My son’s senior year in high school looked hopeful after three troublesome years studded with suspensions and a threatened expulsion. He was student body Vice President, had few academic courses, lettered in varsity wrestling and would come out again this year for the team.

However, all of that hope crashed. His life was a Hollywood set concocted to look good from the outside; created well enough for me to hang my dreams on. On the inside, he was dying. The tender, clever, adept boy I knew was dying of alcoholism and marring his life with compulsive behaviors such as shoplifting and graffiti. To sleep, he needed half a fifth of Scotch and the eight days before he left for treatment he lived in a hallucinogenic binge.

I was angry. I felt betrayed. I had been manipulated. I was in shock that the picture of my son did not match the reality. However, there was the problem, that picture of my son’s “good” year was my dream, not his.

The rock I stood on to witness his life was in cast of resin; my beliefs about my son had to change. I had to step off that rock, which was unreal and unstable and where communication was shallow, connection was thread-thin and my son was a wedge eroding intimacy between my partner and me. That shift from the unreal place moved me to enter my own recovery and to work on my partnership. It was one of the most painful shifts I have ever made.