Substance abuse is an issue that I’ve been discussing with friends and visitors here on the blog lately. I have confronted this problem in my own life and wouldn’t wish the harm that drug abuse brings in its wake on anyone. But in the spirit of making lemonade when lemons come along, I have called upon those difficult experiences in my creative writing.
Today, a person close to me (who will remain anonymous) shares the conclusion of her story about how drugs affected her family. The first portion of her story is posted here. Scroll down for several links to resources that can be useful to those facing a similar challenge.
A Mother’s Struggle —
Frustrated by her teenage daughter’s denials and drug abuse, this mother was driven to distraction. In last week’s post, she describes “one of my most awful memories”—
…I confronted my daughter. As usual she snowed me with lies. I slapped her in the face. 3 times I slapped her. I demanded she admit what she’d done. I was that desperate. She called me abusive and ran out of the house…
So things dragged on longer than you can imagine, now a little better, now a lot worse.
One tricky thing in the situation is that my kids were in joint custody. Their father is basically a good man, he lived a few blocks away from me. The children could walk to his my house, which seemed like a great arrangement at first. But when my older girl started high school, the gap between Mom and Dad turned into something for her to slip through. She would claim she’d left a favorite sweater or outfit at Dad’s house. Had to have it today! No problem—she could walk right over and get it. But then she didn’t come back for hours. No one knew where she went.
Also her dad insisted she attend his church every Sunday, even when she was with me on the weekend. Okay—I dropped her off at church. But you guessed it, she promptly slipped out another door and ran off to meet the friends she smoked and drank with, instead of meeting her father to join the service.
When we wised up to that, I told her dad I wouldn’t force her to attend church anymore. She was not interested in religion at that time and wanted to stop attending. I thought I could show her some support and let her sleep in on Sunday when she was finally at home and quietly in bed! But the upshot: her dad showed up at my house insisting I get her up so he could drive her to church. This led to all sorts of argument and trouble.
Probably our daughter wanted drugs in order to escape. But lack of a united front between parents is a dangerous thing. Some kids suffer in silence; others learn to use the arguments to a bad advantage.
When all this got started, it was alcohol and marijuana. Soon she added Ritalin, Adderall, and Xanax, which were sold in the halls of her school. I’m sure she tried cocaine and crack at some point. Thank God—those didn’t hold her, but at community college, she got into meth. She stuck with meth until she discovered Oxycontin. From there, it was on to heroin, which is where the progression stopped because she was addicted. Like many addicts, she tried the “geographical cure,” trying to get clean by moving away from her source of supply. She moved in and out of my house several times, but did not know how to really make a change.
She stole money and valuables from both of her parents and other relatives. Supposedly she had “financial” problems: most of the family actually believed she had run up debts due to a “shopping addiction.” Nothing worse than that! I did not believe this but could find no support and didn’t know what to do.
My daughter had become like the magical gingerbread man—
I ran away from a little old woman,
and I ran away from a little old man.
You can’t catch me—I’m the gingerbread man!
She could elude any attempt to pin her down and make her admit that help was needed.
One sunny Saturday morning, I called our local police. My daughter had left our house earlier that week, and now my husband had discovered several hundred dollars missing from his dresser. A kind and soft-spoken policeman sat on our porch and heard our sad story. He told me about something called “treatment in lieu of conviction,” available in our county. It sounded like a legal process that could spare me from setting my girl up for criminal charges while still teaching her that she was facing real consequences.
There was no guarantee that my daughter would qualify for “treatment in lieu of conviction.” It would depend on the circumstances of her apprehension, items that might be in her possession at the time, how she bahaved, and other crimes that might come to light. But it could also work as a way for setting up court-ordered rehab. I agreed to charge my daughter with theft. The policeman filed a warrant for her arrest.
Of course, my daughter’s experience of all this was much different from mine. Once she found out that we had filed a criminal complaint, she went into hiding. She stayed at a hotel with other users and lived on the streets. I talked to many people who knew her, and some of them helped me put up flyers begging for information.
Late one night, a drug addict called my home phone. My daughter had given him the number long before, when she was living with me. This man sounded much older than my daughter. He flat-out told me that he wanted to find her so they could meet up and run some scam together for money, obviously for drugs. It was disgusting, but I heard him out. When I started crying, he said, Never mind: if he saw my daughter again, he would tell her to go home and get clean. To forget about scamming ever again.
I know that was just words of the moment that an addict may laugh about the next day. That man may be scamming still, for all I know. But I was touched and found a grain of hope in his effort to comfort me.
For me, bringing in the law was a turning point where things shifted for the better. At least we were beginning to admit the real problem. I realize that law enforcement is not always helpful to families like us. I’ve heard a few of the horror stories about young people forced to name names in some big police action and winding up in worse trouble than ever. I do believe we’re lucky that our county steers clear of those practices to a certain extent.
There were many more low points along the way. As my daughter would say later, her life was hanging by a thread. That phase went on for many months. But I refused to evade the root of the problem any longer, and I reached out for whatever help I might find. Soon enough, my ex-husband came around to my way of thinking. We used the A-word: it’s an addiction. We were still worried, more worried than ever. But waiting and hoping for our daughter to get arrested was actually a relief after all the lies and spinning wheels. For years we didn’t think our girl would ever shape up. We were afraid she wouldn’t finish high school, wouldn’t go to college or then finish college, wouldn’t stay alive long enough to mature into a real adult. But finally we found cause for hope.
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Anesa adds— My friend’s daughter evaded arrest for half a year. When she was finally brought to court, she was so intoxicated that her head kept dropping to her shoulder. The judge admonished her, but then he looked up and asked, “Does the defendant have family in the courtroom?”
Her two parents and one stepparent stood up. Persuaded that these elders in her life could offer enough support to give the young woman a chance, the judge ordered her into a county-run program of “treatment in lieu of conviction.” There was a condition that she must not fail a single drug test for two years of probation. After that time, although she was no longer a minor, she would have no criminal record.
Defiant at first, she went through the motions, and ran away from the treatment program twice. Then, over three months of residential rehabilitation, a true desire for recovery emerged. She spent another 15 months at a halfway house, worked a diligent program, and has now been clean and sober for seven years.
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Links below provide information on addiction and recovery. If you need to do additional reading, I’m offering a chance to receive $50 in free books through the month of April 2015. Click here for details.
Visit the Harvard Help Guide
Visit Gabbertsite from mental health counselor Gail Gabbert
And here’s a recent article from the New York Times on teenagers discussing what might have stopped them from using drugs.