Despair, Insanity, Fear, Denial, Discovery, Acceptance and Peace | Nancy C
Our stories are similar. Mine is lengthy. Why? I want to share deeply in hopes you’ll grasp some nuggets for your journey. I, too, have beautiful memories of a precious little boy embracing all of God’s gracious gifts. At eight years of age, my son developed juvenile diabetes yet his enormous zest for life never let it slow him down. He was a brilliant child. Devouring every challenge. Achieving a national chess championship, baseball, basketball, skateboarding, snowboarding, skimboarding, paintballing, hunting, fishing, or skeet shooting, he couldn’t keep himself busy enough. He has a unique Godly gift of lighting up a room with his presence. His warmth and gorgeous smile cannot be denied.
Sadly, his zest or spark diminished around age seventeen. Girls, peer pressure, fitting in with the cool kids became his focus. I began to see a young man struggling to fit in. He’d get angry and scream at me within a split second. My teachings of values, morals, and kindness seemed to have faded away. Our relationship of love, patience, and communication vanished.
The rigor of college applications, tours, and planning was miserable. His demeanor lacked appreciation and his anger apparent. The word we hear so often as parents today “ENTITLED” set into my bones. I rationalized his behavior. I thought perhaps separation anxiety.
By the end of his second semester, I barely knew him. His hygiene was awful. Our interactions were heartbreaking. The change was indescribable. An “aha, wait, could my son be using drugs?” flashed through my mind but I instantly moved to “no way he wouldn’t do such.” He wouldn’t eat food due to expire in a week. He stops thirty feet before a stop sign. He’s a rule follower. What was going on?
A visit with a psychiatrist and a summer of weekly intense psychological therapy concluded there was nothing wrong. He could return to school in the fall. Diagnosis: Mom hovering and Father not engaged. Prescription: follow up bi-weekly Skype appointments with off week return flights home for in person psych visit. “Oh and Mom, since you have a business in San Diego you can drug test him every three days.” This disturbed me. I resented being the cop. How would this heal what he claims is a broken relationship? It didn’t. Things progressively got worse.
Hearing I could be the problem was heart-wrenching. How could I be responsible for his hygiene, laziness, academic performance, and lack of luster? I fell into deep despair. What went wrong? How could I connect with him? Every effort was thwarted.
The enigma dissipated when I discovered money had been stolen. I sat with the reality and then gave myself permission to search his college bedroom where I discovered packages of synthetic drugs. Dang, no wonder his drug tests were clean. We had been manipulated. I was furious and destined to fix him.
A medical leave from school, and a lot more insanity resulted in his admission into an IOP. An acronym I’d never heard of. Sadly, he was introduced to smoking black tar heroin in the parking lot. I’ve no words for this discovery. Except to say, I felt like I had a gigantic Transformer (the movie kind) H swirling around me twenty-four seven. God only knows what he felt like.
I called a round table meeting with the facility and quickly removed him. Research and phone calls concluded a facility in Prescott would accept a patient whose medical needs required the use of needles. Post a road trip in the family suburban (not the familiar family road trip) and an intense interview with the staff, I was sure I could do better. I would bring him home, put him to work, get him to meetings daily, and create a healthy routine. I could do a ninety-day regimen, no problem. I would destroy the beast that grabbed ahold of my son.
Fifty-four days into this insanity regimen my gut told me “this is bigger than you”
My gut was right. The “H” Transformer had re-emerged only stronger and more powerful.
I followed medical advice and admitted him into a prominent hospital IOP program in San Diego. The kind with nurses, security the whole works. Three weeks into the program (family week) once again “He’s fine. He just needs freedom.” Imagine sitting in a family week of a drug rehab program and hearing your son needs freedom. I was in early recovery yet keenly aware this “grand facility” was being duped. I wanted to say “little do you professionals know, your patients are smoking ‘H’ on breaks.” He graduated the thirty-day program. Surprised? Did I want to change this program? Absolutely! However, I was changing. I was moving into acceptance and knew he needed more.
