I was reading something on a website today about how to know if your child is a heroin addict. It was asking: does your child need to do heroin every day? Do they carry a constant supply? do you see track marks in their arms?
I get the point but…these aren’t the items I would list. First off — if they’re doing it, they’re probably addicted. Period. Second, you probably aren’t going to know if they have a supply, and tracks, sure, that’s an obvious one. But what about the less obvious, beginning signs? Here’s my list (in no particular order) (note: no one symptom means your child is a heroin addict, but they are strong clues, especially if you can say yes to two or three at a time):
- You can’t figure out where all your spoons went. Didn’t you have eight teaspoons in your set? Maybe one went missing but five? “Kids — have you seen our spoons?”
- Almost all teens sleep late. But your teen stays in bed until 3PM and now hangs blankets over his/her bedroom windows to keep out every trace of sunlight. When you complain they slur, “Jeez mom…it’s nothing…I just need to sleep. Crap. Leave me alone, it’s not a big deal.”
- Two hours later they are up, awake, full of energy, happy, chatty, cleaning their room, and asking if they can run errands, (complete mood change). And if you mention the blanket on the window thing, they’ll say yes, sure, okay … but they won’t actually take them down.
- Day one: “Mom, can I have money for cigarettes and gas? I know you gave me some yesterday, but Joe’s mom needed some groceries so I lent him some money to pick them up for her.” Day two: “Mom, can I have ten dollars for gas? I know you gave me some yesterday but …” Day three: [you know the drill]
- I could swear I threw this belt away last week because it’s way to small for him. What’s it doing on my son’s floor again? Oh, and here’s the belt his brother was looking for the other day too. And yet he never wears a belt when he needs to. Darn kids.
- What’s with the little pieces of tin foil laying around these days? Kids? What are you doing??
- Their friends are just walking in the house without even knocking or saying hello to me. When did I lose control of this household?
- He comes in at midnight like he said he would. But then you hear the door open again at 2AM and again at 4AM … always another excuse.
- A needle in his bathroom cabinet. Clearly.
- The once intelligent, loving boy is now a rebellious, lazy young man. Face it. Time to get help.
The opportunity has arised. Dan’s dad bonded him out of jail yesterday after getting a call from a local, highly reputable nonprofit organization that has a long-term rehab program. They had a bed available for this morning. So Dad got Dan out of jail. Watched over him for 24 hours. And took him in this morning.
I am hopeful. I am fearful but I push the fear aside and I am hopeful. The minimum stay in this program is 18 months. I think the maximum is three years. They serve addicts, alcoholics and the chronic homeless. It is a Biblically based program. They give rehab, counseling, education and work. They help the client work their way back into the community. And if Dan successfully completes the program and graduates, they will provide a health and dental insurance plan for the rest of his life (when he needs it), and they will give him a car. Wow. Seems too good.
This morning Dan stopped by. My mother is visiting from the East Coast and they had a nice talk. I gave him a big hug, told him I believe in him, and then I broke down. Couldn’t help it. The tears just flowed.
His dad took him to the store for a few things, drove to the center, and dropped him off. I will go to see him once or twice before the move. And, of course, pray … long and hard.
One day at a time. As always. Keeping it simple. Typing it here. Giving it to God.
I bring my daughter to a counselor awhile back, and we all talk together, and the counselor says, “It sounds like she’s exhibiting normal teen behavior. She just wants to be treated like a normal teen.” I say, “Her two older siblings both exhibited what I thought was ‘normal teen behavior’ — they both tried heroin and one is an addict. How am I supposed to have a clue about what is ‘normal’?” The counselor paused. She looked at me and nodded.
Technology alone has made my kids’ teen years very different from mine. But let’s think about it. Some level of isolation is normal for a teen. Moodiness, wanting to sleep late, wanting a lot of time with friends, becoming more private, less social with family … all “normal teen behavior.”
Honestly, at some point I knew my boys’ behaviors had breached the “normal” boundary. But I didn’t know when it happened. It snuck up on me. I don’t want that to happen with my daughter.
I’m moving her across the country to be near my family. Four weeks from now we hit the road. She wants this. She cried out for this. Her dad is furious. He says I’m ending his relationship with her. I said he had fifteen years to create a relationship with her. I’m trying to give her a couple of “normal teenage years” before it’s too late. It’s the best choice I see right now. And that’s all I can do — make the best choice that I see right now.
A fellow Blogger, whose sister struggles with opiate addiction, recently reflected on her own history of drug use. It got me thinking. I feel so far removed from those days, having walked that long road home a long time ago.
I didn’t use the hard drugs, I tend to say. Truth is, I didn’t use them very often. And I never touched a needle, never smoked crack, never went near heroine. But that doesn’t make me better than anyone who has.
I drank, heavily, almost every night. And I smoked pot as early as 7:30AM on the ferry ride to Manhattan…on lunch break…on the ferry home…and again that night. Here and there I tried other drugs as well, mostly in those college years.
Here’s the best timeline, as far as my memory will take me:
- Had my first drink at a friend’s Sweet 16 pary. I was almost 17 at the time. I didn’t get heavy into drinking for awhile.
- Started smoking pot and drinking more heavily the summer after I graduated high school. Toward the end of that summer, I was the victim of a violent crime, and that pushed me over the edge, I think, from occasional use of marijuana and alcohol, to regular abuse — as ways to block the pain.
