November 25, 2020; 2:25am.  My husband was resting downstairs in the office.  We were a tag team taking turns sleeping in our bedroom.  Someone had to stay awake each night to make sure our 16 year old son returned home, safe and sound.  Tonight, he refused to come home or tell us where he was.  This was exhausting.  Every night the same dance over and over.  I was filled with fear and resentment.  I crashed hard that evening and I don’t remember hearing the phone ring at 2:30am.  It was a doctor in the Emergency Room at UCSF Children’s Hospital.  My husband came upstairs and woke me.  “It’s Aidan, he’s in the hospital…the doctor said he’s ok, please come right away.”

I blocked out a lot of that night, but I do remember small moments.  I remember focusing on my breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth, it was weird.  I remember quickly throwing on some sweatpants, a hoodie and sneakers and grabbing my phone we headed for the hospital.  I looked like a very uncool version of my son.  It was the height of Covid and only 1 parent was allowed in ER.  Patrice went first.  I waited.  It’s a blur. His overdose was bad, he went to the edge.  The kids at the party that night enabled him, AND they saved his life when they called the ambulance.  He was turning blue.  Then, the first responder arrived, and he saved our son’s life with 3 rounds of Narcan.  I witnessed the 4th round in the ER.  This is something no parent wants to see.  I spent the night beside him.  He went in and out of consciousness.  He woke up apologized and fell back asleep over and over.  His oxygen level was so low.  I called my mother.  I cried. I kept focusing on my breathing.   I watched the policeman in the ER and wondered how many OD’s he saw come through the city of San Francisco.  Just another night.

I could share with you all the drugs that were in his system, does it matter?  I can tell you that it’s all my fault, it’s not.  If I had it all to do over again, would I have been a different mother through his addiction?  Definitely.  It would have helped me to be a better person through it all.

My anger, my shame, my guilt didn’t help my son.  Yelling and screaming and fighting with him wasn’t a way to communicate.  I didn’t set the example. I was scared, terrified in fact!  I couldn’t understand how he didn’t see what he was doing to himself, so I raised my voice louder…wasn’t he listening?  

HE was the delusional one, right??!  

Addiction is hard.  I don’t wish it on any parent.  Kids struggle and cope with their emotions the best they can.  What I have learned through my son’s addiction is how to be a better person, not for him, but for myself.  His illness and challenges have brought us closer.  I respect him.  He has a right to choose a different path than I want for him.  I’ve learned to love him for who he is today and let go of expectations.  We can both look at the same thing and have different feelings about it.  I let him solve his own problems.  He fails sometimes and he succeeds others.  When he asks me for help, I step in.  I TRY do my best to stay quiet when I feel the urge to tell him what to do, that there is a better way, that mom knows best.  He’s his own person.  

After years of disconnection and anger, today we’re closer.  He actually wants to spend time with me. He will be seen in a restaurant with his mother!!!  Lol.  He’s been sober for over a year.  Will he relapse?  I hope to God no. But now I know that I will be ok if it happens.  Most importantly, that takes the pressure off him to take care of me.  He can take care of himself and this is the best gift a child can give a parent.

Our son overdosed and he’s ok.  He’s alive.  He’s one of the lucky ones.  There’s not one day that that goes by that I take it for granted.  He’s still a teenager.  I hate that he vapes and had to get a tattoo as soon as he turned 18.  He also watches far too much South Park for my liking.  I accept that he’s an adult and making his own decisions.  He wasn’t put on the earth to make me happy.  We’re both a work in progress.

What to expect when you’re suspecting that your child is using?  You can’t control your kid’s behavior but you can communicate from a place of love and empathy.  Take care of yourself and seek support.  Have some self-compassion for you and your partner, this is hard shit.  Get advice from professionals.  Do whatever you can to keep your child safe.  This could mean sending them to a Wilderness Program or a Treatment Center or a Therapeutic Boarding School.  Do your research.  Trust yourself, you will know your threshold.  Ask your spouse, friends and family for support and stay away from toxic codependent relationships.  Get a good therapist.  Do your best not to shame yourself or your child….Always remember you’re not alone.