This blog is not FDA approved
I haven’t been able to write about my journey with my son lately. In fact, I am writing this article the day before the deadline. I have written about his drug addiction in the past hoping that it would help someone and heal me in the process. I hesitate because I still don’t have all the answers.
What I have come to realize is that it is difficult to do when you are in the midst of it. There is no lesson learned and no how-to article and no success story. However, all that set aside, there is progress and there are wins that we do celebrate.
Today my son has 107 days of sobriety, and I am so damn proud of him for that.
Over the weekend my parents and I went to visit my 17 year old in rehab, a long-term facility 6 hours away from home. We get to spend 3 hours with him as the first part of the visit is required parent counseling which included a video on enabling. The last part of our time with him was spent in a counseling session with his counselor.
I have to be honest, this weekend I learned in visiting with my son that I am in recovery, a very different kind, and I still have issues to deal with. I am bitter, not so much with my son, but with the system we’ve been chewed up and spit out in. I still have some negativity, doubt, and fear I have to deal with in a better way.
This attitude is not going to help my son in recovery. I may even have a tone here which means I believe I am writing from my gut, and I apologize if I offend anyone. I’m growing and learning, so thank you for giving me a little space to do that here. I’m not an expert, I’m just a mother speaking from my point of view.
So, back to this weekend’s visit realizations, and our story (If you make it through this post, God bless you). I haven’t talked about it in a while.
I was asked what the ‘plan’ was upon his return home. I found myself angry at this question. I proceeded (with attitude) to tell the counselor there was no ‘PLAN’ and that it was up to him. There would be rules he would have to follow, and he would have to finish school, and we would do what we have to do, and that I was not rolling out the red carpet for him. After all, we had just finished a video about enabling.
This is where counseling comes in, ruffles feathers, and starts to confuse everybody. I said that I will be there to support him and help him if he chooses to help himself. I know this sounds cold. I can only explain my reaction by the numerous times I have sat in front of a 20 year old counselor telling me my son is ready to come home, only to have him complete one rehab program in four years of heavy use, come home and go missing four days later for two weeks, where he is literally living on the streets, and the family left dumbfounded again.
I go to meetings and hear things like, “ground him”, at which point I feel like standing up and saying “eff off”. Number one, we don’t live in the middle of nowhere and my son has been missing for weeks at a time with four different police districts looking for him at the same time. I’m not saying that meetings are not helpful. In my experience, my son’s use is beyond what anyone in them can give me to benefit my situation, which seems to be more on the severe helpless side. I’m not implying that my situation is worse than anyone else’s either. I have met people who have lost their children to drugs. I have yet to find the appropriate counseling for myself and don’t want to be a ticking time bomb anymore, I’d like to avoid standing up and cursing at anyone, so that search continues for me.
I have met people who have been helpful going through the same thing on a one-on-one basis.
I met a woman whose son completed the rehab program my son eventually AWOLed from who in his 20s is still struggling with his addiction and living on the streets. I could relate to her and she basically told me what I already knew.
You have to detach with love.
My son happens to be court-ordered to his current treatment and has two court cases pending. Whether or not that plays a factor in his seriousness to get better, I do not know. I can’t possibly know that. I know that there is very little the system was able to help us with and I think there are a few reasons for that.
My son has an ability to hide his use and himself well and he has a serious addiction to everything. Heroin, cocaine, painkillers, DXM, alcohol, anything he can get his hands on. Once the addiction took over, it was too late.
Looking back there were clues, factored in with some unfortunate events which led to his addiction. My son was depressed and once he started using drugs, nobody would treat him for depression or give him a diagnosis until his drug problem was treated first. In 2010 he was hit crossing the street on foot by a pickup truck. He suffered a head concussion and severely broken right leg which landed him in surgery for a plate and screw insertion. He was in the hospital for a week, and out of school, his first year as a freshman in high school for over a month. He was given Dilaudid in the hospital and a prescription for Lortab which was highly guarded by me as I did not want him to depend on them. The prescription was never refilled and he took Tylenol for the remainder of his physical rehab.
