Shouldering the Load

How much weight can one person’s shoulders carry?

The past couple of years, and specifically the past 21 months have shown me just how strong my shoulders are…..and how much stronger they are when the load is shared with another and when I trust in God.

March 2016……my husband’s birthday weekend, one of the worst weekends we had had in a really long time….years actually. That weekend, we couldn’t reach our son. He didn’t come home. He didn’t answer his phone. And after a couple of days, we decided to try tracking his phone through our carrier…..and that is when we discovered his phone was more than an hour from us, so I called again. This time it was answered by a stranger…..my son’s phone had been found on a garbage can in the parking lot of a casino and the person took it with them. We spent the next few days talking with the police, and driving….hours of driving trying to find our son….up and down every lane in the parking lot of the casino where his phone had been found, looking for his car……hours driving city streets in areas we knew him to have been……hours texting and calling his friends and no one had seen or heard from him……and many sleepless hours. And then we feared the very worst, we would never see our son again……..and then he called. Relief. And anger when he told us his crazy story.

That weekend began 21 months that showed me just how strong I can be. The beginning of months of disappearances and worry. Months of having him home then asking him to leave. Months where weeks at a time we had no idea where he was, or if he was alive or dead. Months of fearing the knock on the door and the ring of our cell phones. Months of dealing with the darkness of addiction. Months of dealing with the justice system…arrests, court appearances, probation visits…….

And today, finally, relief……

My son has been under the threat of prison time since last April, when the system decided to file more charges from earlier arrests. And those charges started months of stress for him and for us…. Probation violation and the nightmare that followed in Yavapai county, then the threat of prison. In September, my son decided not to accept the plea deal to go to prison….. and he opted for trial.

More stress. Worry. Fear.

The last nine months had my son finally at a point that was positive in his life. He had completed intensive outpatient drug treatment. He was present and working on staying clean. He had monthly random drug tests that kept coming back clean.

But the threat of prison weighed heavily on him. And that stress sunk him deep into the dark hole of depression and severe anxiety. I was scared. We were beginning to lose him again, but this time to depression not drugs.

My shoulders were sagging under the weight of all that had happened and the weight of the fear and worry while watching helplessly as my son sunk deeper and deeper into that black hole.

And then things started to look up, positive things were happening……an emergency visit to a real psychiatrist had my son hopeful, finally being put back on medication he had been without for a couple of months. Hope. Relief.

And then a letter in the mail a few days ago, one that may have upset another, but for us…..relief. My son had gone through an evaluation for mental health services and was accepted, his mental health illness severe enough to warrant real help…..finally! Someone listened. Someone saw what we were seeing. Someone heard my son and knew he needed help. Hope. Relief. Weight lifting for all of us.

But we were still facing today, a court appearance for sentencing. The choice to go to trial gave my son another chance for treatment and not prison. They offered him a much better plea deal, one that would not send him to prison and one that dropped the charges from 2016. He accepted the new plea deal last month.

And today we were back in that courtroom in front of the judge. It was a long morning. Stress. Worry. Fear. And then my son was standing in front of the judge. And when she told him she was sentencing him to 3 years probation…..the weight I had been carrying suddenly lifted. I didn’t hear the rest of what the judge said.

Everything these past 21 months, every moment of fear, worry, anger…..every moment that sought to destroy me, to destroy my family……. It suddenly bubbled to the top…… I wasn’t sure I could walk out of there in that moment.

Relief overcame me…..

This chapter is over. And in that moment, as the weight on my shoulders lifted, I realized just how much I had carried….. and wondered how I had done it…… How did I manage to still get through a day at work? How did I wake up each morning and get through my day? How did I manage to take those trips that needed to be taken? How did I stay afloat when the weight was trying to drown me?

I have heard many times that “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” True. I am stronger, much stronger than I ever thought I was. And I can do so much more than I ever imagined. I have traveled a road I never imagined I would find myself on…… and now I get ready to help my son navigate this new road, one that is leading him toward hope….. hope for a life without drugs….. hope for a life with some meaning…… hope for a life where he does not live in fear and where he can find peace.

