The Story Behind the Podcast; A Teen’s Addiction, Four Rehabs, Two Overdoses and Hope

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
The Story Behind the Podcast; A Teen's Addiction, Four Rehabs, Two Overdoses and Hope
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ABOUT THE EPISODE:
Behind the closed doors of too many homes are families being upended by a young person's substance use.  It may be your 14-year-old son experimenting with pot for the first time, your 17-year-old daughter drinking till she blacks out or your 23-year-old who's smoking Percocet, Xanax, and fentanyl regularly.

And behind these kids are the parents. Worried, exasperated, devastated, and confused. This is your next-door neighbor, hairstylist, attorney, the PTA president, maybe he or she is you.

This pilot episode tells the story of Hopestream host Brenda Zane's family's agonizing journey through the hell of her teenage son's addiction to prescription drugs and high-risk lifestyle. She shines a light on the dark edges of what a child's addiction can do to the health and wellbeing of parents who would give any and everything to bring their child back from the abyss of substance use disorder.

From wilderness therapy at 16 to multiple fentanyl overdoses, gangs, and criminal activity, Brenda's family endured it all from inside the facade of a perfectly put-together, upper-middle-class suburban home in Seattle, WA.

But the story isn't all bad news and characters – it also includes the often-missed elements of hope, resilience, humor, and faith, all of which became crucial elements to not just surviving the trauma but thriving in the aftermath.

EPISODE RESOURCES:

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This podcast is part of a nonprofit called Hopestream Community
Learn about The Stream, our private online community for moms
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Find us on Instagram: @hopestreamcommunity
Download a free e-book, Worried Sick: A Compassionate Guide For Parents When Your Teen or Young Adult Child Misuses Drugs and Alcohol

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Hello, hello. It is officially the first episode of hope stream and I decided to go ahead and record this even though I am definitely not a pro yet. I thought that I would just ask for your forgiveness for any bloopers or bad edits that might occur rather than wait to get the podcast live. So with that, I wanted to tell you about this episode. This episode is going to be a solo one and it’s going to take you on the journey that our family went on and it may be familiar to you or to somebody that you know, it’s about a family who’s broken and battered from the effects of a child who’s misusing substances or who’s battling a full-blown addiction. 

There’s likely a mom who’s terrified and sick and feeling guilty and a sibling or two who are scared and resentful. Maybe a dad who feels helpless and overwhelmed. The characters are real and you’re going to hear how we went from the average, uneventful upper middle-class American family to one that was basically drowning in the terror of the lifestyle of addiction. And that included drug dealing, gangs, police in our living room – often, hospital stays,  two life-threatening overdoses and then a turnaround and recovery. And most of all a story of hope. And the story is a reason that I started the podcast and our online community. And I wanted to tell it because the stigma that surrounds addiction is thick and stifling and it keeps people in a vicious cycle and it isolates them and they’re the ones who are most desperately in need of a community and support around them.

the downhill slide


So our story starts when my son was 14 years old. I had been divorced for about four years and remarried and he was starting to experiment with pot. He got caught in school with some, this was middle school and that was really our first red flag that, you know, things were, things were not 100% right. However, in a state where marijuana is legal and the fact that he was 14 wasn’t hugely, um, you know, terrified just because as my ex husband said “I smoked pot every day in high school,” so it was a flag, but it wasn’t something that sort of really shook us to the core. 

Then we noticed that he was starting to do some drinking, going to lots of parties and his grades started going down slightly. He was always a very, very intelligent, almost too intelligent, child and didn’t tend to fit in very well in the public school system. So we noticed all of these things happening and you know, had a, had a pulse on it. We lived in a very, very tight community. We called it the village where all of the parents knew each other. We connected with each other on where sleepovers were happening, on whose house the kids were at. So this was a very close knit tight community, um, with about 10 boys, my son’s own age and they were all basically growing up together, um, in those years. And then around 15 years old, we noticed that my son’s friend group really started to change and he was not hanging out with the kids and in our neighborhood, our village, the ones whose parents I all knew and hung out with, he was starting to hang out with kids who just didn’t seem to have sort of the family connections. 

