I haven't had a chance to read all the chapters, but did read "A father's story." It gives some telltale signs that parents should watch for. Thought I'd cut and paste it in case the link goes dead.
A FATHER'S HARROWING TALE
'Honey, our son is a heroin addict'
June 24, 2007
At the family's request, the Free Press has agreed not to identify the author of this account or his son.
The words out of my wife's mouth were like a telephone pole crashing through my gut. "Honey, our son is a heroin addict." No way. Not him. Not us. For the next few days, on a supposed Easter family vacation, I got to see my first born, now 18 years young, go through cold turkey heroin withdrawal. When he wasn't vomiting or experiencing spasms, he would sleep. When he slept, I was on my BlackBerry trying to learn anything I could about heroin.
Did you know the term "kicking the habit" came from heroin withdrawal? Your legs kick involuntarily. Funny, until you see it.
We knew something was wrong with our son even before his arrest for heroin possession. He was, past tense, the kid we didn't worry about. He was smart, ambitious, funny, good looking and more mature than his peers. The first sign that, as my wife kept saying, something was eating Gilbert Grape, was when we discovered he had become bulimic. A little heavy from age 10, he had had enough of the fat jokes and comments. My wife was working with him on a diet and exercise regimen, but that would take too much time for him.
Like me, he's ADHD and we don't like to wait for anything. The results were fast and in his mind, great. He lost 50 pounds in months during his junior year and suddenly he was catching the eye of the girls. This smart, funny, good looking kid was now thin. For the first time, I started finding condoms in his wallet and that inner debate we have as parents was running rampant in my mind: Should I be mad that he is doing it, or should I be happy he is practicing safe sex?
My wife and I would learn later than eating disorders often lead to substance abuse and that there is a "high" experienced when you stick your finger down your throat. We didn't know what to do. By this time we knew we needed outside help and got him in front of expert after expert, from mental health professionals to those that specialized in eating disorders.
At the same time, my son's behavior was rapidly changing. The perennial honor roll student's grades were falling his junior year. He was skipping classes regularly despite repeated groundings, loss of wheels and no allowance. Most important, he had a new set of friends completely different from his past friends. The new group was like cloned sheep. Broken homes, estranged from at least one parent, thrown out or quit school, in and out of rehabs and some suicidal tendencies. None of them had a job.
We were drug testing him randomly. Why? His new set of friends looked stoned all the time, so why not our son? He always passed except two times. On the first, there wasn't actually a test. I was getting ready to make him, as they say, drop for me, when he told me to save the money because he had smoked some pot the night before. What a great kid, wants to save his old man the $34.95 and is honest enough to take his lumps. Honest? Anything but, really. He didn't want the test because it might show pot, but it would certainly show the use of an opiate.
Oh, did I tell you my son is a liar. All addicts are. They have to be to maintain their addiction. My son would lie about everything, even when it wasn't necessary. He also became a thief. All addicts are. Take a check out of the checkbook and write it to yourself. Three hundred dollars? Good amount for a couple of days. Can't find the checkbook? Better sell the new video game mom and dad bought me. My brother's $900 guitar? As Tigers announcer Dan Dickerson would say, gone! Two hundred bucks out of my uncle's wallet? Gone!
The second test he failed, he actually took in January of 2006. It showed signs of opiate use. What? My son went crazy and said there was no way that could be true. I couldn't believe it either. Not my son! Like a fool, I went back to CVS and bought another test. Two hours later, he passed. Whew, what a relief for me, I selfishly thought. No, what a relief for my son. Fooled us again. The fact is the passage of that extra time and my son's devout use of so-called energy drinks and tons of other garbage fluids were flushing his system at an alarming and unhealthy rate.
Then, a day before our vacation, our son was busted though he initially told my wife it was pot, not heroin. Small comfort.
On the flight the next day, my wife noticed that he had vomited on himself. That's when he admitted to her it wasn't pot he was arrested for, but heroin. He needed his heroin fix and wasn't going to get it.
"Honey, our son is a heroin addict." Please God, wake me up from this nightmare.
We returned from our "vacation" and were determined to get our son back on the straight and narrow. The experts said an out-patient rehab was best for him. A few days a week, a couple of hours in each session and random testing.
We would count the days he was clean and would cheer him on. Twenty five, 30, run kid run. We told him we were there for him and loved him. Get an urge to use, call us, we won't be mad. Then, the wheels came off the wagon.
The call came from the cop who had previously arrested him. My son's friend had died of an overdose of what was later identified as fentanyl-laced heroin. Incidentally, he would lose 14 other friends from his drug circle over the next few weeks and months. After the call from the officer, I rushed to get in front of him. I took him to lunch to talk about his feelings. On the outside he was calm. I learned later that on the inside, he was devastated.
