My favorite question that I’ve been asked during this hideous and terrible journey (by well-meaning people, who just don’t know any better) is, “Is it really that bad?” Well, exactly how bad does it have to be? Do we have to wait until he ruins his life? Gets a girl pregnant? Loses his job, his health, his driver’s license? Will it be bad enough if he ends up in jail? Maybe we ought to wait until he’s killed someone first? Or maybe we should just wait for that call from the morgue to pick up his body? Is that when it will be “bad enough”?
So without all the above typical sign posts of drug addiction that parents usually wait for, we’ve decided to act before our son turns 18 and it is too late. It has been a very frightening time full of doubt and uncertainty, but we finally realized that if we didn’t get in the game in the final two minutes of play, we would be permanently shown to the spectator seats and forced to endure watching our son’s life possibly self-destruct before our very eyes and not be able to really do anything about it.
This horrible nightmare began in March of 2007 during our annual spring vacation pilgramage back to San Diego. Having lived there for all of our lives we have some significant friends there. So do our children. We rented a small cottage near the beach and had planned a nice little wedding vow renewal for ourselves to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Along with this little event, we had invited both our children’s friends to spend the week at the beach with us.
Our son’s bestfriend, our former nextdoor neighbor, unbeknownest to us, had become involved with marijuana. Of course, we should have knownest it. This should not have come as a surprise or a shock to us. While we lived nextdoor, his mother had allowed her 19yo nephew to live with them. Kyle smoked pot and had beer parties and girls over every weekend. We confronted our neighbor with our serious concerns about the wisdom of allowing a 19yo involved with drugs and alcohol to live with her and her impressionable 13 year old (not to mention OUR impressionable 13 year old, which is how old the boys were at the time), but she felt there was no danger whatsoever. Her son spent his weekends away with his dad and wasn’t there for the beer and pot parties, and besides, “Kyle would never do anything to hurt Derek.” Furthermore, she believed that drugs were inevitable anyways and that “Either you’re an addict or you are not and there isn’t anything you can do about it.” We told her we felt like that was handing her child a loaded gun and with a hearty “Good Luck” telling him to play Russian Roulette. No matter what we said, she just couldn’t see the harm and she was unwilling to take any action.
My husband and I were furious and limited our son’s activities at her home, but we love Derek and allowed the friendship to continue. Honestly, short of selling our home and moving away (which is actually what we eventually did) it wasn’t feasible to end their friendship anyway. In retrospect, we obviously should have called the police, but we didn’t. As I said, we did move away, but San Diego was our home. All our family is there. That’s where my husband and I and our children grew up. So we returned, and we included Derek in our vacation plans.
So while we were planning our wedding vow renewal, our son was planning a week of pot-induced debauchery with his bestfriend.
BTW, a little side note. Kyle, the guy who would never do anything to harm his little cousin, was the drug supplier. Nice. And entirely too predictable.
Now you’d think we’d have noticed that our son was stoned for a week, but we didn’t. He hid it by acting angry and sullen about the move away from San Diego (which had become by then the common theme for our relationship with our son). To our credit we uncovered the truth very shortly after arriving home and slapped the kid into counseling.
Our son saw this highly recommended counselor 3 times, we had several tearful, soul-bearing conversations with our son, and we bought 100 drugtest kits off the internet and began random drug testing. And the problem seemed to go away.
Until this last Spring.
Within a matter of what now seems days, our son entirely changed on us. He dumped all his former friends (who we knew) and started up a secret life that he just wouldn’t let us in on. We tried to get in. We eventually took him back to the highly recommended counselor who informed us that our son was almost an adult and we ought to “let go”. In his opinion, our son’s behavior was normal, we were over-sheltering parents who were overreacting and that if we didn’t stop we’d push him into even further rebellion. It all made sense and so we believed him. And thus began “Operation Let Go”.
Let it suffice to say that “Operation Let Go” was an absolute failure. We watched in horror as our son’s risk-taking behaviors escalated beyond our wildest imagination (for him anyway…we just never imagined that he’d do the things he was doing). The more freedom we gave him, the darker and bigger the cloud of looming bondage over his life became. Sure he would be free of us and our rules, but he was risking everything and no matter what we said he just refused to see the danger of his behaviors.
Let me just say that we now completely disagree with this counselor and have junked his advice. Frankly, it is easy for him to wax eloquent about the wild young adult male when he isn’t the one the police or the morgue are going to call.
So the short end to a really long story is that in 15 minutes my husband is going to check our 17yo son into drug treatment in Arkansas.
This has been an agonizing decision. I never knew my heart could hold this much pain and sorrow and not burst. I do not know how a parent lives with the pain of losing a child to death because my child is yet alive and I cannot imagine bearing anymore pain than this. I just can’t. If anyone reading this has lost a child, please forgive me for my words if they aren’t right. I just don’t know how you can hurt more than this and live. How do you live?
The “intervention” part when we told our son he was going to drug treatment was excruciating. I’ll spare you the details, but it was harrowing. After that, my poor husband has had the awful task of travelling across the country for 2 days to get our son to Arkansas.
So there it is. The truth. I have no idea how this will turn out. The financial hardship alone of this action on our part is profound. I guess fixing parenting mistakes isn’t cheap. And there is no guarantee of success. After mortgaging our house and cashing in our retirement we may end up with a son who decides that he wants to self-destruct anyway. Sigh.
But I do believe that we are in the battle of our lives for our son’s life. If he had cancer we wouldn’t consider the cost, and this has the capacity to destroy him as quickly and as terribly as any cancer.
Of course, I struggled with writing this blog because of my shame. Admitting that I’ve failed as a mother is devastating, especially since I really did try. But here’s my feeble attempt at offering hope to anyone who might be out there and stumbles on this sad little blog….God is faithful. And He loves me and He loves my son. And I will cling to Him and I will fight the devil to my last breath for my son. My son belongs to God and I claim him for God and I will not let go.