I didn’t know them, other people in our neighborhood didn’t know them. And so that was a little bit concerning. So by 16, fast forward two years, um, he got his driver’s license and you know, started driving and as many of you parents will know and attest, once they start driving, things changed dramatically because you don’t know where they are. Um, you know, depending on your rules with the car, it’s just a scary time when they start driving. And we knew that he was hanging out with people that we didn’t know. Again, we, we couldn’t really tell if they were good, bad or otherwise. And we always want to give people, 

you know, especially kids, assume the best about them, but we could tell things were not going so well. And then came our first very, very large, uh, scare and red flag. And that was while I was on a business trip and our son was supposed to be spending the week with his dad. Um, he ended up not coming home and for several days, but telling my ex-husband, his dad that he was saying it, so-and-so’s house or so-and-so’s house, even though it was a school week. So that was not a good sign. So as I was in Dallas working, um, trying to make phone calls, figuring out where he was, and when I landed after a very intense and hectic business week in Dallas, I landed and my phone, just started blowing up. Um, messages and texts and voice messages and turns out that our son had gone on a car ride in his car with a local drug dealer and another couple of friends and driven from Seattle where we live to Northern California. 

And the purpose of this trip was to bring back eight pounds of marijuana to Washington state. So eight pounds is a lot of marijuana, doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not. That is a lot. And he was 16. Um, we saw photos. Fortunately, one of the kids in the car was fairly naive and was posting pictures of this entire escapade on his Twitter account. So without going into too much detail, it was a harrowing week that he was gone and, um, police got involved. He was reported as a runaway. There were photos of guns with the drugs and uh, it was, it was pretty much the, the last straw that that sort of broke when we decided that we were not going to be able to parent our way out of this. This wasn’t something that we could, you know, tighten the reins on his curfew or anything like that that was going to help. So the trip ended, he ended up coming home. There was obviously lots of fallout from that, but at this time I was getting sicker and sicker, losing weight. I’m a stress noneater and you know, some people are stress eaters. I’m a stress noneater so I was just a walking zombie. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t think about anything other than what was going on. And I was holding down a very senior level position in an advertising agency where I to deal with directly with clients all day. Uh, it was extremely stressful and the anxiety and panic around not knowing where your child is and then to know where they are, let alone they’re trafficking drugs, with guns and older people who are over 18 years old was beyond anything I had ever known. So at this point, my ex-husband and I sat down and tried to decide what to do and this was a whole new world for us. 

We didn’t know anybody who had gone through this and you know, we sat and said to each other, what do you do at this point? What do you do with a child who is 16 years old still under our legal care and uh, and is doing these terrible things. And so this is when, let me, like many people turn to Google. And that is a scary thing because Google obviously has lots and lots of people on there who are advertising, who are looking for people who are in this very vulnerable position. And we were incredibly vulnerable at this point and looking for anything. So started Googling terms like what to do with defiant teenager, what to do with drug, using teenager, just all of the terms that we didn’t even know how to put it into the, into the search bar, what do you say? 

What do you do at that point? And, and that is really the, the lead up and the entry, obviously many, many other stories and incidents that happened along the way. But that was really our sort of entree into the world of addiction, the world of high risk lifestyle of truancy ,of this crazy journey. 

all the attempts


So the attempts, what do you do? Uh, the first step that we talked about, and again, this was me dealing with my ex-husband and I at the time had a new husband of two years. Um, so luckily my ex and I had a very good relationship. We worked really hard to do that through our divorce and I will tell you it paid off in spades because to deal with something like this with a spouse or an ex-spouse who you’re not on the same page with and we weren’t always on the same page, we had to get there, um, is just incredibly difficult. 

So the first step that we decided was that we needed to remove him from the situation, physically remove him. Now you can’t really do that physically when your child is 17 years old. So we started looking at ways that we could do that. We just knew that him being here in, around the people that he was involved with was deep, very dangerous, and it was dangerous to his life. It was potentially dangerous to our family because of the drug dealing that was being, that was involved and just not knowing what was happening in that world. I was fortunate enough to have a board member notice how ill and sidetracked and unfocused I was and who very kindly pulled me aside and asked what was going on in my life. Because after a board meeting he could see that I was a wreck. So on his advice, I contacted an educational consultant. 

I did not know these people existed. So for any of you who are listening, who are in a situation where your child is struggling, you don’t know what to do, I can tell you there are educational consultants out there whose job it is to know where the best place is for a child, who’s going through what yours is. And they’re all different. So this is not kind of a one size fits all, but these consultants are, if you find a good one, are incredibly valuable in being able to locate a service or a program that deals with exactly what your child is going through. So that is where we started. It was incredibly expensive, but at that point we had no other option. We knew that if our son stayed in Seattle, in the location where he was, he was probably going to end up dead or in jail. 

