Traci discusses her son’s addiction, the signs that were shown, how he received help and how she, as the family member, received help. Her son is in recovery and doing well, and she discusses how they managed to get to this place.
My son Gary was about 14 when he first used pot. Eventually, he used Lortab, and oxycontin, which led to Heroin. To this day it is so hard for me to believe that my son had become an i.v. shooting, lying, stealing Heroin addict. When I was growing up the idea I had of a Heroin addict was some nameless, faceless person on the street that no one cared about. My son was far from that. He was very much loved and cared for. Handsome, smart and talented. How did this happen? In the beginning it was difficult to tell that there was a problem. Gary had always been a good kid. He did well in school, and had even won awards for his writing. It was difficult to tell if signs were a serious problem, or normal teen angst. When I did find out about the pot, I went crazy, screaming at him. I had no clue what to do, and I handled it the wrong way. Someone gave me the idea to have someone from the police dept. talk to him. I made a phone call and left a message. However, I never heard back and I didn't follow up. Years later I would meet the officer I left the message with face to face. Gary promised never to do it again and I went into denial.
As he got further into high school there were more changes. The only good grade he received was in Music Appreciation. He got in trouble for skipping school, and smoking cigarettes behind the Botany Building. I went to the school counselor, but received no help. That was extremely frustrating. Over the next few years Gary got in more trouble, but he also very easily received his GED, joined a band and got a good job. I focused on what was good about him. During this time two of his friends were murdered and that event was devastating for him. By this time he was 20, and I didn't see as much of him. I know now that his drug use had become very serious.
In 2007 he went to rehab for the first time. When he completed the program he looked so good! He got a great job and moved in with his girlfriend and her mom. During his rehab I attended the family program where I learned about how serious of a condition addiction is. It would be sometime however before I realized just how serious. Over the next few years Gary was in the vicious cycle of rehab-relapse- jail over and over. During this time I came to realize just how sick he was, and that I could not fix him, no matter how hard I tried. Gary had several charges of theft so he eventually went to prison. While there a good friend and former bandmate died from an overdose. I wondered how it would affect him. Would it motivate him to change or would he give up completely? As his release date approached, I let him know that he could no longer live with us. I also told him about a recovery program out of state that I would take him to. The happiest day of my life was the day he was released and my sister and I drove him to S.C.
Gary did well in the program. He drove the van for the residents and he got back into performing his music. Unfortunately he met a girl while there. They left after about 8 months and relapsed. This relapse was the most devastating of all. He lost everything. His home, job, car, and freedom. Gary went back to prison. This time 400 miles away from his family. He would be locked up for 10 months. Just before his release he wrote a letter to The Oxford House. Luckily they accepted him in. He stayed there for about 6 months. He worked at a restaurant and had to either ride a bike or walk everywhere he went.
Since then he has moved into his own apartment. He has a better job and a new girlfriend. He's now able to go fishing, go to concerts, and work on his music. These are things that didn't happen while he was using. He has struggled a lot because of the damage he caused to himself. He has to work constantly on staying sober. I believe suffering the consequences, relocating and having to rely on himself is what helped Gary most. He is doing better than ever, but it truly is one day at a time. I have to remind myself of that. I believe he turned to drugs in the first place because he had the recipe. Family history and childhood trauma. There were signs that we, his family and his teachers missed. Early intervention may have helped. If your child has suffered emotional trauma and has a family history, please pay close attention and be proactive. Once the line of addiction is crossed it is so hard to get back, and most people can't make it back.
Gary is 27 now and I'm so thankful he is alive. I'm so proud of the work he is doing. He deserves so much credit for not giving up.