Attachment Parenting Guru Katie Allison Granju Reveals Son's Addiction

7 years ago

I kept putting off writing this post, because I still have that "watching a train wreck" feeling, and I still hope for a triumphant "Everything is fine now!" post that (logically) I know is not coming. So I will write it anyway.

Tablets lying on a person's palm, extreme close-up

Katie Allison Granju is a popular blogger and published expert on attachment parenting. She has four children with another on the way. And her oldest child is a drug addict.

The story can be pieced together by reading backwards through Granju's blog, but the best summary, I think, comes from the New York Times' Lisa Belkin, who notes that hints were dropped over the years, and then:

Last week her son was rushed to the intensive-care unit and placed in a medically induced coma after suffering catastrophic effects of an overdose and a brutal beating in what appears to be a drug deal gone wrong. Thousands of Katie’s friends and readers have been keeping virtual vigil for H on her blog and her Facebook page. Sunday morning she broke her years of silence because that silence wasn’t helping (and might well have been enabling) her son; and because telling his story just might save another teenager from repeating it.

Belkin then links to, and quotes from, Granju's heart-wrenching confession about the parenting secret she's no longer willing to keep. It is a poignant piece, full of worry about her son's now uncertain future and regrets and second-guessings about the past. It is stark and honest and -- to me, anyway -- painful and beautiful.

I don’t know. I don’t know what our next steps will be. But I know this: I am no longer willing — or ABLE — to keep this secret. Maybe people will judge me. Maybe they will label me the bad mother I fear that I am to have ended up in this place. Maybe they will shun me, my son, my family. I don’t know. But I do know that the disease has now declared itself to such a degree that it’s no longer possible to keep it a secret, even if I wanted to.

Who amongst us (who blogs about our families) hasn't had a time the truth came pouring out because it was just impossible to keep it in anymore? A truth that's maybe scary, maybe something people will judge us for, maybe something that affects so many others we feel guilty for telling it, even though it's our story, too? I don't know any personal blogger worth reading who hasn't had this sort of dilemma at some point. And to have it happen because your child is critically injured ... I cannot begin to imagine how Granju is navigating everything her life is requiring of her right now, much less how she finds the strength to sit down and say, "It's time to tell you all about the elephant in the room."

But all has not been loving support; ten days after her son's admission to the hospital, Granju wrote on her Home/Work Babble blog that the realities of H's injuries were sinking in, and she felt they were on an unexpected parenting detour. She then invoked the "Welcome to Holland" essay -- which was written to explain what it's like to have a child with a disability -- and said she felt that way, too. Like she'd boarded a plane to Italy and landed in Holland. And some of her commenters went ballistic.

"The difference is you are where you are as the result of your son dealing and doing drugs, not a birth defect," one snarked.

"I feel like your subtle and not-so-subtle comparisons between what you're going through and what parents of special needs kids are going through only diminish the unique challenges that we both face," another said.

Fortunately, many other commenters were only too happy to pipe up in Granju's defense, but even just a few basically insisting that she's not "allowed" to feel the same sort of pain they do as parents to kids with birth defects is just appalling to me. No one has a monopoly on pain. And even as stigmatized as the disease of drug addiction already is, I was saddened to see folks imply that H is unworthy of compassion because his injuries are drug related.

Anjali Enjeti at She Started It saw the writing on the wall immediately, but didn't hesitate to throw her support to Granju:

Granju will likely be attacked for this — for exposing her son’s addiction publicly. But I suspect her story is part of a conversation that isn’t being had among parents. I commend her for starting it.

Evonne Lack at the MOMFormation blog is willing to admit she's had her own judgy moments -- even admitting she's had a twinge of judgmentalness towards Granju -- but she's willing to break it down for us:

The truth is that drug addiction -- like cancer, like mental illness -- is something that mothers can’t control, and we wish we could. We want to prevent it, of course. So we separate ourselves. I’m not like her, we think. My children are safe. It’s self-deception at its worst. I know this, and I do it anyway. Katie’s fear that people would judge her was valid.

Later she concludes:

I’m glad Katie went public. She started a dialogue which can only help others — other families dealing with drug addiction, other mothers dealing with tragedy, even judgmental mommies like me.

I support her choice. As for my own judgment, well, I’ll deal with it.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Granju and her entire family; I hope that her son is able to recover from his injuries, find a way to deal with his addictions, and lead a happy life. But no matter the outcome, I can't help feeling like his mom's willingness to lay her hopes and fears bare in her public writing is nothing short of incredibly brave. I am touched by this saga, and I don't have a child who is either addicted or injured. There are parents out there feeling similar feelings, dealing with one or both of those things, and they are heaving a sigh of relief that someone is talking about it. I'm relieved that none of the judgers have been able to shame Granju into silence.

Keep talking, Katie. I, for one, am in your corner.

BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir blogs near-daily about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and posts all day long about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.

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