Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Losing Your Teenager and Gaining an Adult - Part 1 of 6 Written by Lori (Reprinted from PSST blog 1-29-08)
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Thursday, January 29, 2009

I am a mother in a Middle-America, double income family that consists of my husband of 30 years, my daughter age 27 and my son age 21. I grew up in the inner city where I met my future husband in high school; we married after college and moved to the suburbs to start our family. This is the story of my son's drug addiction that started in his teenage years told in six parts.

I describe the events leading to my realization that I had lost my teenager to drugs and the steps I took to cope with that realization, get my son help, and rebuild my family with our new adult son in drug recovery. I am offering my story to help raise the awareness of the teen drug problem, to help destroy the stereotype of the drug addiction as being an inner city issue, and to share some of the lessons I have learned with the hope that they may benefit you and your family.

“So, when you think about your teenager or young adult drug addict, think for a second, how old is he? Of course, you know your child’s age. However, I am referring to that split-second between when you think of your child and when you remember his actual age. ."

Part One

If you have a teenager that has a problem with drugs, you are probably consumed with his drug addiction. In fact, you have probably been consumed with his addiction for years.

Most, if not all, of your energy and focus have been on your addicted teenager and his drug abuse. You and your family have not had much time to enjoy the typical things that teenagers do. In fact, you probably have no happy memories of the teen years of your drug-addicted child. And you have not had that typical parent / teenager relationship that you so much needed. You have not experienced being a parent of a typical teenager and you have not shared in all those events with your teenager that you just assumed would happen.

So, when you think about your teenager or young adult drug addict, think for a second, how old is he? Of course, you know your child’s age. However, I am referring to that split-second between when you think of your child and when you remember his actual age.

Let's do a little exercise. Sit back. Relax and take a deep breath. Now think about your child and try to force the image into slow motion. Now notice him for the first split-second.

What does he look like? And ... how old is he?

My son is 21 years old. That’s the reality. He is a recovering heroin addict and has spent time in behavior modification programs, drug rehabs, and halfway houses since he was 17 till he was 20 years old. He is a grown man now, living in Miami. He attends the University of Miami, does well in school, has his own apartment, has a job, and pays all of his own bills. And there is no sign of drug use. He doesn't do everything that he has been taught in recovery, but he does some of those things and is learning what recovery means to him. He is making some mistakes, none serious at this point, and he is building a new life for himself. He remains healthy, looks great, has a plan for his future, and we are very proud of him.

However, when I think of my son, for that split second before I remember that he is 21 years old, he is only 9 years old. There is a part of me that still sees him as a 9 year old little boy, and there is a piece of the mother deep inside of me that needs him to be 9 years old still. I don't know why it is 9 years old. I would think that logically it should be 13 years old, because that is when his drug use started. Or maybe 14 years old, because that was the last, and only, typical teenage event that he attended. That was when he went to homecoming during his freshman year in high school with his girlfriend from a neighboring school district. Or maybe 16 years old, because that was the last time he played varsity ice hockey. However, these events are plagued with the typical disasters that we all are familiar with and know is evitable with their drug use. So I guess it is understandable why I do not want to remember these moments. So for me, I picture my son as a 9 year-old.

I still need my son to be 9 years old, because I am still waiting for all those teenage things that have yet to happen. I am still waiting for a relationship with my teenage son. Helping him with high school projects, driving him to school because he missed the bus, talking about his friends, a girlfriend, seeing him at school events, helping him pick a suit for the prom, having those special moments with him when everyone else has gone to bed, hanging his senior pictures by his sister’s, talking to him about who to invite to his graduation party and watching him grow into a man. I picture myself spending time with him talking about life, talking about what he wants from life, spending weekends with him visiting universities, and watching him begin to realize his dreams. I am still waiting for those moments. And I continue to search my memory for these events, but they never happened. How can he be 21 years old?

And how can he be a man? He was just a little boy for his last family birthday party, at least the last one that I remember fondly … the last one that I remember easily. He was just a little boy for that birthday party. When I think of celebrating my son’s birthday, the picture that comes to my mind is that of my little boy blowing out the candles of his birthday cake on our back deck on the 4th of July. I have no easy memories of a birthday party with him as a teenager. In fact, I was often concerned about inviting the family for his birthday, because I was never sure he would be home. I never knew when his drug use would take him away from home, for a few hours or a few days. So, I stopped inviting the family. I have no good memories of my son’s birthdays during his teen years, and it is getting to the point that I will have no such memories at all. How can he be 21 years old? What happened to all those other birthday parties?

Certainly he cannot be attending college already! I have yet to attend his high school commencement! Our township just built a new Community Center, and we are planning to have his graduation party there. He plays on the High School ice-hockey team, so we will have many people to invite. I still need to plan for this party, determine the final invitee list, decide on the food, music, get the decorations together, order a cake, etc., etc, etc. There are so many things left to do.!

But wait! He has already graduated high school. He did so in placement. He was not home, and we were not there. There are no senior pictures; there were no graduation parties, and no friends to whom to say “congratulations.” Yet, my mind still waits for his commencement celebration. My mind still plans for his graduation party and my mind still waits to select his senior picture. I continue to slip back into these unfinished memories and a piece of me still expects them to happen.

To this day, years after he graduated high school, I still find it painful to attend an event at the Community Center. We should have been able to celebrate our son’s graduation, but he didn’t graduate from our school district. We should have been able to have the party I was planning, but he wasn’t home when he graduated. This just wasn’t supposed to be this way! And it still is physically painful when I remember how it truly was, and realize how it will never be.

And he certainly cannot be finished playing hockey! There are many games left, many play-off games left, and championship games yet to play. I have not seen his last game. That can’t be possible! And I have yet to attend his Senior Night at the High School hockey rink, because my son has yet to be a senior on the team. I haven't attended any of those planning meetings where all of us Moms plan a tribute to our seniors, when one of those seniors is my son. And where have these Moms been? I have missed them.

However, my son certainly is finished playing hockey and was so much too early. He has lost that special relationship that occurs when you are part of team, but I have lost that special relationship with all the mothers of the players. We were a special team too, and I miss that. I miss that ‘Mom’ time before the game, the excitement of watching our boys play as we all cheer together in the stands, spending weekends with the Moms as the team participates in tournaments, planning team dinners, working with all the parents for the team banquet, and many more countless events. There are many things that I have missed, many people that I still miss, and many memories that I still wait for. But these memories will never be.

My mind is full with so many memories that will never be; regardless of how much I try to force them to be, they still will never be.

End of Part 1 - Come back to read part two next week

A brief preview of next week...
“And at that moment I knew it was over. … The hockey player that lived in my son’s soul had died. And my son’s dreams died with him. And that realization began to rush over me leaving a hole in my life that will never be filled. “

Editors Note; With Lori's permission we are reprinting this six-part series that originally started on this blog on 1-29-08. If you are a parent who would like to tell your story please let us know.
(click here for part 2)

1 comment:

Kimkay said...

Wow! Reading this story was like I wrote it because I have a son and his story is exactly like this, except he played football. I cried all the way through related to every emotion this mother was feeling. The scary thing for me right now is that my son is 19 years old and is deep into his addiction and at this point if he doesnt go to an inpatient treatment center and sober living I fear he will die within the next few years or end up in jail. He is so smart with a loving heart, but the drugs have turned him into a thief, to even his own family, with no emotion of guilt or even caring. I have lost out
experiences that can never happen now and with my other two children also because I have spent all my time and energy trying to save him and worrying about him non-stop. I just wanted to say my heart goes to you and knowing your son has turned around has given me hope for my son's future, thank you.


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