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"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 2 of 6 Written by Lori (reprinted from 1-29-08)
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Wednesday, February 04, 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.

“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. “

When dealing with a teenage drug addict, you will find many typical teenage events that never happen and many memories that will never be. And regardless of how much we try to force them to be, they still will never be. And there are still many more memories that are painful and we would rather forget.

However, there is one memory that remains very poignant in my thoughts. One very painful memory that stays with me like it happened yesterday. A memory that starts well, leads to a catastrophic event, and ends with a very painful but enlightening evening. That memory seems to never leave, remains very vivid, and sneaks in at arbitrary moments of my life.

My son’s hockey coach is a wonderful man and he cultivates a relationship among the players by taking them on social events. So this memory starts with him and the last event my son attended with the team. It was a baseball game to kick-off the new hockey season. However, my son was late and he missed his ride to the park; because he was trying to score dope, and he was successful. However on this night, one bag of heroin was not enough. He bought two, got himself to the park…late, and took it before he entered the park. He quickly began to crash. The two bags of heroin were too much for him. He collapsed, and it was obvious to the team that he was over dosing. His coach cradled him like a baby, kept him conscious, and worked him through to stability. He stayed with my son as other team fathers stayed with the other players. My son did survive this night, but it was the beginning of the end of any hope that my son will live his teen years as they were supposed to be.

And then there was the aftermath.
There were two members of the hockey board that were not happy with these events and yielded many threats to the coach for their interpretation of the events; Also threats of the police and school officials to my son. The later was almost humorous at this point. As if they didn’t already know my son, or I really didn’t have them on speed dial on my cell phone already. And I almost laughed when the threat was given. But regardless, this was an ugly scene. How would my son recover from this and still play hockey?

You see, that was the mode that I was still in at this point with regard to coping with my son’s addiction. I was still trying to hold his life together and minimize the damage his drug use was causing. I still believed that he was not an addict. That he would work through this experiment of his, recapture his life, and we would all live happily ever after as it was supposed to be. But this was a disaster. I had to soon realize that he was not going to recapture his life; that his teen years were not going to proceed as if his drug use never happened; That our lives are not going to be like they were supposed to be and that my son was an addict. And I would start to realize that now.

Within a couple of days, there was a parents meeting; Just a general meeting to discuss the beginning of the hockey season and start the typical planning that parents do. I received a few personal phone calls of support to ensure that I would be there, and it is the memory of this meeting that is the poignant memory that feels like yesterday.

Just about everyone was there, including most of the players. And there was excitement in everybody’s voices for the season that was about to start. When we parents started to discuss the business of the team, I could not shake the hope that maybe they really did not know my son was using drugs, but my inability to cope with their knowledge of the events was more the reality rather than any hope that they didn’t know.

The typical hockey politics begin the discussion and the event at the ballpark was soon the topic. There was no doubt the extent of their knowledge of my son’s behavior and I was overwhelmed with the shame of the stigma. How could my son have behaved in this way? And yes, I was also still in the mode of addressing my son’s problem as a behavior problem, a discipline problem, and I was still in disbelief that this was happening to my son, to my family….to me. It just wasn’t supposed to be this way! This type of coarse lifestyle just does not happen in my family.

However, at that moment it all came crashing down. There I was sitting in this kitchen with a house full of people as they openly discussed my son’s drug induced collapse at the ballpark. I was crushed with the guilt of his actions and with the ignominy that he had brought the street life of drug use into this protected world and brutally displayed it before their children.

And at that moment I knew it was over. And I ached in a manner that I never had before. My son survived yet another close call due to his drug use that night at the ballpark, but a part of my son’s life had died that night. He used to be one of the better hockey players in the region and coaches approached him. However, his drug use was pushing his hockey ability into a past tense of used-to-be, but it was this night that sealed it as a never-again. 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. This emptiness filled me as I began to realize that I had just lost everything that was there before me in this kitchen. These people; Their friendships; These players; Their Moms; Our team; And my son’s dreams. They were no longer a part of my life. This major piece of my existence that cultivated these dreams for my son was evaporating, and I could not stop it.

But the next thing that rushed over me was the awareness of their unbelievable support. It took a while for it to sink in, but their support was elevating. They cared about my son, they were concerned for my son, and they were standing by him. When I look back on it today, they had a better understanding of this situation more so than I did. They believed he was a good kid that was sick. They knew it was not a discipline problem. They knew my son needed help. They knew he was an addict, that he had a disease. They knew more than I was willing to admit at the time. And they made me feel like I still belonged.

However, I knew that it had ended. This would be the last time I would sit with these parents as a part of this team. I would no longer be a Hockey Mom and these Hockey Moms would no longer be a part of my life. And my son would never play hockey again. I would not see my son play his last game of high school hockey, because he already had. I just didn’t notice. And there would not be a senior night for my son, because he would not be there. And neither would I. The hockey player that I knew as my son was gone, and a piece of me was leaving with him. And neither would ever return.

To this very day, years later, I still see their faces of that night like it was yesterday. I can still hear their voices; see the boys walk to and from the refrigerator, feel myself sitting in that kitchen, and seeing the interactions of the players with their parents, and wanted that so badly for me and my son. And I still can see the Mom whose kitchen it was and I can still hear her words of encouragement as I stood in the door to leave. And I still miss them all, even though the years have separated them. And still miss this hockey team, even though these players have moved onto into adulthood and this team is no longer. Surely I have not seen my son play his last game. I cannot accept that to this day, and I still wait for the next season; To get the game schedule and mark the calendar, to learn where we are going for the tournaments and schedule vacation. I still have a hard time letting this go; to accept yet another empty memory; A memory that will never be.

End of Part 2. Come back next week for Part 3

A brief preview of next week:
“So my son is a drug addict. He will hopefully always be an addict living in drug recovery, but he will always be a drug addict. He hopefully will never again be an actively-using drug addict, but he will never be a used-to-be drug addict. He will always be a drug addict and I must accept that. “

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a very powerful story, with very powerful emotions. Acceptance is half the battle in dealing with this horrible disease. I too wish for the "normal" memories of raising a teenager, but they are not to be. Part of me is angry about that, and part of me is accepting that I do not have normal memories. This makes me sad, but not ashamed. I know I did not "cause" my son's disease nor can I "control" it or "cure" it... I pray that my son stays in recovery and makes new memories, to help understand and accept the old memories...


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