Every night before she goes to sleep, South Surrey resident June Ariano-Jakes says a prayer for her oldest son Nathan, a drug addict who is no closer to recovery now than he was 20 years ago when he first started using.
“Please keep an angel on his shoulder until he finds his own power,” Ariano-Jakes asks.
She estimates she has spent about $460,000 trying to save her son, $14,000 of it on a lawyer, once, and the rest sending Nathan to some of the best addiction treatment centres in Canada and the U.S., without producing a lasting cure.
Ariano-Jakes has just published a book that describes her son’s descent into hard-core drug abuse after he survived a near-fatal collision at the age of 13 and discovered he liked how he felt on morphine, Demerol and codeine during his hospital stay.
He went on to abuse heroin and cocaine.
Ariano-Jakes says she hopes that Addiction: a mother’s story will help other families learn from her experience.
It took her three years to write and she delayed publishing it another year while she considered the effect on her son.
She says when she told Nathan, he didn’t object.
“I know it’s a book that needs to go out there, but I don’t want to read it,” her son told her.
“I know what’s in there,” he added.
It is an unflinching account of a battle for a drug-free life from the point of view of the mother who waged it on behalf of her son.
It does not have a happy ending.
“There are so many books written by professionals, but there isn’t a whole lot written by parents (of addicts),” Ariano-Jakes says.
When Nathan first drifted into drug addiction, his mother believed she could pull him out and she fought with everything she had, mortgaging and remortgaging her home to pay for a cure that never arrived.
She still loves her son, she says, and she remains hopeful he can get clean.
But she knows she cannot force it to happen, no matter how much time, energy and money she throws at Nathan’s addiction.
It was a very hard lesson to learn.
“You think if you love them enough, that should be enough,” she says.
Ariano-Jakes says a drug user is like a marionette whose strings are pulled by their addiction.
In turn, the addict pulls the strings of his or her family, manipulating them to feed their need.
“Nathan loves his family,” she says. “He just loves drugs way more.
“It’s like a passionate love affair, almost, the pull is such that he keeps going back.”
Ariano-Jakes says her movie-star handsome son would sometimes waste away, the five-foot-10 Nathan dropping from his normal, healthy 205-pound weight to 102 pounds on one occasion.
At his sickest, Nathan would agree to go into rehab and stay just long enough to get healthier, then immediately return to drug use.
She has had to learn to let go of Nathan, to understand that giving up trying to control an uncontrollable situation wasn’t the same as abandoning her son.
Continuing to fund Nathan’s brief jaunts into rehab was no longer an option after she lost her house, unable to keep up with massive interest-rate payments racked up borrowing money to pay for those trips.
Ariano-Jakes now lives in a small rental apartment in South Surrey with a few items of furniture she kept from her former home.
To feed a $500-a-day dug habit, her son robbed banks, “lied, stole, manipulated and used good people,” Ariano-Jakes says.
“…those of us who walk this journey all know that addicts or drug users are liars,” she writes in her book.
“Sorry, but it is a fact. If your child is using drugs or your child is an addict, accept the fact that he or she is also a liar. Addicts need to be. They always have to cover their tracks.”
If she could do one thing differently, Ariano-Jakes says she would be firmer with her son, drawing lines not in the sand but “in concrete” by setting limits, establishing consequences and following through with them rather than letting her son off the hook the way she used to.
“It’s a disease with a choice,” she says.
“No one chooses to be an addict, but they choose to let it continue.”
She says she doesn’t care if the book makes a profit, so long as it can help other families fighting the same battle she did.
Addiction: a mother’s story can be purchased at Visions Book Store in New Westminster, Chapters in Langley, PriceSmart in White Rock, Save-On-Foods at South Point in South Surrey, Books & Company in Prince George, as well as online through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and www.addictionamothersstory.com