Monday, November 29, 2010


The first semester Son2 was clean was a little rocky.  Everyone was new to the game, and we didn't always make good decisions.  Son2 refused to go to NA or any support group other than his post rehab group.  He thought he could do it alone, thought he could "handle it".  He ended up flunking another class or two, but refused to drop out of college.  His relationship with K was rocky too, and he was upset about that most of the time.  He put that, school, and everything else before his Recovery.  He made it through six months sober and celebrated that with a little get together at our house. H and I made some bad judgement calls too.  At least one of his old buddies that he used with came to the party, MG.  He was supposedly clean too, but the story I heard was that it was forced, he was under age and his parents spent thousands of dollars on private treatment that he didn't want to go to.

So, Son2 came home for the summer, started working and continued to try to make everything work.  Things started to unravel.  This is the hard part, I can't believe how stupid I was after everything that had already happened, to miss the signals.  When I think back, they were like a red lights flashing at me.  I can't hardly admit this, I think I didn't want to see.

Cash started disappearing again, but not in a real obvious way.  Son2's mood started to change, he was very angry.  There were fights with K, often.  He talked about MG.  MG started using again, Son2 was trying to counsel him.  He got sick, and had to miss work.  His boss made him get a doctor's note.  He was kinda sick a lot.  I knew he wasn't taking his meds.  MG started coming around, but only to the driveway, he wouldn't come in the house.  The final straw was when K found a bag of needles in Son2's car.  She called me in tears. Son2 tried to convince us that it was MG's, but K was not buying the story.  I wanted to believe him so bad but K would not.  After a big confrontation via text messages, he finally admitted he was using.  Deep down in my heart, I knew.  DENIAL is very powerful and convincing.  I remember sitting on the deck that summer with Son2 talking and he could barely stay awake.  I knew he was high, but I wouldn't admit it to myself.  After the confrontation, I asked him "do you want to get clean, or not?"  I don't know what I would have done if he said no, but he said yes, so I said "ok, we start over,"  and we did.  The lies, the betrayal, the stealing.  I didn't know how I would ever rebuild that trust with him.  I can't describe the feeling of betrayal by someone I love so much.  I know many of you readers understand what that's like.  I also know you've all been through many cycles of relapse and recovery.  That makes me sad and very wary.

Son2 made a big decision that summer, to put his Recovery first in his life.  He started back on his meds, started going to meetings, a lot of them.  He started to be really engaged in the sessions.  He took ownership of his Recovery and his life.  He's been clean for over a year and seems to be doing well.

But it's never really over, is it?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving is over...

Everyone went home today, kind of a let down.  It was a weird holiday for me.  I couldn't stop thinking about our Thanksgiving two years ago.  Between that and starting this blog, I am realizing that maybe I'm not as ok as I thought.  I thought blogging would give me a chance to give back, maybe be helpful to some other parents.  But, I am finding that I am the one that needs advice and to work on my own recovery.  One of the things I figured out early on is that it is important to educate myself.  I even gave that advice to Son1 in the months following Son2's admission.  I started to do that two years ago, but since everything has been going well, I think I don't need to.  Well, even though things are ok right this minute, I'm thinking that I really don't want to get blindsided again, so maybe I shouldn't ignore this thing.  Yeah, this thing is Addiction, and it is in our lives.

Last winter when my husband was out of town for two weeks, I spent the weekend with Son2 and K at their apartment in the city where they attend college.  I went to an Al Anon meeting with K.  I'm so glad she started going, she has found something that really helps her.  It has been so much more worth while for her than it ever was for me.  I also went to an NA meeting with Son2.  It was an unforgettable experience.  I sat and I listened for two hours.  I was the only guest, and they asked me if I wanted to speak...

"Hi, my name is L-------. My son is an addict."

Friday, November 26, 2010

It was a good Thanksgiving...

