How a Mother’s ‘Love Another Way’ Approach Helped Her Son by Helping Herself

Nicole Guerrero
3 min readJul 19, 2020

One of the greatest fears most parents share is losing their children.

For Barbara Decker, this horrifying fear came to life one night when she received a call around midnight one evening. Her intuition as a mother alerted her before she even answered. The voice on the other end confirmed her fear when they asked her to come to her son’s apartment. She quickly grabbed her coat and keys as she went out into the icy weather. As she drove to the apartment, she could not stop thinking of so many worst-case scenarios.

As she parked her car, a homeless man began to shuffle towards her, mumbling incoherently. As he came closer, Barbara saw that she had mistaken her son Eric for a homeless man. She sat in the car, crying and thinking of how her world and Eric’s had collapsed.

When the cops arrived, they led him away to a waiting ambulance, handcuffed. Later at the hospital, Barbara met with his doctors, preparing to hear the diagnosis that explained why her child turned into someone she could barely recognize. She was devastated when the doctor told her, “Your son is an addict.”

Like any parent, Barbara was dazed and wondered how she could not have seen the signs. She felt that she had failed as a mother, like one of those parents of addicts she had looked down on before. She blamed herself, losing the peace of mind and clarity that was needed to support Eric as he traveled through his journey of addiction. It was a nightmare that would last years for them.

Barbara did everything she could think of to try to “fix” Eric — interventions, counseling, rehab, therapy, and even saying prayers that something a miracle would pull them out of the cycle. But nothing worked, and it only led to him resenting her more for trying harder to pull him into recovery. Her worry for him tore her apart, and every time the phone rang, she was prepared for the call to be “the one.”

They spent two years in a back and forth until everything changed one evening. The event made Barbara realize that something would have to change. And the next day, she reached out to a behavioral therapist that had worked with her family before.

She broke down in tears, pleading with the therapist for a fix that would Eric. What he told her was a catharsis for Barbara, “There’s nothing you can do that will help your son. Only he can choose recovery.” From that point on, Barbara chose to focus on herself.

She did some research and worked hard on herself, and what she discovered changed her and Eric’s lives. He has been in active recovery for over two years without relapses. Because she helped herself and changed her responses to the impact of Eric’s addiction, Eric chose recovery for himself.

Since then, Barbara has offered a program for other mothers of adult children with substance use disorders, whether it’s drugs or alcohol. Her goal is to help those moms encourage recovery while they regain peace in their homes and their hearts. She has built a step-by-step system that helps each parent decide how to do what is best for them.

Barbara’s Love Another Way model is unique in how it is built and what it does because it shows how to put in real boundaries and how not to enable a relapse.

To know more, visit her website or Facebook page.

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