Friday, July 31, 2009


Some days are so difficult that I start to question why I chose to have children. The stress in my life is so incredibly high right now that I often find myself thinking about how different life would be if I had remained childless. I am ashamed to admit that there are days when I wish I had taken a different path. To remedy these feelings, I look through old photographs. And then, I remember. Justin's first fourteen years were the happiest of my life. My daughter, at twelve, still brings me so much joy. She is the reason that I get out of bed each day. I need to work hard to provide her with some sense of normalcy. As much as possible, we hide the anger, the tears, the fear, so she can look back at her childhood and remember something other than her brother's problems. I worry constantly that she may choose the same road as her brother. I do not think I could handle losing both of my children to drugs. I pray each day that my son will find his way back to us, his family, because then I will be able to look at photographs like these without tears - only smiles and fond memories.

This is me, my son and daughter exactly twelve years ago. I remember the overwhelming love and pride I felt as this picture was being snapped. Happy twelfth birthday daughter of mine. Happier days ahead.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Life continues to be a cycle of arguments and tears. I am a teacher, so being off for the summer gives me a lot of time and energy to focus on the addict in my house. I'm dreading the fall, as I'm not sure how I am going to balance his problems, which are mounting by the day, with my workload. I'm starting a new position at a new school, and this position requires me to begin working on my Master's degree. I know I am taking on more than I can handle, but teaching jobs in this province are slim. If I turned down this job offer, there would not be any other options, other than substituting. It's interesting how life has to still go on, even as it is falling apart around you. I am watching my son destroy his life with drugs, and yet lunch needs to be made, laundry needs to get done, and bills need to be paid.

Driving in the car the other day, Fleetwood Mac's 'Landslide' came on the radio. I have heard the song so many times, and yet it was like I was hearing it for the first time. Before all of this, life was good, easy even - I was one of the lucky ones who sailed through life without any catastrophes. Now, I know what it feels like when a landslide hits. It feels as though everything I have spent my life building is falling down around me. I am desperately trying to hold things up and fix things and put things right again, but the landslide is too powerful and out of control. The landslide that is my son's addiction has brought me down, and I have lost myself. I don't even recognize my own reflection in the mirror.

"Can the child within my heart rise above."

I don't think so. My innocence is destroyed, and most days I feel like I am a hundred years old.

"Well, Ive been afraid of changing, cause I've built my life around you."

I have built my life around my children and they are getting older, making their own choices in life. It's difficult to let your children go in the best of circumstances. To detach from your child, when they can not take care of themselves, is almost impossible. But, it is what I must do. It can be a very dangerous thing when you love your children more than you love yourself. It's a mistake to build your entire life around somebody else, because people let you down. My son has let me down. I have to begin building my own life. It's so much easier said than done.

"Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides. Can I handle the seasons of my life."

I don't know. I really don't know.

August 10th cannot come quickly enough. Right now, he is saying he will go to the appointment willingly, and accept the treatment they believe he needs. I know that his moods can change quickly, though. Good days can be followed by days that are soul crushingly awful.

I've found an Al-anon meeting close to me - I think I am going to go. I think I need to go.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Nobody Told Me There'd Be Days Like These

I watched the film Terms of Endearment last night (I know, there isn't enough sadness in my real life). In one scene, the Debra Winger character is trying to talk her husband out of raising their three kids after she dies from cancer. She says to him on raising kids, "As hard as you think it is going to be, you end up wishing it was that easy." That pretty much sums up nicely where I stand on raising children these days. I knew there would be challenges, especially during their teenage years, but honestly nobody told me it would be this hard. You expect your children to make mistakes; you don't expect your children to end up addicted to drugs. And, when it happens, you find yourself in such despair and confusion, that you end up in situations that you never would have expected to find yourself, days so hard, you contemplate getting in the car and just driving away, leaving it all behind.

Around the time we first began to realize that Justin was using drugs on a regular basis, we had a monumental fight. I wish I could say it was the worst day of my life, but unfortunately, there have been others since. I had caught him (for the third time that week) smoking weed out of his bedroom window. When I confronted him, he said something along the lines of "I'll do what I want, when I want." The anger I felt in that moment was frightening, and I lost control. It is a terrifying feeling when you realize that you can not control your actions; I now completely understand temporary insanity. That night, was the closest I have come to being violent toward my son, fortunately, I took my anger out on an inanimate object. I picked up his television and threw it to his floor, where it smashed violently on the hardwood. I was crying and yelling "why are you doing this to us," over and over again. I can't even really remember my son's reaction, I was so caught up in my own emotions. My husband, hearing the crash, came running down. Realizing his wife was, well losing her shit, he wisely led me away from the situation and into our bedroom. I lay on the bed, sobbing, listening to the music on the clock radio which was quietly playing. It took me a moment to realize what song was playing; It could not have been more appropriate: Nobody Told Me There'd Be Days Like These. Strange Days Indeed, Mr. Lennon, strange, strange days.

