Oh no! – The question.
Silence – The answer.
“Not MY kid!”
“I won’t let this happen to MY kid!”
“MY kid is too well behaved for drugs!”
“MY kid won’t hang out with THOSE kids!”
“OUR family is different than THOSE families.”
“MY kid goes to a great school…he gets good grades.”
Though those answers weren’t on my list of responses when asked the dreaded “what if” question, I had my own naive thoughts.
I sat silent for a while.
Ok, a long while.
Ok, I still haven’t shared my thoughts.
That is, until now.
Those thoughts went something like this…..
“Nooooo! He will play with Legos, get excited over finding nickels in the couch, eat yogurt tubes, suck juice boxes dry, sleep with “wolfie” at night and laugh at Sponge Bob for the rest of his life!!!”
That folks, is what I came up with.
Naive mom brain, if you will.
My 8 yr old will grow up and, in today’s society, fast!
Addiction is real. I know all too well.
So, what is my answer. “What if…” Hello? Are you there? Jenn?
Reality is harder than projecting on the ‘what if’s’, but through my own addiction, here are my thoughts……here it goes…
If my child is an addict….
I will love him no less.
Reach out farther.
Talk to others.
Talk to him.
Not miss an opportunity to hold his hand.
Give him hope. Encourage him.
Plant the seed.
Hug him tight.
Answer his calls.
Say “no” a lot….a whole lot.
Tell him my story.
Tell him many stories.
Be strong in front of him.
Fall to pieces behind him.
Kiss his forehead.
Count his freckles.
Daydream of better days.
Cry for him.
Cry for me.
Cry for my heart.
Cry for his heart.
Hate addiction all over again.
And one thing is for sure, without a doubt, I will have faith. As hard as it is to trust anyone with my child, my faith will have to be strong. As an addict, one thing I know for sure is addiction is too big for any parent…mom or dad; sibling; spouse; best friend; child. You can love them with all you are…all your being…but you can’t love them sober. If so, ALL addicts would be just that: sober.
I was asked the dreaded question: “What if my child is an addict?”
So in response, all I can do today is this.
Love him with all my being.
Count his freckles, watch him sleep, lay out his clothes.
Cut the crust off his sandwich and play the part of Santa, the tooth fairy and Easter bunny.
Today I can giggle with him. Help him cope with a bad day in 2nd grade.
Beautiful, innocent memories.
Today is all I have….the only time I have to teach him what I know about life, which isn’t really anything more than you. I’m just a mom who wonders what other parents wonder: how to protect my child.
Yet in the world of addiction, I wonder a bit more. Will he be?
Then again….maybe he won’t…
Originally posted on the Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation’s Facebook page.
Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation is a non-profit foundation that helps addicts, alcoholics and their families find support and treatment.
About Jenn Stottlemire:
I am passionate about passing on my experience; to give hope to the ones suffering and rally behind the broken.
Heroin took me on a wild ride straight to hell, but it wasn’t my only demon.
Dear active drug user,
I know you believe it’s your life and you’re only hurting yourself. You’re wrong. I know you believe you’re indestructible, that what you’ve witnessed happen to so many of your friends won’t happen to you. You’re wrong again. Sooner or later it will.
Here’s what will happen after you die.
First, someone will find your body. Maybe you’ll die at home and your Mom will find you and start screaming. Maybe you’ll die in your bedroom; maybe in the basement that your Dad rebuilt so you and your friends would have a place to chill. 911 will be called and first responders will come. Paramedics will cut off your shirt, put the paddles on your chest and try to shock your ass back to life, but it won’t work and one of them will turn to your Mom or Dad and say, “I’m sorry, he’s gone.”
Your family will be ushered outside, the police will string up that yellow “crime scene” tape and start their investigation. Your cell phone will be confiscated and your parents will probably never see it again. Hours later, while neighbors start gathering on the front lawn, they’ll put your body in a bag, put the bag on a stretcher and wheel it out to a coroner’s van and take you to the morgue. Maybe they’ll cut you open, take out all your organs, weigh and measure them and them stuff them back inside you and sew you up. More likely, they’ll just draw some blood and urine to do a toxicology screen.
