“My son, Tyler, was a very happy and sensitive little boy. He was smart, really funny and had a heart of gold. He was a really easy little guy to raise; he minded, did his chores, listened to me, was respectful. I was a single mom from the time he was 2 years old and his brother was 3 months old. We were a very tightly bonded unit. I raised my boys to be very independent (at least I thought I had). I had never used drugs or been around drugs – it was a very foreign world to me. I listened to all the commercials encouraging parents to ‘talk to your kids about drugs’ and did just that. In fact, Tyler and I had a deal… he could dye his hair, wear it long, get his ear pierced and wear the kinds of clothes he preferred as long as he NEVER tried drugs. If he tried drugs I would cut his hair off. Hair was a really big deal to Tyler so I thought that might deter him.
When he was about 14 he started smoking marijuana and when I discovered it I immediately made an appointment with a therapist I knew whose specialty was ‘addiction,’ and I cut his hair as promised. I even had my boss agree to let me leave work at 2 p.m. every day so I could pick my boys up from school and work the rest of the afternoon from home – this way I could keep a very close eye on him. I tried to cut it off at the pass but that switch in the brain of an addict was now ‘turned on’ in the locked position. I was devastated he was smoking marijuana and had no idea what was to come… I had no idea what devastation was.
At 17 he was using heroin. A new fear and devastation took hold. I thought it was my fault; a single mom, too many failed relationships, couldn’t be a full-time parent because I had to work to support my family. I was in therapy just to cope. The day I found out, he had been using for 3 months and wanted to get clean. He had been detoxing on his own for 4 days and was really sick. I took the day off work and called every detox and rehab facility I could think of and made a decision to get him into an outpatient treatment plan which began that evening and at a cost of $1,500 out of pocket. I was on a limited income so that amount was hard for me but I had it and I gladly paid it. He finished treatment and was sober for a few months before it all started again. Since that time he has been arrested more times than I can count, has served 10 months in prison, several months in jail, has been in 5 different rebabs including county and prison and each time I have renewed hope that ‘this will be it – he will stay sober and start to live a pro-social life,’ and each time he relapses I am left feeling more and more hopeless.
For me, the journey has been incredibly painful and challenging in ways I never expected. I have lost 3 wonderful, loving relationships, men I was engaged too, to Tyler’s addiction. I almost lost my job at Nike 2 years ago because he was in prison and I had not heard from him for months (your mind starts to go mad). I worried every day for years that he would overdose and I would get that call, or come home to him dead. He has threatened suicide and gone missing for months at a time, only to end up in jail, but at least there I knew he was safe. I used to think I wouldn’t be able to handle him being arrested and the first time he was I thought it would kill me. Then I thought I would never survive him going to prison and he did… and while it almost cost me my job and sanity, once again I survived. A friend told me years ago as we were having the usual ‘you can’t enable him’ conversation, that I would need to accept the fact he might die. I just could not go there and never thought I would get to a place where I accepted that reality, but I have, and it’s what allows me to make the tough decisions sometimes – like calling the police when he OD’s or breaks into my house.
I’ve also almost entirely lost my relationship with my youngest son because he doesn’t agree with how I have handled Tyler or some of the choices I have made. I have no relationship with my 1-year-old granddaughter thanks to Tyler’s addiction. That has certainly been the greatest loss for me. Shawn served 4 years in the Navy and is now a deputy Sherriff so has a really different view of things. I did raise one very independent, strong and responsible young man.
Our family is not the same loving and close-knit unit we were when they were little. My extended family really has nothing to do with us because of Tyler’s addiction. His grandmother tried so hard to help him and now she has given up and while she loves him, she really doesn’t want him around. That makes me alone with this – at least as family is concerned. You see, my family is pretty straight and narrow, white collar who pretends that everything is perfect in their worlds, and Tyler is a ‘disgrace’ to them. That’s why the article ‘My heroin addict’ meant so much to me. It took until just last year for me to begin to really open up about Tyler’s addiction to people and not feel embarrassed myself – to accept it as a disease and not blame myself. I want to remove the stigma around it and see people get the help they need. We don’t do enough in this country to help – we criticize and treat them like garbage to be tossed aside and discarded. That article was exactly what everyone needs to know and understand, the faces of addiction are not stupid, useless, ugly people – they are people’s children and are loved and adored and special human beings who deserve to be cared for, helped and supported.