It was difficult for him to catch up in school. I think his depression worsened at this point. He started experimenting with drugs and at the time I was unaware, and his use increased from this point on. He started skipping school and running away from home. I took immediate action and yet was still met with resistance from everyone including him. My son was a very good liar and manipulator. I took him to a Kids Escaping Drugs face-to-face interview with two peers of his, and he convinced them as well as the counselor that he was not using.
The school called me to report his absences and ultimately sent me a note threatening me that they would have me arrested if I did not put him in the county youth program called PINS (persons in need of supervision). I had him placed in this program as well as in-home counseling, and outpatient drug rehab.
My son, because of his noncompliance with everything was basically shown the door everywhere. School advised him to get his GED, which gave him more time to do drugs, and he never completed the GED program. Counselors recommended inpatient rehab, from which he escaped several times as these programs are voluntary. I took him to the head child psychologist in the area who told me he had a drug problem and needed to be treated first, said he was ‘a little depressed’ and advised I give him some Melatonin. Yet, over the past eighteen months, my son had been hospitalized eight times for overdosing.
His primary doctor recommended a priest, and some camp to go ziplining…way beyond the scope of what he actually needed. I kept searching for the right help for my son. Meanwhile, he was never home long enough to benefit from anything I could find for him and with warrants out for his arrest in the county program he was in, he was unable to just ‘come home’.
Whenever he was found or on one occasion, just walked through the door, I had to call the police, and have him arrested and taken to a nonsecure detention. Key word ‘nonsecure’. He escaped from there too. This is the recommended program for troubled teens in the area. This is your only choice. Go to drug court weekly, wait for an inpatient bed to become available and hope he doesn’t leave the nonsecure detention he has to stay at until a spot opens up. This can last for weeks, and months, and for us, a year to get him the proper help.
I say all this not to complain, because as a parent, you do what you have to do. The system that is in place, is completely ridiculous and broken, the main problem being, you just can’t lock these kids up. Even if I signed a waiver for his safety, I can’t force him to stay home, or anywhere for that matter. I can’t tell you how many times I was told to pray that he gets arrested.
My prayers were answered and when he was arrested, unbeknownst to me, because he was in the county youth program, they could not detain him. On top of that, during his short stay at the holding center he was easily able to obtain drugs before his transfer to nonsecure detention, where he rested and planned his next escape.
Four years of drug use, the last eighteen months of missing persons reports, warrants, arrests, and ultimately ending up in the same place, without treatment on the streets.
My son is going to finally have to take responsibility for his actions and deal with the consequences. I am at peace with that, knowing there is nothing I can do to ‘save’ him from his bad decisions any more.
I know that his anxiety and depression are finally being addressed and treated with medication and he is otherwise drug-free and safe. I know where he is, this is something I haven’t known in quite a while and such a relief.
Things we can all do for a person in recovery: Take one day at a time. Becoming aware that there are always things you can do to help improve the situation. Learn what enabling is and don’t do it. Stay positive and move on from mistakes. You have to do the work, help find the right treatment, there is no one answer or band-aid. Be patient and honest. Get your own support. Celebrate every step and every milestone.
Our story continues, we have good days and bad days, but we have a lot of hope.
It is also my hope again, that our story helps in some way, that you begin to look for warning signs early enough for your loved one, to avoid what we have been through. Addiction can run in the family and there is a history on his father’s side. Depression can lead to an addiction. Families should watch the availability of over-the-counter medications that can quickly lead into addiction. Again, these are just a few of the things I know from experience.
If I had to describe what it has been like being the mother of a drug addict, I would say it is like having your child grab your hand, and pull you on a roller coaster ride you never wanted to get on, meanwhile they are suddenly trying to shake you off, your body is flailing in the wind, and you are holding on for dear life, terrified that you will lose your grip. You can’t let go.
NOTE: This is what it feels like. In reality you can’t be on a continuous roller coaster ride forever. You have to realize it is their ride. You can stay on it with them for as long as you can tolerate it. When you realize staying on it with them is totally destructive, and not helping them, at some point you have to stop the ride and let go. Letting go feels like you are failing and giving up but it is not true. You are detaching with love. You are letting them know that you will be there offering your hand back when they choose to get off the ride.
Parents, stay strong. Kids, stay away from drugs, don’t think that you can try something once. This is not always true. It’s not worth it to find out. It is a choice, one that can kill you, and/or negatively impact the rest of your life.