And I know that I did not carry this load alone.

How much can one person’s shoulders carry? It depends. I have discovered that my shoulders can carry a lot of weight, but not alone. I have only gotten through these past 21 months because of my family, who helped me and gave me strength when I thought I would fall….. some dear friends who checked in on me and gave me a listening ear, a hug when I needed it and a shoulder to cry on……. and my faith, with God by my side I can do anything, and He made sure that the people I needed were there when I needed them….. and I carried this load because my best friend, my partner, the love of my life and the father of my sons was right there next to me, helping me to carry the load and at times carrying all of us when I was too tired to keep going and then resting while I was strong.

We now have hope. We are ready to continue this next chapter, to help our son get healthy and find his way in the world.

It won’t be easy for him. But it sure will be easier without the fear of prison weighing on him every day.

These past 21 months I trusted….. and I just kept breathing…….

And for those of you reading this, who find yourself going through the storm, don’t give up…… hold on…….reach out to others….. and know that you ARE NOT alone. So many are going through this and you do not have to shoulder the load alone.

For those of you who know someone going through the storm, don’t pull away….. instead reach out to them, give them a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, let them know they are not alone. The storm of addiction is lonely and isolating and the weight of it all can crush a soul, but with support, with care and understanding, the weight can be carried, the storm can be gotten through and lives can be changed.

My hope is that by sharing my families story we have opened the minds and hearts of others so that we can support each other without judgement and stop the isolation and loneliness that comes with addiction.

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My Sweet Friend

I have really been struggling to find my words this past week…..

I lost an old friend.

On Nov 12th my friend went missing. All of her friends rallied together, shared information and tried to locate her in the only way we could from distances far away.

You see, my friend had moved from Washington to Illinois over a year ago with her boyfriend of over a decade. And she was lonely. She didn’t have friends or family in Illinois…..

And things did not go well.

My friend has struggled since I have known her with bouts of depression…..and being isolated, away from all who loved her…..in physical pain, daily……and in a relationship that was….well, let’s just say that the relationship fueled her depression….all of this led to the moment that broke so many hearts…..

The thing is, I did not realize just how bad things were for her…or how depressed she had become because I was lost these past two years in my own storm, dealing with my family situation and my son’s addiction and mental health issues……so I didn’t know…….

This was a dear friend of mine from high school.

We spent a lot of time together…..she spent the night at my house many times and we always had a great time. When she was at my house we were up late, long nights talking, laughing and enjoying our friendship. We stayed up late baking cookies and then in the middle of the night our craving for cheeze pleezers and strawberry Shasta would strike, and off we would go, walking to 7-11 to get some…..mostly at midnight and once at 2am. As long as the two of us were together we were safe!

We spent a lot of time at her house in the summer of 1982….helping her dad to haul hay. My friend lived on a small dairy farm and the summer/fall meant hauling hay….loading the truck and unloading in the barn. We had fun doing it, even though it was exhausting work. We sang country songs and then rode on top of the hay in the big hay truck after hours hard work……those days were amazing and our friendship became stronger.

We went to camp together in the summer…..spent a lot of time in Rainbow girls…..went on double dates…..and so much more. Life with my friend was fun and crazy…..she made me laugh, made me cry, shared my joys and pains, and sometimes drove me nuts.

In the fall of 1982 my dad made it unsafe for me to live at home any longer and my friend and her mother offered me a home to live in so I could finish high school…..I shared my friends room with her and we became inseparable. She was with me, skipping school, when I met my future husband. We laughed, cried, shared secrets and our dreams. She was a sister to me.

I saw it back then, though I didn’t really talk about it with anyone…..her depression. There were times when she would be depressed and we would spend hours talking….or rather her talking and me listening and I would do everything I could to help her.

Through the years we stayed close. We both got married and then we each had children. She stayed in the same town and I moved away with my husband, going wherever the Air Force sent us. We would go long periods of time without seeing each other, but then I would go home to visit and she and I would get together and it was as if no time had gone by….we always picked up where we left off. We wrote a lot of long letters in those days before email and internet and paid for high long distance phone calls. But they were worth it. Friends staying connected.

