It’s the question this God-fearing, church-going Mom doesn’t want to face, but I can’t deny the truth any longer. In August, my teenage son, Keith, found the seedy underbelly of the internet. At 40, I’m still too young to see the graphic images he saw. But there’s a deeper reason why I’m treating his obsession like an addiction.
My first line of defense was an awkward conversation about what sex is and is not. He promised to never look at those videos again. I believed him. After all, some curiosity is normal, right?
In September, I again found trashy images in his browser history. I lectured. He promised. This pattern repeated more times than it should have. I changed passwords. We then developed a written contract.
When he violated our written contract, I took his device away and hid it in my bedroom. Later that night, when Keith thought I was asleep, I heard bare feet running through the house. Keith was in the office digging through my desk drawers. He padded back through the house and stood over my bed. I pretended to be asleep. He opened my nightstand drawer, but didn’t find his device. Next, he went through my purse. From there, he went to the garage to search my car.
I crept down the dark hall. In silence, I locked the garage door, trapping my son inside. Then I waited for him to realize he was caught. He screamed and yelled at me in anger. He didn’t show any remorse at being caught.
For the month of October, Keith had no technology. Over Thanksgiving break, I let Keith try to re-establish trust with me by giving him limited use of his device without any wifi privileges. I was still hoping this was a passing phase.
This week, Keith tried to take his phone into the youth service. When I noticed this breach, I told him to put his phone in my purse. He did and we both went on to our separate services. Later during the service, I noticed his phone was not in my purse. My stomach was sick, and I was overcome with dread. I walked down to the youth auditorium. Keith was using the internet on his phone. I was devastated. I returned to my service, too heartbroken to listen.
Keith’s drive for this device reaches beyond natural curiosity. I know addiction. I’ve lived with addiction. Keith’s lying is all too familiar. So is the sadness of being less important than the drug of choice. I don’t want this for me or my kid. Worse than that, he is so driven to get what he wants. I am afraid that this is only his drug of the day. What will happen when he tries his first beer or joint?
How Keith’s Addiction Triggers Mine
Addiction steals peace and harmony. Addiction pulls me to live in the future. My mind races with thoughts, “What if he is arrested?” Even worse, his addiction triggers mine: codependency. My need to control boils to the surface. It lies to me and says “You’re only O.K. if Keith is O.K.” Keith’s illness shines a light on my own illness.
I love Step 12. It says, “Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.” I practice my recovery in all of my affairs because my illness has affected ALL of my affairs.
My Go To Recovery Tools
Keith’s dishonesty sent me back to the basics:
- Live one day at a time. I had plans to do some grocery shopping after church, so I refused to let my mood change my plans.
- Keep my mouth shut. I didn’t say anything when I took the phone, and I didn’t say anything in the car after the church. Before I even made a decision, I talked it over with my sponsor and my therapist. Keith is old enough to understand a delayed consequence.
- Finally, I put the focus back on me. To recover from the set back, I cleaned my bedroom and gave it a mini-spa makeover. I also gave myself a pedicure and watched a movie. I took the time to eat healthy, protein rich meals, and I did yoga. I’m determined to enjoy my life whether Keith ends up in prison or not. The disease may end up taking my son, but it will not have two victims.
I decided the best way to handle Keith’s complete lack of respect was to take away every single belonging in his bedroom. He can earn them back, but for now they are all in the storage unit and he is sleeping in a room with nothing but his bed.
Even though I am his parent, I can’t make Keith obey my commands. The only person I can change is me.