Justin finally got the date for his assessment: August 10th. On this day, following a three hour assessment, it will be decided whether he should receive in or out-patient therapy. Justin has shown some more remorse for the stolen jewelry; however, I question whether he is just saying what he knows we want to hear. He has promised to pay them back in full, but I'll believe it when I see it. Actions speak louder than words - this old saying is so truthful, especially when you are dealing with an addict.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Collateral Damage

There are so many troubling aspects to drug addiction. One that we are dealing with with right now, is how the addiction has consequences for everyone around the addict. My husband and I have been struggling with how to cope with our son for four long, desperate years. Not only have we fought with our son, but we have fought with each other many times, especially when we disagree with what course of action to take. Of course, the stress, fear, and grief over the situation also builds up, and we tend to take it out on each other. We have survived seventeen years of marriage, with many bumps along the way. Sometimes, I wonder if this trial will be the one our marriage could not survive.

Our daughter has suffered tremendously because of her brother's addiction. We have tried to hide as much as possible from her, but I am ashamed to admit, it hasn't always been possible, and she has witnessed far more than any child should ever have to. In the beginning, when she was much younger, any confrontation with my son would result with her in tears, hiding in her room. Four years later, and she has become accustomed to the turmoil in our house. Confrontations do not seem to bother her, and she simply ignores her brother and our arguments. I'm not sure which reaction is more troubling. We are working on having her talk to a professional about the feelings I know she is holding deep inside.

With Justin's latest disaster, the consequences have spilled over to my parents. Justin admitted that he took the jewelry. He owed a drug dealer money, and he was desperate. He sold everything at a pawn shop, including his great grandmother's wedding band. My parents went to the pawn shop to try to retrieve some of the items, but some of it had already been shipped to a gold melting shop and the other pieces had been sold. They are all gone, thousands of dollars worth of jewels, sold for $250.00. The thought of that ring, that had such sentimental value to my mother, being destroyed, is unbearably sad, especially knowing that my child is responsible. Justin has not shown a tremendous amount of remorse, he is simply making excuses for his actions, as he always has.

If there is any good to come out of this incident, it is that everyone now knows how deeply troubled my son is. There is no more hiding, and no more excuses. My parents, my sisters and their husbands - everybody knows. It is both a relief and a burden. My family has been incredibly supportive over the past couple days. They are very worried about Justin and they want to help. The damage of drug addiction just keeps extending its ugly reach, leaving me to wonder where it will end. My parents, being the amazing parents that they are, do not care about the lost jewelry. It is the lost grandson that they are crying for.

I asked my son if he ever thinks about how many people are willing to give him second chances. I asked him if it ever amazes him how people are still willing to believe in him. I asked him how many people he will hurt, before he realizes that his addiction is not just causing him to suffer. My questions did not receive a response, other than a single tear sliding down one of his cheeks. It was the first sign of any feeling, other than anger, that he has shown in a long time. Right now, that single tear is my only hope.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

One Step Forward, A Million Steps Back

My Dad called this morning.

Dad: Do you remember when Justin had some friends over at our place last week, you know when your mother and I were out.
Me: Yes
Dad: Well, we have a problem.
Me: Lay it on me. (stomach tightening in fear)
Dad: Your mom just noticed that her jewelry is gone. All of it. Do you think that either Justin or one of his friends may have...
Me: (Through tears) Yes, dad. Yes, I do.

It's just another day in my life with an addict.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mother, heal thyself

There seems to be a common theme among many of the people who have commented on my blog. It is a truth that I am just beginning to understand - I can not help my son, until he is ready to be helped. That does not mean that I am going to give in and allow him to do as he pleases. In fact, it means the opposite. I am tired of being an enabler. I am tired of allowing him to manipulate me. I am tired of trying to kill his addiction with kindness. It does not work, and I have four years of misery to prove it. We have some very hard decision to make in the coming weeks. He is on the waiting list to be assessed for the CHOICES drug treatment program. We should be getting the call within the next couple of weeks. I will not be able to force him to enter the program, but I can enforce some serious consequences if he refuses to go. Consequences that scare me, but we can not continue to allow him to rule our home the way he has been.