And then her life changed dramatically over a decade ago and our phone conversations were less often, but we still wrote letters and then she climbed onboard with facebook and we would message each other to stay in touch.

It has been 10 years since I last saw my friend in person….we met for breakfast on one of my trips home……just the two of us. And we talked for hours. I could see that she was struggling, but she was surrounded by friends and family so I knew she wasn’t alone.

And then the past two years things took a turn for me and I stepped back from my friends, my family needed me and emotionally I couldn’t handle anything else.  We still messaged, but we didn’t talk……

Then over a year ago she moved away from her family and her friends, to another state with only her boyfriend for support…..and as the year passed she became more isolated, her depression growing…fueled by loneliness and…..so much more.

And now she is gone.

Gone.

I will never again have a chance to talk with her, to hear her laugh…….I didn’t know. I wish I had.  I wish I had called her.  I wish I had taken the time to listen.  I wish I had known.

And now she is gone. I am still in shock. I am hurting. I feel guilty.

Eight days after my friend went missing she was found. She had taken her own life.

Her sister called me to tell me…..

I am left with so many questions….WHY?  Why, my dear friend?

I know she was alone, having left her support network back in Washington when she moved. And now I know now just how bad things had gotten for her in that new state…….with no one to help her, to seek help for her, to love her and support her……

Why? Depression strikes so many and yet we still struggle to understand and talk about it. When are we going to change that? When is mental health going to be as important as physical health? When will the medical industry treat mental illnesses the way they treat physical illnesses…..

The image in my mind of my friend, alone…….it will never leave me. And I am left with the questions of why, and also the “what if”….what if I had called…..what if I had known…..what if…… and the “if only”.  I will never know the answers.

…..and I am left with guilt and heartbreak.

My dear, sweet friend is gone. And I realize that no matter what is going on in my life I need to make sure I keep in contact with my friends and family, that I let them know just how much they mean to me, that I never again miss the signs and never again lose someone I love to suicide.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and expressing thoughts of suicide, please reach out, call the National Suicide Awareness Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Today, hug your loved ones a little tighter….tell them how you feel……don’t waste another minute or day. Life is all too short and we never know when it is our last moment on earth or that of our loved ones.

I wish I had one more day with you, my sweet friend….you drove me nuts at times, you made me laugh, you listened when I needed a friend, and I wish I could tell you, just one more time, how much I love you!

I miss you my sweet friend! I hope you have found peace……

When hope is taken away, what is left?

My husband wrote in his letter to the court on behalf of our son, that “an endless supply of hope is what every parent of an addict needs”. And he is right.

Hope got us through some of the darkest days. And along with the hope, our faith kept us going. Even when we had no idea where our son was or when we would……if we would….ever hear from or see him again.   Yet, we continued to hope…..and pray……and hold on.

My son is still facing the probation violation charges in Yavapai county that I previously wrote about and is facing charges here in our county, and despite all of that we have held on to hope.

My son continues to move forward in his treatment, making forward progress every day. Is it perfect? Is he perfect? No. But that is the nature of the addiction beast.

Hope keeps him going. The hope for a future without drugs….the hope for happiness…..the hope for a light at the end of this long judicial tunnel……the hope that he will be healthy……..

Hope gives him a reason to keep trying, to keep working on his recovery.

And then this week we hit a roadblock and hope was pulled out from under him…..and us.

Imagine, if you will, that you received a speeding ticket and were dealt your punishment. But after the punishment was decided…..well, the court goes back in time and discovers that you were pulled over two other times, but never punished….so now they are going to bring you back to court and punish you for those two previous speeding tickets.

