I am desperately seeking strength, peace, solace…
Anne Lamott wrote,
when you’re talking to an addict, you’re already outnumbered.
Thank you to my friend Heidi (for posting an unrelated topic Anne wrote about today which reminded me of this quote by her). Because as a parent of a drug addict you seek out other parents who have been through the same experience for guidance. I needed to read that today as much as I needed to write this.
How does one sentence help? I don’t know, possibly the truth in a few short words that sum up what we’ve been up against. It’s not a positive statement, but it reminds me that this is a serious disease that has taken over my son. Over the last three years I have felt like my son’s addiction was my fault, and I was ashamed of myself, not of him.
He started taking drugs, painkillers, anything with DXM (dextromethorphan) found in cold medicines, and graduated to harsher drugs, including heroin and God knows what else this year. I believe he started in 2010 after being hit by a car after which he was prescribed Lortabs for a painful broken leg injury which required surgery.
We haven’t had a ‘normal’ day since.
My local police department knows my son and I by name, they make regular visits to my house either to check on my son or his whereabouts or because I have called to file a missing persons report.
He started skipping school. At the time I thought it was because he had fallen behind due to being out a month from his accident. I would get a phone call a few times a week from school and the search would begin. I took him to Kids Escaping Drugs for a face-to-face interview where he proceeded to lie and say that he wasn’t using.
I received a letter from the truancy officer threatening to have me arrested if I didn’t have him placed in the PINS (persons in need of supervision) program. I went downtown and placed him in the PINS program, outpatient therapy 3 x a week, and into a twice a week in-home counseling program.
He continued to skip school. I brought him in for a meeting with the school staff who suggested he take the GED program associated with the school district. His other options were to take an extra year to complete school and not graduate with his class, or online courses. Basically, they were eager to be free of any obligation to help my son and got rid of the problem…quickly.
He opted to attend the GED classes for a few weeks in conjunction with outpatient therapy 3 x a week and his drug use increased. He has yet to take the GED test and is not in school. He should be a junior this year.
And so a typical day involved looking for my son, not being peculiar at all to see me running down the street after him, many times involving police officers or some sort of chase, and then coming home to get my 6-year-old daughter off the bus and make dinner like nothing happened.
I’ve had store owners call me in the middle of the night because he has fallen asleep in their restaurant booths. I’ve had store managers call and not press charges against him because they felt bad even though he was caught stealing. He’s been arrested for stealing once and the charges were dropped by taking a simple three-hour shoplifting class.
I’ve called his friends asking for help or to ask for any information that would help me locate him, and I’ve canvassed neighborhoods leaving his picture at local businesses. I’ve enlisted friends of mine to help on various occasions, the longest time he left being two weeks without hearing from him. I’ve had him stay with my parents for a change of scenery and break to see if that would help.
I’ve dealt with his friends dropping him off at my house completely incapacitated to the point of requiring medical attention, received harassing phone calls from his drug addicted friends, and calls from local police stations when he was picked up on a corner or in the park on drugs. I’ve been told that he has begged for money and has slept outside.
He often runs away for 3 to 4 days at a time, coming home to eat and sleep only to go back out for another 3 to 4 days. He’s been in 4 different outpatient programs, placed in the PINS county program (twice), an in-home counseling program, and lasted less than 24 hours in a local inpatient facility and was promptly kicked out for escaping.
In the last year he has been hospitalized eight times for overdosing from mixing these dangerous drugs. Each time released with a note to follow up with his doctor. After the eighth time, a social worker handed us a list of resources, half of which I had already used. I called the fourth outpatient drug treatment center for an assessment.
I took him to a psychiatrist who told me he was ‘a little depressed’ and told me to give him melatonin for sleep. He was assessed and told that he needed inpatient treatment. On the day we were to take him, he refused to go and left for a week.
Due to his age, which is 17 now, there is very little you can do. Inpatient facilities are voluntary. The police cannot detain you unless you have broken the law, and other programs out there (drug treatment and temporary homes) are for adults 18 and over who want help. When he was released from his first inpatient facility I was told to pray that he got arrested for a drug-related crime, otherwise there was very little left I could do. I fought very hard to keep him out of the system and yet here I was being told that that was what was going to save his life.
At this point, I was so confused and had been receiving conflicting advice from different agencies. I tried to get him admitted to a hospital but was told he needed a psychiatric diagnosis. I was unable to obtain one because my son is a master of manipulation.