Yesterday, I cooked, and cooked and cooked.  It was a lot of work, a bit of stress, and well worth it, every single minute.  Both my sons were around, my sister, Sis, my nephew, M, my niece, S, my parents.  I was so happy to have everyone in my house, all together.  These are the memories I will always cherish.  We marked this day in our hearts, I gave Son2 lots of hugs and we exchanged many meaningful looks (yes, corny, but true).  He even thanked Sis in his own round about way for forcing his confession two years ago.  He told her he talks about her a lot in Recovery.  I told everyone how much I appreciated their presence and we ate lots and lots of good food.

Thank you all for reading and for all the advice.  I appreciate it all...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why didn't anyone tell us?

There are two parts to this post, and it's about telling.

First of all, one of the things that bothered me a lot after Son2 confessed to us two years ago, was why didn't anyone say anything to us?  Why were we left in blissful ignorance for so long?  I think his drug use was going on for about a year and a half, and several people were aware or had suspicions.  A lot of his friends knew, kids we had never met or didn't know well, but also long time friends of his that we'd known for years.  I suspect that his old friends didn't know how bad it was, or were just plain gutless.  His brother, Son1, heard some things around town and confronted Son2 about them.  Son2 basically blew up and told him to bud out.  I don't know what he heard, but maybe he didn't realize how serious it was, or was just plain angry, but he never came to us.  The one that really bothers me is his cousin M, who lives about 4 hours away.  I believe that M knew for quite a long time, probably over a year, and never said a word, and maybe was even participating.  M has a few problems of his own and hasn't always made good choices.  I don't know if he was really a bad influence, but he sure wasn't a good one.  I have to give him a little credit though, because he finally did say something to his sister, S, who immediately went to her mother, my sister, Sis.  Apparently M was trying to be loyal to Son2, his cousin.  But why do kids put so much emphasis on loyalty, even over health and welfare?  I was pretty angry when I found out about that.  Sis, confronted Son2 and she was pretty harsh with him.  "Tell your parents, or I will," so that's when he decided the gig was up.  Ironically, one of his friends also came forward about the same time and told his mother about Son2.  So, we were going to find out one way or another... finally.

Secondly, it's been very difficult for us to tell anybody about our son's drug use.  There are still a lot of people that don't know.  Telling Son1 and his wife a couple days after we found out was one of my worst experiences.  I didn't even tell my parents for several months, and they still don't know the details, including which drug he was abusing.  I only told a couple close friends, Sis, and one brother, but not the other.  Why?  Simple... SHAME.  I still have trouble talking about it.  It is very painful to go back and think about it and what happened.  I would prefer to ignore it all, and pretend it never happened and everything is fine.  So, a few weeks ago, we were asked to do a TV interview about opiate addiction.  I really wanted to pass, but I knew I couldn't just pretend it never happened, I thought it might help other parents, and they promised to protect our identity.  So, we did the interview.  It was very hard to talk about everything, but I'm glad we did it.  It stirred up a lot of emotion again, and anyway... that's what led me to start this blog.  I was brought up in a very strict, church-going family.  Some of my relatives are pretty hard-core christian, and very judgmental.  I just don't want them to know of my failure as a parent.  So, I stay away from that, and continue to pretend everything is fine.  H, my husband, is of a similar frame of mind.  Not many from his family know either.  I guess we're just chicken.  Everyone doesn't have to know, do they?

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Today I am planning for Thanksgiving, grocery shopping, cleaning the house.  I have been thinking a lot about what Thanksgiving means to us.  Two years ago on Thanksgiving, Son2 came to us with his heroin addiction.  So much has happened since then.

  • Today he is clean for 15 months.  
  • Today he is engaged to a wonderful girl who we all adore
  • Today he is a college student who is passing all his classes
  • Today he is a happy and nice person
  • Today he tells me he loves me often
  • Today he attends group recovery sessions once a week
  • Today he attends NA meetings 3 times a week where he speaks freely and helps others
  • Today he is working on the 12 Steps with his NA sponsor
  • Today we can all look ahead with hope
  • Today we are thankful for his strength and all the people he surrounds himself with that are so supportive
I know that addiction is a life long illness, and I know that there are no guarantees.  But today I am hopeful and life is good.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How did this happen?

I'm still not sure why Son2 decided to try heroin or exactly when.  I've found out a lot of painful things when he admitted them to us, and this is my best guess as to what happened.

