I dont know why some of us are hit by only scattered showers throughout our lives while others are bombarded with the full force of a raging tsunami. But I know my husband and I were hit with such a tsunami on a December morning over eight years ago, although we were aware of the storms that had for years, off and on, passed over our lives.
We were awakened by the police at 1:15 a.m. No phone call at that time of the morning, and especially a call from the police, can ever be good news. If youre a parent and the phone rings, your throat immediately clutches, you cant breathe and you expect the worst. In our case, it was the police calling to let us know they were standing outside our door and to please come out. I couldnt get dressed and get to the front door quickly enough. Racing down the hall, trying not to trip over the cats that had come running to see what all the excitement was about, I thought my heart would explode from pure fear.
I opened the front door and was greeted by two detectives. Im sad to say this wasnt a one-time occurrence. Our son, who was a paramedic and a registered nurse was also a young man who was addicted to drugs. Yes, he had been in trouble before thats what addiction does; it takes good, kind law-abiding kids and turns them into someone you dont recognize.
When you look at your addicted child, youre not really seeing him or her. What youre seeing is a shell of that person. What you dont see, is what I call the Addiction Monster, lurking inside. The Monster is calling all the shots now and your child is waging a constant battle, trying to slay this evil being that has infiltrated his brain.For fourteen years we were pelted by rain, heavy sheets of it, interspersed with sunshiny days that gave us hope that we could weather the storm; hope that this 5th rehab might be the one that saves him; saves him from himself or rather from the Addiction Monster. But we couldnt save him. The police had come to tell us our son had died of an overdose. In times such as this people can be very kind or very unkind. Strangers can offer you a shoulder to cry on or can condemn your child for being addicted or condemn you for being such an unfit parent. Friends can stand by you or they can disappear from your life, lest your calamity descend upon them and their child. Unreasonable thinking for sure, but when a child dies, all reason flies out the door. A lot of people want to get as far away from a tragedy as possible.Ive learned a lot in these eight years since my son passed away. Ive learned that addiction is a brain disease, no matter if it was self-inflicted or not; think of the person who receives a lung cancer diagnosis due to years of smoking, or the diabetic whose disease was contracted due to poor dietary choices; we dont condemn these people. We offer them sympathy. As my son once told me, Mom, nobody wakes up one day and decides to be a drug addict.I think about my son every day. He was a handsome young man, kind and loving, talented and intelligent, always rescuing abandoned pets. Sadly, he could not rescue himself. About the author: Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis, Author and Parent Advisory Board Member of The Partnership at Drug-Free.org (formerly The Partnership for a Drug-Free America)