I immediately wrote my own version of ‘My heroin addict’ and posted it on my Facebook page along with the link to your article. I have never been so bold about my son’s addiction and it felt really good and empowering. I got more likes and comments on that post than I have ever gotten before. When I got home from work I asked my son if he had seen my post on Facebook and he said he hadn’t really been on Facebook lately. I told him I posted a really good article on addiction and thought he might enjoy it. I like giving my son things to read that remind him he is loved and valued and still seen as ‘my son’ and not an addict or a problem. He asked if he could use my phone to read it because he was having issues with his phone. Gladly I handed it over to him and he disappeared for a long time! After about an hour I went looking for him to get my phone back. He heard me calling for him and said he’d be out in a minute with my phone, that he ‘was doing something.’ When he handed it back to me and I turned it on to see if I had any texts or missed calls, this post came up – one he had personally written on MY FACEBOOK. I read it with tears streaming down my face, completely and utterly speechless.
This typing… is Tyler. I am the junkie of our family. My mom fought off abusive men throughout my childhood, she used to sing ‘you are my sunshine, my only sunshine…’ to lull me to sleep, my mom praised me with an unshakable pride, she guided me to the belief that I could do anything I set my mind to. My mom taught me to relate and to empathize – to accept everyone as they were. My mom sacrificed long days at work so my brother and I always looked fly at the start of a new school year. She sacrificed everything for us two boys. My mom inspired my passion for romance and love, she made me hot honey water when I was sick, she massaged my temples whenever I had a migraine, she grew her hair long because I liked to twiddle her hair and suck my thumb for comfort. My mom fought relentlessly for her boys’ futures and happiness. My childhood was crazy, but my mom’s arms were always my sanctuary and she always accepted me for who I was. She let me dye my hair and get piercings, let me play death metal in the car… She let me be me no matter how ‘diversified’ I became. We were best friends. Then addiction struck… I was trapped in a daily fight for my life. I started lying to my mom, I have stolen thousands of dollars from her, I have called her spiteful names, I have damaged her relationships, I have robbed her of the the comfort and peace she deserves. I have done everything you could possibly do to push someone away. However, my mom is stronger and more courageous than most. My mom has held my hand through my addiction, she has used tough love to heal me (even though it hurts her deeply). My mom has saved me from multiple overdoses, visited me in numerous correctional facilities, she tells me I’m handsome and smart – even though I’m damaged and dumb most times. My mom never misses a birthday or holiday, she embraces me and assures me I’m worthy of love and worthy of life – even though I’ve betrayed her and broken her heart. She has so much hope and so many aspirations for me – even though I’m a habitual failure in recovery, my mom has cuddled my soul with warmth and determination as I battle my demons. My mom is the reason I’m even alive, for SO many reasons. My mom stands tall, firm, proud and ready to fight this addiction. My mom is a soldier, a savior, a vast source of hope, and… she is mine. Mom, I love you and appreciate you and respect you so much. I wish I could show you and I hope someday I am able to heal you and care for your wounds. You’ve endured so, so, so much. I’m sorry for how I’ve hurt you. You’re always my number one Momma. Thank you for giving my life meaning.
I know how much Ty loves me – that has never been in doubt…but with all we have gone through together, his post made all the hard days and sleepless nights and lost relationships almost worth it. Just to know that through it all, he knows how much I love him and that I will always love him no matter what. I got up and held him for a long time.
That was 2 days ago. Today he is high again, and today we start all over. And, today I will do what I have always done, pray, hope and not give up.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stacey Ladd of Cornelius, Oregon. Do you have child who suffers with addiction? We’d like to hear about your journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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