Wednesday, 30 January 2013

An Island Problem

My son was not always an addict. He was a little boy once with hopes and dreams.
We can't predict!

Dear Friends,

In a couple of days, this blog will be a month old. Since its creation, it has had almost 10,000 views. Thank you for your visits and support. YOU are making a difference.

Creating this blog felt like the right thing to do, and I have no regrets. The odd time, though, as I am posting something personal about our family, a little voice asks me if I am doing the right thing. Am I going to make a difference in Islanders minds and hearts, or will this come back to hurt my family - mainly, my son - if I can't break down the stigma of addiction? In the end, though, I continue on with my posts because I know that things will never change in the face of silence.  The voices of the voiceless need to be heard if things are going to change for the better. 

My son and I want to stop the spread of addiction by ensuring that adequate help is available for those already addicted, and that well-developed prevention programs are in place to educate students and empower them to say no to drugs. As my son says, "If they never try it, they will never know what they are missing, and that is better than living like this." 

The thoughts of another person and their family going through this keeps me up at night. It is an unbelievably painful journey. If my words can prevent one person and one family from this nightmare, it is all worth it. If my postings can make one person feel less alone, it is worth it.  If my messages can make the "unlovable" feel loved, it is worth it.  Addicts will not get better because we judge them. They will get better because, as a society, we care about (and for) them.

I want to save my child. I want to save your child. I want to save future children. It takes a village to raise a child and it requires every person in the village. It is no longer enough to put your head in the sand and sit back in judgment. It won't help to solve the problem. Neither will silence and so I speak up in the hopes of empowering others to speak up too.

Many of my friends have heard me say that no amount of stigma or judgment will ever hurt as much as watching my son slowly kill himself, knowing that there isn't anything I can do about it except love him, be there when he wants to get help, and pray. It will also never hurt as much as seeing my son suffer the serious consequences of a decision he made as a teenager to try drugs for the first time.

When someone tries drugs, they have no idea the effect it will have on them and some people get hooked right away. Try telling that to a teenager who feels invincible and is curious about things. My son will pay for the rest of his life for a decision that he made at such a young age, before the thinking/reasoning part of his brain was fully developed.

In many of the news stories about young people committing crimes to feed their addictions, you always see comments such as, "where are the parents?", "parents need to parent", "this is the parents fault", etc.  As a parent who loves my children so much I would die for them, these comments are like little knives being jabbed into my heart and twisted around for good measure. They also show me that I have a lot of work to do!

Through this blog, I hope to break down the stereotype that addicted people have bad parents. It simply is not true. Yes, some addicted people have parents who are not great, but many more have good parents. If it was parenting, all good parents would have good kids who do no wrong, and all bad parents would have bad kids who do wrong. It doesn't work that way.

Think back to when you were a teenager. You likely drank alcohol and your parents likely never caught on. Does this mean that you were a bad kid and your parents were negligent? Of course not! It just means that you were doing what most teenagers do, and your parents trusted you so didn't feel the need to act like prison wardens.  If prescription drugs were as easily accessible as they are today, you may have tried them as well, and your life story – as well as your family’s – may have been much different.

When forming opinions about situations today, we can no longer look through the lenses of our own childhoods. Our society - and culture - has changed drastically, most especially in the past 10 to 15 years. Our streets are not safe like they used to be. There are a lot of drugs around. When I was a teenager in the late 80's, I was parked on a main street in a small town in PEI. A guy came up to me and asked if I wanted to buy some weed. I was shocked, and I mean shocked. To this day, I still remember that guy who wore acid washed blue jeans, high top sneakers, and a white muscle shirt while carrying a denim jacket on his arm. I remember seeing him crossing the street and walking toward my car and then knocking on the window.  This memory is etched in my brain.

Do you think kids today would find this type of interaction with a drug dealer so shocking?  Most would not. This type of interaction is a daily occurrence for today's youth, and the item being sold is not only weed; it is also prescription drugs. We have a lot of work to do to fix this mess, and we owe it to our kids to make sure it gets done.