Hopefully, you won’t die in your car. If you do, I hope you’re not driving at the time. I hope the last thing you do on this earth isn’t crashing into and killing someone else, maybe more than one person. I pray that’s not your legacy. If you don’t die at home, your parents will get a visit from the local cops and a ride down to the coroner’s office so they can identify your body.
That first week after you die will be a busy time for your parents. They will need to figure out who in what was your life needs to be notified; the rest of the family, your friends – that will be difficult because the cops have your cell phone so all they’ll be able to do is tell one or two of your closest friends; most of the rest will hear about it pretty quickly, but some won’t learn for weeks — your employer, your school. Lots of tearful phone calls will be made.
Your parents will have to pick a funeral home, arrange for your body to be shipped from the coroner’s office to the funeral home, pick out a casket, find a cemetery, one close by, so your Mom can visit you every day; pick out a nice four by eight foot plot, maybe beside a tree, and buy the only piece of real estate you will ever own. Your Mom will have to pick out the suit you’ll be buried in and deliver it to the funeral home. Your parents will need to decide what your obituary should say; should they acknowledge that you lost your battle with addiction or simply say that you died quietly at home.
Your Mom will go through all of this in a fog because she will be out of her mind with grief. Maybe she’ll carry one of your unwashed shirts around with her for the entire week, holding it to her face so she can smell you. Maybe she’ll sleep in your bed with your shirt and a framed photograph. And she won’t stop crying. Everywhere she turns something else will remind her of you. The leftovers from the last food you bought; the stale remnants of the last soda you ever drank.
One of the women in the neighborhood will organize folks to deliver casseroles and other food to your parents and neighbors will stop by once or twice a day for a week or so bringing food. Preparations will need to be made for your funeral. The church or hall will have to be decorated. Your Mom will want lots of pictures of you and each one she picks out will cause her to cry again. Eulogies will be written and delivered, maybe by your father, maybe by your little brother, maybe both. Your family will stand in a receiving line and will have to hear, “Sorry for your loss” and say, “Thank you for coming.”
After the service, your coffin will be carried outside to a hearse; maybe your little brother will be one of the pallbearers. The hearse will lead a procession of cars, all with their lights on, to the cemetery where there will be more tears, and a prayer will be said before your casket is lowered into the ground. Not everyone will have gone to the cemetery. Someone will volunteer to go to your parent’s house directly after the funeral to set out the food your neighbors have brought for the mourners who will come over after the funeral.
In the weeks after your funeral there will still be more matters to attend to. Your parents will have to wait for the toxicology report to be sent to the coroner’s office so that final death certificate can be prepared. Your parents will need lots of copies so they can notify your creditors, close your bank account, cancel your auto insurance, maybe notify your parole officer.
In the months and years that follow, things won’t get any better. Every holiday will be a time of sadness instead of joy, because it will remind your parents that you’re gone. And now they have another anniversary to make them sad, the anniversary of your death.
I can tell you for a fact that your Mom will never be the same. Some things she used to do joyfully she will no longer be able to do because they are too painful. Remember how she used to like to surprise you with special treats she bought at the food store? Well now she can’t go food shopping because everywhere she turns in the store she sees something she remembers you liked to eat. Those gardens she was so proud of in the front lawn. They’re forgotten now. The only garden she cares about is the tiny one around your grave that she tends almost every day.
So don’t think, and don’t say, that it’s your life and you’re only hurting yourself because that is simple not true. Your actions have consequences and they can be irreversible for you and can destroy the lives of people who love and care about you. Please, please, please, get clean, if not for yourself, then do it for them.
Cris Fiore lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Valerie are working tirelessly to help save other people’s children in the name of their beloved son Anthony. The Fiores ask that you PLEASE sign and share the petition for Anthony’s Act , a request that the Affordable Care Act be amended to provide for a minimum of Ninety (90) days inpatient drug or alcohol treatment up to a maximum of One Hundred Eighty (180) days per year at a facility certified to provide such care by the Secretary of Health of the state in which it is located.
