumph over addiction and celebrating one year of sobriety, the anxiety of the event, sent my shy boy’s heart into an arythmia and no one could get it back. Our sweet son suffered a heart attack and died just minutes after telling his story of freedom and redemption through the Hope is Alive program. We were broken; we had just gotten him back. But we now see God’s fingerprints all over his story. If our son would have passed away a year earlier we would never have been able to know him as the man he was that day. He was clean, he was sober and he was saved!
Today, our son is healed and with his Savior. And he will never have to deal with addiction again. So, yes, what I set out to do 32 years ago was to raise my son to love his Savior- and he did. My job was done. So, I leave you with this- THERE IS HOPE, you just have to be willing to search for it and trust your Heavenly Father