How does a mother describe the moment when she first meets her son? His curly black hair, his deep brown eyes, his distinctive personality—he captured my heart. He was beautiful, a miracle. And even in his sweet tears, he was shouting, “Mama, I’m alive—please love me and hold me.” My husband and I have been blessed with a wonderful son, but the moment I’m remembering is not the day he was born. It’s the day he was reborn at the age of 20—April 13, 2010. That’s when Nick returned home, broken, sick, and in need of mercy and love. He was ready to start the road to recovery.

Nick was our firstborn. I went into labor late one night, and after a rush to the hospital, we had a beautiful baby boy within a mere four hours. Maybe it seems strange that I associate his birth with his recovery, but for me the two are permanently intertwined. Nick’s journey began the day he was born.

Did he have a typical childhood? I really don’t know. He liked Scooby-Doo. He loved playing outdoors. He was funny, had lots of friends, ate mostly chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, loved Whataburger, played soccer, rode his bike and his skateboard, broke a few teeth, served on safety patrol, and made good grades—and we adored him. Is that typical?

In many other ways, Nick was a difficult child for us. He pushed our buttons. He was strong-willed. He was seeking boundaries, seeking our love. Did our parenting fail him? Could I have done something differently? I’ve gone over and over so many “what ifs.” I’ve relived so many moments from the past, hoping for a different outcome. That’s the definition of insanity, you know?

Today, we are blessed to be in recovery. Each member of our family has been strengthened and empowered through this process, which requires hard work, honesty, and patience because it doesn’t happen quickly. I’ve learned a few lessons along the way:

Addiction is a family disease, and recovery is about healing the whole family. A new reality for me was that our family wasn’t “fixed” when Nick completed rehabilitation. I had assumed that once he was well, our entire family would be too. That assumption was false on so many levels. Nick wouldn’t just get well. There is no vaccine for long-term recovery! He had an addiction, and each relationship in our family had been affected, even broken, as a result. That meant each relationship now needed healing and recovery.

One night, we were vacationing at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama, and Nick asked me to take a walk. Honestly, I was petrified to be alone with him. What would we talk about? It had been years since the two of us had enjoyed a real conversation—one that didn’t revolve around money or problems. But as we walked, he began to share with me the different paths a family takes to recovery. He explained that he and his dad were probably farther ahead on this path, and that he and I lagged behind in our journey. He said that he and his sister, Sarah, were slowly walking their own path of healing and restoration. As a parent, I’ve learned that I am only responsible for my recovery and my mom-son relationship. I can’t force my children to reconcile, no matter how much I yearn for that.

Being involved with a Collegiate Recovery Community—even a different one from my son’s—makes me feel closer to him. We live in Alabama, but my son attends Texas Tech, where he is part of the Collegiate Recovery Center (CRC). As The University of Alabama began exploring options for a CRC, a dedicated staff member started hosting weekly dinner gatherings in his home. My family and I regularly attended. It held special meaning for us because Nick was so far away, yet we were meeting students who shared his experience. One night, Sarah whispered to me, “Mama, I like being here with these students because it makes me feel closer to Nick.” She’s right. When I support and encourage students at Alabama’s CRC, it connects me with my son because I know there are adults like me at Texas Tech, supporting and loving him in the same way.

Participating in our CRC has led me to “re-meet” my God in a new place and a new way. For years I’ve been following God and seeking Him with all my heart. I’ve been to more church gatherings, small groups, and Bible studies than you can count. And yet, during this journey, I’ve encountered my God in a new way through the people of collegiate recovery. I’ve engaged with people who look differently from me, who dress differently, who use words that are honest and sometimes harsh, who often are not from my socioeconomic background—yet they ALL understand the pain of addiction and the joy of recovery. They each have found “God as they understood Him” while in the dark places of their lives. And their honesty is so very refreshing and life-giving. It’s in those moments of honesty that I realize we are all broken in some way. We are all looking for meaning in our lives.

In the recovery community, we’ve seen our sons and daughters go through a great darkness, and now we get to see them in the brightest light, which I believe comes from God. I hope I always remember my family’s dark night of the soul so that I’ll never take that light for granted. This journey is not one my family chose, but it’s one we have embraced. Out of our brokenness, we have found restoration and hope. We are traveling the road of recovery, and it’s a road we’ll always follow—together.

Kathy H., proud Texas Tech parent

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