In the hospital the doctors carried out every test possible on Jack.

That evening the doctor arrived back saying he was delighted to report that Jack* was one of the healthiest men he had seen all day and was delighted to tell him that it was not a heart attack but a full-blown anxiety attack.

We were then introduced to his colleague Dr Shan*, a psychologist who quizzed Jack and I on our lifestyle, asking about any stress that may have brought on this attack.

We proceeded to tell him our story.

We were shocked when he told us that we needed as much help as Sonny*, if not more. Dr Shan handed us a bundle of pamphlets about support groups available to parents or indeed anyone living with adult children with addictions. Two hours later, just as he started to walk away, his white coat flapping behind him, he turned to us saying that the information in these pamphlets was more powerful than any prescription he could write. He urged us to join a support group and keep going back as often as we could as he knew from experience it worked.

We arrived home late that night from the hospital. There was no sign of Sonny’s car which meant he was gone out. On the island I saw a note, it read: ‘Mam, Dad, this time I am genuinely sorry, Love Sonny’.

We got on with our lives, we attended meetings, met people who were in the same boat as ourselves, many even worse off. Whatever it was about the programme I don’t know, it just worked. We had met our soul tribe. The serenity we felt leaving those rooms was worth its weight in gold.

Treatment plan

Sonny arrived home three months later. He walked in as if he’d never been away, except something was different. He had signed himself into a treatment centre, he had committed himself to a 12-step programme and he explained how he had the tools now to help himself. That twinkle was back in his eye, that zest for life that had been lost for so long, but was it there to stay? We were much wiser now, we had learned how to disarm him from pushing our buttons or manipulating us any longer.

As we sat drinking tea, he reached across and took each of our hands, tears ran down his cheeks as he begged for forgiveness. My response was that he had to show us, not tell us, and Jack nodded in agreement. Sonny was a little taken aback by our new attitude. I think he was expecting us to be so grateful for his sobriety that we would be killing the fattest lamb in celebration. We weren’t there, not quite yet. The following statement Sonny made are words we will never forget, he looked me straight in the eye saying: “Never forget that an active addict would sell their mother for a fix.”

From that moment on our lives changed forever. In saying that, we are no Walton’s family, we still have our daily squabbles like every other family.

A new chapter

Two years later Sonny married his childhood cursh Clara Coyle, the girl that wouldn’t bid him the time of day while he was drinking. Their wedding present was that Jack and I signed the house and land over to them.

Clara is a loving, kind girl with a heart of gold and a backbone of steel. She had very definite boundaries that no one would dare cross. Needless to stay Sonny was not cured of his alcoholism, as there is no cure, no magic wand, there is just the 12-step programme that only works for as long as you work at it.

Sonny had many a slip but nothing major. On each occasion he contacted his sponsor and worked things out, getting back on the horse straight away. He was determined to live the better life.

On Sonny and Clara’s third wedding anniversary, Clara delivered their twin boys, Jessie and Jake. Both Sonny and Clara work part time. Thursday is our favourite day of the week. For Jack it’s because it’s Irish Farmers Journal day and for me it’s because we have our grandsons to ourselves all day. Over the last few years our lives have been transformed through the programme. We now have a social life and a great circle of friends. We no longer hide ourselves away or live with guilt or shame.

Sonny attends his meetings three nights a week, keeping himself on track. Clara also attends a support group as she says it enables her to detach with love from Sonny when necessary. There are times when we slip back into our old stinking thinking, we are human after all. However, it doesn’t last long because we know it’s all about living one day at a time.

*Names changed to protect identities.

Read more

The Son & Heir: taking everything for granted

The son and heir – part 1