Please click on this link to sign the petition: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/anthonys-act
My Dear Child,
I forgive you.
There is something you need to know that perhaps I haven’t said. I forgive you; and you need to forgive yourself.
In the beginning, I think we both felt the incredible weight of this disease, and the more angry and frustrated I got, the sicker you became. It took me a long time to understand the truth of why this was happening. I thought perhaps my yelling and screaming and fighting would cure you. I was battling for your life. I knew no other way.Even my sobbing couldn’t move you. Please, know that whatever I did, I did because I thought it might help. Continue reading “My Dear Child, I Forgive You…”
Last month my husband, daughter and I loaded our three dogs and a few months’ necessities into two cars. We left Colorado behind with a ‘for sale’ sign on our lawn and headed to St. Petersburg, Florida with no clue where we would be living. We had rented an Airbnb little cottage in Gulfport for the rest of the summer and hoped that would be enough time to figure out where we wanted to live.
Leaving Colorado behind was hard. We had made friends there. We fell in love with the Rocky Mountains, the park, Vail, Pagosa Hot Springs, Hanging Lake…. All of it……..
More difficult was leaving our son Kurt behind. He had gotten a job as an electrical apprentice and it was going well. For the past six months he was handing most of his paycheck over to his landlady to pay off back rent from when he had been out of work. He was SO close to caught up when he lost his job. His story involves another, it is not mine to tell so I’ll simply say that he told me he learned you cannot save people – they have to save themselves – and you cannot forgo a paycheck even if you want to be there for others, sometimes you have to think of yourself first and go to work no matter what is happening. Addicts in recovery can be co-dependents too…… Continue reading “Forward March: Recovery, Change and Faith”
To Whom It May Concern – in other words – Everybody,
On December 23, 2015 my world changed forever. Our 29 year old son, Jason, died in our home of a Heroin overdose. I now see the world through a veil of tears and struggle to find my footing each day when I wake and realize again, that it is real. The several years of battling his addiction caused so much pain for him, as well as our family. He felt shame, remorse, failure and regret. We felt lost, horrified, let down and confused by the American government and medical system. He worried about everything. He was in and out of rehabs, jail, IOP, NA meetings and a halfway house not worth mentioning. My secret society of Nar Anon members each suffered as I did. Each week we would share our frustration, pain and confusion as to why professionals just did not get what was needed to help our loved ones help themselves. As my co-workers slowly found out (I worked in a hospital) what had happened, they couldn’t believe that MY child was an addict. Continue reading “Honoring My Child: Understanding Substance Use Disorder is a disease.”
It certainly wasn’t what anyone whose life has been shattered by addiction anticipated seeing when they turned on SNL expecting to have a few laughs. Addiction isn’t even a little funny. People are dying and lives are being destroyed every single day – and there is no humor to be found in any part of this epidemic.
They say ‘you know you’ve made it’ when SNL writes about it, so I guess in one way we should be glad that we have been loud enough about the epidemic to get their attention. This parody was one of their most tasteless to date, but what has made people react so viscerally to it goes to the heart of the matter. Our kids are dying. Heroin use, as SNL pointed out, is on the rise. And yes, mothers, school bus drivers and soccer coaches are not immune to addiction. Continue reading “Saturday Night Live tried to joke about heroin, but there is nothing funny about this epidemic.”
Why do we hide, cover up, and refuse to acknowledge addictions in our loved ones’ lives? I have seen over and over, ‘the family requests to keep this private’ in a Facebook post, email or obituary.
There isn’t anything about heroin addiction that should be kept private. It is a terrible disease. When we choose to keep quiet, who benefits? Are we protecting our loved one? If they are alive and seeking help, maybe, so they wont be judged if they pull through this awful illness. If their disease beats them and takes them from us, how does privacy help? Are we protecting them or our own reputation and fear of judgement? Continue reading “For Mandy”