We are Lisa and Todd. We were blessed with four healthy babies during the first 11 years of our marriage and worked hard to ensure one of us would be home every day to raise our children. We had a happy and fun life, and all of our kids were happy, well-adjusted, got along with others, and did well in school.
We could never have predicted what the future would bring. When our third child—our first son—turned 13, all of this started to change and our nightmare began.
“A mother is only as happy as her saddest child.”
Our son began to act as if he didn’t belong to our family; he seemed to think he was “different.” His grades suffered and he slowly drifted away, rebelling against anything we stood for as people, parents, and a family. He blamed us for his feeling of being different, and he stood against all authority figures. At age 14, he was arrested after being found with drug paraphernalia and alcohol. Little did we know that this introduction to the juvenile court was just the beginning of our involvement with the legal system.
At age 15, the suicide of his close friend further escalated his rebellion. Soon there were increased mood swings, weight loss, greater distancing from his siblings and family, and a constant insistence that he needed to be with “his friends.” No matter what we did, he would not listen to reason. His depression led to multiple hospital and rehabilitative admissions, and we exhausted every resource we could find. Eventually, his marijuana use led to Percocet, OxyContin, and, ultimately, heroin abuse.
We found ourselves stuck in a system that was overwhelmed by individuals who needed help. We enlisted state-run and private rehab programs that drained our financial resources and put us on a roller coaster of emotions—shifting back and forth from hope and hopelessness.
His addiction changed our family forever. We were always waiting for the overdose, death notice, or jail call, and over time we received two of the three (repeatedly). In addition, our home began missing things like video games, jewelry, spoons, checks, and even money from our other children’s rooms.
Our son’s siblings have felt their own sense of loss in individual ways, ranging from sadness, hurt, anger, and mostly resentment. They resent the time and energy all of us have expended trying to support him, no matter what he did. They mostly resent him for what they have witnessed their parents go through—the sleepless nights, the tears, and all the time spent focused on him instead of the rest of our family.
We have attended Nar-Anon meetings and completed overdose training. We also have locks on our bedroom and closet doors. This is not the way any of us thought we would be living, but a child doesn’t understand the depth of the love a parent has for him or her.
The continuing journey
After a release from jail a few years ago, our son was given probation and was home again. He was functioning well for a short period of time, but all the signs of drug use began to slowly appear again. He violated probation, lost his driver’s license, couldn’t keep the jobs he was lucky to have, and eventually ended up in rehab again.
This time, we decided as a family that he was no longer welcome in our home, and he went to a halfway house. He did well at first, but his addiction eventually led to more poor choices with huge consequences. He is incarcerated again and we are not sure how or if this will ever end.
As his parents, we continue to talk to him and support him emotionally, but it is again up to him to change his life. We cannot do it for him and we can no longer subject our family to the hurt and disappointment that comes with addiction. It is our dream that, one day, we will all be together as a complete and happy family again.
If you or someone you know in Frederick County, Maryland is struggling with mental health or opioid dependence issues, please contact the Frederick County Health Department at 301-600-1755 or call 2-1-1 for help and treatment options 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Airtime and other charges may apply for cell phone users. Mobile users may also call 1-866-411-6803.