That is what my son is facing now, only his crimes are victimless……well, not really if you take into account that he is the victim of his addictions.   He was arrested in March of this year and was sentenced in April for that arrest. And then the day after his sentencing, the same county and the same prosecutor’s office filed new charges stemming from an arrest 3 weeks prior to his March arrest……for the exact same charges, related to being an addict. We have been to court for this newest charge three times now, each time resulting in a continuance, twice by the prosecution and this week by my son’s attorney. The prosecutor continued the case, because they wanted to decide whether or not to file more charges.

And this week, when we went to court, my son’s lawyer informed us that they had filed charges for an arrest he had in April 2016……..more than a year ago.

And the plea deal from the prosecutor’s office was awful……….

Now, we go to court again, in a three weeks and my son now faces 4 more felony charges stemming from 2 arrests that occurred before the arrest that resulted in his current sentence…….

I have struggled the past few days with how to put into words what I am feeling. This hit me hard. And it hit my son hard.

I finally had my son back. He is alive and trying to get himself whole and healthy. He is going to treatment, he is participating and talking with us. He is present. I had my son back.

But I have now watched these past two days as he slips into depression and I am scared. The hope he had for his future, the plans and the dreams that he finally started allowing back into his mind…..well where is that hope now? When hope is yanked right out from under you, what is left?

My son has lost everything because of his addictions. And just when he thought he had a chance at a real life without drugs, this happens…….so why try? Why continue? What’s the point when the punishment being offered is worse than the punishment he is already serving?  A punishment, by the way, given him by a judge who knew about the other arrests and took them into account when deciding my son’s sentence.

I am at a loss. How can an addict, any addict, get clean and have a real life when the system is set up for punishment, not rehabilitation? Shouldn’t the goal be to get addicts clean and help them to become healthy, functioning members of society? Shouldn’t we all, as a society be trying to help these addicts, especially those participating in their own treatment? When is it enough punishment……..when we take away all hope? Addicts lose everything and then the system takes the last bit they can hold onto, their hope.  And this loss of hope leads to the cycle of drug use—arrest—incarceration—drug use–arrest–incarceration……..

I am angry and frustrated. I am scared. I don’t understand and am trying to, but this defies all reasoning. My son is sick and more punishment is NOT going to make him better.

He needs to continue treatment.

He needs help.

He needs hope.

I am disillusioned and losing hope. And when hope is gone, what is left?

For me, what is left is my family—my husband who is my rock through everything, our boys who are my purpose and gifts from God, and extended family who are all a source of comfort and strength– and my friends.

And what I am left with is my faith. I know that God is right here with all of us. I know He will not leave me to drown in this storm. I know that He will make sure that I and my son and our family will be provided what we need to weather the storm hitting us. My faith keeps me going and will keep me going…..and one day I will find hope again.

I am trusting God and taking the leap……..

My Call to Action

It has been almost 2 weeks since we took our son to self-surrender for his probation violation at Yavapai County Jail, in Camp Verde and almost a week since his court hearing. And it has been an emotional time.

I was proud of my son for doing the right thing when he self-surrendered and I thought that doing the right thing would matter…….little did I know that doing the right thing would be the beginning of a nightmare for all of us.

We left the jail and had no idea what would be happening to our son or when we might be able to pick him up. That was hard. But even harder was the call I received later that night from my son, from the infirmary…..

He told me that despite having his prescriptions with him, the contracted medical staff told him he would NOT receive any medication while there in the Yavapai County Jail and would just have to withdraw. I could hear the fear in his voice. I felt the fear rising rapidly through my body……..

My son is on Methadone and the withdrawals are horrible, but that knowledge did not stop my breath…..it was knowing that he would not receive his Klonipin, the medication for his anxiety, a medication prescribed by a psychiatrist and one he has been taking for 13+ years…….a medication that when stopped suddenly can cause life threatening seizures. And we know all too well about those seizures, caused when doctors, who did not understand the dangers, would stop his medication.

So when he told me that the medical staff was refusing to give him his medication, I was in fear for my son’s life. How could that be legal? Surely this was not right? Other times that he had been in jail, he had received all of his meds……why was this different?