- I was introduced to “Magic Mushrooms” — hallucinogenics — in freshman year of college.
- Summer after that: speed, hash, and cocaine.
- Second year of college brought acid … LSD. This was the 70s. It’s what we had. I found it interesting, but scary, and only tried it three times total.
I didn’t use any of these drugs frequently, and my experimentation lasted only a few years, total. I was too afraid — and rightly so. I felt like I was already on the edge of sanity in those years and had no desire to push myself beyond that point. The alcohol was the hardest to kick, many, many years later. Now, I have one or two drinks once or twice a week. Sometimes less. Never more.
The difference between me and my addict son? Maybe a chromosome? Some random difference in brain chemistry? I’m sorry he is an addict. I’m sorry he has such a long road home. I found my way. I try to have faith that he’ll find his.
This is the phone call I have to make. And yet I am hesitant.
Dan broke into my house again. What we think he does is, he comes in the house when i’m not home (but his younger siblings are) and he says he needs to quickly use the bathroom or make a phone call. When in that part of the house, he quickly unlocks a window. Then, when no one is home, he comes in the window. We could have sworn that everything was locked. But today, during a two-hour window when no one was home, Dan got in our house and stole his brother’s ipod touch — the gift I bought Al for all his hard work staying clean, going to school, and holding a steady job. THEN, Dan called a mutual friend and said, “Call Al and find out his password for his ipod.” We found out that you can’t pawn an I-Touch without the password to unlock it.
How did he get in? We were so confused. We had checked every window a couple of days before and none of us had opened any since. Then Al checked the bathroom. Despite the fact that his razor was on the window and several items looked undisturbed on the windowsill, the window was unlocked. That must have been his route. CRAP.
I cannot take it anymore. I have to report him. I have not wanted to. You might recall Dan is in a diversion program through the court because of a felony charge for giving heroin to his brother. So turning him in puts that charge on his record permanently. I know, I know that he has to face his own consequences. It is very hard, though, as a mom to set this all into play. I will. But I might do it tomorrow. I feel so scared for him. I wish it didn’t have to be me.
God bless you all and your families and your children. ~Kay
Well, “Boy” of course is a relative term. He’s so tall. But I was at a local shopping center and there was Dan. Gosh, he was filthy. But he smiled and gave me a great big hug. That made me very glad. I told him that I would be home tomorrow, and that if he wanted to come by the house to take a shower, I’d run his clothes through the washing machine and make him a meal. He said yes, he’d like that (we’ll see). He asked if his friend could come but I had to say no. I’ve known that particular friend for a long time and don’t trust him for a minute. (I love him, but I don’t trust him, you know?)
That was a gift. It’s funny because I ran into all kinds of interruptions trying to get to the store. Perhaps there was a reason. A little Angel bringing me and Dan together for a few good moments between mother and son. Thanks, God!
So my son’s life is his journey. In don’t know his purpose. I don’t know God’s plan for him — the details I mean. Here I am awake at almost 1AM. Can’t help it. Can’t sleep. He’s out there somewhere. But I’m praying to let it go. Because I don’t know his journey, his purpose, God’s plan. There are so many possibilities. Just as Jesus went to his death to give us life, so perhaps my son walks a death path to provide something that I cannot imagine … somehow. If he comes out of it, he might save others with his testimony. Or, among his drug-user friends, he might say something that turns someone else around. Or his example stops others from going to drugs. I have to find meaning in what feels meaningless. And only God can provide that.
I have so much to say and yet so little. My heart is breaking and I’m numb. I know what’s right and think that nothing is right. I miss my son and hope he stays away and I want him home. Yep. One big bundle of everything.
Tomorrow, I will take a walk in the sun and live fully. It’s the only real choice.
Some of you have been living with this already, I know. Last night Dan’s dad had to let him go to the streets. We discovered he has taken things from our homes to pawn to get drug money. We drew that boundary awhile ago — steal from us and you’re out. So he’s out. I guess I can be thankful the snow is gone and we’re having warm weather. Last time we kicked him out he lived in his car. But now he has no car…and no phone. So he’s out there somewhere. Takin’ it to the streets.
p.s. This Sunday, Easter Day, will be one year since that first phone call from the police — the first time I heard the word “heroin” in connection to my boy. Interesting timing.
Prayers to all. And much love. And God’s blessings in whatever form they need to take to let you know that we are not alone. XOXO
Writing to wish my boy an honest “Happy Birthday.” I am glad he’s alive. And I have not lost hope. Just forget where I put it now and then…
Dan turned 20 yesterday. See how this cake is a little wobbly? It’s an appropriate image for how we all felt yesterday — Dan included. We all planned to go out to dinner — his father, brother, sister and I, plus Dan and his girlfriend. We planned to leave at 7PM. Dan went out at 2:00 with a friend. tick. tick. tick. Seven o’clock and no Dan. 7:15. At 7:20 he comes in the door. No explanation. A mumbled “sorry.” His sister had already given up and gone out with her friends, and his girlfriend wasn’t with him. So four of us went. Awkward.
Don’t get me wrong, I am, in my deepest heart, thankful for another birthday. But seeing the tracks on his arms … it was hard to feel any mood of celebration.
Heppy Birthday, Danny my boy.