A hopeful story

One day, miracle happened: The boy’s mother decided it was time for her to take care of herself.

Mother and child at the lake (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Mother and child at the lake
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Twenty-five years ago a beautiful boy was born. From the moment of his birth, he was always finding himself in uncomfortable situations. He was a colicky baby, bit his classmates in nursery school and lacked boundaries in kindergarten. His mother and father were frequently in the principal’s office trying to find solutions.
By elementary school he was getting into fights and the calls persisted from the schools.
No amount of lectures and pleading seemed to help. His mother used a chart system, giving him stars when he behaved well, yet made the mistake of taking them away when he misbehaved, resulting in him tearing it off the wall and throwing it out the window. She quickly learned that a star earned should never be taken away.
By junior high school his friends were the troubled kids. He began smoking cigarettes and marijuana and joined them when they broke into cars. One night he shared this with his mom, fearful that the police would arrest him if they knew. His mother kept it a secret. She later realized that had she allowed him to face the consequences early in his delinquent life, chances are he might have learned his lesson.
There were frequent visits to the guidance counselor, to find ways to encourage him to stay out of trouble.
One night he came home with red eyes and headed for the shower. His mom realized he was high. When she confronted him, he denied it. He entered high school and the trouble continued. At that time his mother found him a private counselor for weekly sessions.
His marijuana use continued, and when a family therapy session was called and he turned up stoned, they realized something serious needed to be done.
The father suggested he be sent to a drug rehabilitation center for evaluation. Contrary to popular procedures of starting off with the lowest level of treatment, they suggested he be admitted into a residential drug rehab with weekly family participation.
He spent three months in the rehabilitation center, going on arduous outdoor trips, learning about addiction and participating in 12-step groups, before he ran away. Through a girlfriend they managed to coax him back into rehab for his final month.
Thinking that he would benefit from a new start, his mom enrolled him in another high school. There he found new drug dealers, and despite his mother driving him to and from school every day, he managed to smoke between lessons.
One morning on his way to class, a campus officer stopped him for a random body search. He kept walking.
The officer grabbed him and he fought back. He was immediately expelled from school.
At that time he had begun to hang out with friends whose drugs of choice were different forms of hallucinogens, including LSD and mushrooms. They convinced him that they would “open his mind,” which they inevitably did. He began to type out entire manifestos on the computer about the meaning of life.
After a while, he began to doubt whether life was worth living at all. This scared his mother, who still didn’t realize what was going on. She enrolled him in a school for troubled teens, from which he was also expelled for not cooperating.
His mother went to pick him up, brought him home, and he began to kick in the walls at the entrance to the house. She grabbed him, pulled him to the floor and asked him, “What is going on?” He admitted to having used LSD and to being on a “psychotic trip” for over a week. She immediately took him to a psychiatric hospital, where he was admitted for the weekend and then released, with strong medications he was expected to take daily.
His mother did not know what to do. It was clear she couldn’t help him. The rehabilitation center hadn’t helped, all of his friends were addicts, and he continued to use drugs. He was both angry and depressed.
All of this happened in the United States. His mother felt he would do better back in Israel. She packed up the kids and off they went.
Once arriving in Israel, her son felt depressed and alone. He told his mother, “I don’t like myself; how can anyone like me?” He began using Hagigat and Mr. Nice Guy – marijuana substitutes, which proved to be very dangerous due to their unpredictable content. He spent the next five years in and out of psychiatric wards, constantly psychotic from the drug use.
When he came home, she offered him a choice: Get help or live with the consequences. He chose the streets and suffered for it greatly. Every time he was admitted into a hospital, his mother would visit him, sometimes three times a week, bringing him food and words of comfort.
All of her efforts to get him to the best psychiatrists, convince friends to visit him, constantly meet with the staff, cry to him and plead with him to give sobriety a chance – nothing made a difference.
He sank further and further into his addiction, even attempting suicide.
Then a miracle happened. The boy’s mother decided it was time for her to take care of herself. After years of crying and feeling hopeless, she entered the rooms of Alanon – the support group for families and loved ones of addicts.
After hearing the three Cs over and over again – you didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it and you can’t control it – she finally began to believe it. She couldn’t tell her son to take care of himself, if she was doing quite the opposite. So the boy’s mom wrote her son a letter, sharing with him how much she loved him but needed to let go, so he would begin to take over. She wrote that she knew he was destined for great things, but that this would happen only once he surrendered to a higher power of his choice and realized that there were no shortcuts. She stopped visiting him but sent him weekly packages with letters of encouragement.
When they spoke over the phone, he shared that he was happy she was taking care of herself. Miraculously, he began to take treatment seriously. He committed to staying until he could get into a rehabilitation program.
He cut his cigarette smoking down from a pack a day to a pack a week and called her to truly apologize for all the grief he had caused her.
There is no way to know what the future will bring, but this mother is now more mindful, joyful and careful. She has succeeded in detaching with love. Now her son is free to take his journey on his own. There is nothing more painful for us as parents than watching our kids hit bottom, but if we start early enough, the bottom will be less painful, both for us and our children.
The writer is a teen and young adult counselor specializing in addictions, and has been working with youth and their parents for over 26 years. She is the founder of the Sobar alcohol-free live music bar project for teens and young adults. jerusalemteencounseling@ gmail.com; www.jerusalemteencounseling.net