And that was something that we were being told by police because every time he ran away, every time he didn’t come home, every time there was an incident, the police would show up at our house, stand in our living room and tell us once again, your son is going to end up dead or in jail if you don’t do something. So at that point we, we hopped quickly to work with this consultant and working with her, she felt that he really would benefit from going to wilderness therapy. And during this time it is so scary because you’re so vulnerable. You’re really looking for help from people who you don’t know and it’s a world that you have never been in before. So I was praying fervently for the right resources to come my way. People would say, what can we do for you? Um, the, you know, the handful of people that I shared our struggle with, which was very, very minimal, mostly just a couple of family members and one good friend. 

And the only thing I could think of was send me the right resources because we can’t fix him and he’s not wanting to fix himself. And all I can do is pray that the right resources will come my way. Now my faith is, is a traditional Christian faith. I think a lot of people end up in this situation and, and this is a time when they find who their higher power is. That might be God, it might not. It might be mother earth, it might be whoever it is that you look to when nothing on earth is going to be able to help you. So our educational consultant was definitely one of the resources that came our way that I felt like was our first step in the right direction. However, the thought of sending my son off to wilderness therapy where they live outside with no tents in Utah for a minimum of six or seven weeks, was so absurd. 

I couldn’t even wrap my head around it. Needless to say, how was I going to get him to go there. So I first started working with a consultant, um, you know, in a very professional way. And it does turn very personal obviously as you’re going through this. And she helped me greatly by telling me one day that it’s okay for you to need a break. Your family needs some peace, you need to sleep, you need to eat. And so she said, you know, cause I kept saying, what is the outcome of this going to be? I send them off to the woods. He lives out there and what is he gonna do? Come back and just be fixed and great again. And of course they can’t, they can’t tell you what’s going to happen. But through her many, many years of experience, she was wise enough to be able to tell me that if nothing else, this would give me a break and it would give our family, my sons, uh, my other son needed a break. 

He’s only two years younger. So at this point, I had the 17-year-old who was in trouble, the 15-year-old who was really feeling the impact of all of the drama and all of the um, high-risk lifestyle that his brother was leading. So when you want to remove a child from where they are and they are still under your care legally, it’s very tricky, especially in a state like Washington where our age of consent is 13. And what that means is that at 13 years old, you cannot get information about your child from a doctor, from a therapist. So we had our son in therapy all of these years from the time that he was 14. And unfortunately, that therapists can’t tell you anything that they’re talking about. Um, some of them could be a little helpful and a little creative in what they would say, but really at that point you lose control and they have to consent to go to treatment to the doctor to anywhere. 

Well, there was no way that our son was going to agree to drop his fabulous lifestyle that he had built for himself here and go off to live in the woods in Utah. So as this was the most terrifying decision of my life, I again was praying for resources and through this network of wonderful people that we met through the consultant, through the wilderness therapy program that we send them to, we learned that you can actually have transporters come pick your child up and they will take them to the treatment program. So that sounded like the only option that we were going to have. Um, they came at two o’clock in the morning and my son was magically, I know this was divine intervention because he was at this point really not coming home very often to sleep. And he was home that evening. 

He was in bed and he was incredibly drunk. I think he was also on some Xanax, so he was fairly sedated and two very large, football linebacker looking guys came and picked him up, drove him to the airport and flew him in their care to Utah. I didn’t know if I was going to make it through that experience. I thought what kind of a parent has their child kidnapped, basically pays to have their child kidnapped in the middle of the night and taken to live outside in the woods for an unknown period of time. But I will tell you that is the first time I could sleep. And that was a priceless gift that we received out of that process. And this is also when I started therapy for myself. That might sound crazy that I hadn’t done that yet after basically almost three years of complete insanity in our home for just a terrifying time of not knowing where my child was, if he was going to be alive. 

But at this point I was recommended to a therapist through our educational consultant and that was a lifesaving move. And I think sometimes as moms, we just think we can do it on our own and we know everything that we’re supposed to know and we can take care of it and we don’t reach out for the help that we do truly need. And I can tell you for a fact that if I hadn’t started therapy at this point, I would not have made it through the process nor probably would my son. So that was a lifesaving decision and my therapist was connected with my son’s therapist at the wilderness program and that was extremely helpful so that they could talk because the age of consent in Utah is 18 so the way that works is you basically sign a consent over to the wilderness therapy program to have agency over your child while they’re there because they’re under the age of 18 and again, terrifying, terrifying. 

