I really should be working on my last week of class stuff, but as I’d hoped, once I started writing, I can’t stop. And this morning, someone sent me something I want to share. But first, some other thoughts, and some background.
We bought this house in May 2009. Though both my husband and I were drawn to a bit more urban setting, the best schools we could afford, with the most house, were here in Worthington. And since our oldest child would be starting kindergarten in the fall, we were thrilled to find a house in our price range with some of the upgrades it needed, walking distance from shopping and restaurants, not to mention the elementary school, with wonderful neighbors and mature trees. I had never had the experience of moving into a home that I loved with no expiration date on my stay. We would live here for an indeterminate period, a long period. The kids would grow up here. I remember joking that I would never move again. We probably will, but that’s a post for another day.
We were so happy. We loved this place. The spot, the schools, the neighborhood, all of it. We thought it was the perfect American dream we were living. Then one morning in September we looked out the window and saw several police cars parked across the street and many officers in bullet-proof vests and Kevlar helmets. There didn’t seem to be a high degree of alarm among the officers, so we watched. Eventually they left and we didn’t find out what was going on until we watched the evening news. In the morning, the Columbus Dispatch ran the story with the headline: “13 caught in heroin sweep.” One of those kids lived across the street from us.
There is HEROIN IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD! And not just “in our neighborhood” like out there, somewhere, close, but vague. It’s ACROSS THE STREET!
I didn’t panic. I really didn’t. I mean, this kid was out of high school. There was no reason for this incident to affect my children. After all, it wasn’t like they found it in the elementary school, right? But it’s awful damned close to home. I could see into the bedroom window of someone who was doing, possibly distributing, heroin. Now, let’s be clear, it’s not like I’ve never been exposed to people doing heroin. It’s not like I have no experience with drugs and the people who use them. But not like this, not since I became a mother. This is different. No part of me felt sorry for the kid who got busted. No part of me thought, “What a shame they got caught” like I might have 15 years earlier if I’d read about someone caught with a joint. No way. This time all I could think about were this kid’s parents.
I am a fact finder by nature, I guess. Some might call it stalker, but we quibble about language. I wanted to find out about these folks. I hadn’t met them, yet, despite living across the street for four months by then. I looked them up on the tax auditor’s website and found out that they’d lived there for over a decade. They’d probably moved here to put their kids into the good schools we’d moved here for. They’re just parents. How heartbroken they must have been that this was happening. What did they feel like?
I lost some sleep worrying about these parents. I kept imagining myself in their position. I don’t know how you get there, but I knew that despite my best efforts and hours of praying, it could happen. I could find myself in just the same position. I was absolutely sure that at no time had those parents across the street thought to themselves, “Oh, we’ll just let this one thing go and if it leads our kid to get involved in heroin, it will probably be okay.”
But after a while, when there were no more news stories about heroin in our specific neighborhood, just vague rumors about it’s existence in the city, the whole thing got pushed to the back of my mind. Not forgotten. Never forgotten. It’s such a frightening thought, too frightening to really dwell on all the time. So we got back to the business of raising kids who would hopefully avoid such a thing. Kids who would be properly scared of the prospect. Kids who would be smart and strong and capable of pushing back against such evils. But we were not under any illusion that such evils were far away, that they don’t still lurk way too close for comfort.
Then a few months ago a friend “introduced” me to another mom on Facebook. I’d seen her also commenting on our mutual friend’s posts, but didn’t think much of it. One day this mutual friend just posted and tagged us both and said something like, “Here, you two should be friends. You are the same brand of cool.” Well, this particular friend’s opinion is good enough for me, so I had a new friend. You know how you just click with someone right away? Well, that’s how it was with this friend. After a few months, we decided to meet in person for coffee.
When we met, we ended up talking for a few hours, and only because we both had other places to be did the conversation end. But most of the conversation was around the things she told me that were not posted on Facebook. There are lots of blogs and such out there about how we all use Facebook differently, but most of us don’t put our worst stuff up there. We don’t put the stuff that makes us too vulnerable to judgement, to others seeing that life isn’t at least sometimes Pinterest-worthy. Her son was recovering from using heroin.