I have realized that as my son was replacing everything in his life with drugs, I was losing myself too, just for different reasons. My life has become a vicious cycle of taking care of an addict, and I was no longer taking care of myself. Like my son, I was slowly losing interest in all of the things I had once enjoyed. I have been in a depression, of this I am sure. In the last four years, I have gained ten pounds a year. Yep, do the math. That is a lot of extra weight to carry around. I view this weight both literally and figuratively. It is also forty pounds of stress, worry, guilt, shame, and fear.

I kept telling myself, that as soon as my son was able to get his life on track, I would get mine back too. Four years later, and despite our best efforts, his life is still spinning out of control. I can't force him to battle his demons, but I can battle mine. It is time to start healing my own mind, body, and spirit. It is time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Skeletons In The Closet

One of the first things I questioned when deciding to begin this blog was whether I should include identifying information. Initially, I decided to not reveal too much, and not to use full names or photographs. However, this decision has been weighing on me, mainly because of the reasons for which I made that choice. There are so many complex issues to deal with when you have an addict in your home, and one of them is deciding how much of the problem to reveal to the outside world (friends, family, acquaintances, etc.). We have taken the approach of hiding as much as possible from everyone we know.

I come from a very close family. My family members love my son deeply. I did not want them to be as worried as we are. However, recently, I had to divulge a lot about the situation to my father, because my son had been using his grandfather as an unknowing enabler - my father was giving my son money, paying his cell phone bill, and letting him use his car. Of course, he had seen concerning changes in his grandson over time, but he had no idea how serious his problems had become. It was very painful for me to tell him what has been going on in his only grandson's life, because I knew he would be deeply concerned. And, I was right. I think I watched my dear father age 10 years in that 10 minute confession.

So, although the reasons for withholding information from my family may have been noble, in terms of trying to protect people who love our son from the pain we have been experiencing, I can't say the same for the reasons we have not told anybody else. Simply put, we are embarrassed and ashamed of our son's addiction. We are afraid that people who do not know us well, and do not know that we have raised our son in a loving home, would blame us for our son's problems. And so, the skeletons have remained firmly hidden in the closet. Until now. I have decided that the next time someone asks me how my son is doing, my answer will no longer be, 'he is fine.' He is not fine, in fact, he is about as far away from fine as he can be.

I believe that it is in times of great hardship when you discover who your true friends are. Sometimes, when you are in the deepest darkness imaginable, it can be difficult to see anything clearly. However, I know that when the light returns, I will be able to look around and see who is still by my side, and perhaps that will be one blessing to come out of this nightmare.

It is time to let go of the shameful feelings. It is time to let go of the guilt. Skeletons begone - I am shining a light on the dark recesses we have hidden for far too long.

Hello, my name is Hannah and my son is an addict.

*photos to follow once I figure out how (;

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eyes Wide Shut

For the last few months, I have been using denial as a coping mechanism. I tell myself lies, so that I can sleep at night. I tell myself that my son is just finding his way, and that his problems are not as serious as I think. I tell myself that all teens go through this phase, and that very few end up with problems as adults. I tell myself that everything will work out okay. I tell myself that I need to give my son some space, so that he can work things out on his own. I tell myself these things so that I do not have to face the issue, and so that there will be some peace in my home. Deep down, my eyes were always open to the truth. It was just a truth that I was not ready to admit.

Denial can work, but only for a short time. When you are dealing with an addict, the ugliness will find you, no matter how deep into denial you are. I can't deny that my once athletic son is starting to look skeletal. I can't deny that he is pale with dark circles under his eyes. I can't deny that he appears to have lost his lust for life, and that he thinks everything is pointless. I can't deny that most days he leaves the house without even showering. I can't deny that he is angry and that he is in pain. I can't deny that he is also using denial to deal with his problems: Everything's cool mom, just leave me the fuck alone. Everybody does it. Weed is just an herb, it's harmless. Weed did not cause me to lose interest in sports, I just don't like them anymore. Weed is not causing me to be depressed, it's helping. Drugs are not ruining our relationship, you are mom, now get the fuck out of my room and out of my life.

Searching through his possessions today, I found something that is forcing me out of denial. I found evidence that my son is not only using drugs, he is dealing too. Just when I think things can't possibly get any worse, they do.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Addicts

Many times over the past few years, I have struggled with the question of what could we have done differently as parents to prevent the problems we are having now. I clearly remember having a conversation with my husband, probably when my son was about ten, regarding drugs. We truly believed that we had nothing to worry about, because we thought we were doing everything right as parents. I have always strongly believed the old cliches that children learn by example and therefore as parents we need to practice what we preach. Neither my husband nor I smoke, use drugs, or drink (other than the occasional glass of wine/beer). We also believed that another safeguard against drug use among teens is to keep your child busy. To that effect, we had our son involved in every sport imaginable. For many years he played on basketball and soccer teams. He snowboarded in the winters and took sailing lessons in the summer. He was an amazing mountain biker, and this was a sport that he enjoyed with my husband. We had the drug talk - many times. We were loving, present, and involved with our son, and yet here we are.