Thank you for visiting this blog. I hope that you will continue to join me in getting informed about addiction and working to save our youth. I welcome your comments on any of my postings, and invite you to share my blog with your friends and family so that we can reach even more Islanders. Please don't assume you know who needs to see this blog. We all do. This is an Island problem.

God bless,

Saturday, 26 January 2013


The documentary below is called "Overtaken" and it is extremely powerful. It was created by a grieving mom named Jodi Barber who lost her son to drugs. She wanted a way to raise awareness about addiction that would get through to kids and parents. She accomplished that with this documentary. It is a MUST watch.

In my years of researching addiction, this is by far the best video that I have ever come across. I still get teary-eyed every time I watch it, and I've watched it many times. The video features normal kids who got caught up in the world of drugs.

This is also the video that we showed to the Grade 9 students in the Peer to Peer Drug Awareness Program at Queen Charlotte and Birchwood.

Please watch this video and then watch it again with your kids. Share it with your friends. You could save lives.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

About a boy

There’s this boy who stole my heart. He calls me mom. – author unknown

My first of three beautiful gifts from God – my son – was delivered in the summer of 1991. 

My pregnancy was perfect and I felt healthy and happy the whole time. I had no sickness whatsoever. I am one of those women who LOVED being pregnant. The feeling of life growing inside of me was amazing, simply amazing. I gained 40 pounds of belly and was proud of every inch of it.

During my pregnancy, I visited a nutritionist each month to ensure that I was eating all the right foods for my baby to be healthy. I quit drinking coffee because I didn’t want him to be exposed to caffeine, which is a drug (ironic, isn’t it?). Now, for the record, nobody was telling moms back then that they couldn’t drink coffee so don’t feel bad if you did! I just didn’t want to drink it. 

Having picked up the habit of smoking as a teenager, I quit the same day I found out that I was pregnant. I was anal about giving my baby a perfect start to life.

When the doctor put that beautiful baby in my arms, I was absolutely overcome with emotion. He was so perfect with his dark hair and 8 lb 7 oz body. He was so warm and he was mine. It was love at first sight.

When visitors would come into the hospital and hold him, I wouldn’t take my eyes off of them for fear they would do something to hurt him by accident. While they never said anything, I am sure they felt paranoid. :)

My poor mother didn’t get very far with her home remedies for baby ailments either. I was given a book about babies in the hospital and I followed it to the letter. When she tried to offer some home remedy that was not found in my book, I balked at it. I am smiling as I type just thinking of all that. 

He was a great baby. At two months old, he was sleeping straight through the night.

As a boy, he was amazing (he still is!). He was quiet, sensitive, and compassionate toward people and animals. He was also very well behaved (until the teen years).

He was an academic, French immersion student who played the tuba in the band. He loves music and is talented in bass. 

He knew that we worked hard to provide for our family so he would never ask for anything. We always knew what he wanted, and what was popular with the kids at the time, and when he got it, he was always so grateful. He never had a sense of entitlement. I am so thankful for that. 

Our son is also very smart, respectful and polite. People are always shocked to find out that he has an addiction because he does not fit the stereotype at all. He’s been asked more than once how a kid like him ended up an addict.

Our son is a wonderful person who is lost to an addiction. 

Our son may be addicted to drugs but we love him every bit as much as you love your son or daughter and ALWAYS WILL. This is true for every parent that has a son or daughter who is addicted. You can’t turn your love off like a tap. You can encourage parents to not enable their addicted children but do not judge them for doing so unless you’ve walked in their shoes. It takes a while to figure it all out and even then we struggle to kick our children out to the street, let them go hungry, and so on.

Our son should have turned out okay but that wasn’t meant to be his – or our – life story.   It would have been really great if it was and a whole lot easier! From the moment he was conceived, I worked on having that happy story for him. Alas, we (and many other families) were meant to have a much different story, a very scary one at that! If love was enough, our son – and many other young people – would never have tried drugs in the first place.