Further research revealed my son would do best in a long-term facility, but he refused. “I’ll die before I go to another place, they’re all a joke.” I was filled with fear. His words haunted me. Connecting the dots was nearly impossible for me.
My husband had his share of horrific tragedies many decades ago, which left unaddressed, made for an unhealthy partner and father. Unknowingly, I became the can do it all, fix it, type of person. My insanity conjured up the notion that sending him away with his father to our family farm for a few months would heal deep hurts and somehow everything would be better. I even hired a sober coach from San Diego to speak with him weekly. I learned troubled souls couldn’t help each other without recovery work. During his absence, my mother’s heart stopped right before my eyes in her hospital bed. Reviving and life support for eight days taught me an enormous lesson. Letting go is hard but doing so with love is a beautiful thing.
Upon his return home, for my mother’s memorial, I saw a sensitive young man full of love, compassion, low self-esteem, shame and hurt. His struggles with substances were reaI. However, I looked at him differently. I wasn’t mad like before. My recovery work allowed me to understand. Accepting reality and letting go of results would be key to his success.
An Intervention was imminent. How though and where next? His sober coach mentioned a place called New Life House in LA. Imagine the family resistance. “Are you crazy? Who sends their kid to LA where drugs are everywhere?” I called NLH numerous times speaking with Derrick J. He was, and is, amazing. I’d had enough of programs. I wanted the real deal. I knew the bold questions to ask.
I agonized over the ‘intervention’. How would I speak so he would hear me? Speaking amongst crowds didn’t frighten me but this looming conversation did. I had one shot to connect with him. In an odd way it seemed as though he was waiting for me to wake up. Crazy huh? I had to sit with the reality he might leave. I had to be willing to let him walk out my door without food, juice, or money into 115-degree weather. Having diabetes and needing essentials no longer registered with me. I had a conversation with my son like no other. No tears, no screaming. I spoke to him from my heart with love and he heard my words. He chose to walk out the door and as he walked away he looked back and asked about food and money. I suggested maybe his “best” friends could help him? I closed the door and went on with my day and night. I had made a choice to love him to life vs. love him to death and there was no turning back. I had a peace.
He returned the next day, dropping his backpack and asking for help. I gave him two choices and he chose a wilderness treatment program. He boarded a flight two days later. Two months into the program we had a family week visit. He was changing. Parents were assigned the task of researching long-term structured sober living programs before the guys returned from their twenty-one day, 120-mile trek through the Bob Marsh wilderness. Yikes, I have to choose again. L The gift occurred when they gave me a slip of paper with three names to choose from. New Life House was one. God was doing his work and I was staying out of His way.
He transitioned to New Life House and within weeks I had hope. He spoke in a different tone. He expressed love and appreciation. He began looking healthy and happy. He was living a structured life and understanding the need for balance in his life. He started caring about his health, his teeth, and his hygiene. I often say NLH is man’s school.
As part of God’s plan
Derrick J. became his sponsor. Talk about full circle. Today my son is a graduate. He is living his life experiences, working and giving back to others. His love for his brotherhood of NLH is immeasurable. I, too, have many wonderful lifetime friends/parents acquired via NLH. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
Yes, we’ve experienced tremendous sadness and had numerous challenges tossed our way but the traumatic events in our family have taught me the reality of being powerless. I’ve learned being everything to everybody failed me, and harmed my son. I, too, am making changes in my life. Our largest gift is recognizing we have a divine level of connection as children of God. We realize we hold equal value, yet play different roles. Today our relationship is based on healthy boundaries, love, truth, and understanding.
He has a peace, and so do I.
Thank you New Life House. I love each and every one of you for being authentic, loving, honest, and tough when necessary, and simply awesome. May God continue to provide each of you wisdom as you work with our young men. Thank you to all of the families that have loved us along the way. I love each of you. I’m grateful we’ve become one big blessed family.