I don’t know these people. All I can do is trust the people that I have been working with, knowing and talking to other parents that they had given me the names of as references. But really you have to be pretty desperate and pretty sure that your child’s life is in danger too to make these moves. And I just want to say to any of the moms or dads or grandparents who are out there who are thinking about this move, know that you will make it, you will be okay. And I know that’s hard to believe. If you’re in the position, it feels like the absolute end of the world, but you will make it through. You will get some rest and your child will experience something completely new and completely different and they’re going to hate it at first, but you will have a chance to rest and repair yourself. 
And when kids are in wilderness therapy not only does it give you the time that you need and some of the peace that you need back in your family and your home, it gives them a time to be away from everything that they have sort of put around themselves. The people they’ve immersed themselves with, the drugs that they made be doing. And some kids that are in wilderness therapy aren’t doing drugs at all, but they may have a problem with an addiction to a video game or many other things that are going on. But in our case, obviously, it was a lot of drug use, kind of a thug life, addiction and, and really being immersed in a very dangerous culture. So residential treatment is something that usually comes after wilderness therapy. And as our son started getting three, four weeks into his wilderness therapy, we started talking about what in the world do we do with him afterward because we knew it wasn’t one of those things where he would just come back and be fine. 

We listened to the experts that we were dealing with and the input that we got was that about 80% of kids who return back to their home environment directly from wilderness therapy will relapse into whatever behavior it was that got them there in the first place. So that didn’t seem like a good option after the enormous expense that we had gone to, to have them at wilderness therapy. So we selected a residential treatment program also in Utah that our son would go to straight from wilderness. And breaking that news to him was so difficult because we knew he wanted to come home. We knew he was changed and he was starting to see some advantages to changing his lifestyle, but he was definitely not in a position where we felt like he was prepared to come home and to change life on his own. 

His dad and I did go out for a parent weekend. We slept under the stars with him, and it was really a wonderful experience. It was a little awkward. Um, and, and you know, going through all of those weeks as a family on therapy calls with him was so enlightening and it was a time that it gave him to tell us how he felt. And, we learned a lot from that, but knowing that he really wanted to come home and knowing that he really needed to not come home was extremely hard to tell him. He begged and begged us to come home, at least just for a weekend in between wilderness and residential. That, again, was something that was not an option. We knew that he would either run away or he would just slide it back into his old lifestyle. So he would did go directly from living outside with six other young men to living in a residential treatment home where there were 12 boys between the age of 15 and 17, and who all had similar experiences to him. 

Wide range of, of circumstances. But for the most part they had all been sort of living in the same world. That was supposed to be a six-month experience living at the residential treatment center. And unfortunately, our son was very, very good at manipulation and he spent three months being the perfect student earning all kinds of rewards for his great behavior and his progress. And he earned himself a home visit three months after he arrived at the treatment center. I had gotten word from neighbors and friends who had seen some of the chatter on social media that my son’s plan was to come home on this home visit and run away. I didn’t know if that was true or not, but I had a sneaking suspicion that it might be just given his past behavior. But what you don’t want to believe as a parent at this point is that you have invested thousands and thousands of dollars into these treatment programs and that, that something like that would happen. 

It was just almost, I just didn’t want to believe that that could happen. However, I did talk to his therapist about it. We had lots of conversation. We made the decision to let him come home anyway. And sure enough, what happened is he arrived at our home for this weekend visit and promptly ran away that evening with some of the same people that he had been with on the California drug expedition. So I probably don’t need to even explain the, the terror, the emotional just, uh, crumbling that happened at that point. That was probably the lowest point I think I had been in my life at that point, just not knowing how to even process what was happening that we had just tried to save our son’s life. We had spent more money than I could even imagine to have him in the care of these people. 

They had told us he was making great progress and then he literally came home, had a wonderful pot roast and mashed potato dinner, which was his favorite, which of course I made because that’s what moms do and then snuck out that evening and took off. So at the same time that all of this was happening, I lost my job because of the impact of the stress that this was having on me, on my ability to work. And that was devastating to say the least. Um, first of all, from a professional standpoint, that was a big blow, but mostly I think we were looking at a very serious financial situation where we knew that to save our son it was going to cost an enormous amount of money and for me to lose my job at that point kind of destroyed my hope that I was ever going to be able to continue to have him in these treatment programs if and when he did decide to come home and he did eventually come home. 