The week he refused to go to treatment, I found needles and a card for a needle exchange program in the city. He got it at 16 years old. I turned them over to the police and had a warrant filed for his arrest. He was taken to a nonsecure detention facility for five days, and was placed into the Juvenile Treatment Court program. He was ordered to complete a 30-day inpatient program at Conifer Park.
He was sober for 45 days. The longest he has been in 3 years.
I’m writing this today in the midst of feeling a lot of pain and gut-wretching heartache, not for sympathy or to embarrass my family, or guilt my son. I’m hoping to help someone who might be going through the same thing, maybe you are a hopeless-feeling parent like me; desperate, or feeling like the worst parent in God’s creation. You’re not alone and your feelings are legitimate, but not always the truth.
Another friend of mine told me the other day encouragingly,
One day at a time.
The fact is, he has an army of people who love him, a huge supportive loving family who will do anything to help him. He had a good upbringing. He was never wanted for anything and to the opposite affect, not too spoiled either. I have driven myself crazy trying to figure out the answer to the question, why?
After picking him up Friday we celebrated his sobriety. He looked better than he had in a long time. Clear eyes, showered, and talkative. His speech was intelligible. He had received the comprehensive treatment we so desperately needed for him, proper psychiatric and drug therapy. But it wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t long enough. Insurance companies cover up to 45 or 48 days at the most.
My son left the house two days ago and has yet to call, refuses to answer his phone or texts from family, gone again.
This time I have the resources instituted, and with drug court involved, a police report filed, and another warrant placed, all I can do is sit and play the waiting game, and brace myself for fighting the disease again.
Addiction should never be treated as a crime. It has to be treated as a health problem. We do not send alcoholics to jail in this country. Over 500,000 people are in our jails who are nonviolent drug users.
Considering my child knows what he is facing, which is jail time, I can tell you that his addiction is like fighting a ferocious beast more powerful than you can imagine. My only defense is to work with the system, and prayer.
I am responsible for my son and have made some mistakes along the way as a parent, and I just don’t know the root of it all, and he won’t tell me. I’d sell my soul to fix his problems. I wish love was enough. In my early ignorance of the disease, I handled things improperly. I freaked and preached and yelled and didn’t understand. I will never fully understand what he is going through. But I am committed to my death to try to help by educating myself and learning what I can do to help, and not hinder his progress, which includes detaching with love, assuming responsibility for my own behavior, and no longer enabling or blaming.
I’ve been accused of trying to be his friend by not-so-well-meaning people who assume that must be the problem. Nothing further from the truth. I had rules. I am the mom spying on facebook, shutting it down, going through his clothes, his drawers, trying to contact parents of these troubled teens he is hanging around to no avail, calling the police, driving around at 1 am busting kids, texting teenagers, taking the phone and privileges away, and to the extreme, forcing him to face his consequences by placing him in jail to save his life.
I have had little to no contact with my son’s ‘friends’ or parents. This is a major red flag if your teen is hiding friends from you. And they are so very good at lying and hiding information, they have fake names, fake social media accounts, and have their own cell phones. I took my son’s phone away. I recently gave it back to him after being told by the police that I could track him that way. I got all of his friends numbers from his cell phone, and have had to do a lot of fruitless investigating throughout the years on my own.
As for the parents, I’ve talked to a few who are willing to talk to me, some of them could very well be going through the same thing I am, therein lies the problem, which will continue if parents don’t speak up and stand together to keep our kids safe. When a parent allows a 15 to 16 year old child to sleep at their house without calling the parent, I find this to be a huge problem. My son figured out very quickly that he wanted to stay at the houses of the kids whose parents’ had no curfew, or weren’t home, and/or had no rules.
But the quicker you learn that you have to stop playing the blame game with yourself, with the broken system, and with the friends they choose, the better off you will be. The focus should always be on the recovery. The guilt-ridden decisions I have had to make on my son’s behalf have been difficult, but a necessary action your child needs you to take, as hard as it is. The earlier, the better.
And there are people who have it way worse, our story is one of many, I have heard horror stories from probation officers and social workers. I hesitated sharing this, but ultimately decided it would be healing to me in some way and helpful to someone else. I hope this is the case. I want him to know how much I love him and know that it has been absolutely the hardest on him. There is nothing we wouldn’t do or try to help him in his recovery and he has nothing to be ashamed of or to feel bad about. We are here and always will be to support him.
The most important thing about recovery is to pass the message on.