My son, on the other hand...my son is an addict.
At about 1 month old he began the uncontrollable crying. He wouldn't sleep, wouldn't play, wouldn't snuggle in my arms. The only thing he would do was eat. And I can promise you, there was only so long I could feed him before the boobs needed a break. So, I ignored every fiber of my being that stood staunchly against the use of the pacifier from the moment I learned of Abe's existence. I reached into the cabinet and opened a package we received at a shower. I sterilized 2 pacifiers and put one in his mouth. Viola. My kid stopped crying.
A few weeks later, I shouted, "INSTINCTS BE DAMNED," once again. At 2am, in a desperate attempt to sleep, I put the pacifier in his mouth again. He instantly began sucking, fell asleep, and slept for FOUR HOURS. FOUR. This was the longest stretch I'd had since he was born. I became a believer. And Abe was hooked.
Fast forward. Abe is now 5 months old. He can sleep 8-hour stretches. He only needs to eat once a night. So what am I doing at 10pm, 11pm, 1am, 3am, and 5am? PUTTING THE DAMN PACIFIER BACK IN HIS MOUTH. Abe screamed all night when it fell out of his mouth. I imagined him negotiating with me when I walked in: "I can't come down now, mom. It hurts too much. Please, the withdrawals. I'm only 5 months old. I can get clean when I'm 6 months." And being the co-dependent woman that I am, I ate that dirty spoon of addict lies. But no more.
We decided to try and help him find his hand. I'd put the pacifier in his mouth, let him start to suck, and then pull it out and quickly replace it with his hand. I did it again. And again. Unfortunately, after 4 or 5 times Abe's laughter made it clear that this was the best game ever invented, but it wasn't solving the problem.
Then we decided to help him learn to put the pacifier in his mouth himself. We practiced and practiced and sure enough, he figured it out within a few days. "HE DID IT!" I shouted from upstairs. The cruel irony was that as fun as putting the pacifier in his mouth was, taking it out was even better. Why didn't he just replace it again, you ask? Because he's 5 months old and didn't understand that it was HIM taking it out of his mouth, not me. He'd get angry and scream and I'd be forced to put it back in myself.
Finally, the time came. My husband took me aside and said, "Erin. You're enabling him."
"But I'm his mother, David. I'll always be there for him."
"He has to learn to live without it."
"But what if it hurts him? What if he cries?"
"It's not Abe crying, Erin. It's Abe on the pacifier."
"He's too young to do this alone."
"He's 5 months old now. It's time for him to do this on his own."
"But I'd rather know he's here safe with the pacifier than
somewhere out of the STREETS keeping me up ALL NIGHT LONG!"
It was time for an intervention.
We gathered around him and I started. "Abe, your pacifier use has negatively affected our lives in the following ways: We cannot sleep. We cannot put you in the car seat without doing yoga to get the pacifier back into your mouth while driving down the highway. We cannot go anywhere without panicking that we forgot the pacifier. And your father and I cannot get through an entire conversation without the word 'paci'."
Then his father continued, "We're here because we love you, son. We love you and we don't want to see you suffer like this anymore. It's time for our family to heal."
And then, we took it away. Cold turkey. And I'm not going to lie to you folks. It was rough. For 3 nights I went in and out of his room for hours calming him, encouraging him. It was awful. We agreed to try this for one week and by the end of night 3 I didn't think I could make it. Abe was tired. I was tired. My husband was tired. THE DOGS WERE TIRED. Maybe we were all destined to live with a pacifier addict forever.
And then came night 4.
Sweet, sweet night 4.
My child slept for 12 hours. Straight. Without crying. Without screaming. Just slept.
I slept about 4 hour of those 12 hours, waiting for him to wake up and scream. But he didn't. He just rocked his head gently back and forth and went to sleep. And our family began to breathe again.
I'm not saying he won't relapse. Relapse is a part of recovery, as any good 12-step program will tell you. But for him to see that he can do it without the
drugs pacifier was a wonderfully positive step in the right direction.
If you or someone you know is addicted to the pacifier, I encourage you to reach out. Get help. Find a sponsor. It could be the different between sleep and no sleep for your family.