His first relapse was just days away and looking back, the signs were starting to emerge. He was very happy one moment and very depressed another. The day before his first relapse, I told him we were giving him his allowance in a different fashion. No longer would he get his weekly allotment up front, but we would spread it out on a daily basis. He went berserk. "What's the difference," he shouted, "It's the same amount of money." Later we discovered his weekly allowance was actually the amount he spent on his daily fix. He got the other money by selling his video games and simply stealing it from us, other family members, relatives and friends.
My wife called my office. She was crying. "He's using again!"
My son was ambitious that day. Get up early, for once, and get to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting by 9 a.m. Great, we thought, he is doing so good! Yes he was going to an N.A. meeting, but only after a trip down Telegraph and a hefty dose of fentanyl-laced heroin.
By now, the fentanyl stories were a daily event in the local papers. Be aware, addicts, this stuff could kill you! Right. The stories of the fentanyl-laced heroin and cocaine were like an advertisement for addicts. Let's see: more powerful so I can use less and that means less money. Tastes great, less filling! Brilliant!
When he was pulled over after swerving from lane to lane, the cops knew he was high. Luckily one of the cops didn't want him in jail, but in the hospital. This was the first of the guardian angels my son would encounter.
We talked with the lead doctor in the hospital and his words were chilling. "Your son is very smart, perhaps genius level. That will hurt him as he believes he can outsmart this drug. He can't." As we left the hospital, my wife and I held each other, crying and realizing we were in for a long, long road and that this addiction would change everyone's life forever.
My son became a liar and a con artist. That may seem redundant, but they are different. He conned the staff at the first in-patient rehab into believing he was road ready after only a week of treatment. Despite our protests, my wife and I had no say in the matter as he was an 18-year-old adult. Right.
He would tell us later he was thinking of using every minute he was there. Two weeks after he was out, in mid-June 2006, he was using again. My wife let him use her car for the first time since his release. "Just going to Taco Bell, mom." He was back home in 30 minutes, almost exactly the time it takes to get a taco and return. Only thing is, he didn't go there. He picked up a friend and they scored heroin.
This time he was careless and dropped a pack of smack in the car. My wife found it. I met her at the drug counselor's office where he had an appointment and we confronted him. He cried the whole way home, calling himself a loser. It was now time for a more serious rehab out of state.
We are lucky that my employer, Chrysler, is such a wonderful company. Everyone from the top down supported us. My bosses told me flat out to focus on helping my son and to put my job as a much lower priority despite the pressures of my position.
I shared our struggle with everyone around me and many of my colleagues told me of similar stories somewhere in their family. A day didn't go by without someone at work coming up to me and saying we were in their prayers.
The medical folks at work became guardian angels and got my son in the next rehab. Somehow a spot opened at the Hazelden substance-abuse clinic in Minnesota. As I drove my son to the airport from our home in Oakland County down Telegraph Road, he pointed out place after place he had bought his heroin. The first ten places he identified were between Bloomfield Hills and the southern end of Southfield. Before we took the exit on I-94, I had stopped counting after the 25th heroin "ATM."
At this, the next stop in his rehab and the first out of state, some ugliness started to develop. He said he wouldn't stay beyond the 28 mandated days, despite the pleas of the counselors.
He was mad at God, which we thought was kind of a positive as before he said he had stopped believing in God despite his upbringing. He hated the police. He hated about everything. Most of all, he hated the program, the rehab. He just wanted to get out and enjoy his, as he called it, "senior summer."
No, he just wanted to survive the 28 days and get on with using.
And he did. We started to see sign after sign. Video games systems gone. "Oh, it's at my friend's house," he would say. Money would be missing. Bottom line, he couldn't keep his stories straight. His lies evaporated in a conversation, not within days.
Luckily and thankfully, we were getting smarter. Or at least we thought. Each treatment program told us, told our son, to get a new group of friends. He refused. They made him feel good. For him, he needed that as it was becoming more and more apparent that he didn't like himself.
Two weeks before his sentencing, he did something that would become all too familiar. He sabotaged himself. A couple of his friends confronted him with us. They knew he was using. I almost physically had to force him to go in for his state-ordered drug test. He said I couldn't come in with him. I did anyway and stood down the hall and watched the restroom door. Ten minutes later he came strutting by me with a receipt for his test. "Let's go, I passed." The exchange in the parking lot was ugly and physical. I had watched the restroom. He never went in. I forced him back inside. Sure, he had paid for the test, but didn't take it and nobody appeared to notice. He took a test with me there. He failed. Opiates. We later found he had done this routine three other times without getting caught. I guess there are bigger fish to fry in the system. He knew it and was playing it. And using.