All we can do now is pray that he will continue fighting his addiction, and use our experience to help others in some way.  Our wonderful son doesn’t want to see other kids and families go through this, which is why he allows me to share his biggest regrets with you. He hopes to one day be able to join me in my work in this area. For now, he is working on the early part of his recovery. Please pray for him.


PS: I am feeling a little emotional tonight – hence the walk down memory lane - as I anticipate our son’s coming home from the Strength program for the first weekend. I don’t think he is ready and it scares me. I get teary-eyed when I think of my son as a baby and a boy because life was so much simpler then. I could protect him from everything. Now, I can’t. We had no idea what awaited us. We never could have imagined this.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

When a Drug Dealer Calls

Few things make your blood run cold like a threat from a drug dealer.  In one instant, your life is turned upside down because your child’s life is being threatened.  Your natural instinct is to protect them but you are told (by all the experts) to never pay off a drug dealer. If you do pay them off, your child will continue to make debt knowing that you will pay for their drugs. In other words, you will be enabling them to keep on slowly killing themselves with their drug use. If you don’t pay the debt, your child may be harmed. This is just one of the many terrifying things that parents of addicts have to deal with.

One such call came on my cell phone one night when Mike and I were relaxing on the couch watching a movie. Our sons no longer lived at home and our daughter was at a friend’s house so we were enjoying some time alone. We agreed that we would put our constant worries (about our son) aside for the evening and take a break.  It had been a roller coaster of a week with addiction-related drama – that only parents of addicts would understand – and we needed the downtime.

Shortly after the movie started, the “Garage in the Backyard” ringtone on my phone started going off. I got up to answer it in case it was one of the kids calling. The conversation started off normal enough:

Me: Hello.

Caller: Hello, is this Rose?

Me: Yes, it is.

Caller: You’re John’s mother?

Me (starting to get nervous that something was wrong with my son): Yes, I am. Can I help you?

Caller: I hope so. John owes me $20 and says he doesn’t have the money. 

Me (trying not to sound too nervous): Well, I am sorry to hear this but that is between you and him.

Caller: I need that money NOW.

Me (Heart pounding. Oh dear God, no.): Sorry, but I can’t help you. John is the one who borrowed it.

Caller: I need that money and don’t know what to do.

Me (trying to stay strong): Sorry, but I can’t help you. Had you asked me if you should lend him the money, I would have said no. It was your decision to do so.

Caller: Well, if you don’t pay me the $20, I am going to find him and you don’t want to know what I am going to do with him.

Me (Speechless. Trying to compose myself. Tears in my eyes. Heart racing. Panic setting in. Ready to give in but found the strength from somewhere.): Well, I don’t want you to hurt him, but it is out of my control. If you do lay even one finger on him, I’ll make sure the police are contacted and that you pay a price for doing so. Good-bye.

I hung up the phone.

I was so devastated after that call. I cried and cried until I had no more tears left. Poor Mike tried to comfort me but I could not be comforted because our son was in danger. Mike was scared too. We had no way to reach our son to warn him nor did we know where he was. He was couch surfing, going from one friend’s house to the next, at that time.

I spent the night praying to God that this man – who was much older than my son – would not lay a finger on him. Of course, I couldn’t sleep and neither could Mike.

The next day, our son dropped by for a visit and he was not hurt in any way. We were so grateful. We told him about the phone call but he said that he did not owe anyone money, and that the guy must have been trying to get money out of us. He was very upset that someone would do that. Of course, we thought that our son was lying to protect himself. Addiction is a lying disease.

While our son was visiting, my phone rang. It was this same guy calling to apologize. He said that he had forgotten that my son had already paid him!

This is just one day in the life of parents of an addict.

We have another drug dealer story that is even more terrifying but I am too scared to tell it for fear that the people involved are following this blog and may recognize themselves and approach my son about it. This is the one and only time that we paid off drug dealers. He’s had no contact with them since. I will say no more.