The summer before his senior year in high school I think Son2 was in a bit of a slump, down in the dumps. A girl he really cared about had dumped him, and it hit him pretty hard, he started hanging out with different people and getting into a little trouble here and there.  He was never a straight-A student, but his grades did slide a bit.  We caught him lying about where he was.  When school started, he dyed his hair.  We thought he was just spreading his wings, trying to be his own man or something.  I believe some time that summer or during that school year, he started experimenting with drugs.  My guess is he had already been drinking.  We did catch him with beer sometime during that school year.  The drugs started with prescription drugs from our house.  He had his wisdom teeth pulled that summer, and got a real kick out of the sedative.  He didn't need the painkillers at the time, so I never even noticed that they were gone at some point.  Later in the school year I broke my foot, and was prescribed a narcotic painkiller.  I used some, but there quite a few left.  It was months and months before I realized they were missing from the bed stand, didn't really think about it until after he confessed his heroin addiction.  Apparently he found some "friends" at school that were doing the same and they traded pills.  I believe they swallowed or crushed and snorted them.

At some point, he decided to try heroin, I'm not sure when, but it was before he went off to college.  Not sure how much, but he was using the summer before college.  It is amazing, but somehow he managed to beat the drug test and get hired at a convenience store.  He also went on vacation with us to a relatives wedding out of state.  Yes, it's true, all of this happened and we did not know he was on drugs.  I think it got worse, once he left home and went off to college.  He went down hill pretty quickly, was shooting heroin by then, several times a day.  I think he had a couple of near overdoses.  I'd like to think I would have noticed something if he would have been living at home.  I think he tried other drugs, but his drug of choice was heroin.  I think he also sold X or something to try to make some money.  He was going through cash furiously, and he had to know we were gonna notice eventually.  We found all this out later.  As I said, we didn't have a clue at the time.

It's so hard for me to look back at that time period now.  I see myself then in blissful ignorance and remember all the things a kids does his senior year with some resentment.  I think back on many things that happened, things a parent should cherish, like school activities, banquets, sporting events, band concerts, graduation, and think oh, he was probably high, or I wonder where he really went when we thought he was at a school function, or god knows what.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beginning treatment for heroin addiction

Son2 began treatment for his heroin addiction two years ago, in December.  He was prescribed Suboxone, and immediately quit using.  We were told to use was dangerous, and to drink alcohol was also dangerous while on this medication.  He began outpatient treatment over his Christmas vacation which was for four weeks.  He went to half day sessions four days a week at the center.  Because of his age (he was just turning 19) he was treated as an adult and was attending group therapy with other adults.  As an adult, his medical records and medical information were private and we were not allowed to know anything without his consent.  So, he was put in charge of his own recovery immediately, and I helped support that as much as I could.  It was hard for me to let go of the idea of him being a child and dependent on us for everything.  So, of course, as I always tended to do, I did a lot of tasks for him, made appointments and phone calls, ran errands, picked up prescriptions, etc.  Eventually I did let go of a lot of that, but it seemed necessary at the time, for both of us.  Another thing we did was attend the group sessions that were open to family.  This accomplished two very important things.  First, it showed Son2 that we loved him enough to be involved with his treatment, and Second, it was a real eye-opener for us.  It was hard to hear and learn the harsh truth, not only about some of the things he had done, but also what it was going to take to overcome the addiction.  These were things we had to know.

During this time, Son2 seemed willing to attend treatment, but still seemed to be holding back.  He went to all the sessions, did his homework, and seemed to start feeling better physically.  I think he wanted to beat the addiction, but didn't really realize what that meant.  He was going through the motions, but not putting his whole self into it.  For example, it was recommended to begin attending NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings.  He didn't go, didn't want to, didn't think it would help.  I think he felt some fear and shame.  I'm guessing that's true because I felt that way myself.  At one point, when asked about his priorities, he put his relationship with his girlfriend and college before his recovery.  That's where his head was at.  He seemed to be making progress, and since we didn't realize ourselves the impact of what was going on, we thought everything was going to be ok, and it was for a while.  So off he went back to college after the four weeks, and started coming home once a week for after-care group sessions.