There was a lot of work that happened over the two weeks that he was gone. There was a lot of police intervention, but he did eventually come home and we had to do a lot of work to understand what had happened and what we were going to do next. It was another one of those. What in the world do you do? At this point? There was no blueprint for this. I didn’t know a single other person who had been through it. One of the grandparents of one of the boys that he had been with did live in our neighborhood and so we would talk and try to figure out what to do. But I was essentially alone in this journey, um, not having anyone to reach out to, to support me. I did not know about Facebook groups that existed. I had no idea what, what to do and this was really impacting my marriage by this point. 

Obviously you can, the chaos and the stress and the, just the drama that was going on from a day to day standpoint and not knowing what was going to happen, let alone the financial impact that was, um, part of it was, was incredibly painful for my husband to watch. Of course he is watching his stepson go through this. So there’s a certain level of objectivity and just a different relationship that he had to be able to process what was happening and was far more objective certainly than I was. Although at the time I didn’t really want to hear that or couldn’t really comprehend that. So he came home, we ended up allowing him to stay at our home. Of course we had to, he wasn’t 18 yet. So there’s legal obligations that you have. We had to think about whether we were going to file for at risk youth petitions, which basically it’s a agreement that you hand over the parenting responsibility to the state that seemed, um, not like the best idea to us for several reasons. 

So we did just allow him to try to get back into school. He agreed to register for his junior year in high school. By this point, he was fairly far behind, but we managed to work with the counselor at the high school to get him registered for his junior year. And he was actually very excited to start his junior year to get back on track. He felt like he had learned a lot in wilderness therapy. He had learned a lot at the residential treatment center, but he just felt it wasn’t for him and he was ready to get back to his life. 

He started his junior year in September and after a couple of months it was probably late November. Things were going okay, not great. I think he was still using some pot at that point. But by then that was sort of, you know, something that we had to, to deal with. And unfortunately at this time, one of his very best friends, one of the kids in our village committed suicide. And that was another start of a downhill slide. This was a friend of our son’s who was super influential in the neighborhood. He was the most outgoing, he was the best looking, he was the captain of the soccer team. All of the things that are very common in teen suicides and for our son. It was just so unbearable for him to have that happen. And he did try to keep it together. He did try to continue to work. 

He had managed to get a job at a Burger King and he was trying keep it all together, but we saw that he was starting to go down hill. We saw more drugs, we smelled the pot. We saw him coming home drunk. There were gang mentions in social media. It was just the same rewind of what we had been through before. Only at this point it was getting more serious. He stopped going to school and we ended up having to put him into the truancy court program. We were hoping that sort of using the uh, natural consequences model would work. It did not, he had no interest in going to school. He was hugely disrespectful to the judges, to the entire truancy system and we just watched him continue to deteriorate. Then just before he turned 18, he was picked up for theft from a local mall. 

And that was another big, big change in what we saw going from kind of not, you know, horrible stuff other than the California trip. But when there was a theft charge that really changed things. Um, once you start getting into the court system, everything changes. And then he turned 18 and two days later got a DUI. By that point, once he turned 18, I had to kick him out of the house because he was so, he and his lifestyle and his friends were so disruptive, so scary to us that there was no way I could allow him to live in the house with the younger children there. He did move to his dad’s kind of, but for the most part was living in on, you know, friends, couches. He would stay with a dealer. He would stay at an abandoned apartment complex. 

Just the, the typical lifestyle of someone who is, um, using drugs is not working with all of their faculties. And he actually loved the scary gang thug lifestyle. So that was one of our biggest challenges was the lifestyle that went along with this world. This is also when I started going to Al-Anon for anyone who’s gone to Al-Anon. I know it can either be I love it or I hated it. I ended up going at this point because I was so desperate. I’d had a couple of people recommend it to me. I didn’t really understand what it was. I didn’t know where it was. It just seemed too complicated for me, which looking back sounds crazy, but when you’re in it and some of you are, I know it was too much for me to figure out how to navigate going to some sort of a meeting where I might meet other people who also had kids doing this, but I did go and it was a life-changing experience for me to sit with a group of 30 other people and the group that I found was strictly for parents, so it was just, it was actually the stream in the desert and that’s why I have named this podcast and the community, the stream, because it was like finding a stream in the middle of the desert where I could talk to people. 