I was floored. She seemed so, I don’t know, so normal. Like me. So much like a mom making all the same decisions I would make. Like she’d probably approached the subject of drugs with her kids in much the same way that I was. But there it was. A mom whose kid was using heroin. She’d found it in his bedroom. She’d FOUND it! It’s not like she suspected and ignored her own red flag. She’d FOUND it.
Again I found myself realizing that it wasn’t just about making the right parenting choices, whatever those might be. Raising kids is anything but an exact science. Despite all the best intentions, and informed decisions, it had happen to this mother’s son. It could happen to mine.
So, I listened to her tale, and I made many mental notes. I was in awe of the strength she showed in the way she’d handled it and in the way she told her story. Later I went home and digested it all further. I prayed that if it were ever my kid, I would do many of the same things she’d done. First of all, she didn’t bust him, accept his apology with a promise that it would never happen again, and then forget about it. She got his butt into treatment RIGHT THEN. She went through several months of advocating for her kid because there is no good system in place to take care of him. I’m sure it was no picnic for the kid, but I still can’t see it from his perspective. I can only see it from his mother’s eyes.
In the months since, my new friend and I have met again and we’ve continued to communicate regularly. I have encouraged her to start the blog she talks about, but she isn’t ready to do it, yet. But this morning she sent me something she’d written. She’s not ready to out her son, nor does she want to tell his story. This is what she felt and I want to share some of her feelings. I’m betting there are other parents out there who have thought about these things. So, I share this as a bit of hope. Yes, she’s just like me, and many other moms and dads out there. Middle class, good family, involved parent who “kept open the lines of communication.” But it still happened. And here’s how she felt.
I am six months out from a day I thought I would not live through. It was the day we found heroin in our son’s room and had to confront him. This day was terrifying, sad, frustrating and a new beginning.
So how does a seemingly normal family respond when you find a substance like heroin in your child’s room? Well:
It makes you question everything you believed in.
It makes you doubt any remote possibility that you were a good parent, because at this point, you pretty much know it was an epic parenting fail.
You long for the days when your child was an infant or toddler and you wish you would have enjoyed them more.
You learn how to live with the terrifying realization that heroin takes many lives and your child’s could be one of them.
You wonder every time your child leaves the house if you will see them alive again. You learn that this struggle is their struggle and you need to focus on you.
You realize you must try to rely on a relationship with a higher power that you now completely wonder if there really is such a thing.
You are also angry because you know this should not be happening but you can’t change or stop it. The pain you know your child is living with, is almost unbearable for you to feel or think about.
You are scared.
You realize your child, whom you have loved with all your heart, is in for a life long struggle and challenge that seems insurmountable to you.
You become keenly aware of every heroin death and it sits like a cinder block on your chest. It is not the life you planned or wanted, but it is now your life.
Come on NEW BEGINNING!! My life came to a halt December 6, 2013. I was afraid. I felt like a failure. But as things evolved, I dug deep and my strength kept our family afloat. As the dust settled, my strength was not needed and I was not sure what to do, but I thought I was okay: I wasn’t. I became sick. Sick with fear, sick with worry.
A friend gave me a gift. She stopped me and took a chance that I could hear her truth. She told me to stop. Stop being paralyzed by my fear. She told me to stop being afraid, afraid to live and afraid to make decisions.
You see, my fear for a long time has been my guide. It was making my decisions for me. I was not in control of my own destiny and I was unable to be myself. The heroin and the fear was defining a new me. I was becoming someone I did not want to be.
Everything felt bad. I took her truth and I am working every day to let go of the fear, turn it over to my higher power and live: live life and be grateful. Live life and stop being afraid and letting the fear guide me into despair. I am grateful for my new friend who took that chance on me and told me to let go of my fear. This is my new beginning.
My son, he has a new beginning too: six months clean. But, that is his story to tell. What I can share is that he is working hard every day and he is happy – and for this, I am incredibly grateful.