After he went back to school, we continued to touch base with him daily.  He didn't seem to mind, and in fact I think he was grateful for our support.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I thought we were good parents

For the first several weeks, the most powerful emotion I felt was guilt.  I thought we were good parents, how could I have missed the fact that our son was a heroin addict?  And how on earth could I have raised him to become an addict?  I had always been of the mindset that it's all about how kids are brought up, and however a person turns out has something to do with their parents.  This felt like a slap in the face and a kick in the stomach at the same time.  What did we do wrong?  Why did he do it?

Well, I still struggle with that and I think I always will.  But, I really hope that I learned some things that could maybe help other parents, and maybe just maybe... help me to understand too.  

I think he made a couple of bad decisions early on, he has to take responsibility for trying it in the first place.  But after that, it soon was out of his control.  Once the addiction took hold, he became a victim to the disease.  Yes, a disease.  The fact that addiction is a disease was not an easy concept to accept.  Once we accepted that, we could deal with it differently and recognize that the disease was causing our pain, not our son.

Son2 was very good at hiding things from us.  He was an excellent liar.  He played on our emotions, our sense of humor, our weaknesses, our distractions.  He manipulated us and it worked.  Neither one of us had a clue about the drug use until he told us.

Something that really helped me during this time was a support group.  I didn't want to go, I didn't think it would help.  But it helped me to realize that we were not alone, and it really helped me to think about things.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Waiting is the worst part...

After Son2 came to us and asked for help, it was a week before we could get him in to be evaluated, and yet another week before we could get him in to see the addiction doctor and prescribed medication.  During those two weeks, he was trying to finish the semester at college. I foolishly expected him to just "not use" during that time, but I know now, that was impossible.  He was in such a bad place, did not look well, was scared and feeling very low.  I was so afraid something was going to happen... something like overdose, getting arrested, even suicide.  It was a very bad time for all of us.  I could not convince him to quit school and just stay home where we could be with him.  My husband even tried to arrange some counseling on campus, we made countless trips back and forth to the city where he was attending school.  There were so many phone calls, appointments, interviews, etc.

One bright light during this dark time, was Son2's new girlfriend, K.  Why they started dating at this particular time is something I'll never understand, but she was a valuable touchstone for us on campus during this time.  We were talking and texting with them both several times a day. I don't know how, but somehow we all made it through to the day he started his medication and gave up heroin (the first time).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What to do, what to do...

First of all, we had to decide what to do... we really had no idea.  I called our family doctor first thing the next morning.  I can still remember how I felt when I said our son just told us he was on heroin, what do we do.  He calmly said the most important thing is that he stop using.  Well, it sounds obvious now, but at the time, it sounded brilliant.  The doctor told us to call a treatment place that was connected with our insurance company and clinic.  So, of course I tried to call immediately, wouldn't you know, they were closed for the holiday weekend.  Well, at least it was a start...

That weekend was so hard.  Son2 insisted on going back to school, I was so afraid for him.  Of course, our biggest fear was overdose.  I tried to convince him to stay home, but he wouldn't.  I tried to get a promise from him to stay clean until we could get him in rehab or something, but he was sort of non-committing.  That was the beginning of my education on just what this disease is all about.  So, we drove him back to school, right after we met Son1 and his wife for lunch where Son2 told them what was going on.  Many tears later, we dropped Son2 off at his dorm where we met his new girlfriend.  Information overload.  I don't think I slept for a week.

We got him in for an evaluation that following week.

How it all started...

Two years ago, on Thanksgiving, when my son was home from college his freshman year, he told us he was addicted to heroin and needed help.  My husband and I were so shocked, that was the last thing I would have ever guessed he would be into. I was feeling so many emotions, I was completely overwhelmed.  We were scared to death, but the first thing was to stuff our emotions and decide what to do.  I want to tell my story... I wrestled with the decision to create a blog, but I'm hoping it will do some good... I need to share this.  Please stay tuned as I sort out my thoughts and begin...