I could say that my son was in jail and they wouldn’t freak out. I could say that my son hadn’t been home for a week and they wouldn’t look terrified and want to call the police. So for me, Ala-Non for a while was a very, very beneficial piece that I added into my life to be able to navigate this time. Things continued to get worse again. He was 18 the consequences got more and more serious and it got to the point where he did reach out to me and asked if I would go to court with him because he had to face these charges for both theft and for the DUI. I talked to my therapist about it. She let me make the decision, but I did decide to go to support him because he had reached out and when we got to court we found out that he was going to end up in jail because he had a warrant out on one of the charges that he had completely forgotten to go to court for. 

I took the chance at negotiating with him at this point. Now for a lot of you, you know, negotiating 99.9% of the time does not work. I don’t recommend it, but I’m telling this as part of the story because this is what I did and I negotiated with him to post bail for him for the charge and get him out of jail if he would agree to go to treatment within one week. I just made that up on the fly while I was sitting in the courtroom and I saw them putting the handcuffs on him and I just knew that he needed help again and he had done so well in treatment before. So I negotiated that with him and he accepted. So I took off for another business trip and left the coordination of this entire process to his dad. That was something that was incredibly difficult to do, but I didn’t have a choice because I was flying internationally. 

The trip had been planned for many, many months and I think it was one of those things where I had to surrender to knowing that I couldn’t fix everything and I couldn’t do everything. So handing over, finding a treatment program, figuring out the insurance to go with it, how to transport him. There was all left in the hands of my ex-husband who did an amazing job and our son did go. I think that is probably a very unusual situation. So I’m not advocating this as, as a tactic or a tool for anyone, but as part of what happened with us. And he did go to detox. He was detoxing at that point from primarily Xanax, which, uh, for anyone who knows about detoxing from Xanax, from any benzodiazepine, it is beyond the torture of an opiate withdrawal. So he went through five days of withdrawal from Xanax, marijuana, alcohol, you name it. 

And then went to a 30 day insured, you know, insurance approved program in Southern California. He was constantly in communication with me during that stay, wanting to leave, hating it, saying he had to go to a meeting every day. Um, I really stuck my ground. I knew that he wanted to leave. I could understand why he was unhappy there, but we ended up finding a sober living program that he could transfer to in Utah that was run by the same residential treatment program that he had been in before and done so well at. So we made the deal that if he finished the 30-day pro program in California, that he would go back to Utah to the sober living program, which he agreed to do. This is, this was a huge breakthrough for us. I felt like we were on our way to what I believed would be the right program for him, the right thing to get him back on track. 

And he was even able to get his high school diploma while he was there because he was so far behind in school. He had to do a lot of work, but he was able to get his diploma when he was there. Well, those programs are very expensive, as many of you know. And eventually the cost of keeping him there was just not, not an option for us anymore. And so after he got his diploma, we brought him back home. Um, not having anywhere else to send him, and I think this is very common for a lot of families, is you get your child through a treatment program, they’re doing well, but if it’s only 30 days or even 60 or 90 days, when you bring them back to the same environment that they were in, which is often the only choice they get right back to the same people, the same triggers, the same everything that they were doing before. So I will make a very long story short, but he did not last long when he came home. He was back to doing the same things in the same trouble, using the same drugs, hanging out with the same people. So all of the investment that we had made both in the wilderness therapy and the residential treatment in the new 30 day program and detox and sober living was just, I felt at that point wiped away because he was right back to doing all of the things that he had been doing within a couple of months.

That was at a point where I had to again say, you’re, you’re not going to be able to live in this house if these are the things that you’re doing. There were other children there. I was fearful for my safety because of the drug dealers and the gangs he was hanging out with. So had to once again kick him out of the house and he went again to stay with his father. And when I say that he went to live at his father’s, what that really means is that he was staying on a boat just North of Seattle where his father used to live, but had by this point moved to California. So we now had an addicted son who was involved in very dangerous lifestyle living kind of at times on a boat in a marina, which was terrifying. Just the thought of his state of mind. Most of the time combined with water and the logistics of a boat was, was just too much, but it was the only option that we had. And so that’s where he kind of called home. 

the final descent


The final descent started. At this point, my physical and mental state was so bad that I was really having challenges staying focused at work. I had managed to get another job by this point. I still couldn’t eat. Um, I still had huge anxiety. I was on several medications. Oddly, they had prescribed me Xanax as a way for me to be able to sleep through all of this, which I couldn’t fill the prescription because I was too scared to have the medication in my house. Since that was what my son was addicted to. The irony there was definitely not lost. And this is also where I started learning about the CRAFT model of family involvement and moving people from behavior that is undesired to behavior that is desired. And there’s an amazing book that is called Beyond Addiction that I would highly recommend any anybody get, grab it as soon as you can. 

