I think about this each and every day, trying to figure out how to “own my story”. Thinking, if I knew how to own my story and not let my struggles define me, I could find a way to feel like myself again. But what I’ve come to realize is that when it comes to having children, your children AND their Struggles ARE what Defines You.
We had a dream, my family and I, and that dream came true for us in 2013. Our dream was to get away from these cold winters in the Midwest and live in a gorgeous place where the weather is beautiful year round.
Everything just worked out perfectly; my husband was offered a job in California-Southern Orange County, the kids at the time ages 19, 14 and 1 were still on board and excited for this new adventure. We sold our house within a month and everything else just fell into place.
This is the short version of our nightmare.
We rented a house in Lake Forest, CA and moved in June 2013. We had all of these to do lists with places to visit and see, however, once school began for our 14 yr. old, this would be his first year in high school. Our son suffers from ADHD and I should have known this change would be too much for him to handle. He quickly became overwhelmed, lost in the large population of students and he began to withdrawal from us. Nervous, scared and very aware, I prayed he would find a friend, just one friend to give him hope. Well, by the end of November/December, he had found some friends. These friends would end up being any parents’ worst nightmare.
These books were recommended to us by his psychiatrist and were very good reads. The workbook helps them document how they feel, etc. to try to get a handle on their moods.
The Bi-polar Child Third Edition:
The Bi-polar Workbook:
The Explosive Child:
He began skipping school, not calling/returning calls/texts. We had no way of knowing where he was, he refused to tell us names of friends or where they lived. He began using drugs/alcohol, basically anything he could get a hold of, even over the counter cold medicine they would steal from the grocery stores along with alcohol.
We got into a fight one day after catching him smoking marijuana in the house. We took the drugs, pipe, etc. and called the police. Once they arrived we felt relieved to have help, we asked them to take the drugs, etc., and they refused! They spoke with Jeffrey but that was it….we would quickly learn, they wouldn’t help us with any of it, we were basically alone in this nightmare. The next day he ran away. We reported this to the police, but nothing ever was done.
Nearly 2 weeks later, my daughter is getting a phone call at 2am, she rushes to my room to tell me that some guy was on the phone telling her he found him unresponsive and if we didn’t come get him, he would call the police. I quickly threw clothes on, my daughter rode with me not knowing what exactly we were getting involved with and we drove to the address the guy gave us. As I pull into the apartment complex (he refused to tell me which apartment, just to pull in and he would find me), I see him carrying my 14 year old lifeless son. What happened to me at this moment would change me, who I was, who I am and who I will be.
Though we were so very lucky, we got him to the hospital; they treated him for Alcohol poisoning, hyperthermia, seizures, etc. and he was released the next day. While he was unconscious, his “friends” used cigarettes to burn his hands. 2 days later, we were back in the hospital due to him overdosing on over the counter cold medicine. He took an entire package of Coricidin tablets.
After begging the hospital staff again to help me get him the help he needed before the worst would happen, they finally called the Orange County Crisis Assessment Center and sent a therapist out to visit with him.
Because he never said the word “suicide”, they wouldn’t help me get him treatment though it was obvious he was abusing drugs, alcohol, medication, etc. Once I pointed out the burns on his hands, showed them the photos of him, they finally took me serious enough and got him on the waiting list which we waited 3 days in the emergency room for a bed to open at a facility and sent him 3-4 hours away. No, it wasn’t the help he needed, it only fueled the fire and once insurance quit paying-2 weeks, they released him, we brought him home and he immediately ran away again.
He stole from the family anything he could to trade for drugs. We bought a safe which he quickly broke into. The drugs would make him so angry that one evening, I was home with our youngest and our 14 yr. old was in an extreme agitated state that I couldn’t leave and he was threatening to harm my husband as soon as he walked in the door from work. I had to text my husband to warn him so that he could call the police which sent the SWAT team out. They surrounded the house just to make sure our little one and I could get out safely while they calmed him down.
We decided to move a little further south to get him away from this area and a fresh start at a new school. He quickly found another group of “friends” and was right back at it.
We did find a better facility for him to get help, however in order to get him there, we had to pay an adolescent transport service nearly $600 out of pocket each time to take him because he would refuse to go anywhere with us and run. Insurance would only allow him to stay 2 weeks the first time; he immediately relapsed and ran away. It took me 3 weeks to get another approval to get him back in the treatment program, stayed for 29 days and by this time, we had made the decision that we needed to move back home to Kansas where the laws would help us keep him safer.
Yes, we did so much investigating, research, tracking, etc. I even went through his phone log from my phone bill and called every number and threatened the kids on the other end to stay away from my son. I changed his number multiple times. Once I found out he was selling his own medication instead of taking it, I began making him a coffee each morning pouring his medication in it and using the capsules to put crushed up cayenne pepper and laxatives for him to sell (my attempt at a comic relief), making sure he was getting his medication each day but letting him think I was still leaving it out for him to take with breakfast as usual.
Although this struggle didn’t go away, at least we had help from the community, the juvenile law enforcement, friends and family.
So for over 4 years, we have struggled with this nightmare and because he is our son, the love we have for him will never go away, we will always have this fear and will continue to live one day at a time praying he will stay clean and stay on the right path.
The image of his limp lifeless body being carried to me will never leave my thoughts/memories and will always haunt me in some way. Your children AND their Struggles ARE what Defines You.