His failure on this particular day made our outlook on his legal status very gloomy. The prosecutor called our lawyer two days before sentencing and said something like, "Looks like your boy blew it. See you in court."
Our lawyer, a good man, was down like I had never seen him. As we went to court, my level of depression had spiked. But just when I expected the worst, another guardian angel appeared. The prosecutor. He approached our lawyer and me and said, "Your son needs some help." Here's a guy who I had loathed that was now going to help us save our son's life. After my son was sentenced to probation and mandated in-patient care, I walked out with the prosecutor and my lawyer. I looked at my son's latest angel and said, "You know, for the last five months I thought you were the biggest sonofa
, but today I want to thank you for saving my son's life. I'll never forget it." There were more angels in the wings, no pun intended.
Two months later, while he was in a halfway house out of state, I got a call from my son as I was headed into the office on a Saturday. He was crying. "Dad, I just need to know that everything is going to be OK." I knew he was on the brink of usage or worse. Finally it hit me. "Son, I know it's going to be OK because in the old days you wouldn't call me. You'd just go use. But ya did call me. That's why we won't ever give up on you and thats why everything is going to be OK."
We talked for about a half hour as I drove up and down Woodward, praying I wouldnt lose the signal to my cell phone. When he hung up, I was exhausted. Things were getting better. I thought.
Enter the final guardian angels, so far. My son was lucky enough to get into Recovery Court in Southfield, a program that focuses on recovery through a series of levels that start tough and get easier. It requires curfews and testing, counseling and N.A. meetings. He got there thanks to a tiny judge with an enormous heart. I grew quickly to love her dearly as someone who didn't have to help my kid, but did.
His probation officers, both in the Recovery Court and at the Circuit Court level, are tough but care. Importantly, they are vigilant in their efforts. I am certain their pay doesn't come close to matching their dedication and hours. His counselor, a former heroin addict herself, loves my son.
All good, right? Everybody loves him, but him. My son has had trouble getting past the program's first level. The counselor told us he needed a long stint in rehab. My son was buying into it and was a day away from telling the judge he was going to go for it. The day before his Recovery Court date, guess what? That's right, let's use. Self-inflicted sabotage again. His counselor had warned us about this.
Jail? No. The guardian angel judge ordered long-term rehab when she had every right to throw him in the slammer. The prosecutor-turned-great-guy I had hated supported us. The judge at the Circuit Court level approved it.
He is now at his sixth rehab, his next, last chance.
Do we have a right to be mad at anybody? I don't know. Nobody put a needle in my kid's arm, although an addict/dealer in my son's second rehab said, "We are going after kids like your son kids from the suburbs who have the green." I asked him how you get these "smart" kids hooked and he said, simply, "We give it to them for free at first." How charitable.
But bitterness on our part doesn't help anyone, especially our son. As they say, bitterness is a poison you take yourself. Through this excruciating journey, I am proud our family has stayed together despite the collateral damage we all have suffered. I believe what has kept us going is our faith, our friends and the host of guardian angels that didn't have to help my kid, but did anyway.
I tell my friends to please not feel sorry for us. We spend our days and weekends writing letters to our son, not going to a gravesite. Our son is alive. Considering the gravity of this drug, we feel lucky.
I know there is no parenting manual on this subject, so here's my advice if I can be so bold. Don't assume it can't happen to you. The drugs are out there. The pressure on our children is enormous.
If your school who has a written policy to inform the parents at the first or really any sign of use or any other association with drugs, demand that they inform you. Our school had a written policy to do just that. It didn't happen. But, let's be honest, they have a lot on their plates.
However, take a stand against these wonderful privacy issues slanted against us as parents. One of my son's doctor couldn't tell us the drugs he was using despite the fact he was only 17. Seventeen, is that really an adult? Give me a break. My son wasn't paying the bills. We were. And, my son wasn't trying to save himself, we were trying to save him.
Look for behavioral changes grades falling, skipping school, and a new set of friends completely different from the ones he or she normally hangs with. Some people will argue that it is an invasion of your kid's privacy, but check their emails, MySpace pages and text messages from time to time. I do now and it actually led to our most recent belief he was using or on the verge of it.
For my wife and me, our son's journey has been like the movie "The Sixth Sense." We look back on all the signs we ignored or couldn't believe and now say, "Remember when he did this? Remember when he did that?" The good news is we see clearer now. That's why my son is in a good place for a long time that can help him. But we also know that we can't do it for him and the rehab program can't do it for him. He has to do it for himself.
If you are so inclined, please say a prayer for my son. I am praying for yours.