And then I remembered what had happened last fall and that this was the SAME jail where the nurse refused to give him his medication, even after the police had told her he needed them. And a few hours after his release, he had a seizure, prompting a 911 call and an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

Now, I was really scared and my anger began to grow. I knew I needed to do something and I needed to be at the court the next morning for my son’s initial appearance, to stand up for my son and make sure the judge had all the information needed to make an informed decision about my son.

I drove north early in the morning and more than 2 hours after I left home, I arrived at the courthouse. I checked with the information desk to find out which courtroom my son would be seen in and then I was informed he would not be seen at that courthouse because the judge for his case was not on the docket that day. Instead they were seeing him at the courthouse next to the jail. Crap! That was another hour away, I would NEVER make it in time. The clerk took mercy on me and gave me a number to call at the other court in order to find out information about my son and to get information to the judge.

I called. I talked to the clerk. She told me to call back after 9am to find out what the bond was set at. I told her about the medication situation and the dangers. She told me the judge couldn’t do anything about that as it was under the jails control to make that decision.

I should have known right then that there would be NO help, NO concern, NO caring.

I called after 9am. My son was seen and the judge set his bond at $25,000. It didn’t matter that my son was clean at this point. It didn’t matter that my son was to start treatment that afternoon. It didn’t matter that my son had never missed a court date. It didn’t matter that my son was being denied medication that was necessary for his physical and mental wellbeing. It didn’t matter that my son did the right thing…….it didn’t matter.

I immediately called the Yavapai County Public Defender’s office and I got the same response as last time—they can only talk to my son. But she took my name and number after I told her about the medication situation and my fear that my son would end up being taken to the emergency room or worse, lose his life. She said someone would call me.

And someone did. She listened to my concerns. She told me that the jail makes the decisions about medication based on their assessments. She said she would look into it.

I spent hours talking in person and on the phone with many people. And no one cared.

I started the process to see what we could do to get my son out on bond, could we use the house for collateral, because now it was my son’s life that was at stake. And I called attorneys that I could hire to see what it would cost and what they could do.

And then I drove more than 2 hours home. It was one of the longest, loneliest, saddest drives.

Later that night we heard back from a lawyer and decided to hire him. What was happening was beyond legal and was inhumane…..and we didn’t know the whole story yet.

I talked with my son many times that day, each call worse than the previous. He was suffering. I made sure he knew I was doing all that I could for him, that I was fighting to get him his meds or get him out of there. I was not going to stop fighting. I told him I didn’t know if we could get him out. And he understood. He took it all so well and his attitude stayed hopeful and positive. But he was suffering.

It was breaking my heart.

And then the public defender called me again. She told me that she had typed up a letter for the nurse at the jail and would go see my son in the morning to get him his meds.

I was hopeful. But in the conversation I could hear that she did not really understand what was going on or the dangers.

The next morning when my son called, he was worse….unable to keep food down now. I knew this preceded the seizures and was more worried. And I started making calls again.

Finally, we were able to find a bonds agency to bond our son out. And we headed out for the 3-hour drive. When my son called we told him we were on our way, but it would be a few hours. We arrived in the town where the jail was and waited to get him out. He called shortly after we arrived in town.

And that was when he told us he had had a seizure.

My heart stopped. I held my breath. I told him to hang in there, we are getting him out.

A couple of hours later we saw him walk out of the jail. Relief. He was alive. I immediately gave him his medication. And he hugged me….tight.

On the drive home he told us what had happened in the Yavapai County Jail, Camp Verde infirmary. After my son’s seizure, when he was aware of his surroundings again, the other inmates told him that as soon as his seizure started, they banged on the windows to get the guards. They told him the guards came rushing in, asking what they should do. And the nurse looked at the guards and told them to do nothing, that my son was okay.

WHAT?? I was livid. How could anyone, especially a medical professional, behave in such a manner and with such disregard for another human?

And then he told me the rest of what was happening….how NONE of the inmates in the infirmary were receiving their prescribed medications from the contracted health company. Not the individual who was on high blood pressure meds, he was just told to lie down and drink water. Not the man who had been laying in a bed in the infirmary who suffers from severe neuropathy and was denied his non-narcotic and narcotic pain medications….this man could not walk because of his pain. NO ONE was given medication in this jail.

