During the initial first five years of his mental illness, while we were going back and forth to our therapist, while he was being prescribed a litany of medications from zoloft to trazadone, lithium, depakote, paxil, prozac – Adam was regularly smoking pot. Now, I can’t say for sure that it interacted with his medication – but, I can’t say for sure that it didn’t. Regardless, things didn’t get much better. He attended an alternative school – academics weren’t emphasized – really a glorified babysitting service. Adam was able to lay down and take a nap if he wanted to. There didn’t seem to be an environment to accommodate this situation.
The public school’s answer was to ‘outsource’ them to an alternative setting; the alternative setting just wanted to keep them calm. No one was receiving any education. At the age of 16, Adam came to me asking me to consider allowing him to drop out and pursue a GED. He expressed that being allowed to take a nap whenever he wanted to was not teaching him anything. We agreed, and he withdrew from school.
Adam continued to act with little regard for the rules or boundaries we established for the household. Our one big rule, “No Drugs” – that was the big one – he just couldn’t help himself – the pot smoking gave way to other drugs – hallucinogens, party drugs, cocaine – and an unfortunate incident involving running away, stealing his grandfather’s pistol, resulting in jail.
This was the first of many instances where he would go to jail because of his drug use, his impulsive behavior, and reckless disregard for rules and boundaries.
This began a long descent into self medicating that would last for 17 years.
As I stood in the hospital room, feeling like I was in a dream, the running thought was, “How did we get here?” I remember whispering it over and over. As I watched my son’s chest rise and fall, painfully aware that the motion was not being done by him, but by a machine. The reality of a drug overdose. A neurologist saying that 96% of his brain was not functioning, and that they would not resuscitate him if he went into a seventh cardiac arrest. Heroin and cocaine…..the reality is it will kill you. Adam’s decades long alcohol and drug abuse had resulted in what we all had feared over the years. And now that we are all standing here, it’s as if we never thought this could happen. As much as you can try to prepare yourself for the unpleasant thought of your child dying, when it happens it is as if you had never thought it was possible….so, how did we get here?