If you’re going through this, if you need ways to manage through the crazy and to deal with the person in your life who is, um, is got substance use disorder. This is the only book I ever recommend to people because it works and it is not a tough love. It is not alienating. And it’s when I really started to understand my role and our family’s role in getting my son to move away from the behaviors that were endangering his life. This was a time when we got phone calls from the hospital where he had been beat up by his dealer who was also a friend. Um, and through the CRAFT method, I learned that I still could show up in my son’s life and I could be supportive to him without enabling him. And we’ll do other episodes on enablement. That’s, that’s a topic that we could all speak for hours and hours on. 

But what I learned was that I could go and pick him up and take him to lunch and try to have a conversation or I could meet him for breakfast somewhere. I could take him grocery shopping and buy him some groceries to keep on the boat where he was staying. I couldn’t give him money. I couldn’t pay his bills. I couldn’t hire lawyers for him. But I could do those things to maintain the relationship. And I did and most of the time he didn’t show up if we arranged to meet for lunch or breakfast, certainly not breakfast. And many times his phone wasn’t working. So on the off chance that his phone was working and we were able to communicate and we actually met up, it was a time where we could sit and talk and I really had to learn how not to lash out at him, how not to give him advice and tell him what to do. 

But it was the beginning of us being able to, to weave a relationship even though he was still using, even though he was still doing all the things that really had torn our family apart at this point. He was also dealing with more legal problems. There was a second DUI, there was a possible felony for a VUCSA, which is the violation of the uniform controlled substance act. And we would go for weeks and weeks without seeing or hearing from him. So the stress level for me continued to be extremely high. My physical state, my mental state was falling apart and I still really had no support. I had my therapist and I did continue to work with her, but I had so many symptoms that, that are common with a chronic stress suffer. And I knew that I needed to do something for myself, but I had no idea what to do. 

And I really couldn’t focus on anything other than finding a way to continue to have a relationship with my son without enabling him in that lifestyle. 

the way back & hope


And then there’s the way back. We continued sort of in this, um, on-again off-again relationship with him over several months. And I knew that things were bad. I knew that he was trying at times to stay clean. He would tell me that he had gone three or four days and then I would see a new pair of shoes that he had gotten from me for Christmas or a birthday and they would be on OfferUp for $10 or $20. And when I saw his belongings on these sales, OfferUp is similar to Craigslist, I knew that he was selling his possessions to be able to buy drugs and that was very sad to me. 

Um, but there was nothing I could do to stop that. And so again, I prayed for the right resources and I pray for the right situations to come together to allow him to get help. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I was going to doctor after doctor because I had massive pain in my legs. I couldn’t walk around the block. I was told that I didn’t have anything wrong with me, that I was the healthiest person that they had seen. So I knew that this was caused by anxiety and caused by stress. I was depressed, I was anxious. I was all of those things that come along with this. And at that point I wasn’t very helpful to my son because I wasn’t healthy. And I think that’s an important thing for moms to remember. Especially, we are so bad at taking care of ourselves and we forget that when we are on half-empty, we’ve only got a half of a tank to give to anyone else who might need us in their lives. 

And for the most part mamas are the ones that everybody’s relying on. So I was trying to figure out how to get healthy but not having much success at it and had to really try and learn skills and techniques that we will have further episodes about in which you can find in our community to learn how to live life when you have a child who is in this situation because life doesn’t stop and other kids have activities and they need you and there are jobs to be done. And it was incredibly hard to figure out how to weave all of that together and stay sane at the same time. And that is when we got a phone call. In April of 2017 I received a phone call from an anonymous young woman who told me that my son had overdosed and was in the hospital and she thought I should probably go, and this could be a two hour-long episode in itself, but the long and the short of it is that my son had twice in the same week on a Wednesday and a Friday overdosed on a combination of fentanyl, Oxycontin, and marijuana. 

And that combination along with the incredibly powerful potency of fentanyl had caused him to overdose on Wednesday where he was released from the hospital. We did not know about this because at this time he was 19, but then on the Friday overdose he was on life support and our family all got together. Um, the doctor said that we would probably be saying goodbye to him and it was the hardest time of my life. I thought I had been through hell before and I didn’t even, didn’t even come close to what we went through while he was in the hospital. He had been found non-responsive in the back seat of his friend’s car, foaming at the mouth. No pulse. Medics did come and did CPR on him for 30 minutes and they finally intubated him and got him to the hospital. But he was non-responsive and on life support for three days and we did not know if he was going to be able to make it out or not. 

