This past weekend we packed up our minivan, and drove out to Beltsville, MD, with our two boys and our preteen daughter to attend Nick’s Place 15 Year Anniversary Celebration. On our way to the celebrations, the kids had many questions about this event, and although we often include them in family recovery events, I found myself struggling to answer these questions appropriately.
You see, Nick’s Place* was started by two loving parents who had lost their young son to the disease of addiction. Nick’s life ended abruptly in 1997 as he struggled with his addiction from his early teen years, until his death at age 22. His biggest complaint through his difficult time was that there was no one his age who was trying to get clean and sober. His parents Rhea and Barry opened Nick’s Place in his memory to help other young men struggling with addiction, to recover and sustain happy and productive lives.
The celebration party included carnival games, burgers, hot dogs, and sweet treats. Our dear friend and a counselor at the house, Jo Black Sullivan, also created a touching presentation that covered the history of Nick’s Place. The presentation ended with a very moving and tear filled speech by Rhea, Nick’s mom.
During the presentation, I found myself worried about how my kids will take in this information. My preteen daughter is aware of what addiction is because I have talked to her about mine. However, I have not talked to my boys, well, because I felt that they may still be just too young.
After the presentation, my son, and another boy about the same age, admired the beautiful birthday cake with Nick’s face on it. My son asked the boy if he knew whose face was on the cake, and the boy answered, “It’s Nick, but he is dead.” My son was puzzled and looked up at me for anwsers. Oh goodness, what do I say now?
I pulled him to the side and told him that we are celebrating Nick’s life but unfortunately, Nick has passed away. He had a disease called addiction, and was not able to get the right kind of help and treatment, and he died. I told him further, that we were here to help other families and their kids find the right treatment for this disease. My son nodded his head, and said, “Ok, I understand now.”
And that was that. All my fears for that moment dissipated. And whether my son understood it or not, I felt that the seed was planted. That is always our hope, that by talking about addiction we plant the seeds of recovery, so that if, and when the kids find themselves in the throes of addiction they will know that they are not alone, and that they will know where to go, and who to turn to for help.
Most of all, the hope is that they know what addiction can do to their lives, and how recovery can change all of that, because chances are that they will develop an addiction too – and a huge chance at that, a 50/50, coming from both parents. This is an enormous fear of mine! It cripples my mind to no end and keeps me up at night.
I know that it is hard to talk about addiction and even recovery with our kids! There are many fears that we may harbor from our own experiences and fears. We as parents want to be adored by our kids as much as we adore them! However, kids are growing up way faster than we imagine and sometimes we need to put those fears aside and do what will benefit them the most.
I am still so very overwhelmed by this experience. I am truly amazed that these two wonderful parents turned their pain and loss into so much good and love. No parent should ever have to lose a child, but unfortunately, it happens and it happens way too often!
So, I am trying to be diligent in giving them all the information possible, even though I often feel like I cannot find the right words. Strangely enough, sometimes the right words, in the right situations, just flow right out.
- Nick’s Place is a one of a kind, community funded and affordable recovery house for young men 20-26 years of age. For more information, please visit their site at http://www.nicksplace.org
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