Perhaps, one thing I would change was how I reacted when I first realized my son was using drugs. It happened one month before his fourteenth birthday. I was picking up his jeans off the bathroom floor, and out fell a small bag of weed. I was shocked, but not panicked. I have never been naive about drug use and teens. I experimented and so did my husband. I was mainly worried that he was starting so young (I smoked my first joint at a party at about sixteen). But, overall I figured this was some teen experimentation that would not turn into anything serious. My husband and I confronted our son, and he admitted it was his. We had the drug talk (again) and grounded him for two weeks. I thought that was the end of it. We quickly realized that it was just the beginning, and I really can not get into everything that has happened over four years in one post, but it has been a nightmare. Over time, our son was no longer our son. He has lost all ambition and motivation and one by one he has dropped every hobby and sport he has been involved in. His life now revolves around weed (getting money/smoking/eat/sleep/repeat).

Later, I will get into all of the strategies we have tried to get him off this track to nowhere, but for now, my advice for parents of preteens/teens would be this: when you find that first evidence of drug use, take it seriously. Don't assume that all teen experimentation is just that. I think that some parents (including myself at one time) have this belief that these problems only happen to teens from certain types of families. They think if they do the types of things that we did, they will be immune to these problems. I wish it were true, but it is not. No family is safe. In the parent support group I attend, the other parents are a very diverse group from every occupation and every parenting style you could imagine. I now know that a two week grounding was not enough of a message to my son that drug use in our home will not be tolerated. I wish I had more answers, because I would not wish the hell we are going through on any other family. I will talk about more later about one other regret that we have, that is, being more of an influence on our son's peer group. You can not underestimate the power of peers during the early teen years. All of the values and morals you thought you had passed on to your child can easily be tossed aside with the influence of one friend. Until then, hold your children as close as you can for as long as possible. My son is still physically under our roof, but I miss him so much.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Another Night, Another Fight

It is immediately apparent when my son is stoned. He has walked in the door. Stoned again. Now I must choose. Do I confront him and begin another battle where there are never any winners, or do I go to bed and silently cry myself to sleep? I'm so tired of the fighting. So. Fucking. Tired. If this were your son, what would you do?

To Hell (not yet back)

Where to begin. I'm a wife and mother of two, a twelve year old daughter and a seventeen year old son. For the past four years, our son has taken our family on a dark journey to hell with his continuing addiction to weed. Anyone who says that weed is not addictive or harmful needs to spend some time with my son. I'm sure they will reconsider. Perhaps, to some, weed can be a harmless habit, but for others, it is not. I'm beginning this blog as a way to put my emotions down and as a place where hopefully others will visit and offer advice. I will chronicle our family's trials and hopefully, in the not so distant future, this will be a brighter spot to share our triumphs. I'm not sure where this journey will take me, but I lay awake each night staring at the starry sky wondering how it will all end. I'm going to end my first post with a poem I recently wrote about my son. I will never claim to be a good writer, but I like to write nonetheless. Writing has remained the one thing that has been calming and helpful to me during these tumultuous times and I have always admired poetry for its ability to say so much with so few words.

Little Prince

I ache for the simplicitiy of the past,
my charming prince, with trusting eyes, dimpled knuckles, an eager smile.
When a challenge was a scraped knee, or the dragon dream
you'd cry out for comfort,
and I, your adoring queen, would effortlessly oblige.

Too fleetingly, a morose replacement,
with an icy stare, bruised fists, and an eternal scowl.
Battles that break me.
No longer able to rescue, the queen turns to demon, unrecognizable.

In your room, on a quest for traces of innocence shattered.
Success? Not exactly.
Awaiting your return, knowing that words will fly like daggers,
grievously wounding those in their path.
Once thrown, impossible to sheath, the damage, irreparable, I fear.

Unforgivable rage turns to soundless tears, mourning all that we have lost.
Agonizing silence, again.
The drawbridge has been lifted, leaving insurmountable walls, defensive moats.
A peaceful kingdom no more.

Oh, to return to the days of glorious castles and beautiful queens, dragons so easily slayed.
This time, little prince, I would never let you go.