And he did pull through, we know that that was a miracle. I know that everybody has their own belief systems and even the toughest of the doctors, the neurologists, the nurses at the hospital said this one is meant to be here because this never happens. We always lose these kids in the ER. So we know he is supposed to be here. We did spend a month and a half in the hospital with him between two different hospitals where he had to recover on the stroke unit, had to relearn how to walk, how to tell time. He had basically had a stroke and a heart attack and all of his organs shut down at the same time. So the rehab from that was intense and it was very scary to see your 19-year-old child not know how to dial a telephone, not know how to brush his teeth, not be able to walk. 

Those were all things that he had to relearn. And then there was the physical therapy to regain strength in his legs. He had to get over a very serious case of pneumonia. It was, it was a terrible and terrifying and very difficult time. But there is hope and our hope came when miraculously a living situation came to be in Southern California with his dad. And that is another one of those miracles that happens that you’re not expecting. But all we could do is to pray for a place for him to go. Because we knew that if we got him out of the hospital, even though he was still physically fairly challenged, there was a very good chance that he was going to go back to the same friends in the same situation. There was absolutely nothing inside of me that felt like he would be strong enough to stay away. 

So when this opportunity came for him to move to California, we jumped on it as fast as possible. He was not as excited about it because he wanted to stay home, but we basically packed up his car and made a three-day drive from Seattle to California to have him have at least a chance of starting over with a new life. He still had to be an intensive treatment. He was in a partial hospitalization program, an intensive outpatient program, and then a step-down program for three or four months once he arrived. But he was able to get himself a job. He enrolled in school and once he was removed from the situation at home with all of the people, with all of the friends and the triggering situations, he was able to start really recognizing that he had a chance at a new life and that he would be able to build a new life and that he had been given a chance to be alive when most people are not. 

He did have to come back to Seattle. However, because the legal problems continued, those don’t go away just because you overdose. So he had to come back several times and was court ordered to attend AA meetings. There was a lot involved and he stuck with it and was able to get his legal problems situated and resolved for the most part. And he was really finding new meaning and purpose in life and living with his dad and making up for years that they had not had together while he was living with me. And while he was living in this lifestyle. And I think it’s important to give hope to people. And the reason I went into as much detail as I did in this story is that you might be listening to this with a child who is currently, you don’t know where they are or they are doing really horrible things. 

Or maybe they’re just starting out in this, in this life, but you know something’s wrong. But I want to tell this story and I think it’s important for people to hear because even as bad as things were with our son and it was very bad, there are many, many stories that I’m not telling you here. There is hope and he is doing well today and he is in recovery. He’s working and going to school. He’s on the Dean’s list in his college and to come full circle, he is planning to work in the residential treatment center where we sent him – where we had him kidnapped and brought to in Utah so many years ago. So if somebody would have asked me four years ago if we, if I would be telling this story, I would have said never in a million years. He’s never going to get out of this. 

This is never going to end. This is just going to be our life forever. And I would have laughed you out of the room if you would have told me that today he would be doing what he is. So as a mama, I want to give you that hope and I want to give you some tools that you can use and things that I learned along the way that I wish I would’ve had somebody to hold my hand to send me an email to get on a video call to just check in with me every once in a while because it is hell you are going through hell and nobody can understand that unless they’ve been there. So the point of this is to give you that hope and to give you the stories so that you know regardless of how bad it is, if your child is breathing, it can happen. 

There can be recovery, there can be hope. And I think that if you are at the point where you’re hearing that and it’s resonating with you, I just want to encourage you to continue to listen to these podcast episodes, continue to join and participate in the community at www.thestreamcommunity.com it’s a safe place to be. You can be anonymous if you want, you can reach out to other mamas. It’s not on any other social media. There is no Facebook, there is no Instagram. It’s just a safe, closed off space where we can connect with each other. We can tell each other our stories and we can be strong for our kids. 

So that’s episode one. Folks, thank you so much for listening. I hope if you’re still listening at this point that you’ve taken away something, at least one thing from, from our story that you can apply to your life or just to think about over the next few days. And again, if you haven’t been to The Stream Community, check it out at www.thestreamcommunity.com and you’ll find your tribe. You will find the people like me, like other mamas who have been there or are in the middle of it right now. And we’re there to support you. We are there to love you and I can’t wait to have you back on episode two. Thanks so much for listening.

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