I am appalled that this is allowed to happen, that no one has stopped this. And I am taking action.

The medical staff and the contracted health agency for the Yavapai County Jail, did not count on my son having a family who cared about him and about others. My heart breaks for those who are still there and I worry that someone will lose their life in that infirmary.

I am taking action, through my letters to local, state and federal politicians, my letters and calls to organizations who help and advocate for the mentally ill and addicted, and through my calls to the ACLU. I will not stop until those held in that jail are treated humanely.

My son is still working through the justice system in Yavapai County and in ours. He had his hearing this past week and when his lawyer told us that the prosecution wants him to spend a week to two weeks back in that jail, my heart stopped…..I couldn’t breathe. And I told the lawyer that my son would not survive that. So, he listened and heard us and decided we needed some more time and had the hearing delayed until next month.

A month in which my son will have more time in treatment. A month in which my son will have more clean drug tests. And a month in which we can breathe just a little.

And a month that I can spend working on behalf of those still suffering in that jail, at the hands of the contracted medical staff.

This is my call to action.

What if…….

I can’t breathe…….

The regret, guilt and the What ifs are weighing heavy on my chest, threatening to keep me from ever breathing again……..

What if I had fought harder for my son to get help when he was a young child?

What if I had known my family medical history before becoming a parent?

What if I had forced my son into some sort of treatment program when he was still under our care?

What if I had known then, what I know now, how would that have changed the events that led to today?

What if I had never encouraged my son to move here, hoping it would help him to get on track in life?

What if……..I could run those what if’s through my mind until my head explodes…….the guilt, the regret, the what if’s are overshadowing all that is good in our life……coloring the joy………and keeping us stuck in the guilt……

These past few days the what ifs have really been running through my mind. But regret does not change the past, guilt does not correct the wrongs, and what ifs won’t change the outcome.

I have shared that my son suffers from mental illnesses and is an addict. I have shared the struggles and challenges of living with and loving someone with his illnesses. And it is hard. His most recent bottom, though, had brought us some hope.

He finally was seeking help. He had an intake last week for an outpatient program and tomorrow he was to start intensive outpatient treatment…….

He has been off of drugs since his last arrest in March…….

He passed a random drug test…….

Over the past almost two months I have watched as my son emerged from his addiction and became “my” son again. He was laughing with us, talking with us, taking care of his cats, going places with us, and taking care of himself. He was doing everything he needed to do to get his life on track and get clean.

And then the system stepped in…….and the county where he was arrested last fall revoked his probation. He was going to have to go back to jail.

We were all surprised because it came about suddenly, after saying they would not do this. But the justice system can change its mind. And my son did violate the terms of his probation by being arrested again…….

I was scared that this news would send my son into a tailspin back down that awful path……

But he took it in stride, accepted what would be happening and continued to do the things he needed to do to get himself healthy.

And then today, we had to do one of the hardest things a parent should ever have to do…..when our son asked us to take him north to turn himself in and face the consequences of his probation violation, he was so brave. He wanted to do the right thing. He wanted to do what was necessary to continue his positive progress.

This morning we drove our son the 2 hours to the jail……..and I was having a hard time just breathing……

But I drew strength from my son’s courage.

When we arrived, my son bravely walked into the jail lobby and self-surrendered. I was so proud of how he handled himself, of the courage he showed and his attitude.

We waited 2 ½ hours for them to come and get him…….and watching the officer walk up to my son and take him through the door…………..THAT was awful…….and if it was so awful for me, I can only imagine how hard this is on my son, yet he didn’t show it.

Now we wait……..and pray that the court and the judge will see his progress now, and see that he is finally ready. I pray that the judge will see that punishment will not benefit my son as much as treatment and counseling will. I pray that God will protect my son while he is in the jail and that all the forward progress he has made will not be for nothing or be too late.

At what point, do we as a society, start to treat addiction as the disease it is? At what point do we, as a society, start to look for ways to heal those afflicted with mental illnesses rather than locking them away for punishment? It really is time to start acting, not just talking. Drug addiction is the one crime where the perpetrator is also the victim, and yet we punish them rather than get the addict REAL help. Yes, there are consequences for our choices, but addiction is different, it is an illness and throwing an addict in jail does not get them help, not for the long run. Instead, the punishment continues the cycle and continues the stigma that surrounds addicts. When are we going to stand up and change this? When will we do the right thing for addicts and start saving lives?

I am starting now, with this blog post and with the many letters I will be sending out to my local politicians….it is time I do more than talk, it is time I take action! For my son, for my family and for the many others I know who are dealing with these same issues.

And I will be praying while I try to breathe…….just breathe…….

What if…….we as a society committed to REAL change instead of just talking?

Clearing the Clutter to take back control

Clutter.

Cleaning.

Control.

I spent some time last week talking with members about cleaning up the clutter, in our physical space and in our mental space.

Clutter is stressful. Clutter makes it difficult for us to live a healthy life. Clutter makes it difficult to take care of ourselves. And clutter in our physical world can reflect the chaos and clutter in our head.

The past couple of weeks I have been clearing out clutter, cleaning out and rearranging the physical spaces in my house.

And with each closet, drawer or room, I have also been clearing out my head.

When you love an addict, your head becomes quite cluttered. And when you live with an addict the physical and mental clutter collides with the chaos of their cluttered, chaotic life.

Today I have been cleaning…..and as I scrubbed my cabinets I realized I was scrubbing……or rather trying to scrub away the visuals in my mind…….the images that threaten to suck me into the spinning funnel cloud that hovers above my life, always there ready to touch down and rip apart all that I love.

That is how it feels to live with and love an addict.

And I HATE what this has done to my child. The child I carried inside me. The child I dreamed about and loved before he was born. The child I read to at night. The child I cried with when he was hurting. The child I laughed with while watching a beloved show. The child I watched become a man. The child that is a part of me, who had so much to offer this world. My child, who is funny, kind, impulsive, daring, creative and opinionated.

Addiction has robbed me of my son. And has robbed my son of the life he should have had.  He is lost inside the spinning tornado. And I have no idea when or where this tornado will drop him.

Every day is filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. And every day is filled with prayer.

I love my son. And I want him back—whole, healthy and full of life. This is not my son right now.

So, today, as I scrub cabinets, floors and walls….as I sort through the physical clutter, I am also sorting through the emotional clutter created by a life I never wanted to live in……a life I never imagined I would HAVE to live in. And through de-cluttering I am trying to get back control….control of my life, my emotions, my home.

I am trying to find my way and navigate through this funnel cloud so that when the tornado touches down again….and it will…..I am ready and more prepared. Making it so that I can recover more quickly and so that I can help my family through the debris.

As I clean and de-clutter today, I am just going to breathe……and trust that God will help me.

A Turning Point

Turning points—those moments we can look back and pinpoint as a moment that made a change in our lives happen. An event that occurred September 15th was a turning point in my son’s life and yesterday was the culmination of that moment.

Yesterday was filled with emotion………and it was the beginning of what I pray is a new start, a new chance for a change in life direction and hope for the future, which seems a little brighter than it has in the past year.

The events yesterday, really began months ago…..actually years ago with the struggles my oldest son has endured throughout his life. I wrote about those struggles in my blog post It is Time to Start the Conversation and those struggles with mental health illnesses, including addiction, continue.

Yesterday was a culmination of a series of events over the past couple of months.

And it started with a phone call on a Saturday morning…..a phone call resulting from my text message to my son, who had been gone this time for a week…..a week in which we had no idea where he was or how he was. And he wasn’t answering our calls, a sure sign that he was not doing well with his addictions. So, I texted his phone, threatening to have it shut off if he did not call me that morning……..and then the phone rang, his picture and number popping up on my phone……..only it wasn’t my son on the other end, it was his friend. He wanted me to know that he had my son’s phone and that they had been separated from each other in a town two and half hours away from us. And he wanted me to know that he had finally discovered that my son had been arrested for drug possession, two days prior and that he was released from jail the night before in a town fifty miles from where the friend was.

Now I was worried.

I knew my son did not have his phone, money, or his car. And he was in the middle of nowhere. He did not know our phone numbers, so I did not know where he was or how he was doing.

Worry really set in.

And then an hour later, the phone rang…….a number I did not recognize. I answered, fearing the worst……and then I heard my son’s voice.

He sounded pretty shook up. And he told me that the police had confiscated his prescribed medication……how that happened along with why he did not have his car is another story for another time…….and the police refused to give him any of his medication. This is a medication that when he goes without it, leads to seizures and can have life-threatening consequences. He had been without his medication for 3 days by this point. And when he was released from jail, it was night…..with no car, no money, no phone and suffering without his medication, he had nowhere to turn.

So he spent the night in the cold sleeping behind a gas station near the jail………THAT visual, now more than a month after the event, still haunts me.

But even worse is hearing him say that he was in the emergency room…..the gas station attendant had called an ambulance because my son was having seizures…..on the concrete……….behind the gas station…….ALONE. THAT visual, THAT thought is difficult for me, even now a month after it happened and if I allow myself to spend too much time thinking about him in that moment I will lose it……my tears won’t stop.

He then said he wanted help and wanted to come home.

So, we headed out for the over 3-hour drive to pick him up at the hospital and then the over hour drive to get his phone and things from his friend and then back home…….7 hours on the road that day……..and when I caught myself getting emotional, I held it back…….forced myself to NOT go there……not yet.

That night, behind a closed door, I let it all out.

And then began a month of learning, roller-coaster emotions, and seeking help for my son.

I have learned a lot this past month………some I never wanted to learn and some I wish I had known years ago.

Our mental health system is broken.

Help is hard to get for those with no money and no insurance. And addiction is a mental health issue and help is difficult for those with no money and those with co-occurring disorders.

I spent hours and hours on the phone trying to get him into an inpatient program……..sadly we could not afford the tens of thousands of dollars those programs cost. And with no insurance, my son could not get into one of those programs. And government assistance does not cover the programs that help with his co-occurring disorders and most of the government covered treatment programs are outpatient.

Yes, he is getting help now. Slowly….one-step-at-a-time.

And we are doing the best we can to help him.

But it is his life and his choices to make…….something difficult for me to let go of. I am his mother. I just want to make it better for him……but I can’t. And the helplessness is difficult to deal with, weighing heavy on this mother’s heart and soul.

Yesterday, my son and I spent the day back in the town where all these events occurred over a month ago. And he stood before the judge, accepting a plea deal that will have him on probation for quite a while and require him to complete a drug treatment program. His dreams of moving away are on hold for now.

The emotions of this past month threatened to bubble up and escape as I sat in the courtroom, listening as the judge read the charges against my son……….

And then relief settled in……he is alive…….something I am not sure I would be saying if he had not been arrested. I believe that God had a hand in answering the prayers of my husband and I and that this arrest, on that day in September, is why my son is still here. He was headed down a dangerous road and now that he is sharing with us what has really been going on, I am so thankful that this turning point occurred.

He is ALIVE! I still have my son. And today……right now……I know where he is and how he is.

This is a new start for him, a turning point in his life and an opportunity to get help and to start LIVING because the past year, especially that past 6 months, he has not been living……..he was very lost.

We don’t have all the answers. And we may not be handling things perfectly, but we will keep seeking the answers to our questions and keep seeking the help our son needs and that we need. We will take it one-day-at-a-time, realizing that this is a journey and that it has been and will continue at times to be 2 steps forward and 1 step back.

And we will continue to love our son, unconditionally, praying daily that this works, that this is the time in his life when he will become the person he was always meant to be, that he will find peace and happiness.

And we know that no matter how bad things get, there is ALWAYS hope. ALWAYS!

We just have to take the leap, trust, have faith……and just breathe.